Are You a Junk Mail Collector?
Do you save the junk mail that comes to your house? If not, perhaps you should. Businesses spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year designing direct mail pieces and testing the results. Obviously, some of it works or they wouldn't keep using it. In direct mail, nothing is sacred—results are the only things that count. If a mailing doesn't pay for itself, it's discontinued.
Years ago, I started collecting junk mail and advertising gimmicks: door hangers, table top tent cards from restaurants, all kinds of direct mail—especially letters. And I learned to write letters that always get results.
My own letters have landed more than 100 major corporate accounts, built a thriving consulting business, gotten me interviewed on television, collected delinquent bills, and secured a publisher for this book—plus much more. With a little research and planning, yours can do the same.
Look at a few direct mail letters from your mailbox. What do you notice about them? For one thing, no two are alike. Sure, there are similarities, but each letter is essentially one of a kind. Some are amateurish, some are great. Some turn you off, some pull you in.
Examine the format and you'll see a lot of white space on the page. That's visual appeal—the letters look good. Also, they're fun to read—not dull, boring, or routine. They offer something. They're loaded with benefits for the reader. They tell you exactly what you're going to get, and precisely how it will help you.
The words and sentences are short and easy to understand. You seldom see jargon or buzzwords—unless the offer comes from a specialized industry source.
Here's a project that will help your letter writing: Collect your junk mail for a week. Look at it. Study it. Critique it. See how you could improve it. Rewrite it. Play with it.
Try to incorporate some of it in your writing. If you can, most of your letters will be winners. (You don't want your letters to seem to be "junk mail," though.)
What is advertising appeal?
I once noticed a restaurant billboard that said, "We welcome tour buses." Why do they want tour buses? I wondered. And then it dawned on me: Tour buses are full of hundreds of customers. I watched the signs. They changed slightly, but most sounded alike: "Bus Drivers Welcome." That sort of thing.
Then I saw a sign that accomplished what all the other signs had merely tried to do. It stopped the buses. What did it say? "Bus Drivers Eat Free." That's advertising appeal: finding the right message for the right crowd.
Why write emotional copy?
John Caples, author of Tested Advertising Methods, says, "If you write with the prejudices and preferences of other people uppermost in your mind, you will produce copy as correct as a school child's essay, but utterly lifeless...
"Get excited! Get worked up! ...Then start to write," Caples says. "Write fast. Write furiously. Write as if you had to catch a plane. Write as if you had to put all your thoughts on paper in the next five minutes or lose them forever...
"Action—that's the vital quality that emotional copy possesses and that 'reason why' copy lacks.
"Everybody knows that you can tame a wild horse and make the animal useful. But it is impossible to put life into a dead horse. The same is true of advertising copy. An advertisement that has been pounded out in the white heat of enthusiasm can be tamed and made effective. But it is impossible to put life into dead copy."
The best emotional copy I ever read appeared in an ad for Boeing. Picture this: an empty beach, white sand, bright sunlight. A young couple—no children around—walking away arm-in-arm. Then the words...
" S O M E D A Y "
We'll take off. Just the two of us.
No kids. No pets. No worries.
We'll lie on a lonely beach.
And plan another 100 years together.
"Remember the first time you mentioned going away?
How many somedays ago was that? Is your warm and wonderful someday really ever going to happen?
Right now, your travel agent or airline can arrange especially good values in air travel on Boeing jetliners. To anywhere in the world. So go. Before your someday slowly slips away."
B O E I N G
Isn't that wonderful? Nothing logical about it—it's all emotion, all persuasive. Doesn't it make you want to go to the beach?
Show your excitement and enthusiasm
A big part of letter writing is attitude. If you have a positive attitude that comes through in your words, you shouldn't have any trouble getting the right response.
The best letters are "heartfelt"—not academic or strictly logical. Good ones have feeling; they move you.
Be brave. Yes, if you're too aggressive you run the risk of "turning them off," but if you write too carefully, you run the risk of being totally ignored. And being ignored is the fate of most job-search letter writers—I can say that from experience.
If you like people, tell them so. Don't be afraid to show honest feelings. Here's an excerpt from one of my own sales letters: "Great meeting you! You sound like a very positive, upbeat, helpful person—just the kind I like to work with."
Here's something else I used: "You really got me off to a great start last week. I think Saturday was the most exciting day of my life. Almost too exciting."
Make your letters electric. Don't hide your feelings, and don't play "hard-to-get." Your words should feel fresh and alive, interesting and intriguing, different, creative, and thought-provoking. Let the reader feel your emotions. Does that seem like a tall order? It is, but you can do it.