How to Persuade Buyers With Your Direct Mail

Direct mail marketing is a very powerful response driver when used correctly. If you have not been getting the results you need, there are many different choices you can make to change the outcome based on several possible problem areas.

Direct mail marketing is a very powerful response driver when used correctly. If you have not been getting the results you need, there are many different choices you can make to change the outcome based on several possible problem areas.

The problem area we are going to highlight today is your copy and messaging. If your copy and messaging is not compelling, you will not get a good response to your mail.

How can we best create compelling message and copy?

  1. Storytelling – The first way to draw people in is with storytelling. You need to make sure that you are telling real stories about real people. If you are not authentic, your prospects and customers will know. Keep in mind that details make it seem more real and believable.
  2. Emotional associations – These are very important especially if there has been a strong negative association with your product or service. You can counteract these associations with good emotional associations you create. The simpler they are to comprehend the better. Emotions often trump logic, so make sure you manage emotions in a positive way.
  3. Statistics – Statistical evidence is a credibility builder, and should be used to illustrate a relationship. It’s more important for people to remember the relationship than the actual number. Keep in mind that statistics are not inherently helpful; it’s context that makes them helpful. Use them correctly in your copy to convince people to buy.
  4. Recommendations – Authorities are a reliable source of credibility; we trust recommendations from people we know, like, and want to be like. Use these testimonials on your mail pieces to show how great your product or service is.
  5. Details – Identify details that are compelling and human as well as meaningful; details that symbolize and support your core idea. Don’t be long winded.

This can seem like a lot of information you need to convey on your mail piece, but you can do these things in a concise way. You also don’t have to do all five on every piece. Pick the ones that will work best for what you are trying to say. You also need to consider the type of piece you are using. A postcard will have less room for copy than a letter.

The most important thing is to be authentic. Direct mail is the most trustworthy form of marketing according to consumers, but you can override that inclination with misdirection or shady copy. Don’t be the “used car salesman” that no one likes — be the honest, helpful marketer and win the business. Did you know that 62% of people who responded to direct mail made a purchase? Are they purchasing from you or your competitor?

Good direct mail drives increases in response rates, so make sure that you are creating the best direct mail with compelling copy and a great call to action. Consider trying one of the options above on your next campaign, to see for yourself what works. Are you ready to get started?

Is Your Direct Mail Trustworthy? 6 Ways to Make Sure It Is

Direct mail is a very popular and effective marketing channel. According to MarketingSherpa, 76% of people trust ads they receive in the mail. But do they trust yours? If you are not getting the expected response rate on your mail pieces, you could have a trust problem.

Direct mail is a very popular and effective marketing channel. According to MarketingSherpa, 76% of people trust ads they receive in the mail. But do they trust yours? If you are not getting the expected response rate on your mail pieces, you could have a trust problem.

There could be many reasons why your direct mail piece is not trustworthy. In order to get the best ROI, here are some key things to focus on as you design and write copy for your direct mail campaigns.

  • Testimonials  Real reviews from real people make a big difference. Be sure to use reviews that are clear and specific, as they are more believable. Make sure to include their names and, if possible, pictures. Of course only include ones that are relevant to what you are selling on your mail piece.
  • Cluttered — When you provide too much information on your mail piece, it can be confusing. People like skimming, so make it easy for them to understand what you are saying. You don’t want them to feel like you are hiding something in all of that extra copy. Bullet points and bolding will help highlight the most important information.
  • Content — Be direct and specific with your headlines, calls to action, and copy. Be realistic with your statements and promises. Authentic and direct messaging is the best way to build trust. Do what you say and say what you do. Under-promise and over-deliver to build customer loyalty.
  • Dated  Are you writing new copy for each campaign or are you picking up old copy? Check your copy for out-of-date wording. These days, information is changing very quickly. Your copy needs to change, too.
  • Fonts — Your choice of fonts matter. Fonts that are hard to read or super small sizes elicit suspicion. Use easy-to-read fonts. This does not mean you have to stick with Arial or Helvetica; you can still be creative with easy-to-read fonts. Do not use all caps. While it is OK to use smaller font sizes for less important information, there is no reason to use a 6pt font size on your direct mail.
  • Images — Are you using images with just your product in them, or are you using images where people are using your products? People relate to other people; make sure that you use images that include people.

Clear and compelling messaging is necessary to make the right impression. You only have a few seconds before you end up in the trash.. Your message is your brand promise; it cannot be vague and open to interpretation. This also includes over-promising or using bait-and-switch tactics. These things leave a very bad impression about you and your products or services.

People buy from people and companies they trust. Are you one of them? It’s not just what you say on your mail pieces, it’s how you say it that matters most. Honesty is the best policy, so stick to the golden rule. The colors you choose affect your prospects’ and customers’ moods, so make sure you are using the correct colors to go with your message. Not sure what the colors mean? Check out the colors post. Now you are set to create the most effective direct mail campaigns.

Here’s the Customer Psychology You’ve Shown You Care About, Marketers

Customer psychology helps marketers design campaigns. Emotion drives many purchases, even in B2B circles. And considering all I write about is customer psychology, let’s look at what aspects of it interested you the most during these past six months.

Customer psychology helps marketers design campaigns. Emotion drives many purchases, even in B2B circles. And considering all I write about is customer psychology, let’s look at what aspects of it interested you the most during these past six months.

The science behind this analysis is based on posts you’ve clicked on and read, according to Target Marketing’s site analytics. These appear to be persistent favorites, as I only published one of them during the past six months. So you’ve been interested in and reading these posts for awhile — one since 2016. Parse.ly says these are the top posts you’ve read, marketers:

‘Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words’

This opinion piece from Jan. 15 is your clear favorite, with almost four times as many hits as No. 4, “3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn.”

So the psychology behind how you communicate with your customers is top-of-mind for marketers.

The column says:

“Smart consumers don’t believe marketing any more. We’ve used those lines way too long and not delivered on promises we’ve made. Conscious choices are built upon values, personality and giving natures of brands.”

Among the post’s 17 comments, many of which disagreed with me, is this from “Tony, the Pitiful Copywriter”:

“I find it easier to test and measure the results of an offer than a touchy-feely campaign. Don’t get me wrong, those campaigns are cool and moving the needle forward for someone. At the end of the day (hate that phrase), I gotta sell stuff to customers.”

He has a point. But that point may be missing the big picture. My response was:

“Hi Tony, thanks for reading and commenting. Traditional marketing will never go away. At the same time, the ROI and response will never be what it was years ago; and I don’t believe it will match the results we get now from highly relevant, psychologically based marketing [campaigns]. I see it in my own work. My copy that engages what matters deep in a person’s psyche has produced 20-year champions for brands across B2B and B2C. Price engages, of course; but not as much as it used to … Just read Cone Communications’ reports on how it matters less than CSR to about 90% of consumers today.”

‘What’s Your Brand Schema?’ 

This post from Nov. 1, 2016, is No. 2.

This is still true:

“Chances are, you don’t know what I’m talking about and creating your brand schema has never been a line item on your marketing to-do list. Yet in today’s cluttered word of information overload, understanding schema is more critical than polishing your content, engagement and customer service strategies. True, because if you don’t understand the schema that drives the attitudes, beliefs and interest in your brand, your other programs simply won’t work.

“So what is schema? Simply put, psychologists define our collective preconceived ideas about just about anything as schema or our mental framework of thoughts, attitudes, beliefs that drive our values and behavior. Our schemas produce automatic thoughts on which our opinions and beliefs are built, and no amount of evidence can change our minds. Just like Facebook posts, political speeches and debates don’t change our voting choices, brands’ promises, messages and claims don’t change our attitudes or propensity to engage if they don’t meet our ‘reality,’ which is based upon what we choose to believe vs. what brands want us to believe. As mentioned in last month’s post on marketing messages falling on deaf ears, we even choose which scientific evidence to believe and what not to believe.

“For marketing purposes, schema is your customers’ ‘reality’ vs. your own. And when the two don’t twine, you spend a lot of time effort and money on marketing that just doesn’t produce results that will reach your company’s goals and advance your individual career. Not good, either way.”

‘The Psychology of Rewards’

Marketers have evolved loyalty programs a lot since my post from Aug. 15, 2017. But customers’ motivations for joining the programs haven’t changed.

Extrinsic motivation, or our behavior which is driven by the anticipation of being rewarded by others for engaging in specific behaviors, drives much of the choices we make in life — how we perform our jobs and what products we chose to buy.

“And down deep, that motivation is linked to what I’ve said before is our greatest psychological driver: our survival DNA. Unconsciously, rewards help us feel like we are getting closer to that place in life where we have what we need to survive the daily battle to fulfill needs and wants that propel us ahead of the pack.”

‘3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn’

Even though customers are telling brands that customer experience is more and more important to them, they’re becoming less and less satisfied with how well marketers are providing these experiences.

The post from May 7 cites research from Qualtrics-owned Temkin Group and my interview with David Morris, CMO of Proformex, marketing advisor to Resilience Capital, and respected authority on SaaS marketing.

He says:

“We spend thousands of dollars and huge amounts of time marketing to customers, and in some cases, a year or more to convert a lead to a customer. And then we lose a customer in a matter of months. When this happens, you spend a lot more money getting customers than you get back in revenue, and that is not a sustainable way to operate a business.”

Conclusion

Based on all of this, it seems as though marketers are serious about understanding their customers. This is good news for everyone. Because I love talking with you about customer psychology. Is there anything I haven’t covered that you’d like to talk about? I’ll read your suggestions in the comments section below.

Improving Website Engagement Means Getting Your Site Visitors to Stay

Getting website visitors to stick around is critical in moving them through the buying cycle. Here are the aspects of your site to focus on to increase engagement and conversion.

On Saturday mornings, the station my clock radio is set to play “Living on Earth,” a show about environmental topics. After a brief intro on the show’s topics, the host Steve Kirwood says, “Stick around!” before cutting over to the local news.

I’m not sure if his jaunty delivery makes more people stay tuned in through the news break, but it sure has stuck in my head. And it comes to mind today, because getting visitors to stick around on your website is a critical component in your site’s marketing and lead generation success. Here are some tips for encouraging deeper website engagement.

What’s in It for Them?

Make it impossible for your audience to miss what’s in it for them. Forget your years of experience and and your awards and how great you are. That’s not going to get them to stick around. (Yet.) More on this below. Make sure your value proposition is front-and-center.

Be Entertaining

Often overlooked in the focus on being informative — which clearly is critical — you should also pay attention to whether your content that is fun to read, view or listen to.

B2B shouldn’t mean “Boring to Boring.”

We’re all people — even when we’re in the office — and we all like to enjoy even the mundane moments of our day. No, you’re not likely to make your B2B site as bingeworthy as the latest Netflix hit, but you can make people smile. And that’s going to help keep them engaged.

Be Informative

Because you can’t be Netflix, you have to be valuable. It’s just that simple. People aren’t coming to your site primarily to be entertained, anyway; they’re coming to learn more about how they might solve a business problem. Help them do that, and they’ll not only stick around longer, they’ll be back more frequently.

Write Well

All of the above implies good writing, but it’s worth pointing out that your content has to compete with a lot — not just other firms offering the same service, but all the fun stuff on social media and everywhere else. You have to craft more-than-passable prose.

If you can afford to hire a good writer, do so. Work with her or him often enough so he or she knows your company and your products inside and out and can craft a strong story.

If budget is an issue and you have to do the writing yourself even though you’re not 100% confident in your skills, go against your instinct to write less. Write more. The more you write, the more quickly your writing will go from questionable (or wherever it is now) to captivating. That’s your goal.

Perspective Matters

In your writing and the way you organize your site, think from your prospect’s perspective. If you’ve presented your value proposition properly, you’re well on your way. Keep that value central to all your writing, as well as your site’s navigational controls and structure. Even your calls to action should follow this principal and answer the question, “What would someone who’s just consumed this piece of content be interested in next?”

Ask for the Sale

Speaking of calls to action, find the balance between overdoing it and never doing it. You may not be literally asking for a sale, but you should be asking your audience to take the next step in building a relationship with you. Get them to take that next step by making the next step logical and rewarding.

Track Engagement

With these ideas implemented on your site, you should see an increase in engagement metrics, like average session time and number of pages viewed per session. You are tracking these data points, aren’t you?

By they way, if you’re wondering why I have an alarm set on Saturday mornings, so am I. Our dogs always have me up before the alarm goes off, anyway …

Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words

You remember those lists of powerful words we marketers use to use to guide copywriting for short-term response and sales? You remember that persuasive copy. “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free.”

You remember those lists of powerful words we marketers use to use to guide copywriting for short-term response and sales? You remember that persuasive copy. “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free.”

And for a long while, those words printed in bright big bold graphics worked. They got response and they drove sales, and helped launch many direct marketing careers and agencies.

Just as many of you might remember building “urgent” direct mail copy, you might also remember that point of diminishing returns from using all of those “powerful” words. And the point at which your CEO and board of directors were not so okay with that average 1% response of direct marketing campaigns.

Things have changed. And they are not going back. We’re just not in an era where smartphones rule our lives, we are in a perpetual era where smart consumers rule markets, and aren’t believing those brand claims or promises any more. They’re also not caring if it is the very last seat on that flight at that price. They’ve heard it before, and seen it not be real, so they don’t care and they don’t respond.

Smart consumers don’t believe marketing any more. We’ve used those lines way too long and not delivered on promises we’ve made. Conscious choices are built upon values, personality and giving natures of brands. Brands that give back to the earth, people and causes don’t use price discounts or sales gimmicks to drives sales. And never will have to. Apple, Patagonia, Starbucks and Newman’s food products, are just a few of the “feel good” brands that people purchase, regardless of infrequent sales discounts and promotions. They don’t have to lower prices to make people feel good about purchasing from them.

That last statement above is the “key” to copywriting and overall marketing that works in today’s Smart Consumer environment — copy, stories, social and live engagement — that makes us feel good about ourselves and our role in helping drive good, amid the daily chaos we experience and witness.

Marketing copy strategies that align with “feeling good” address many aspects of human nature and what really influences us to change our behavior. It’s no longer about the words we use to influence behavior, it’s about the values we project, our brands, and the values of those we want to do business with us.

Here are some examples of how we can persuade with good values vs. just “good “ words:

Good Character

One of the five drivers of human happiness, according to Jonathan Haidt’s book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” is being part of something that does good in the world. This new generation of customers not only seeks to do good in the world themselves, they seek to purchase from and align with brands that also do good in the world. If a brand just makes good products for good prices, that is not good enough for many consumers. According to Cone Communications research, more than 90% of consumers want to purchase from brands that give back to humanitarian or environmental causes, and around 80% of consumers will switch brands if their current brand is not aligned with their same “do good” values and able to show a direct impact, monetarily. (Opens as a PDF)

Good Place

We are wired to seek safety, comfort and security, no matter how successful we are, or powerful we may think we are. Its all part of the “survival of the fittest” mentality our species adheres to daily — socially, financially, physically and emotionally — whether we admit or acknowledge it. Brands that help consumers find and secure a “good” place in life are brands that win trial and secure loyalty, no matter what they are selling. What is the security that your brand provides? What is the comfort you deliver? These are the things you should write about in your content, your social posts, your marketing campaigns, even your packaging. All those promises of “best” quality, service, price, value are meaningless. We’ve all been there, done that, and now we want more. We want to feel safe and made that way by a brand we trust and a brand that has our same values.

Good Product Values

Of course, good products matter, too. Patagonia sold around $156 million in products with an ad that said “Don’t buy this jacket.” Instead, its call to action was to let customers repair their current jackets and save resources from the earth and money for themselves. However, this was so aligned with its customers’ core values, people bought those jackets and other products, anyway. But ads that promote your values really work best when your product has value, too. So as you promote the values you cherish for brand character, you need to promote what you do to add value to your products or services. Do you base your production protocols upon quality management processes and systems that have been certified by third parties? Do you add value in ways that others’ don’t, such as added features, warranties, extended return periods and so on? How can you communicate what goes into your product development that stands out from competitors’ products?

Words that communicate the above “good values” are the “words” that will stand out and help secure new sales, new levels of loyalty and new referrals. In marketing today, talk or “words” are cheap. Values drive value beyond price and imagination.

Is Your Content Marketing the Right Length to Touch the Ground?

The content marketing debate revolving around length makes me think of a story. A curious little girl is said to have asked Abraham Lincoln how long one’s legs should be. After a moment’s reflection, the tall and lanky president responded wisely, “just long enough to touch the ground.”

The content marketing debate revolving around length makes me think of a story. A curious little girl is said to have asked Abraham Lincoln how long one’s legs should be. After a moment’s reflection, the tall and lanky president responded wisely, “just long enough to touch the ground.”

He certainly could not have realized that he was creating an unassailable template used endlessly ever since to provide dimensions for just how short or long any form of communication should be. Thorin McGee, Target Marketing editor-in-chief, recently explored how to find the right length for your content here and concluded — rightly, I would suggest — that the right length was as long as you can keep your audience engaged. Because when they become bored, they leave.

“Think like a reality TV editor,” he writes, referencing popular media for couch potatoes. He might have found a better frame of reference in the novels of Dickens or Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’, originally published in weekly installments in the popular press. To be certain readers would come back and buy the next installment, each had to end with a cliffhanger — would the hero/heroine fall off of the proverbial cliff or be saved, just in the nick of time, to continue the story?

There is no question that if the copy is engaging or compelling, if it makes promises and poses questions you feel you must have the answers to, length isn’t a primary consideration. Guru Frank Johnson’s classic rule is:

Tell them what you are going to tell them.

Tell them.

Tell them what you told them and what to do about it.

It never fails. And whether you do that in 100 or thousands of words depends only on the type of product, the medium but — most of all — on the ability of the writer to increase the attention and interest of the reader as the narrative continues, never letting him get bored. Johnson liked to remind us that great copy “tracks” — like a train going to the next station, it has to stay on the track or you have a fatal derailment.

Try this from TheDogTrainingSecret.com:

Hi Peter,

It gets me every time …

You see a homeless guy on the streets, a dog cuddled at his side.

Life has clearly not been kind to the gentleman, he’s wearing the rattiest, dirtiest jacket you’ve ever seen and shoes so old, there’s no way his feet could be dry.

His life’s belongings are gathered at his side, in a small duffle bag and maybe a weathered grocery bag.

He’s collecting change in a paper coffee cup.

Maybe $1.25 so far today.

Not much.

And as a result of hard living, he’s painfully thin. Much too thin, for a man living on the streets. And life is bleak.

Except for the one obvious ray of sunshine in his life:

That misfit dog, cuddled up at his side.

A dog with nothing but love, admiration and adoration for his master, pouring from his heart and eyes.

Has YOUR dog ever looked at you like that?

Like you’re the center of his world, the only thing that matters, the only person he trusts, his rock and the one person who’s worth 100% of his love and attention?

I don’t know about you …

… But that look of love you get from a dog?

I tell you, it’s a gut check for me every time.

And it’s this feeling that inspired the next designer T-shirt in our line-up:

Be The Person Your Dog Thinks You Are.

Because wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all stepped up and lived this way? And loved this way?

This T-shirt comes in 3 styles … kids, women’s and unisex.

In a variety of stylish colors.

Check them out …

It’s just 275 words. Is it too long, too short or just right? Can you possibly get bored as the story unfolds?

OK, not everyone loves dogs or will buy the T-shirt, but I’d bet many do. (Disclaimer: I bought one.)

So what is the bottom line of the long or short content length issue?

To this maverick marketer, it is simply that every commercial communication must have an objective supported by a narrative engaging and compelling enough to take you by the hand and lead you to the call to action and to the action itself. All of the theorizing about generational differences in attention spans and similar research pales against one simple thing: Does the story accomplish the objective; is it the right length to touch the ground?

Direct Mail: Remember Me?

How often do your direct mail results end up not meeting your expectations? Does your direct mail resonate with your prospects and customers or fall flat? Do they understand and remember what you said? If not, you have a big problem. In order to avoid this, you need to be creating direct mail that resonates. Let’s take a look at what you can do to reach your maximum potential.

direct mail memory
“When you realize #sunday is almost over & monday is around the corner,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Pink Rhino

How often do your direct mail results end up not meeting your expectations? Does your direct mail resonate with your prospects and customers or fall flat? Do they understand and remember what you said? If not, you have a big problem. In order to avoid this, you need to be creating direct mail that resonates. Let’s take a look at what you can do to reach your maximum potential.

First we will start with the four types of memory, because they are the key to understanding how to improve your direct mail:

  1. Early Bias — These are people who best remember the beginning messaging in a direct mail piece. It is important to get right to the point for these people.
  2. Recency Bias — These are people who best remember messaging that they most recently read at the end of your mail piece. It is important to restate your message at the end without calling it a summary. People skip over summaries.
  3. Repetitive Bias — These are people who best remember direct mail messages that are repeated. It is important to restate what you want them to remember at least three times.
  4. Outstanding Bias — These are people who best remember the part of your direct mail message that is different or stands out in some way. It is important to make the effort to reach these people by using out-of-the-box language.

Where do you think you fall with these four memory types? I will reveal a secret; you should fall in more than one. So how can we use these memory biases to increase direct mail response?

  • Main Point: State your main point right away and end with your main point. Repeat it throughout your message copy. Then find a quirky way to state it that really stands out. This is what you want people to remember.
  • Bullets: If you make a list of bullets, make the most important first, second, second to last and last. You should repeat them in your copy, as well.
  • Stories: Use real stories to show how great life will be when they buy your product or service. People read and remember stories. Just make sure you use the story to highlight your main point and get them to take action.
  • Call to Action: This is another one that should be repeated across the direct mail piece. This is how you get people to respond. Give them more than one way to respond.
  • Images: They should be intriguing and relevant to your messaging. You want to draw attention and help state your message.

When you can bring all of these together cohesively, you have a great direct mail piece. Then it is just up to you to send to the right list of people. By considering your prospect and customer’s memory types, you create a way to really reach each of them in a truly memorable way. If you do not create a mail piece that is compelling it will end up in the trash. Don’t waste your marketing budget on bad direct mail. Your mail service provider can help you spice up your next campaign and increase your response rates with these tips. Are you ready to get started?

How Much Repetition Is Too Much?

Recently, I had a conversation with a client and an agency about sales copy. It was the agency staff’s contention there was too much repetition. I disagreed. Which got me to thinking: When is too much repetition, well, too much?

Recently, I had a conversation with a client and an agency about sales copy. It was the agency staff’s contention there was too much repetition. I disagreed. Which got me to thinking: When is too much repetition, well, too much?

When I refer to repetition, I don’t mean repeating a sentence word-for-word, but rather, rephrasing or reframing an idea in another way.

A strong idea or point deserves repeating. Why? People scan. Attention spans are short. And it’s repetition of an idea or unique selling proposition that reduces the chance that the casual reader will miss what’s most important. Skillful repetition of your idea builds long-term memory.

So why do some marketers think repetition is bad?

I think it’s because, all too often, marketers and their creative teams start to believe they are their own prospective customer and, thus, evaluate everything they read through that lens.

In addition, the marketer or copywriter has read the message multiple times, so it’s familiar — too familiar — to them. It’s not being read with a fresh set of eyes. So when they see an idea repeated, even when craftily reworded, it’s perceived as repetitious, and therefore it’s deemed bad, weakening the sales message.

In the not-so-long-ago days of the most successful of direct mail packages, where I had a hand in their creation, a strong idea would be:

  1. Teased on an outer envelope.
  2. Brought to life in a letter’s headline and lead (and probably repeated elsewhere, especially in a long-form letter).
  3. Stated in a brochure, lift note or other enclosure.
  4. And it sure as heck had better have been repeated on the order device …
  5. … and perhaps even snuck, yet again, into the guarantee.

Repetition starts the path to short-term memory which, as a minimum, is needed to clinch the sale. But well-crafted repetition — or reinforcement of an idea, positioning, or unique selling proposition — leads to forming coveted long-term memory. Long-term memory can succeed in converting a prospect into a paying customer. Better yet, with long-term memory of your idea or USP firmly in place, you increase the likelihood for repeat purchases in the future.

My advice: Don’t be afraid to repeat, or rephrase, a thought.

  • When using email, link thoughts from the subject line to the email copy, once opened.
  • For landing pages, use sidebars or other call-outs.
  • Video content can pass quickly — all the more reason to emphasize important points with repetition (and videos on landing pages should emphasize what the page says).

People scan. Their eyes dart around on a webpage or printed piece. Attention spans are short.

Don’t assume that one passing mention of an important selling message or concept is going to be quickly absorbed by the casual reader. It won’t. Repetition may feel too strong to the marketing team, but chances are your prospective customer is going to remember your message.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Does Your Copy Have a ‘Human’ Voice? Or a ‘Copywriter’s’ Voice?

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And it didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And the voice didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.
business_personalThat experience jarred me into wondering about my own copy: Does it sound human? Do I capture the right “voice” of either the sender or the organization?

Sometimes copy gets lost by overthinking it, making sure every “t” is crossed and “i” dotted. Sometimes the tone gets lost through input from other marketing team members, rounds of approvals, and review for compliance, where the tone degrades into being less human and more unnatural — to the point of being distracting or off-putting.

So today I share a few thoughts about copy’s “voice.”

I’ve come up with a scale that might help guide you to the “voice” or tone of copy for you. It’s a scale of 1 to 3. One is the most casual. Three is the most formal. You might find there are more than three for your situation. These are examples of how you might greet someone, ranging from a close friend, to casual acquaintance, to someone you’d meet for the first time:

  1. ‘Sup my brother/sister?
  2. Hey there, <name>! How are you?!
  3. Hello, <name>, nice to meet you.

In the example email from a friend I cited earlier, the subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” But the tone shifted, once the email was opened to a more canned, more formal, “Hello, nice to meet you” approach.

It was distracting. And disappointing. These unintended — but very real — impressions overwhelmed whatever impact was hoped for about the message content. So my advice is this:

  • Know your audience. When you know your audience, you’ll know if your voice can be casual or formal. Settling on the appropriate voice can be based on past transactions, the type of product or service you offer, or what you know about your customer’s age, demos or behavioral data.
  • Distinguish the level of relationship and product awareness. The voice of a subject line of an email, and headline of any copy (website, landing page, letter, etc.), should be based on the awareness and relationship your prospective customer has with your product or its category.
  • Choose the right type of lead. The relationship and awareness (or lack thereof) dictates if you should use a direct lead (offer, promise or problem-solution) or an indirect lead (secret, declaration or story). I’ll share more about these six lead types in a future blog post.
  • Be consistent. Don’t shift from one voice type to another within the same promo. If the copy has been significantly edited, be sure to read it aloud so you can hear if the voice is consistent throughout.
  • Be consistent across channels. If you’re using email, make sure the voice is consistent from the subject line to the email body, and from the email to the landing page, and yes, consistent all the way through the order page.

Finally, let someone read your copy who is unfamiliar with what has been written, to make sure the voice is appropriate and, probably most importantly, that it sounds like it was written by a human.

Just curious: do you feel my “voice” in these blog posts is appropriate? I invite your feedback.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!,” available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

7 Secret Formulas for Getting Free Earned Media

A few days ago, I read Neil Patel’s blog post: “How to Give Your Content Wings: We Analyzed 11,541 Viral Articles from 2016 to Uncover the Secret Formula.” Excluding articles considered “complete spam,” Patel’s post discusses ideas and confirms formulas that every marketer and copywriter should know. The secret? Killer headlines. The formula? Actually, it’s more like seven formulas.

article-71342_1280The right combination of truly shareable words and ideas will energize marketing without crossing the line of becoming fake news. So even if you don’t use content marketing to support your overall campaigns, every marketer and copywriter can learn something from an analysis of 11,541 viral articles that reveals the top seven formulas that not only grab your readers’ attention, but gets shared to their friends.

A few days ago, I read Neil Patel’s blog post: “How to Give Your Content Wings: We Analyzed 11,541 Viral Articles from 2016 to Uncover the Secret Formula.”  Excluding articles considered “complete spam,” Patel’s post discusses ideas and confirms formulas that every marketer and copywriter should know.

The secret? Killer headlines.

The formula? Actually, it’s more like seven formulas.

Even if you don’t write content articles, there is something here to be learned for copywriters.

Here is an overview of Patel’s top seven data-driven tactics in headlines that drive more social shares:

1. Use Numbers

Patel says, “Use numbers in at least half of your articles.” In his analysis, 61 percent of top-performing article headlines had a number. A reason people click on titles with a number is certainty of what they will read. Another observation: You don’t necessarily need the number at the beginning of the title.

2. “This Is What…”

Because headlines with the highest engagement have 16-18 words, Patel looked for phrases that have been repeated. The phrase “this is what” was used often. Again, probably because of the certainty created with the definitive and authoritative phrase.

3. 500 +/- Words

More traffic may come from longer articles (due to higher rankings and traffic). But for sharing, shorter works. Images also impact social sharing. If you are publishing breaking news, write articles around 500 words.

4. “How to” Still Works

The phrase “how to” has been known to work for generations. No surprise here. An article in the vein of “how to” is usually informative, and teaches.

5. Question Titles

Two-word phrases forming questions like “Do you…?” “Can you…?” and “Is the…?” work. So does this three-word phrase: “Do you agree…?”

6. Controversy

2016 was certainly a year of controversy, especially with a nasty election. But controversy sparks curiosity and interest, according to Patel. His recommendation? Create a title that contains a controversial issue.

7. Video

Another non-surprise was that using the word “video” resulted in higher shares. That’s been true of email subject lines for some time. So, whenever possible, post videos and include “video” in the title.

If you’re looking for something new to test, start your search with what works, and add to it from there. These formulas, revealed by analysis, should energize your messaging, whether you’re writing online articles, email subject lines or direct mail headlines.