3 Ways to Use Negative Thoughts in Direct Mail

Whether used subtly or like a sledgehammer, getting a prospect to worry about the worst-case scenario is often all that’s needed to override any objections.

Here are three quick ways to use a negative approach before presenting a positive solution

If there’s one thing I hate to be wrong about, it’s direct mail.

I admit I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to knowing who’s used what tactics or strategies successfully, and when.

And that fear — of something going wrong — can itself be a pretty powerful way to motivate action in direct mail. The most successful and common copy driver — see our special report on all of them — employed by marketers is fear.

Whether used subtly or like a sledgehammer, getting a prospect to worry about the worst-case scenario is often all that’s needed to override any objections.

Here are three quick ways to use a negative approach before presenting a positive solution.

1. Paint Them a Picture
Jefferson Health
Everyone thinks they’re careful, or try to be. But pride goeth before the fall, sometimes literally.

Here’s an image from a self-mailer for Jefferson Urgent Care in Philadelphia. Notice that it didn’t have to be grisly to get your attention, and make a point.

The message is: know where to get immediate help, for “life’s little emergencies.” This mail piece included a map showing the location of the hospital’s urgent center, and a magnet with its hours.

2. Challenge an Assumption
Advanced Biosolutions
Your prospect may feel content. They think they have all the facts needed to make a good decision about what car they drive, foods they eat, etc. But you can point out a flaw in their thinking.

The teaser on this envelope from Advanced Bionutritionals, a supplement manufacturer, plays on that. “Boost Your Nitric Oxide Levels With L-Arginine, Right? Wrong!”

The letter inside talks about how “popular advice” was wrong, thanks to newer research studies it cites. It then promotes its product as an alternative. The marketer successfully used this exact argument for its product for several years, in both direct mail and email.

3. Use Social Proof
aig_01
Many insurance providers build their marketing on negative thinking. But AIG takes it to another level with its mail for Travel Guard. Here’s an example.

The woman on the front panel of this self-mailer says of travel insurance: “I don’t think I’ll need it.” But inside, 4 case studies – “nightmares” – unfold across three panels. These aren’t mere quotes, but full paragraphs. Each horror story (e.g., medical emergency) deals with a specific policy need satisfied by the company’s plan.

People want to avoid them, but bad things happen. It’s important then, that as much as you can acknowledge them, not to use them to overwhelm customers. Your brand should evoke more positive feelings. Offer solutions that are more about creating a positive experience.

The bottom line? Test both positive and negative approaches. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?