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?

How 5 Aspects of Storytelling Influence Your Brand

Stories work because throughout history, in every culture and place, human beings have had one thing in common: We love great storytelling with compelling characters.

Stories work because throughout history, in every culture and place, human beings have had one thing in common: We love great storytelling with compelling characters.

Over time, the ways we tell stories may have changed, but the reason why we tell stories remains the same. We all want to hear and feel something meaningful and emotionally true.

The good news for brands is that we’re all hard-wired to respond to storytelling devices.

MRI studies show that the human brain literally lights up when confronted with information told in story form.

Most of us have seen reports and studies about the number of marketing messages we receive each day — some peg it between 4,000 and 10,000. If that range is accurate, then directly connecting with your audience is harder than ever. And if it’s harder to reach your audience, then using a technique that’s faster, more effective and more powerful seems like the easy choice. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Storytelling for Marketing

The technology to make an accessible video — a very compelling way to quickly tell emotional stories — has enabled brands to touch the heartstrings of their customers. Beyond video, however, is a host of marketing communications techniques that brands need to access so they can best resonate with their audiences.

When building a messaging framework to write the copy for a web page, landing page, mailer, email, etc., businesses have numerous options and resources. Just Google “Messaging Frameworks,” and you’ll see what I mean.

Marketing firms and agencies have done a good job sharing their approaches to garner more web traffic and authority, so the secret sauce of how to build a good framework is not-so-secret anymore. It’s just how your marketing team best fits its skills and talents into an approach that works for your business.

For a storytelling approach to messaging, there are tons of resources to help with this, ranging from Donald Miller’s business StoryBrand, to Jonah Sachs’ “Winning the Story Wars,” to all of the on-line videos about how to tell a good marketing story. What I’ve outlined below isn’t new. But what I hope it does is challenge your team to better understand how to meaningfully engage with your audience.

The 5 Universal Aspects of a Story

  1. The Hero: From Gilgamesh, to Elizabeth Bennett, to Luke Skywalker, to Carol Danvers, the hero is to whom we attach ourselves. We follow heroes through their struggles, hopes, and their desires to somehow transform their lives. Your hero is your customer. What does s/he struggle with? What is s/he motivated by? What kind of transformation is your customer looking for?
  2. The Villain: The best villains represent something bigger than themselves. In “The Grapes of Wrath,” the villains were shown as police, farmland holders …and most importantly, the system. It was The System that uprooted the Midwestern grasslands. The System planted nutrient-draining cotton, which depleted the soil, and helped cause the great Dust Bowl. The System ended up forcing the share-cropping farmers to migrate. The villain is what your customer/hero has to overcome. Is it high prices for poor service? Is it lack of confidence? Inconvenience? The gap between the increase of the cost of education vs. the increase in wages? This is your team’s hard work. You need to deeply dig into who or what the villain is.
  3. The Mentor: All stories have a guide or mentor, some kind of facilitator who steps in to help the hero. The guide helps lay out the path. The hero has to do the actual work. It’s the independent work of the hero that makes the journey worthwhile. As every parent knows, children learn and grow and gain confidence when they do it themselves. You and your business are the mentor. You help show the customer-hero how to overcome obstacles and get to a place they want to go.
  4. The Journey: This is how the hero actually transforms. In fiction, the journey could be physical, psychological, emotional or all of the above. It’s the path the hero takes that results in a transformed state of living … happier, healthier, stronger, wiser … all of the things we want to be. Every human wants to become more than they are. We have an innate desire to improve and grow. Your customer-journey is the plan, the path, that you lay out for them. You, as both mentor and business, show the customer what the journey looks like, and so facilitate his or her growth.
  5. The Transformation: This is the golden reward, the place the customer wants to go. Like I explained in “3 Types of Brand Stories,” this can be a functional, emotional or moral transformation. It is a clear and hopeful resolution, when confronting and besting the villain. As a business, you need to make the transformation extremely clear for the customer, so s/he can see how life will be better because of trusting you as a mentor and following your suggested path.

I recommend you Google “Storytelling for Marketing” and explore two or three pages deep into the rich set of helpful resources and firms that have outstanding advice. You become their hero, they become your mentor, and these resources help you best the villain of audience attrition on your journey to transform into a stronger storyteller and brand professional.

I hope this helps, and as always, I welcome your feedback.

storytelling secondary art

3 Types of Brand Stories: Functional, Emotional, Moral

There are three types of storytelling for brands: Functional, Emotional and Moral. Every brand should have a functional story, but the best ones find an emotional and moral story that rings true to their own culture and mission, as well as to their audience.

What an interesting Academy Awards season. So many different kinds of stories that were told! From Roma to Black Panther to The Favourite, the scale, story arcs, and scopes of the stories were remarkably different.

And that same variety applies to brands — there’s a unique kind of brand storytelling for each.

When you think about the kind of story your brand wants to tell, not only should it definitely be different than other competitors in your space, it should also be a different kind of story. I’m not talking about stories being funny or dramatic, I’m thinking about something much broader.

In my class I ask each student to give a “Tour of Brand.” This is a 20+ minute presentation about a brand they love, and talk about the history, the aspects of the competition, and most importantly why that brand speaks to them. Now that I’ve been teaching for about 10 years, I’ve probably seen about 400 of these “Tours of Brands.” So many brand presentations!

From those, I’ve learned that there are three types of brand stories that are being told. For your brand, think about which story you’re telling. And, it could be more than one. I’ve included links to videos to illustrate these stories.

The Functional Story: ‘Help My Life Easier’

Functional stories help make things a lot easier in life. There might be some emotion tied to that (I feel better when things are easier), but basically these stories show how they make the customer’s life is just a whole lot easier to manage. Stuff gets cleaner, takes less time, etc. A great example of this kind of storytelling is from Lemonade, an insurance company. Their whole pitch is to make insurance simple, clean, easy, modern and accessible — especially for Generation Z. Does it make me feel better? Sure, it could. But the emotions are borne out of things just being a simpler and more understandable way of getting insurance.

Emotional Story: ‘Help Me Feel Something Real’

These are powerful stories. Emotional marketing is, of course, something we all respond to and remember. The hippocampus and amygdala are two centers in the brain responsible for memory and emotion, and they are physically right next to each other. Emotional reactions link us together across culture and time, and bind us together as humans. The better brands convey their emotional marketing messages with authenticity and a realness that aligns the purpose of the brand with the tactics, images, and words.

And with videos as the primary mover of emotional storytelling, brands have no excuses to not find those good, emotionally real stories. One of my favorite is the P&G Thank You Mom Campaign. Give yourself a treat and spend 2+ minutes watching this.

They have built an entire collection of these kinds of stories, and the first one debuted in the 2012 Olympics:

And if after watching it, you’re not crying, I can’t help you.

Moral Story: ‘Help Me Become More Than Myself’

The Moral Stories are the most powerful ones a brand can tell. They reign supreme by connecting you and the brand to something larger and more meaningful in life. They show you that you — as a consumer — can be a part of a movement and massive social change that has real impact in the world. These brands empower you to be a force of good, and to be the change you want to see in the world.

My favorite recent example is Always. They finally understand that they’re not just selling tampons. A girl’s confidence plummets during puberty, and they realize that they can be a part of this story. They can help girls who are going through a brand new and somewhat scary experience understand that it’s a step towards empowerment and strong life-stage. Always can be a big part of this message, and they fully embraced it with #likeagirl campaign. They rode the wake started by the Dove Evolution Campaign, and have done a strong job of creating awareness that an entire generation of confident girls can make major change across the planet in the next 10-20 years and beyond.

And in this one caption, you can sense the large macro-drama that Always is asking users to be a part of. They asked the same questions to girls who were in their late teens & early twenties and to girls who haven’t yet hit puberty:

Interviewer: “What does it mean to run like a girl?”

Older Girl: [Flailing and prancing weakly] “Uhnnnnn …”

8-year old girl: “It means … run as fast as you can.”

Here are two of their solid Moral Storytelling videos.

https://youtu.be/P_MhsbRiFyI

When it comes to your brand, I guarantee you each have a functional story to tell. My hunch is that you have an emotional story to tell. And for those brave souls willing to put it out there, think deeply about a moral story. The world needs more of those.

So, go ask yourself and your team: What kind of story are you telling?

As always, I’d enjoy your feedback.

How Big Idea Marketing Can Live on in Data-Driven Storytelling

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

big idea marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Mohamed Hassan

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

But did the advertising work? Did it achieve a client business objective? Did it engage customers and produce sales, orders, leads …? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Back then, only direct marketers cared about measurement.

How Data Has Changed Advertising … Forever

Enter data. Well, data entered the advertising marketplace when direct mail and direct selling made its debut. But not to discount direct mail pioneers and their cousins in direct-response print and broadcast and telemarketing, let’s fast forward to the digital era. Wow! Today, do we have data!

Combine that creative genius with a heavy dose of data insights and strategy, and now we have data-driven creative — where creative effort is measured against action. No more gut instincts and guesswork. Agencies and in-house marketing departments can prove that their creative ideation works and, in fact, can use prospect and customer data to drive the creative ideation to predict and produce defined business outcomes.

Is there still a role for big idea marketing? Of course! In fact, breakthrough creative is indeed a mechanism for breaking clutter. But now, we have the means for one more de-clutter breakthrough: relevance. Using data insights to drive strategy, combined with compelling creative and storytelling, and now we’re proving our C-suite mettle.

There’s a role for creative festivals.

Rethinking Ad Festivals

But how about a data festival … or a data-driven storytelling festival? Well, we may just have one, and it’s been around for a while. It’s the International ECHO Award Competition, with its call for entries now underway. (I’m a member of the Data & Marketing Association ECHO Board of Governors.)

If an agency today is not proving its command of creative, data and relevance, then it’s not proving its presence as a business driver — no matter how many creative trophies are in the case. Winning an ECHO is different. It’s always been about data-driven storytelling, and it’s always been about strategy, creative AND results, more or less in equal measure. ECHOs serve as proof points for agencies, and in-house marketing teams, that they have data chops. They serve as signals to C-suites that ECHO winners are trusted business partners who know ad tech, martech, data management platforms, analytics prowess and have a discipline to test and measure — all in equal faith to the creative big idea.

Left brain, right brain. Yes, there’s still necessary discussion today about data, measurement and unfettered creative. But in today’s world, we can have both creative and relevance through data. In fact we must have both to capture elusive consumer attention, and to produce action … to prove our worth.

This roster of agencies let’s fast forward — and their agency groups let’s fast forward — have been named ECHO Award finalists, and Diamond, Gold, Silver and Bronze ECHO trophy winners in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Who will be joining them in 2018? In October, in Las Vegas, we’ll find out.

Credit: DMA

Storytelling: Why It Rarely Works in Sales Prospecting

Many a book has been written on storytelling. Especially in marketing. Today, storytelling (as a practice) is creeping into sales prospecting. But is it effective to start conversations from cold?

Many a book has been written on storytelling. Especially in marketing. Today, storytelling (as a practice) is creeping into sales prospecting. But is it effective to start conversations from cold?

Like so many “best” practices this one rarely works for sales reps. Because stories are usually presented:

  • Outside the buyer’s decision-making context (not buying context … the many parts preceding it)
  • Selfishly, in a way tries to force conversation about the seller’s value
  • To help uncover a “hidden pain” the prospect has yet is unaware of

Yes, B2B buyers are concerned more with business value, how your solution is different … less with features and benefits. But until prospects discover, on their own:

  • why buying might be needed,
  • a way to manage their own internal change

… they won’t be in a position to want your story.

In many selling contexts, this reduces your story to a self-centered means-to-an-end: A discussion clients don’t see value in (yet).

Sellers using storytelling as a conversation-starter often suffer. Especially when clients don’t routinely invest in what is being sold.

After all, why would prospects want to hear a story (about a problem they don’t know they have) unless they were ready to consider change? Biased questions create push-back.

In Defense of Storytelling

“Sometimes prospects aren’t willing to open up to sales rep’s questions which are aimed to discover and build pain,” said a colleague who co-founded a SaaS company selling solutions to leaders of sales teams. His targets are often reluctant to invest. The status quo feels just fine.

“Sometimes prospects get frustrated at answering questions without being told why. Sometimes its difficult for prospects to understand ‘whats being sold to them’ and need the context. Storytelling helps prospects resonate with a sales person as they can relate to another customer in the same sector, with the same job title, with similar objectives.”

But here’s the problem: Buyers (who are not buyers yet) aren’t interested in helping you discover pains … and build upon it.

“Qualification or discovery questions on cold calls can sometimes feel like traps to prospects,” says sales trainer, Josh Braun. “How are you going to use this to sell me? Where are you leading me? It’s like when a mall kiosk person says ‘Can I ask you a question?’ You look away because you know they are asking to lead you somewhere.”

Prospects are very good at identifying and resisting your biased questions. Sadly, these are the questions sellers are trained to ask … which serve only their (not the client’s) need.

“This situation happened on a sales call I reviewed for one of my own reps today,” my colleague continued. “The prospect pushed back on my rep’s questions which were aimed at discovering how he could help and where the opportunity existed. As soon as he told a relevant customer story, the conversation changed for the better.”

But did the conversation continue? In most cases they do not. Prospects may get clear on what you’re trying to sell to them; however, they may become less motivated to continue the conversation!

Instead, what if the sales rep asked, “What would need to happen for you to give sales managers a way to monitor and act on how reps are interacting with prospects?”

The “why” is obvious: The rep asks because he’s interested more in the prospects’ current capabilities… less about qualifying them into a deal. By focusing the prospect on their own (lack of) capability there is no need to be put into a defensive posture.

Bottom line: Avoid the push-back completely, save the story for later.

Assume a Neutral Role First

What if your communications technique re-framed: Away from coaxing the prospect into talking about their “why” (which they don’t have), toward a neutral role.

What if you first helped the client realize a problem exists with neutral questions?

The question, “What would need to happen for you to give sales managers a way to monitor and act on how reps are interacting with prospects?” is not asking to consider what they’re missing out on. Instead, it is asking the client to consider a problem (or advantage) they don’t (yet) know exists.

Here is another neutral question my colleague should be asking when calling-in cold: “How are you measuring your sales managers ability to help reps drive qualitatively better sales conversations?”

How, not “are you.” This forces introspection: “Gee, I’m not measuring managers’ ability to help reps communicate better…. why should I be?” Now they’re on a path to developing their ‘why.’

Under your neutral guidance.

If prospects don’t have a need for your tool you cannot nurture that need out of them. You must help them, first, develop a ‘why’ that is not tied to the pre-determined need you have (for prospects to develop a why enabling your eventual sale).

Here are action items for you to consider:

1) Why would a customer who is not, yet, able to initiate the change needed (to bring you in) want to hear a story?

2) What if you, instead, got better at facilitating conversations addressing clients internal decision systems? (helping the champion navigate their internal decision process… and, thus, shaping the RFP)

3) What if you got better at identifying what created the buyer’s status quo — then helped internal champions create a business case within the framework of their decision process?

Stories may be of (better) use when we are invited to share them by the prospect — for their reasons rather than being a means to convince them of something they’re overlooking/not seeing. That feels too much like persuasion.

As Edith Crnkovich, of DXC Technology and self-proclaimed sassy storyteller, says,  there is more value in “having the sales person first seek to understand the customers business issues before launching into a story. I don’t think we spend enough time doing that and this is mostly about asking a lot of questions first.”

What do you think?

Thank You, Arthur Blumenfield, Joyful Storyteller

This past week, we bid farewell to a gentleman and a marketing pioneer, Arthur Blumenfield. For those of us in the New York marketing community, who revere data and data-driven marketing and media — as well as the camaraderie of our community — Arthur truly was a leading light.

This past week, we bid farewell to a gentleman and a marketing pioneer, Arthur Blumenfield.

For those of us in the New York marketing community, who revere data and data-driven marketing and media — as well as the camaraderie of our community — Arthur truly was a leading light.

Arthur was full of stories, and he was a masterful storyteller. He was also joyful, and one couldn’t help feeling the warmth when you were with him. One of my favorite stories was a visit he had taken to Jerusalem, where the locals told him to get a room at the Yimcah Hotel. Up and down he rode the bus route, having to remind the forgetful bus driver a couple of times to drop him off at the stop nearest to the hotel. Peeling his eyes along the route, looking for the hotel — back and forth, as other riders jumped in to say the bus had passed the hotel. Really? Finally, when he actually had the correct stop, he exited the bus and wandered about, finally discovering the Yimcah Hotel, otherwise known as the Y-M-C-A.

That was it, you never knew if it was urban lore — or a true experience. But it really didn’t matter, it was Arthur sharing a tale, and earning a laugh.

He loved his regular OGLE meetings — Old Guys Lunch Experience. Last summer, I received a coveted invitation.  And Arthur truly had a plan for inviting me there. There were plenty of folks in our field — with wisdom a-plenty — with their own stories to be told, and shared. He shared with me Eddy Boas’s book, “I’m Not a Victim, I am a Survivor — how one of our industry’s own endured the Holocaust in a camp with his family, only to survive, rise and build a career in Australia and beyond as a direct marketer. Arthur’s career crossed paths with many such personalities, most of them colorful like himself.

His accomplishments professionally preceded him:

  • He invented the de-duping processes for mail data files, as well as “Me-Books” — that’s personalized print and storytelling coming together;
  • He served as longtime treasurer for the Direct Marketing Club of New York, earning both Silver Apple (1994) and Golden Apple (2013) honors. The company he founded, BMI Global OMS, a family business, was a Silver Apple corporate honoree itself last year;
  • He was a founder of Direct Marketing Days of New York;
  • He cared deeply for the education mission of DMCNY — and our collective support for the future of our field;
  • He developed an order management system first used by the Direct Marketing Association (now Data & Marketing Association) for its conferences; and on and on.

He loved his craft, he loved our field, and loved most of all his family — husband, father, grandfather.  You know when you were invited to a summer outing in Easton, Conn., it was an extended family affair.

Thank you, Arthur, for your warmth, stories and achievements — all of which you so readily shared. We are all the better for it, and — in your spirit — I’m hopeful that any of us can pay it forward at least half as good as you did, with that ever-present smile. That would be remarkable.

Get Used to It: Your Customers Want Stories

Earlier this month I was in Cleveland for Content Marketing World, where the theme was “The World of Stories.” Who doesn’t love a good story? At our core, humans are storytellers, and we are receptive to them.

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Joe Pulizzi at Content Marketing World disucssing storiesThat is … unless you’re marketing to the robots who might eventually become our overlords if Amazon doesn’t beat them to it.

Earlier this month I was in Cleveland for Content Marketing World, the very place that gave me the swift kick in the pants to launch this blog (and then later “What Were They Thinking?”).

The theme was “The World of Stories,” which sure, sounds quaint. Who doesn’t love a good story? Most of us were raised on them: the bedtime story, the stories our grandparents told us about our families, crazy stories about parties gone awry in college, bad date stories, weird work stories … we love them all (or maybe that’s just me).

At our core, humans are storytellers, and we are receptive to them. Story is the universal language … and remember, you don’t need words to tell a good story.

So this past week I heard about (and in some cases, saw), the stories GE produces. Learned about Death Wish Coffee’s brand story thanks to Jay Acunzo. Skyword’s founder and CEO Tom Gerace shared with us a story about Indian detergent-maker Ariel, and how it convinced husbands and fathers to #sharetheload.

I was blown away by the stories Casey Neistat creates using video and his wild imagination. Coca-Cola shared how their customers create stories around their brand (and fun ones at that!) Colson Whitehead — an amazing writer — shared his story of becoming who he is now, weaving together well-placed jokes, anecdotes and simple truths about what it’s like to really be a writer.

Scott Stratten shared the story of how he took down a Canadian telecom who was posting BS reviews of its app (all while not wearing pants — what a life!). And Hollywood actor, director and maybe the most adorable guy (aside from my boyfriend Johnny) Joseph Gordon Levitt shared how he created the HitRecord at a time when he couldn’t get hired, and how it has blossomed as a diverse community of artistic collaborators.

Yes, these were keynotes and sessions … but they were all stories. Stories inspiring the content creators in Cleveland to head home and tell more stories. To build connections. To entertain. To inform. To help their customers become even more successful at what they do.

At our core, we are all storytellers, from the Fortune 500 CEO to the copywriter, from the small business owner to the SEO strategist.

What’s YOUR story?

What Story Does Your Direct Mail Tell?

Why is a story so powerful? Stories are a form of communication that draw us in and pull at our emotions. They create an authentic connection that our brains are hardwired to remember and respond to better.

All direct mail pieces tell a story. Are yours telling the story you want, or one by default? The story is critical to your response rate. Why is a story so powerful? Stories are a form of communication that draw us in and pull at our emotions. They create an authentic connection that our brains are hardwired to remember and respond to better.

People buy from companies they trust and like. Are you one of them? You can be if you get your story right. The story is the most overlooked part of direct mail creation. Check your mailbox for nonprofit appeals; they do a great job of telling stories. So, before your next campaign, consider how to craft your story.

How do you create a direct mail story? Start with the following questions and write out each of the answers:

  1. Who: Who are you as a company to your customers and your employees?
  2. How: How did your company come about? What problems were you trying to solve?
  3. What: What do you do for your customers and employees?
  4. Why: Why are you in business?
  5. Targets: Who are the prospects and customers you are targeting? List out what they have in common and their differences.
  6. Real: Consider choosing a real client or employee who has a good story about your product or service and how it helped them.
  7. Goal: What is the goal you seek with the story? To showcase why people should buy, to show how warm and friendly you are, or something else? A well-defined goal will give you the best results. How do you need to write your story to accomplish it?
  8. Share: Once you write the first draft of your story, give it to a select set of people outside your organization to critique it. They will find issues you never thought of and may have more ideas to make it better.

Now you are ready to get to the crafting part. Your story must have the following components:

  • A reason to get excited and interested in the story. A boring story will not work.
  • Ask for participation in your story. You want your audience to really get into it. You can even have them respond to you via social media to keep the story going.
  • Tell your story in a fun and different way so that it stands out. You can be funny, witty and a little edgy so that people remember you.
  • You need a beginning, middle and end, as well as a problem and solution that are well defined. When you leave something out of your story, it does not resonate with people.

When you are able to convey an authentic, compelling story that connects you with your prospects and customers, your direct mail is more effective. When you do not craft your own story, you get stuck with the one people give you based on your messages. Don’t’ let this happen. Take an active role in crafting your story and make it the best story ever.

Keep in mind that you can create multiple stories to appeal to different targeted groups. One story does not fit all. You want your story to connect with people — in order to do that, you need to segment your data to reach the right people with the right stories. Have you used stories before? Have they worked for you?

The Best Direct Mail Is Influential

Is your direct mail telling a story right now? It should be! Why, you ask? Well, people respond to and remember stories. Stories build trust, and even alter our brain chemistry with cortisol and oxytocin to bring about focus and empathy.

direct mail storytellingHow is your current direct mail influencing people to buy from you? Are you getting the results you expected? What if you could increase them by changing your narrative? The normal facts-based approach is not the best way to reach people. In order to best illustrate the value of your product or service, you need to tell a compelling story. Why? Because emotion trumps logic every time.

Is your direct mail telling a story right now? It should be! Why, you ask? Well people respond to and remember stories. Stories build trust, and even alter our brain chemistry with cortisol and oxytocin to bring about focus and empathy. These are great ways to get people interested in your direct mail. No one is interested in your logic; they identify with the story and buy because of it. This is why we sell benefits with direct mail — not features.

A story is not your tagline, slogan or mission statement. Those things do not sell your product or service. A story happens in a moment of time. There is a beginning, middle and end. There are emotions involved not facts. There are people to care about. Do not just brush the surface with an idea — really tell the story. Commit to it and people will commit to your company. Keep in mind that it does not have to be heart wrenching to cause an emotional response.

So how do you find your story? Talk to customers about their experiences with you as a company and your product or service. Talk to your employees, too! You can even use your own life to find a story. Make lists of your differentiators, benefits, and changes that have happened and decisions that have been made for either better or worse. All of these can help you to craft your story. The key is to engage with your customers and prospects through the story. When your story resonates with your prospects and customers, they buy from you.

Once you have some concepts laid out, review each option along with your team to see which one stands out the most. It is a good idea to also show it to someone outside your organization to make sure they understand it and feel what you are expecting them to. If they do not, you will need to try another story or figure out a better way to tell that story. Creating your compelling story will take some time. Do not rush it. The more time you spend on it, the better story you will have.

So now that you have your story, how can you translate that into your direct mail? Obviously this will be easier with a letter format over a postcard, but that does not mean you can’t use a postcard. In fact, a visual story can start with a postcard and be finished by sending them to a landing page with your video story. There are many ways to incorporate your story into your mail piece. When reaching out for the first time, you will need to supply the whole story or a way for them to get the whole story. After that you can use bits and pieces of the story to draw them into your mailer and continue to grow the story. Have you tried using a story in your direct mail? How did it work for you?

Fill in the Blanks: A Framework Where Strategy and Copy Writes Itself

A blank screen or sheet of paper is daunting when starting to conceive a strategy or write copy. There are formulas abound for getting started. But the framework I’ve found most impactful, based on experience and results, is …

copy strategyA blank screen or sheet of paper is daunting when starting to conceive a copy strategy. There are formulas abound for getting started. But the framework I’ve found most impactful, based on experience and results, is one that I have personally conceived and refined over the past years.

I use a seven-step framework to create copy strategy that aligns with how people naturally process information, think and lead themselves to a place where they give themselves permission to inquire, buy or donate. This is detailed in my new book, Crack the Customer Mind Code.

I used this framework once again last week when an organization called me in to meet about a troubled direct mail and online marketing program. I walked the team through the framework, and we were quickly able to identify the disconnect between the approach they were using and what they should be communicating instead. In an hour, a succinct “road map” was created. It became apparent why their recent marketing campaigns weren’t working, and in the second hour of our meeting, we wasted no time in talking through the implementation of a new copy strategy.

I use this framework when writing a letter, video script or content — virtually any copy that requires getting my point across with a story. With client input, we discuss and fill in the blanks in the matrix. The result is a framework that enables faster copywriting and testing.

Most importantly: The seven steps lead to short-term memory, and often the desired long-term memory that serves as the tipping point when the prospect becomes a customer (read how this framework creates new memory in The 3 Levels of Memory: Marketing’s End Game).

Here’s how it works: I create a matrix like the one below (download the PDF). I ask questions, and fill in the answers. Fill in the blanks in the right column and your strategy will reveal itself. Then use the information to start writing copy, and your message practically writes itself.

7-Step Framework for Creating Copy Strategy (opens as a PDF)

Gary Hennerberg gives you the details of his “Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” in his book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways, and access to Gary’s videos where he presents them, go to CustomerMindCode.com