How to make your commission ... ca-ching!
The best lines in marketingJeffrey DobkinGift certificate enclosed, Free offer inside, Open immediately!, Dear colleague, Thank you Like old friends, these lines are of great value to have at your side. This reoccurring arsenal of words is a center point in almost all of my campaigns. In direct mail "Gift certificate enclosed" How many times have I said this? Whew. My very favorite line for getting my clients' direct mail packages opened. Reasons? •Gift certificates are inexpensive to print, at one-third or one-fourth of a sheet of paper or less. •May be printed on the same sheet as the letter, catalog or the order form for extra savings in printing costs. •Ship flat and adds very little weight to your mailing package. •They're much more upscale than coupons. •Gift certificates have a high perceived value. •Cheap to redeem, in fact, have no cost at all until redemption. •May be targeted to specific merchandise or offers ... good for overstock or high margin items. •Naturally easy to track. Any arguments? "Free offer inside ..." This works almost as well. When a gift certificate just won't suffice in a business-to-business mailing, this is usually my next choice. And more often than not, the other writing on the envelope is: "Open immediately!" There's a saying around here in Direct Mailville that states you must tell the recipient exactly what you want him to do for the best chance of having him do exactly what you want. "Just call and get ..." How many times have I said this phrase? Hummm, nope, can't count that high. I mix it in with one of my other key phrases: "Call us ... toll-free" In a copywriting assignment for an envelope printer, I asked readers to call 16 times in a two-page letter. Sixteen times in one letter! So don't feel bad about asking customers to call three or four times on the same page. If you'd like to see how I weaved this into the letter copy without being too obnoxious, just drop me a note and I'll send you the letter. Yes, the letter definitely made his phone ring. You bet. "Dear colleague" It's one of my favorite salutations. So much better than "Dear reader," which is always my last choice. And who's to say your reader isn't a colleague in some fashion. "... And friend" I like to offer this phrase after the salutation, to make it friendlier and more personal. And it does. "Dear fellow pharmacist and friend." "Dear pet lover and friend." "Dear Chevy owner and friend." About 50 percent of my letters have these two words after the opening salutation. In any type of local mailing, my favorite opening is "Dear neighbor and friend." Sounds kind of nice? Readers usually think so. "Thank you" You know, you can never say "thank you" enough to your customers. Never. Almost every letter I send has the word thanks in it at one point. Another way I express this is: "Thank you for your business, and your trust." If you don't thank them, how are your customers to know you care, or appreciate their business? Chances are they won't. That means if they have the opportunity to go elsewhere, they will. I ran monthly advertising with a magazine for six years, they never thanked me once in a letter. When the ad became marginal, I dropped out, and never felt one bit of remorse, despite their pleas. Contrast this to the form we shipped our product with: our shipping form measured 4-1/2" X 7-1/2", and I thanked our customer six times on this form. You can call me on this one too, just drop a note and ask for our old Merion Station Mail Order shipping form. Thanks. "Thank you for your kind referral" One of the best ways to get business is through referrals. One of the best ways to get more referrals is to send a thank you letter to the person who made a referral. No, a phone call is not the same. When you hang up after a phone conversation you cease to exist. A letter, well, that can hang around for a while ... to be appreciated over time. I once wrote a nice "thank you" letter to a retailer who installed my car radio. They framed it and hung it on their wall ... for about a year. Face it, when someone calls to say thanks, you say "That's nice, they called." End of story. But when you receive a letter of thanks ... well, that's big time. Someone actually took the time to sit down and write a letter of thanks. Wow, monumental effort. They know you appreciate it. To our firm, a referral means someone gave our name with the silent pledge of their trust. It is an honor we don't take lightly. "Thank you for the opportunity and the privilege to be of service" Business rule number one: It is a privilege to serve your customer. Let them know this is how you feel, and customers will remain loyal to you for years. Not only do I say this frequently, I believe it. So does every person in our firm ... it is part of our company creed. "New product offers benefit!" This formula is unusual in that it works almost everywhere. In direct mail, it's a safe bet for envelope teaser copy, especially when coupled with the three great lines at the top of this article. "New product offers benefit" also is one of the best, time tested formula for the headline of ad, or a press release headline. It's also my very favorite formula for the "Jeff Dobkin Benefits-First Press Release." I've found if you use this formula for the first line of your press release the benefits never, ever get cut out. Editors cut from the bottom, and sometimes from the middle, but the first sentence is usually always left intact. Since benefits sell the product and increase the response, it's a hard-hitting direct marketing technique to squeeze them in anywhere you can. They'll look just great up at the top of your press release. "Free booklet offers how-to information" This headline attracts readers with a free offer, but also limits the attraction to the specific market segment you are targeting to better qualify respondents. This saves you time and money by not having to send literature to a non-buying, poor-prospect market. On the up-side: "Free booklet shows you how to pack glassware for moving!" produces good response, but only from people who are going to move. Very targeted marketing. This type of headline produces tons of high quality, highly qualified leads. "Objective" Before writing any copy, including sales letters, brochures, direct mail packages, catalogs or anything ... first write "Objective:" in the upper right hand part of a clean sheet of paper. Then, write the objective. I do this at the start of every writing assignment. This reminds me why I am writing, and what the writing must accomplish. Unless I'm drafting a catalog or hard-hitting package that sells products directly, my objective is usually to make the phone ring; so my copy is written to sell the phone call. Objective: To make the customer pick up the phone and call. Writing the objective first, clarifies my writing. The objective is usually a surprise to most of my business-to-business clients who think I am trying to sell their products. Heck, it's tough to sell from a sheet of paper. I generally leave the selling to them. I just make the phone ring with warmed-up prospects. In public relations "Are you the person I should send this press release to?" I don't think I've ever met an editor who isn't incredibly sick and tired of press agents or product developers who call up and say, "Did you get my press release?" Sure they got your press release. They receive all the press releases ... which one was yours? This is usually followed by a flurry of activity: The editor having to fumble through stacks of papers, half-written stories, half-finished coffee and occasionally, toward the deadline of the month—half-eaten pizzas—sitting on their desk to find your release. I guarantee by the time they found it, your press release has one foot in the grave (wastebasket). Still in all, more likely than not, you're going to have to send another press release to make sure they have it on-hand and at the ready. Yet it's much more likely your press release will be published if you speak with an editor. So, here's the plan: Call the editor BEFORE sending them a press release, and ask, "Are you the person I should send this press release to?" You see, this sets up a "can you help me" relationship with the editor, and editors, by their nature, like school teachers, are a very helpful lot. If they say yes, give them a short, one minute pitch (they're also a very busy lot) and then send your release to them. This will increase your chance of being published from five percent to 50 percent, maybe 70 percent, maybe 80 percent. If the editor isn't the right one, and says, "Oh no, you've got to send that to Jeff Rogers, our chief editor down the hall." You then pick up the phone and knowing full well Rogers is the one, you call and say to him: "Are you the person I should send this release to ..." You see, this sets up a "can you help me" relationship. "Nice speaking with you" Even if it wasn't, "Nice speaking with you, thank you for receiving my call." should be the first line of the letter you include with the press release that you send to an editor after you've spoken with them. Yes, I believe all press releases should be sent with a letter. Since most press releases are sent without phone calls, this subtly reminds the editor of your conversation, and that the publishing of this particular release has great importance to you. Also remember not to say in your letter, "Enclosed is our release ..." they can see that. Instead, your letter focus should be on: "Thank you so much for your consideration to publish our release. Your readers will get this wonderful informational booklet, shipped promptly, filled with terrific ideas and tips on ..." Letters with press releases build your credibility. Still more great marketing lines "See page ..." In catalogs, I always like to refer customers to other pages. Whether it's accessories, similar items or just stuff that goes well with other stuff, the best thing a customer can do is thumb through the pages. The longer the customer stays in your book, the better the chance they'll order something or order something else. "See order form on page ..." If the objective is to have customers order, it never hurts to remind them. Pointing to the order for is a subtle reminder. A nice phrase is: "It's easy to order see order form on page ..." "What's new inside ..." In newsletters, catalogs, long copy packages and other longer publications I like to entice readers with a bulleted list of fascinating places to go to inside. If we can just spike a couple of high interest notes and get the reader inside, we've accomplished the cover objective and have a good start toward our goals of additional time in our package and increasing sales and brand loyalty. "And how did you hear of our company?" Built into every advertising and marketing program should be a tracking system. When your marketing is purely through the mail it may be easy to track through a priority code number, response sent to a particular department or simply a color coded envelope. But some marketing programs and most retail operations need to figure out which ad their customer saw or which offer they are responding to. I always recommend this simple method: leave a small pad of paper or stack of 3" X 5" index cards next to each phone, and when it rings, early in the conversation, ask: "And how did you hear of our company?" Take all the filled-out slips of paper and put them in a selected drawer. At the end of the month, you'll have a good idea which ad or program is working. At the end of six months you'll know for sure which ads were profitable and which mailing worked the best. "It's a little over, is that okay?" Okay, so it isn't used in direct mail. But I don't know of a deli counter man this side of New York who hasn't used this up-selling line at least a thousand times a week. Pretty effective marketing, eh? "Satisfaction always guaranteed" Heck, you're going to get stuck with it anyhow if it comes back, might as well be a nice guy and say this right up front. It'll increase your sales. "Kindest regards ..." I sign off of every letter this way. Kinda' nice, don't you think? Jeffrey Dobkin is a copywriter, a speaker and direct marketing consultant. He may be reached at (610) 642-1000 or e-mail [email protected]