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
•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
•May be targeted to specific merchandise or offers ... good
for overstock or high margin items.
•Naturally easy to track.
"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
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.
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.
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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,
"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
Jeffrey Dobkin is a copywriter, a speaker and direct
marketing consultant. He may be reached at (610) 642-1000 or e-mail