Facebook ads? Email copy? Landing pages for your Google Ads, Taboola or Bing traffic? Free standing inserts? Brochures? E-commerce product descriptions? eBay listings? Amazon or Kindle/KDP book sales copy? Direct mail packages? IVRs producing sales? Live agent scripting? Radio & TV copy? Affiliate presells?… All those media, and more, require properly crafted, sales generating copy.
Words are symbols that stand for things, actions and conditions. When the words do their job, sales of the product or service is the result. Good copy, or sales message, requires the writer to have compassion and understanding of the human condition.
Even if you are not a writer of performance marketing / direct response copy, it is important that you have an understanding of some of the principal functions of copy that wins customers. The information that follows will provide you with many of the essentials needed to create and evaluate performance marketing copy. You will learn:
- How to write sales-producing copy.
- How to do your homework before writing copy (this is important).
- How to create all the required components in your sales message.
- How to create time-oriented copy that will get you additional sales.
When working in-house in a large performance marketing operation, you learn quickly that many preconceived ideas will fail completely. To survive, you must develop a very objective view of test results. Your failures are not easily excused, nor are you able to hide your shortcomings as easily as you can in general advertising.
Copy and appearance can affect both the amount of response and the quality of such response.
You must realize that words and how you use them are of paramount importance. As evidence, many, many A/B tests have shown that simply changing the opening sentence in the sales letter, banner, radio ad etc. can make the difference between success and failure. The opening sentence in your copy is as important as a good headline in a newspaper or an attention-grabbing opening statement in a TV commercial.
The opening sentences in sales copy that usually work best (and are easiest to create) frequently present the principal benefit of the product or service. These winning messages present that benefit in a direct and easy-to-understand manner.
This is especially true if the benefit is tied in with a value-packed and enticing offer. For example: “$5,000 Life Insurance Coverage, First Three Months Coverage Only $1.00.” This was the opening sentence in a landing page and a direct mail letter written for an insurance company. It was the control for over seven years. (Control in this case means the copy that consistently produced the most sales every time it was advertised against a test copy trying to improve performance.)
Unlike general TV advertising, which is overburdened with cute commercials of indeterminate value, performance marketing campaigns are constantly evaluated. Direct response companies keep an accounting of every penny spent. They know how much money was made or lost as the result of a mailing, native ad, banner ad or space advertisement in a magazine. Thus, the performance marketer must use what works, not what he or she likes.
Sell One Idea or Item at a Time
Remember, when making a performance marketing offer, sell only one idea, item or service at a time.
The multiple-offer trap snares people who see many general e-commerce offerings. They think, “If you can sell all of those items, why not three insurance policies, four different machines or a dozen different training courses and three types of credit cards?”
Most successful e-commerce ventures are directed to well-defined markets such as clothing buyers, golfers, furniture buyers, video game buyers etc. (and then there’s Amazon). Most e-commerce copy describes items being presented, one by one, i.e. one item’s description concerns just this item and not five others.
Very little copy is devoted to selling the recipient on the company and its products and services. It is assumed that the person is browsing the e-commerce shop by choice or by lifestyle. That person has either chosen the e-commerce shop or the e-commerce company has chosen the recipient because he or she meets their demographic and lifestyle requirements.
In performance marketing copywriting the focus is on one product or service. It frequently involves a considerable expenditure of money and a long-term commitment by the potential customer.
Therefore, if you offer more than one item, your potential customer may get confused – and decide to do nothing.
Imagine this scene: A couple has received a mailing offering an accident insurance policy, a life insurance policy and a hospitalization policy. Assume that they are interested and are seated at the dining room table discussing what product to choose. People seldom buy more than one insurance policy at a time. The wife thinks the husband should have the life insurance policy. He thinks they should have the hospitalization policy. An argument ensues and no decision is reached. The usual result: No Sale!
This pattern applies to many diverse products and services offered by performance marketers. The disagreement need not be between husband and wife but can occur anytime more than one person is involved in the buying decision or where more than one product or service is offered. It can also occur when only one person is deciding. He or she may be interested in both products offered, but unable to sort out the better value, buys nothing.
The message: Never try to sell more than one product or service at a time in a performance marketing offering.
Before Writing, Do Your Homework
Develop a well-defined plan for each piece to be written. To do this, get all facts available on the product or service. Read all of the available product literature. Ask questions, especially these:
- What is the principal benefit that the product or service offers the prospective client/customer?
- What are the product’s principal limitations, in terms of value and physical characteristics? Are there any regulatory problems in the sale of this product? These questions deserve careful consideration relative to the competition.
- What or who is the competition? What advantages or disadvantages do the competitors have over the proposed offer?
- Is there any product literature of the competitors) available? If not, get some by writing and calling the competitor.
Benchmark Your Competitors
“Benchmarking” is considered by some to be a form of industrial espionage and by others to be no more than market or marketing research. Benchmarking your competitors’ efforts can provide plenty of valuable information for free or the price of their product.
There’s nothing sneaky or dishonest except, perhaps, the use of a different email address and name if you happen to be well-known to your competitors. (Don’t worry, they’ve probably been doing the same thing to you.)
Here’s an outline of what to do:
- Answer their ads. See how promptly they respond to your request for information.
- Order merchandise to check out how promptly they fulfill your orders.
- How were their goods packaged?
- Return the goods and complain about something to see how well the competitors handle complaints.
- Keep track of any follow-up mailings, phones and retargeting messages you receive from the competitors. How long did the company wait before making a second, third or fourth effort to convert the sale?
- Did the competitors offer any up- or down-sale alternatives to the initial offer? (In other words, did they try to sell you any cheaper or costlier item?) If so, make a note of it.
- Once you have your own company going, it is good to have an outsider benchmark your own company to make sure that there is no lack of compliance, by your staff, in the prescribed method of fulfillment and customer service. You may discover that the methods of operation are not being carried out as directed or reported.
- Make note of all of these factors and any other pertinent information you’ve gained.
Now you have the necessary material to develop your product offer and performance marketing copy for whatever medium you need. The information that follows assumes that a product has been chosen and an offer formulated.
Creating a Successful Performance Marketing Piece
If a study of the competitors’ products and services has been conducted (as suggested earlier), such information should be made available to the writer prior to beginning any part of the project. Before beginning to write your final copy, follow these three simple but demanding guidelines:
Where to Begin
Start with whatever response device is needed. It’s the order form, application, coupon if it’s direct mail package, free standing insert, newspaper ad or landing page etc. It’s the call-to-action (CTA) if it’s TV, radio, YouTube ad, Amazon product description or email promo etc.
Here’s why: All elements of your performance marketing copy should focus on getting the recipient to respond the way you want him to. If she or he fails to do so, you fail.
By beginning with the response device, you are forced to summarize the offer in clear, concise, easy-to-understand language. This summary often may provide the basis of the lead for your body copy or headline for a landing page, space ad, brochure, insert or video ad.
The offer is probably the most important element in a mailing package, landing page or phone script. That fact makes it imperative that the response device clearly state what is being sold and how you expect the customer to pay for it. A poorly defined and presented offer on the response device usually produces subpar results even if your promo is targeted to an audience known to have a buying interest in the product or service being offered (thanks to retargeting, Facebook targeting or in-house email database etc.)
The copywriter should work with the designer of the order form. Most people concentrate their efforts on the sales letter and give the order form/response device inadequate attention.
As a result, the order form is often poorly conceived, hard to fill out and confusing. If you lose your prospect here, all is lost. Most writers and designers do not realize how important the order form/response device is to the success or failure of the project.
Remember, the order form (whether it’s on a landing page or inside an old school envelope) should:
- Use clear, incisive language that will create memorable images in the mind of the recipient.
- Use carefully chosen words that express and stimulate thought and imagination about the product or service.
- Telegraph what is being sold.
- Explain how to get it.
- Indicate how much it costs.
- Explain the payment terms available.
- Show a money-back offer if available.
Beginning with the response device forces the copywriter to say succinctly what is being sold and how the consumer can get it. This is obvious, yes, but often overlooked by persons charged with creating such material.
The Summary or “Brochure” Copy
Now that the copy for the response device has been written and a well-defined offer has been formulated, create an outline of all pertinent data to be included in the summary part of your copy.
This is a good place for the technical data such as specifications and legal “boilerplate” copy. (Boilerplate is a term usually applied to standardized copy, such as limitations or exclusions that are required by law.) The only reason for it being in the copy is that it is a regulatory requirement. The summary copy should say everything the main copy segment or “sales letter” does.
By now, the performance marketing copywriter should have all technical and legal copy requirements in mind and know how best to write them. That information plus copy for presenting a well-defined, easy-to-understand offer will aid in writing a good “sales letter” part.
The Main Copy or “Sales Letter”
You have one of the most powerful tools of all—the written word— working for you. Word pictures can create lasting impressions and permit the reader to participate by using his or her imagination. The impression can be fortified by reading and rereading the material. The recipient can show others and seek their opinions of whatever the offer may be. It is important to take advantage of all such opportunities and let them work in your behalf. Remember, everyone seeks approval of his or her actions. Performance marketing media afford you an ideal vehicle for people to share and seek approval of the decision they are being asked to make.
The writer, having written the summary copy and response device, has had an opportunity to learn more about the offer and product and how best to write about it. By honing his or her knowledge about the product, the copywriter is better able to position your product favorably against the competitor’s. The copywriter probably will have had to explore several different copy concepts. Each should help in writing a good “sales letter” part.
After the copy on the order form, copy on the “sales letter” is the most important in a performance marketing promo. It deserves all the preparation that time will permit.
The copywriter should start by carefully considering an organized outline. It could appear something like this:
- What product or service is being sold? (Get the facts before starting.)
- What is the offer?
- What is the principal benefit?
- Is the use of a deadline appropriate? (A final date for responding to the offer.)
- Why does the reader need the product or service?
- What will the product or service do for the reader and for how long?
- How much does it cost?
- Are there any testimonials available from one or more satisfied customers?
- Can claims be backed, preferably by quoting some well-known source?
- Have you asked for the order?
- How does the reader get it?
- Why should the reader act now?
- Does the closing give a step-by-step summary of what the reader is to do, especially how to complete the order form? Does it ask for the order and urge prompt response?
- Can you offer a money-back guarantee?
- Have all of the pertinent facts been covered?
- Can you use the signature of the president or higher officer on the letter?
- Have you restated the offer at the end of your copy? This is always a good place to remind the prospect about the principal benefit, deadline and anything that can instill a sense of urgency to act promptly.
In email, landing page or direct mail copywriting, the opening sentence is the headline. The same is true in radio, TV or Facebook video ads. If you have a good headline your chances of success are greatly enhanced.
Earlier, it was suggested that it was best to start writing copy with the order form. The reason given was the necessity of summing up the offer in a simple, concise, easy-to-understand statement. That statement is the basis for a good headline for the “sales letter” and the headline for your summary copy. It should contain news of the offer and appeal to the targeted audience’s self-interest.
A review of numerous test reports and summaries of the results reveals an important fact: the high success rate of time-oriented copy.
What exactly is time-oriented copy? Simply, it is copy using words and themes of timely intent, words such as now, right now, today, rush, speed, urgency, fast, quickly, without delay.
Today, time-oriented themes are used graphically in names such as DHL Express, FEDEX, Amazon One-Day Delivery and numerous other permutations of the idea. All of these seek to exploit speed, which is, of course, a time-oriented idea.
Some of the most commonly used time-related words found in successful direct response copy are now, today and deadline. It is important to emphasize that much more than the occasional use of such words is necessary in writing a good, time-oriented copy.
The winning copy begins in the first paragraph to instill a sense of urgency, and throughout the entire promo, copy continually reminds the reader that time is of the essence.
These sales messages succeed because they overcome the reader’s lethargy much better than sales promos written in a more passive tone. A most important time-oriented idea is to start the letter with a deadline date.
Put Yourself in the Shoes of the Prospect
Look for key words and terms that ignite the reader’s hot button, such as security, be your own boss and retirement income. Search your own life experience for clues. Try to remember what people say when confronted with good news, bad news or no news. Record your own successes and failures, then analyze why one ad, LP or commercial failed while another succeeded. In your analysis, look for a pattern—a key thought or word—that each success seems to have in common.
Once you learn to have a heart-to-heart “conversation” with your readers, you’ll start producing winning copy. The best way to illustrate how a writer places himself or herself in the shoes of the prospect is by example. Let’s assume that the company in question manufactures tools and other equipment.
The copywriter has been made aware of the fact that the prospects would like to have their own business. The company has also learned that most of its equipment is sold to older, working-class men. The writer and the company also know that the respondents are the most frequent victims of industrial layoffs, consistent low pay and uncertainty about whether they will have a job next week.
With those facts in mind, the performance marketing copywriter’s opening paragraph on the landing page may read,
“Now you can be your own boss, and earn up to $50.00 an hour! You set your own hours, part time or full time. No special shop needed. You can start right at home.”
The copywriter should use words that express and stimulate thought and imagination. The writer’s next job is to get the prospect to nod his head in agreement, and finally, to overcome his resistance to act and fill out the order form.
Like a good salesperson, the performance marketing copywriter must write as if he or she were addressing the prospect in person. The salesperson and the writer must first assess the prospect’s needs, interests and personal situation.
A good salesperson then establishes a rapport of friendly persuasion with the prospect and carefully guides that person through the sales presentation. The good writer must do the same thing without benefit of direct feedback from the reader.
The prudent writer will have a ready answer to any objection the prospect may raise about the product or service. A salesperson can change the direction of his or her presentation, placing more or less emphasis on those points raised by the prospect. The copywriter doesn’t have such an advantage.
Therefore, he or she must capitalize on advantages inherent in performance marketing. The copywriter’s message and presence in the prospect’s home or office is less intrusive, less time-consuming, more neutral.
The copywriter’s presentation must be more explicit, factual and usually more honest because it is subject to review by the company, the advertising platform, Facebook or Google Ads moderators and finally the Federal Trade Commission. The salesperson’s pitch may include anything the salesperson felt necessary to close a sale.
An incompetent salesperson ends up with lots of doors closed in his or her face. An incompetent performance marketing copywriter’s work goes into the wastebasket, deleted, closed or simply ignored and unread.
Good copywriters can visualize the lives of recipients of their promos. With that vision in mind, they recreate within their copy real-life hopes, fears and aspirations. The more accurately and vividly the copy expresses those real-life situations, the better chance the writer has of writing a winning sales message.
In other words, they recognize the reader has feelings, needs and aspirations. A good copywriter is able to convey a sense of warmth and humanity through his or her copy.
Example: A copy writer knows from statistical data available to him that most men have no estate to leave beyond a house (usually having a large mortgage outstanding) and a small life insurance policy so their family can pay his final expense. Typically, this insurance policy is for less than $35,000.
Here’s how the writer can transform those facts into a real life situation:
If you should die tomorrow, who would pay the bills? Will you leave enough money for your family to pay off the mortgage and your final expenses, or will your family be left to scratch out a meager existence living with relatives or even have to seek public assistance?
Mean spirited, you say. But, the copy expresses real situations nonetheless, and the letter worked. (This letter also is a prime example of exploiting fear to motivate.)
An easy way to help overcome buyer resistance is to offer a money-back guarantee. A prospective buyer is understandably reluctant to order something from a company he or she knows nothing about. Unfortunately, most people have heard horror stories of people getting ripped-off online.
The stories are often true and get full play in the daily news media, thus giving the whole industry a black eye. The best money-back guarantee is simple, direct and, preferably, has no conditions attached.
Sequence of Listing Benefits
When listing a whole series of benefits, the sequence in which those benefits are arranged can materially affect response rates. This is particularly true when multiple dollar amounts are being stated as benefits. It is usually best to list the larger dollar amounts first.
This suggests that special care be given to listing, describing and testing the benefits offered by the product. Listing the most important benefits first and those less important in descending order is a good practice to follow.
It should also be noted that setting out benefits in short indented paragraphs, either numbering them or using bullets (•) to set them off, works much better than describing them in a long paragraph of regular text.
The sales letter, brochure, magazine ad or any landing page should follow this same sequencing procedure. Benefit copy set out with bullets or numbers just below the headline is also a great way to start your copy.
Long Copy vs Short Copy
Which is best? This is a frequently asked question and one with as many answers as there are advocates for one form or the other. Use of long or short copy in a sales letter is best determined by what is being sold and to whom.
Copy of four or more pages (as in Microsoft Word pages) usually work best in sales of insurance, niche books, travel, home study courses, dietary supplements, business opportunity offers, health & beauty devices and many other products.
Persons unfamiliar with performance marketing consider two pages to be long. In performance marketing a landing page of four-page length is normal and usually work best (unless you hire a superstar copywriter who can do wonders with superlong copy).
Some examples frequently quoted by the long-copy advocates are:
- Landing pages promoted on ClickBank platform.
- Amazon best-selling items, including Amazon’s very own Kindle device and its superlong copy.
- Late-night TV informercials.
- Cold traffic landing pages promoted via Google Ads and Facebook ads.
- The whole “nutra” affiliate business and its multi-page-long copy pieces.
Those companies sell to either a highly specialized market, or via cold traffic to a mass audience.
The short copy advocates usually scoff and say, “Who has time to read all of that stuff?” They will invariably quote the busy physician syndrome, stating unequivocally that a physician will not read a four-page letter at the office. Unfortunately for the short-copy advocate, there is a substantial body of data that refutes that argument.
In short, if the product or service has many important benefits to offer and they can be written about in an interesting and compelling manner, use a four-page-long landing page or longer, whether your audience is physicians or Joe Six Packs. If you address their self-interest, they will read your story.
Example of Long Copy Being Used Successfully
The company in this example I consulted with sold leadership training for C-level managers, niche business books and strategic consulting by direct mail. Theirs was an always busy, no-time-to-read-any-ads market.
The mailing package contained a four-page letter, several inserts offering bonuses for prompt response, testimonials, product guarantees and a four-to-six-page brochure. The 6 x 9 inch outside carrier envelope was stuffed with paper covered with thousands of words. Several tests were made using shortened copy and fewer inserts. None worked as well as the initial mailing.
This confirms the fact that once you have identified a group of persons who have an interest in the product or service being sold, he or she will read the information provided. (By the way, it was much more effective to conduct a direct mail campaign with letters, envelopes and stamps than an “inmail” campaign via LinkedIn. That’s a topic for a future blog post).
Example of Short(er) Copy Being Used Successfully
Even though the product in this example required considerable explaining and loads of legal boilerplate, short copy actually worked better. The product I worked with was life insurance (of the reverse mortgage type) for senior citizens.
The control was a 120-sec TV spot generating leads via a toll-free phone number. Careful testing enabled achieving the same performance by creating a 105-sec commercial, then a 90-sec one, and finally a 60-sec version.
The changes didn’t reduce the leads volume but substantially reduced the TV airtime cost. Even though some people may think such cost cutting is trivial, it can make a significant difference in profits when hundreds of hours of TV airtime are being bought.
One More Long Copy Example
This one has to do with a travel operator who used sweepstakes and direct response gimmicks and hard sell copy on its landing pages to advertise travel tours to older adults. These tours cost $2,100 to $4,500. The itineraries were extensive, so the copywriter had plenty to talk about.
The landing page that worked best consisted of 8-page-long copy, supported by five long video descriptions of itineraries, each packed with copy. The landing page also included a tour reservation form. The buyers, though generally above average in earnings, included a substantial number of blue-collar workers.
As you can see, there are no easy or sure answers to how long copy should be. The logical approach is to test long-copy and short-copy under carefully controlled conditions to find the best length. Then you’ll know which copy approach is best for you.
Let’s assume that the opening paragraph of your copy has motivated the reader to continue reading. What next? Remember: People make buying decisions on impulse, not always for purely rational reasons. Appeal to their emotions.
You will sell more goods telling people they will look good, feel good, smell good, achieve social status, be secure, have fun, enjoy the ride, make money, be worry-free etc. than would ever be possible by quoting a litany of facts and statistics.
A rather cynical, but nonetheless true, statement is that the four principal motivations of the human race are need, greed, sex and fear. One has only to spend a few minutes watching TV commercials or any TV series to see one or all of these underlying motivations being used.
Television examples are used because they are more immediately available to most people. Sex is the most blatantly exploited motivation on television.
One of the best motivations to use to activate a prospect’s hot button is to address his or her personal needs, either real or perceived. Frequently advertisers use greed, sex or fear to help create a perceived need where a real need probably didn’t exist.
People need food, water, shelter, energy to cook and heat with, clothing, transportation, appliances, security and numerous other necessities. They can live without diamonds, perfumes, gold coins, numerous cosmetics, insurance, collector plates and thousands of other items that they purchase daily.
The more basic needs of life require a more direct and honest approach to sell one’s wares. Suppliers selling life’s necessities use other methods such as lower price, better service, better quality and other benefits to sell their goods and services.
Though clothing is a basic need, fashion is used to create a need where often none exists. Fashion is a first cousin of greed and uses vanity to reinforce desire for unneeded products.
Greed is great motivation. Witness the TV commercials touting the use of well-known bank cards. Viewers are treated to handsome young people, traveling to foreign lands, purchasing designer fashions and dining in expensive restaurants. The message: “With our bank card, you can turn your pumpkin into a golden carriage. You will live in luxury surrounded by beautiful people.”
Greed, or avarice if you prefer, works in Facebook ads, Amazon products descriptions and wherever else you’d like to employ performance marketing copy, too.
A magazine ad done for a printer seeking prospects for having them print limited edition prints used a testimonial as a headline. It said: “I made $80,000 my first year selling limited edition prints of my art.” This particular headline used in an art magazine ad pulled 1 percent of the entire circulation!
Much automobile advertising uses sexual innuendo in online, television and print advertising. TV viewers are treated to a group of fast cuts using handsome young women and men, frequently in a passionate embrace. The message is clear: “Buy our car and you will be transformed into one sexy dude.” Plenty of automobile buyers must believe it.
Cosmetic manufacturers exploit sex as well and spice up television advertising with sexual connotations and magic. Some perfume ads excite the fantasies in all of us.
Sex is as easy to exploit in direct response / performance marketing copy, especially online if there’s video available. Thanks to explicit, concrete copy and the right context, a good copywriter can create fantasies of more lasting impact than most general television commercials.
Fear is used effectively in television: fear of loose dentures causing embarrassment to the wearer in social situations, fear of having underarm odor or fear of bad breath and so on. Performance marketing copy can give a good bone-chilling dose of fear, too.
Picture a photo of a bereaved widow standing in a supermarket full of coffins. She and the undertaker are trying to make a choice of a coffin for her late husband. The cut line under the photo asks, “Would you do this to your wife on the worst day of her life?”
A personalized email message, landing page, direct mail letter, stuffers inside the product package, order form and response device is a definite asset to any performance marketing campaign. The possibilities of using personalized data in a sales message are almost limitless.
Because of the large amount of specific personal data available from your in-house or external, database enhancement facility, you can append personalized data to your campaigns, and then output it into your sales message.
As an example, the birthday for each person chosen can be added as well as the exact age, name, order history and other personal information like addressee’s pet name.
Positioning Copy and Product to Specific Markets
If you can’t personalize be sure to customize, i.e. make your copy segment-specific and not generic for everyone out there.
If you have any question about what “positioning copy and product to a target audience” means, watch the evening news on TV. After having done so, one would have to conclude that everyone who watches has a headache, is constipated and has loose dentures. Obviously, marketing surveys have found the principal audience for news to be older adults.
Although this example best defines the practice of targeting products to specific markets, much can be learned by carefully listening to the copy being used to sell the products to the primary audience.
The audience having been identified, the commercial immediately seeks to identify the need and show how the particular product can fill the need. Successful performance marketing follows the same agenda.
Audience selection today (e.g. via Facebooks ads, Google Ads etc.) permits specific targeting of selected audiences with far greater certainty than can ever be attained by television.
Therefore, since it is now possible to identify a specific market segment having a certain lifestyle, it is also possible to create copy and a landing page of specific interest to the selected market segment. By doing so, substantial increases in response rates can be achieved.
If you already have an ongoing performance marketing program that is not directed to a well-defined market because of the manner in which audience was chosen, STOP! First, have a database utility create a customer profile analysis of your active customers.
Then test a specific market segment and lifestyle that most nearly matches your customer profile (or if you’re into Facebook ads, try lookalike profiling).
Create a new landing page with copy and graphics specifically directed at persons meeting the profile as defined by the database analysis. Do an A/B split. (An A/B test in this instance means every other visitor would receive the control landing page “A”; the other half would receive the test landing page “B”.)
Positioning also includes the strategy of matching product placement by price and quality of the line to the markets served. Rating your product line good, better and best should aid in the proper placement.
Such an evaluation will aid in product selection in relation to your competition and in relation to which aspects of the product to feature. Such a determination will usually aid in media and audience selection, too.
Another important positioning concern is how you construct and state the offer. You may alter the way you present your offer in relation to a competitor having a similar product or service and substantially improve results.
For example: “First 30 Days Coverage $1” versus “First 60 Days Coverage $1.” The second offer gives a competitive edge. It also takes advantage of lethargy. It’s easier to keep the product than to return it. Or the recipient feels guilty for keeping something that long and not paying for it.
Of all the various aspects of positioning, the most frequently used is price advertising. This is especially true in retail advertising. It’s the “easy out” for building temporary sales volume but a tough way to make money. Remember, it doesn’t take much skill to give something away. It takes considerable skill to sell a product at a profit.
Deadlines may be tricky
Coupled with the offer and in close conjunction should be a deadline that reinforces the need to respond promptly. Remember, overcoming inertia is one the biggest challenges faced by a performance marketing copywriter. A deadline is simply a date by which the prospect must act to take advantage of the offer.
While using deadlines for online campaigns is generally not an issue, the free standing inserts, product package stuffers and direct mail will involve some additional work:
The production of letters and order forms having a deadline can be handled in a number of ways. The most common method is sort of a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that the most economical method is to use a preprinted form letter with the deadline printed on it.
The bad news is that preprinted letters with dates printed on them, may not be mailed on time for a variety of reasons. If they arrive late, the date can actually work against a response.
One way to avoid this problem is to print “PLEASE REPLY BY MONDAY” on the sales letter, response device and even on the outside envelope. The material is never out of date. Do such methods work? Yes. Did the use of such a statement evoke a negative response? No.
If you are using preprinted material addressed with laser or ink-jet printers, use those devices to insert the deadlines as they are being addressed. That also will avoid the problem of outdated stock. The dates can be changed as necessary to adjust to varying schedules, all without loss of stock, and with no significant cost increase.
Another point to consider when using deadlines is the length of time allowed to respond. The shorter the time allowed, the better, especially online. (Although bear in mind that still in this day and age not everyone checks his or her email daily.)
Allow more time to respond if you are using direct mail, especially third-class mail. To be safe, allow up to three weeks for delivery especially if the mailing goes in the US or internationally within European Union. In such cases allow the recipient two to three weeks to respond, meaning a lead time of 30 to 45 days from the actual drop date.
First-class mail permits the use of a shorter time frame, because most first-class mail will be delivered within days.
Remember these important points:
- Personalizations added to a sales letter and order form can make a significant difference in response. The response will be even better if the correct gender and marital status is known.
- Do your homework. Research your competitors’ strong points and weak points as well as your own before beginning to write.
- The opening sentence in your sales letter is your headline. A poor headline usually means poor response.
- Write the copy for the order form first. It forces you to define the offer in simple, easy-to-understand language.
- Pay plans are an important part of defining the offer.
- Be aware of the prospect’s hopes, fears, needs and aspirations. These will help you motivate them to choose your products.
- Test long copy versus short copy. Don’t assume that one will work better than the other.