Bob Bly’s Direct Response Letter:
Resources, ideas, and tips for improving response to
business-to-business, high-tech, and direct marketing.
January 31, 2011
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***Bob’s speaking events***
On Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST, I’ll be
presenting a webinar “Copywriting Commandments: Keys to Boosting
Your Results” for Progressive Business Conferences.
Among the topics covered: Rosser Reeves’ “lost” 3-part formula
for creating a winning USP … the secret of the Big Promise … and
how to generate more response with the Motivating Sequence. For
more information or to register, click here now:
***4 tips for marketing in a recession***
Dozens of my readers are complaining to me of declining response
rates, a downturn in business, and the weak economy. “Our
marketing isn’t pulling like it used to,” they complain. “What
can I do?” Here’s what I have found works:
1. Take massive action. Figure out what you think you need to do
to generate the level of leads and orders you need. Then do twice
2. Don’t rely on only one promotional vehicle, like direct mail
or cold calling. Do three, four, even five things: send out
mailings; advertise; regularly e-mail your list; write an
article; give a speech.
3. Make every communication a direct marketing communication.
Offer a premium with a high perceived value. Stress your free
offer in your promotion.
4. Test different offers, ideas, copy, formats, and media to see
which work best. Roll out with those promotions that work.
Scratch the others. If they don’t do well in a small test,
mailing more won’t help.
For more advice on marketing in a recession, see my book
Fool-Proof Marketing, published by John Wiley & Sons. To order
the book at 30% off list price, click on
***Can you mail a successful letter twice?***
Your mailing does well. Really well. Should you mail the same
piece again? And when?
Rule of thumb: Sending the exact same piece to the same list
approximately 8 to 10 weeks after the initial mailing usually
generates 40% to 60% of the original response.
How to make the decision: Say you need a 1% response to be
profitable. Your initial mailing generates 4%. Half of that would
be 2% — double the response you need. So yes, you can safely
mail the same piece again.
***A free PR e-zine for you***
Dollar for dollar, nothing beats publicity for cost-effective
marketing. To get a steady stream of new PR ideas, I heartily
recommend you subscribe to Paul Hartunian’s FREE e-zine –
“Million-Dollar Publicity Tactics.” Discover innovative ways to
get free publicity on radio and TV, in newspapers and magazines
anywhere in the world. Go to:
***Lift your direct mail response rates with lift letters***
The lift letter, also known as a lift note, is the second, small
letter that is sometimes inserted into a direct mail package
along with the main multi-page sales letter. It often has a
headline that reads something like, “Read this only if you are
NOT interested in buying [name of product].”
The purpose, as its name implies, is to lift response. But what
do you put in a lift note to achieve that goal?
John Forde suggests 10 possible topics and goals for lift
1. To counter a key objection.
2. As a place to test your second-best or alternative headlines.
3. To give readers an extra testimonial.
4. As an endorsement (approved, of course) from an authority or a
5. To emphasize a time deadline on the purchase.
6. To focus on the best aspect of the offer (premiums,
7. To emphasize long-standing credibility (a formal letterhead
might work well here).
8. To keep the message newsworthy. Let the lift note cover
events that have happened since the initial mailing was written.
9. To underscore the ONE THING that really gives your product an
edge over everyone else.
10. To emphasize track record, unusual and impressive
credentials, or to make the benefits of the most important package
feature especially clear.
Source: The Copywriter’s Roundtable.
***Writing tip of the month***
“Today’s time-starved, MTV-ized, USA Today’s readers don’t have
the patience for the kind of polite strolling about the subject
that Victorian-era authors indulged in. They want their stories
straight up, fast and furious, with no throat-clearing. If you’re
writing a book about a homicide, get the bullet out of the gun on
the first page. If you’re promising to improve readers’ sex
lives, get between the sheets in the opening sentence.”
–David Fryxell, Writer’s Digest
***3 ways to create a sense of urgency***
When you encourage prospects to act now instead of later,
response rates increase.
1. One way to do this is to put a deadline on your offer.
Since third-class mail takes an average of 2 ½ weeks to be
delivered nationwide, make the deadline at least 8 to 12 weeks
from the mail drop date. Alternatively, for any mailing that goes
out September or later, a good deadline date is December 31.
Copywriter David Yale recommends emphasizing that the deadline
date is final by adding the phrase “it’s too late” as follows:
“This offer expires December 31, 2011. After that, it’s too
For e-mail marketing, you can say the offer is good only if the
recipient replies “today” or “this week.”
2. If you are not comfortable putting a deadline date on your
mail piece, specify a time frame within which the reader must
reply, e.g., “reply within the next 10 days.”
3. Or at least make it clear that this is a time-limited offer.
Copywriter Milt Pierce suggests this wording:
“But I urge you to hurry. This offer is for a limited time only.
And once it expires, it may never be repeated again.”
***Should you write your own copy?***
My answer may surprise you, but it’s enthusiastically “yes” – IF
these three conditions exist:
1. You are an excellent copywriter.
2. You enjoy writing copy.
3. You have the time to write copy.
Business owners and marketing managers who fit these criteria
often produce copy that’s better and more successful than the
They know the product and the market intimately, because they
live with it full-time. Half the battle in copywriting is really
knowing the customer and the product, so the business owner or
manager has the edge – IF he can write.
On the other hand, marketers who can’t write, don’t like to
write, or don’t have time to write copy are better off farming it
out to an agency or freelancer.
***How much should you pay per click?***
Dana Todd, executive VP of SiteLabs, uses this formula:
Break-even cost-per-click = average gross profit X average
If your gross profit is $5 and your average conversion rate is
2%, then $5 X .02 = $0.10. Maximum you should pay for
pay-per-click: 10 cents a name.
Source: Internet Marketing Report.
***Don’t waste time calling on unqualified prospects***
A common tactic used to increase response to direct mail is to
offer something free, such as a free report or free consultation.
In the case of the free report, it doesn’t cost much to send out
a booklet or article reprint. So even if some people respond to
your mailing just to get the freebie, no big deal.
But what about if you offer a free consultation, evaluation, or
estimate? It takes you time to provide that kind of freebie,
especially if it requires a face-to-face meeting with the
That face-to-face meeting may be your goal, but it’s only worth
your time with a serious prospect. To drive 2 hours to see
someone who just wants the freebie is a waste of time. How can
you prevent it?
Use the words “if you qualify” in your letter or e-mail. For
instance: “Call now, and if you qualify, you will get a free
appraisal of what your business is worth in today’s market.”
With the “if you qualify” clause, you are not obligated to give
everyone a free appraisal. You can pick and choose who gets it,
making appointments only with solid prospects and passing on the
freebie seekers. That can save you a lot of time and aggravation.
***Give your copy the breath test***
Short sentences are easier to read than long sentences. But how
long is too long for a sentence?
To determine maximum sentence length, use the “breath test.”
Without taking in a gulp of air, and just with the amount of air
you ordinarily have in your lungs, read the sentence aloud at a
normal conversational speed and volume.
If you run out of breath before you get to the end, the sentence
is too long. Solution: Break it into two sentences at a point
where a new idea is introduced.
***Let Uncle Sam write your special reports at no charge***
In past issues, I’ve recommended that you have a “bait piece” – a
special report, white paper, or other informational premium you
give away to generate leads for your product or service.
But many marketers don’t produce info premiums because of the
research and writing work involved.
An easy way to get around this is to visit the U.S. government’s
Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) online. There are loads
of how-to and information booklets on a wide range of topics such
as money, health, travel, housing, nutrition, computers, small
business, and more.
If you find one that would make a good info premium for your
business, you can print or download the text, put your own cover
on it, print copies, and use it as your own freebie – without
paying Uncle Sam a dime!
How? Most of these publications are not copyrighted, so the U.S.
government allows you to use them for your own purposes (they do
appreciate if you credit them as the source).
To see whether FCIC has a booklet you can use as a bait piece, go
to their Web site:
Warning: Be sure to check the publication for copyright notices.
If the booklet you selected is copyrighted, then you can’t use
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***60-second commercial from Bob Bly***
I am available on a limited basis for copywriting of direct mail
packages, sales letters, brochures, white papers, ads, e-mail
marketing campaigns, PR materials, and Web pages. Please
call for a FREE copy of my updated Copywriting Information Kit.
Just let me know your industry and the type of copy you’re
interested in seeing (ads, mailings, etc.) and if I am available
to take on your assignment, I’ll tailor a package of recent
samples to fit your requirements. Call me at 201-505-9451 or