Reprinted from Strategies newsletter, 2nd Quarter � May 2002 by First Marketing, 3300 Gateway Drive, Pompano Beach, FL 33069.

4 cardinal rules that will get people to read your direct mail

Many of these writing �rules� might be more aptly described as �writing with the reader in mind.�

Joe Customer gets your piece of mail. He didn�t ask you to send him something. He didn�t pay for it. If the piece comes in the same envelope with the bill, he�s much more interested in the bill.

While he�s opening his mail, the kids are crying, the dog is barking, the phone is ringing and his wife is telling him what a bad day she had. Joe is not really reading, he�s scanning. So your copy must compel him to read. Here�s how:

1. Put a benefit in the headline. In this context, you can see how important it is to grab Joe by the tie and pull him forcefully into the article. One way to do this is by putting a benefit in the headline. A benefit answers the reader�s question: �What�s in it for me?�


  • Instead of �The tax laws have changed again this year�
    �3 new ways to save money on your taxes�
  • Instead of �Insomnia affects millions of people�
    �How to sleep better tonight�
�Saving money� and �sleeping better tonight� are what compel Joe to ignore the kids, the dog and the wife � and read the whole article.

2. Translate features into benefits. Say you�re talking about two-way messaging on a cell phone. You can�t just say the phone has two-way messaging capability; you need to mention the benefit. What�s the benefit? For people in meetings or in loud areas, they can communicate without having to talk out loud.

To the reader, who is asking �What�s in it for me?� this extra copywriting step might make the difference between someone reading the article or not � and making a purchase or not.

3. Use the second person. Writing in the second person is a great way to get the reader more involved. It�s friendlier, warmer and more personal than third person. Because you�re talking to the reader directly, it�s like having a conversation. (The previous sentence is a good example.)


  • Third person: �People who don�t drink enough water often complain of headaches and fatigue. Drinking more water sometimes helps relieve these symptoms.� The reader has to stop reading, say to himself, �I get headaches a lot. Maybe I should drink more water.�
  • Second person: �Do you get frequent headaches and often feel fatigued? Try drinking more water.�
4. Don�t forget the P.S. When using a letter format, always include a P.S. Why? Because in a letter, the P.S. acts as a callout. It�s the first thing � not the last thing � that readers read. In direct mail, the P.S. is really a fake P.S. It�s not an afterthought, it�s a good place to put an important message � maybe the most important message. Also, many readers who don�t read the entire letter at least read the P.S.

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