Twenty Easy Steps for Creating Persuasive Direct Mail
"Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light."
— Joseph Pulitzer
Good letters are good for business. Here are 20 simple rules for writing persuasive direct mail and business letters that will definitely not win you a Pulitzer, but if followed, will render you closer to the goal you seek.
- Think First
Before you write, determine the objective of your letter. What do you want to achieve? Plan every point you are going to make. Make a scatter-gram of all the points. Write a zero draft. Write a first draft. Write a final draft.
- Stay on Track
When writing a letter, don't ramble. Your letter can be long, and that's OK. But ensure that you aren't confusing your reader by veering off course.
- Say What You Mean as Soon as You Can
Make sure your letter has all the facts your reader needs. If your point is not crystal clear, rewrite it. It is better to invest in a rewrite than to have to correct a misunderstanding or squander resourcescreated by a failed message.
- Replace ‘I’ and ‘Our’ With ‘You’ and ‘Your’
Readers are interested in their problems, not yours. Don't talk about yourself ― which is what you do when you use "I," "we," "my." Instead, talk to your reader. Write, "you will receive" instead of "we will give you." This is an excellent rule for all those advertising copywriters whose ads brag, "We are the most reliable,” “We are the largest,” “We make a difference.”
- Use Active and Action Verbs
The easiest way to improve a letter is to use active verbs. Change, "It is our policy to provide each and every member with a high level of customer service" to "We treat you right." Put action in your letter wherever possible.
- Make Your Letter Easy to Read
Use simple, declarative sentences. Put the subject first, the verb next and the object last. Write as though the reader has a seventh-grade education.
- Paint Pictures!
Your letter should be visual. Help your readers to see what you want them to do.
- Express, Don't Impress
Don't send your readers to the dictionary. They’re not going. Save your vast vocabulary for a college faculty cocktail party. Readers aren't impressed by your fancy words or even by your technical knowledge.
- Your Readers Can See Your Smile or Frown
Write your letter with a smile on your face and you will be more persuasive. The same is true for talking on the telephone.
- Friendly Letters Make Friends
Don't get too businesslike. Your letters are supposed to make friends for your salespeople and other employees, so write in a friendly way.
- Ditché the Cliché
- Buzz-off the Buzzwords
How sick are you of "paradigm shift" and "out-of-the-box" and "reengineering" and "synergy?"
- Grammar, Please!
Poor grammar is like poor manners: it signals a lack of caring. Grammar makes language clear. If proper grammar "interferes" with your message, it is likely that your message is jumbled.
Use punctuation! Punctuation makes sentences easier to read and to understand. It's fine to use long sentences, but break them up with commas or colons...or with dots — or dashes. Buy and read a style and grammar book such as “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.
- Open Up Your Letter
Vary the look of your letter. Long, crammed paragraphs are intimidating. Short, open paragraphs are digestible. Underlining can serve a purpose. Flashy graphics are not always better. Red is alarming. Green means "Go!" Try different things out.
- Personalize Your Letter
Put something of yourself in everything you write. Your letters will be warmer, more acceptable and have more impact.
Drop "very" and improve your sentence.
- Don't Boast. Give Facts.
Give the facts and let readers decide for themselves.
- Quote Someone
Quotes in letters make them easier to read, more interesting and add third-party endorsement for credibility.
- Quantify the Benefits
Always be specific: tell your story using near-exact percentages, dollar savings, number of awards, hours of time, miles of road or other appropriate quantifiable benefits.
- Ask and Ye Shall Receive
End your letter with an action request. Tell your readers exactly what you want them to do.
From NAHB’s Membership Minute, a service of the NAHB Membership Team primarily for membership staff of home builders assocations. To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with "sign me up!" in the subject line.
Subscribe to Sales + Marketing Ideas Magazine for Cutting-Edge Info
For additional cutting-edge sales and marketing information, subscribe to NAHB’s Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine. Call 800-368-5242 x8192 or visit www.smimagazine.com to subscribe or order a copy. Click here to learn about membership benefits of the National Sales and Marketing Council and the Institute of Residential Marketing.
The Insititute of Residential Marketing Offers Courses and Designation Programs for Sales & Marketing Professionals
The Institute of Residential Marketing (IRM) offers four designation programs for sales and marketing professionals:
- The CMP and MIRM designation programs for new home marketing professionals
- The CSP and MCSP designation programs for new home sales professionals
For more information on these designation programs, click here.
BuilderBooks.com Offers Sales and Marketing Publications Online
BuilderBooks.com offers a variety of sales and marketing publications online. To view or purchase these publications, click here.