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The Tipping Point in Direct Mail

August 11, 2010
Image of Triumph Motorcycles Brochure

Direct mail - so much more than junk mail when used effectively.

The tipping point has been described as that point when an irreversible decision is taken. The point when you commit to a direction. The point of no return. For direct marketers, the tipping point is when the customer commits to purchase. So how do marketers create the tipping point in direct mail?

The key to all decisions is value. What’s in it for me? So clearly a direct mail piece needs to move beyond the tired ideas (“comprehensive”, “up-to-date”, “the latest…”) or the hackneyed phrases (like “think outside the box” or “blue sky thinking”). So, first and foremost, the tipping point is easier to reach if you know your customer, know what they want and, crucially, are able to convince them that your product is what they need.

But what else works? There’s nothing new under the sun in this game; another driver to purchase is showing the customer what the product actually is. This permits the consumer to undertake mental “ownership rehearsal”. From watches and fast cars to legal encyclopaedias and software, an image of the product is crucial because customers can see what they are getting.

Thirdly, and linked to the above, is an image (or series of images) showing the product in its contextual background. This lets the customer take the mental leap from product to use. In showing how a product might be used in a certain situation, the brochure takes the customer away from the direct mail piece directly into their own back yard.

Fourthly, testimonials. What do other people think? Are these people worth listening to? Will their views influence the customer decision? Will they influence the customer’s colleagues, peers and friends? Avoid including any testimonials (or indeed writing any sentence) which – when taken out of the brochure – could be used to describe any product, anywhere. Testimonials and copy need to be user-specific to be effective.

Fifthly, good design. Siegfried Vogele’s dialogue technique says as much about design as it does about copy. Good design introduces the customer to salient benefits through a series of stages. It is important therefore that key benefits are most salient, followed by images, followed by short paragraphs with well-signposted headers and direction indicators. Brochure design is less about good looks and more about psychological pointing.

Finally, security. Why should they buy from you? Is there a special money-back guarantee? How will they think of you after buying from you? Getting people to buy goods is only half the battle – keeping them as loyal customers is the most important thing. So trust in marketing and service delivery is crucial.

If you only remember one thing it is this: the most effective direct mail tells a true story. Truth builds trust. Trust builds loyalty. Direct mail is not a con-trick – it’s about a long-term, mutually-profitable relationship.

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