Feb 17, 2010

Direct Marketing: Bob Stone's Seven-Step Formula for Winning Letters

"Bob Stone's Seven-Step Formula for Winning Letters" from Successful Direct Methods by Bob Stone and Ron Jacobs

1. Promise your most important benefit in your headline or first paragraph. You need to grab the reader's attention with something relevant at the beginning of a letter. Leading with the most important benefit is a good start. Some writers use the "Johnson's Box": short, terse copy that summarizes the main benefits, positioned with or without a box above the headline.

2. Immediately enlarge on your most important benefit. This is step crucial. Many writers come up with a great lead, and then fail to follow through. Or they catch the attention with their heading, but then take two or three paragraphs to warm up to their subject. The reader's attention is gone! Try hard to elaborate on your most important benefit right away, and you'll build up interest fast.

3. Tell readers specifically what they are going to get. It's amazing how many letters lack details on basic benefits, features, terms, and conditions. Perhaps the writer is so close to the proposition he or she assumes that the readers know all about it. A dangerous assumption! When you tell the reader what they are going to get, don't overlook the intangibles that go along with the product or service. For example, they are getting smart appearance in addition to a pair of slacks, knowledge in addition to a 340-page book.

4. Back up your statements with proof and endorsements. Most prospects are somewhat skeptical about advertising. They know it sometimes gets a little overly enthusiastic about a product. So they accept it with a grain of salt. If you can back up your own statements with third-party testimonials or a list of satisfied users, everything you say becomes more believable.

5. Tell readers what they might lose if they don't act. As noted, people respond affirmatively either to gain something they do not possess or to avoid losing something they already have. Here's a good spot in your letter to overcome human inertia–imply what could be lost if action is postponed. People don't like to be left out. A skillful writer can use this human trait as a powerful influence in his or her message.

6. Rephrase your prominent benefits in your closing offer. As a good salesperson does, sum up the benefits to the prospect in your closing offer. This is the proper prelude to asking for action. This is where you can intensify the prospect's desire to have the product. The stronger benefits you can persuade the reader to recall, the easier it will be for him or her to justify an affirmative decision.

7. Incite action. Now. This is the spot where you win or lose the battle with inertia. Once a letter is put aside or sorted in into the wrong pile, they're out of luck. So wind up a call for action, and a logical reason for acting now. Too many letters close with a statement like "supplies are limited." That argument lacks credibility. Make the reason a believable one. For example, "It could be many months before we go back to press on this book." Or "Orders are shipped in their on a first-come basis. The sooner yours is received, the sooner you can be enjoying your new budget."

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