The Four Most Important Rules of Direct-Mail Copywriting

Recently, I got into a discussion about the most important elements in writing strong direct-mail promotions.

This is what I said:

1. You must figure out what the prospect is most concerned about and make sure most of the copy addresses that concern and not others.

2. You must stress the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of the product in the beginning, middle, and end of the promotion. If you are not sure what the USP of the product is, your promotion is in trouble. If you know what it is but it’s not strong, you are still in trouble. Work on this (by refining the expression of it or actually improving the product) until you are satisfied. Don’t waste money promoting the product before then.

3. Make one big, dead-on, and irresistible promise. It’s fine to have dozens of smaller benefits and promises embedded in your copy — but unless you can come up with one overriding promise that touches all your prospects’ emotional and intellectual buttons, you will never have a blockbuster success.

4. Avoid phoniness in all its many varieties. Great copy is simple and direct. It is not difficult. It does not deceive. Great copywriters write with clear, strong voices. Their language is direct and to the point.

The only way to sell something simply is if the benefits you are talking about are real and desirable. Study the product until you find out how it can really help your prospect. Then get excited about the good it’s going to do and let that excitement show through your language. Search out and destroy all clichés, especially advertising clichés.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]