Get Involvement, Get Readership

By Travis Lee

I LOVE old ads. In fact newsletter reader and outrageous advertiser Dr. Gregg Nielsen in Waterford, WI sends me an old ad each month in his newsletter. Here’s a link to a classic ad written by legendary copywriter Bill Jayme.

This example, like many of them, come from Richard Hodgson’s “The Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters of All Time.” Here’s a short excerpt from Hodgson’s on the “Psychology Today” letter linked above.

When we asked direct mail authorities to name today’s great letter copywriter’s, the most frequently mentioned name was Bill Jayme. Over the years, Jayme and his design partner, Heikki Ratalahti, have produced many of the most memorable direct mail packages of all time, particularly for the publishing industry.

Creating letters to sell magazine subscriptions and books is often a special challenge for copywriters because publishers are constantly testing to find a new approach to pull better response than previous efforts.

To have your letter become the “control” letter means you’ve probably done a better job than other top-notch copywriters. If your letter is the control for a long time, your copy has most likely been put to the ultimate test – winning over other versions tie and time again.

Top copywriters consider the ultimate achievement as having one of their letter beat a Bill Jayme control package. More often than not, however, a new Bill Jayme letter is what it takes to beat the old Bill Jayme control.

(Now, back to Travis’ analysis.) Not seen here is the envelope, with a single question printed on the envelope: “Do you close the bathroom door even when you’re the only one home?”

Who wouldn’t read that! Inside the envelope is a 4 page letter (2 pages, front and back), with a survey (Compatibility Test) included. This is a great example of getting involvement from the reader (which we’ll cover next week, stay tuned!).  You’ll notice the mentioned to the “enclosed pencil” at the bottom of page 1, an early use of 3D Mail!

Including a test like this can be a risky. What if they say “no” to many of them? That’s why the importance of matching your copy to your list is so important. Most give way to little consideration to their list.

However, the magazine was very careful to select the right kind of people who would be logical subscribers, and more prone to answer “yes” to the majority of the questions. This involvement device makes the decision for the reader.

Another involvement device is used later, in the fifth paragraph of page four:

Just place token in the slot on the enclosed order card, place in the envelope and mail — you’ll get back a complimentary copy of the current issue.”

Jayme also starts the letter with an interesting story, a staple of many of his most successful letters.  People have been trained all their life to read or listen to stories.  Think back to when you were a child, and your parents would tell you stories and read stories to you.  Even now, what happens when you meet up with your family and friends around a campfire, or meet old high school or college buddies for a few brews at the bar?  You TELL STORIES.

We’ve been conditioned from a very young age to listen to and read stories.  The most effective letters all contain stories, and all good copywriters know this and use it to their advantage.

So the first reason to use stories is to increase readership.  We know, without a doubt, it will increase your readership, and as a result will increase your sales.  It also gives creditably to your copy.  Again, stories sell, and a story, if even ‘mostly’ true, lends a level of credibility.  After all, if he’s telling a story, it’s GOT to be true.

Stories humanize you.  Instead of buying from a large, nameless company, you become the star and the face of the organization.  It makes you real and it makes you more interesting.  This again increases readership and thus response and sales.  The great use of story by Jayme in this letter makes you feel as if you’ve been complimented for your intelligence, and just just put through a sales pitch.

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