A Guide to Direct Mail

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(1) Is DM for you?

(2) Choosing your list

(3) The Offer

(4) Call to Action

(5) The Package

(6) The Copy

>>About Copy<<
Type Faces
Paper Stock

(7) Testing

(8) Tracking

History of DM

The following is from a 1921 classic direct marketing text called "Effective Direct Advertising" by Robert Ramsay. Although it may seem strange to the reader that I quote from such an old text (and do so in some other parts of the site as well), I feel that if you can get past the dated language, you will find advice both useful and relevant.


That writer does the most good who gives his reader the UTMOST knowledge and takes from him the LEAST time.-AUTH0R UNKNOWN.

Importance of "Copy" and Its Relation to Other Parts of Direct Advertising.
In advertising parlance, the reading matter of a letter or other piece of advertising is termed "copy." In the eyes of the uninitiated this probably seems the most important part of advertising since it is the method of conveying the message to the reader. Considered from the standpoint of the maker of direct advertising, however, it is comparatively important, of course, yet secondary to:
1. Choosing the right list;
2. Analyzing the market and marketing conditions;
3. Deciding upon proper psychological appeal;
4. Planning the campaign and choosing the right physical piece or pieces.

It will be noted that in the book you now read, all of these factors have been dealt with before consideration of the actual writing of "copy." With these four vital factors thoroughly understood it is, comparatively speaking, easy to write the copy.

The last paragraph is not intended to convey the impression that writing "copy" is merely a matter of grammar or syntax, though that is important. As Harry Tipper said before the Association of National Advertisers in one of the most able analyses of copy ever made, copy has four essentials : "Knowledge of the audience. Knowledge of the subject. Knowledge of the language. Sincerity of purpose."

(a) Knowledge of the audience, or knowing the people to whom the appeal properly should be made, as set forth in Sections 187, 188, and 191. Here are a few questions which you may ask yourself, to crystallize the knowledge of those you are addressing:
Who are the possible buyers?
Where are the possible buyers?
What are the possible buyers?
How can they be classified?
-either by different grades of products,
-or, by the entire family of products.
What do they already know about these goods?
What do they already know about other similar goods?
How will they order?
-direct, through salesmen or retailers?
What is the size of the average order?

(b) Knowledge of the subject, or knowing the product or service, comes of intensive study and investigation. Here are a few questions which will help to secure that knowledge :
Is the product something new in formation or function?
Is its use familiar to possible buyers?
Is it a necessary?
Is it a convenience?
Is it a pure luxury?
How does it compare with competing products?
Does it represent a complete sale?
Does it represent a sale involving an accessory or additional sales?
Can its use be illustrated, or must it be described?
Is the product an experiment, subject to change in form, or nearly perfect?

(c) Knowledge of the language means more than a study of the rules of grammar, rhetoric, and literature. The writer of literature may write to express his thoughts, while the writer of direct advertising writes to impress the reader of it. One product is written to be sold, speaking commercially, and the other product is written to sell other products.

0. Henry in one of his stories wrote : "There is a hotel on Broadway that is deep and wide and cool. Its rooms are finished in dark oak of a low temperature. Home-made breezes and deep-green shrubbery. . . ." Yet it is not al-ways that class of literature, or what may be termed "fine-writing," that runs hand in hand with advertising.

So study the language in order to know what words will impress readers. "Knowledge" of words, paragraphs, and sentences-the raw material of copy-"is power."

(d) Sincerity of purpose means merely being honest in your copy-obvious, but often a principle which is violated.

(e) The purpose of all direct advertising is to get some one else to do what you, as the writer, desire should be done -whether it be the retention of a mental impression, the filling in and mailing of a postal card, the tearing off and sending back of a. coupon or the going to the dealer for the product. In writing copy, then, bear in mind its purpose : to get the reader to act.

One instance will prove the value of copy written on this basis: A charity in Maryland sent out five hundred appeals for contributions and received 90 responses with total returns directly traceable to the appeal of $1054 and about $2000 was secured by following up the written appeal by a personal call. Elsewhere, yet near to the first testing ground, the same appeal, but written in different language and sent to a much larger list-nearly 50,000-only secured a total of 117 replies with gross funds of $1700.

(f) Specific copy appeals: Chapters XXIII to XXXV, inclusive, or Part Five, of this work are examples indicating how certain specific copy appeals have been made effectively to particular groups and classes. The remainder of this chapter, therefore, will consider only the general angles of copy.

Fig. 61 illustrates the old, familiar five steps of a sale : (1) Attracting attention ; (2) arousing interest ; (3) creatng desire ; (4) satisfying caution, and (5) inciting action, adapted directly to the writing of direct advertising, all of which should be borne in mind in studying this chapter, for some or all of the steps may be taken by some other part of the direct advertising rather than the copy.

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