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12 Steps to Direct Mail Success: Step 7

Apr 01, 2010

12 Steps to Direct Mail Success – Step 7: Write a Stand-out Headline and P.S.

The headline and the P.S. are the two most read portions of a direct mail piece.  According to master marketer David Ogilvy, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.  Often, readers will look to the headline first, skip to the postscript (P.S.), and then decide if they will invest in the rest of the copy.  So, by all means, take the time to make your headline and postscript great.

10 tips for headlines and postscripts that work

1. Grab attention.  Sometimes headlines ask a question.  Sometimes they tease the reader, enticing him to read more out of sheer curiosity (though that’s tougher to do well).  Sometimes they simply and plainly assert the benefits of the offer.  However you choose to craft your headline, it must grab readers’ attention and compel them to read the rest of your copy.

2. Cultivate an emotional connection.  The most effective mailers create an emotional response in the recipient, through both textual and visual elements.  Both your headline and your P.S. should reiterate and reinforce the emotional connection you want to make.  (But take care that your mailer doesn’t come across as disingenuous – be emotional, but be real.)

3. Use the active voice.  Using the active voice creates a sense of, well, action – which is, after all, what you want from your recipients.  “The active voice is stronger and more direct,” wrote Randall Hines and Robert Lauterborn in Direct magazine.  “Compare ‘The Size You Need Is Stocked by Our Store’ with ‘Your Size Is Here.’”

4. In headlines, tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em.  Whether you craft the headline as a teaser, a question, or as a direct statement of the benefit of your offer, take the opportunity to give your mail recipient a peak into what you’re going to explain in the rest of the copy.  In other words, answer the question, “Why should I read the rest of this mailer?”

5. In postscripts, tell ‘em what you told ‘em.  Remember that most mail recipients will read the P.S. after the headline but before they read the rest of the copy.  That said, use the postscript to summarize what you’ve said in the copy.  Reiterating the offer (and the benefits of acting on it) is usually a good bet.

6. Explain the benefit.  Why should the reader care?  What’s in it for him?

7. Be concise.  The purpose of headlines and postscripts is to get your readers’ attention and entice them to read the rest of what you have to say.  You won’t get the chance to do that if you’re too wordy in your headline and P.S.

8. Play on your mailer’s visual elements. The headline is a great place to connect your copy to the mailer’s visual elements.

9.  Remember your purpose.  Just as designing for design’s sake is a mistake as you lay out and design your mail piece, humor, wit, or anything else for its own sake is a mistake in your headline and P.S.  As with every other element of your mailer, the headline and P.S. should work to help you accomplish the goal you’ve set out.

10. When you test, test your headline and postscript.  Because the headline and postscript are the most read elements of your mailer, testing changes to them (not at the same time, of course) is a good first place to start.  If you’re running a split test of two slightly different mailers, test different headlines to see which generates better response.

Learn from what works

There’s no need to reinvent the direct mail success wheel.  Taking cues from what has worked for other companies is a quick and easy way to create great headlines and postscripts that will work for you, too.

All-time-great headlines
• You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Retire on a Guaranteed Income for Life
• Do You Make These Mistakes in English?
• Give Me Three Minutes a Day – and I’ll Give You a Better Complexion
• Here is a Method That is Helping Homeowners Save Hundreds on Insurance
• The Secret of Protecting Your Assets in Litigation
• Have a Smile You Can Be Proud Of

All-time-great postscripts

• From Ray Jutkins: P.S. Risk-Free Guarantee. If you choose not to subscribe just write “cancel” on the bill. You pay nothing. You owe nothing. You keep your free books no matter what.

• From Lee Marc Stein in Direct: P.S. You might describe the IHT experience as “Quality Time.” It brings you news, trends and perspective from around the globe in a very focused way… and a very different way than you get from the U.S. daily paper you read now. Try the IHT for a month FREE and judge for yourself.

You don’t have to write headlines and postscripts like David Ogilvy, Ray Jutkins, or Lee Marc Stein to be incredibly effective.  By following these 10 tips – and learning from what works – you can boost the response rate you see on your mailers, maybe by a lot.