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12 Steps to Direct Mail Success:  Step 9

Jun 02, 2010

12 Steps to Direct Mail Success – Step 9: Call Your Readers to Action

You crafted your offer in Step 2, now it’s time to get your recipients to act on it.  In the spirit of making action easy, here are five simple tips for calling readers to action in your mailer.

1. Make it easy to say yes and hard to say no.  Your offer should be as close to the Godfather’s can’t-be-refused offer as possible, and your call to action should be too.  It has been said that a good call to action is one that only an idiot would refuse.  Yet the fact of the matter is, you are asking your recipient to do something that will require time and effort. 

You want to sweeten the deal with a great offer, but you still need to either minimize the time and effort that action will take, or maximize the benefit the recipient will get from taking the action.  Or, better yet, you need to do both.  And by all means tell your prospects that you have minimized the work involved in responding to your offer and maximized the benefits of doing so.

2. Be clear.  If your mail recipient is even slightly confused about what you’re asking her to do, she’s probably not going to do it.  Too much effort.  So be exceedingly clear every time you write your call to action.  An easy way to ensure that your call-to-action is clear is to include the four Ws: What are you asking your mail recipient to do?  Where are you asking her to do it?  When?  Why?

For example: What: Come in and shop.  Where: The Yum’s store near you (and here’s a map).  When: Before Friday, March 26 (when the offer expires).  Why: To get 10% off your cookie purchase.  So here’s the call to action: Bring this coupon to the Yum’s store near you (here’s a map) for 10% off your cookie purchase.  But hurry!  This yummy offer expires on Friday, March 26.

3. Ask, ask again.  There’s a delicate balance in repeating your offer and your call to action often enough to be memorable but not so often that it becomes annoying.  If you’re sending a letter or self-mailer, you should certainly repeat your call to action at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.  If you’re sending a postcard, include your offer and call to action on both sides.

You can always tweak your call to action just a bit to avoid sounding like a broken record.  On the back side of a postcard, for example, your call to action could be “Keep more of your hard-earned money.  Call 1-800-555-5555 for your free tax analysis today.”  Then on the front side you say, “Are you paying too much tax?  Call 1-800-555-5555 right now to find out.”

4. Light a little fire.  The fact is that we’ve all got too much to do in too little time.  Even if you have a great offer and a strong call to action, unless you give your prospect a credible reason to act right now, he might just put it off until later (which, of course, becomes never).  An easy way to infuse a sense of urgency into your offer is to add an expiration date, or limit the quantity available to the first X number of responders.

5. Leave breadcrumbs.  The ultimate goal of most direct mail is making a sale or closing a deal.  But that shouldn’t necessarily be your call to action.  Sometimes, you need to help your prospects take baby steps.  Instead of saying “Visit our website and buy our software!” Maybe your offer is a free white paper and your call to action is “Visit our website now for your free white paper.  Hurry!  We’re reserving this special gift for our first 100 visitors.”

Now, we’ll practice what we preach: Visit right now to call your prospects to action!