Junk Mail or Moneymaker? The 2-Second Decision

When you’re planning to mail a lead-generation letter or self-mailer, you probably think a lot about what your offer’s going to be, what lists you’ll use, etc.

But don’t forget to consider the context in which your letter will get read. You see, it’s important to understand exactly the way people read your mail and the demands that imposes on the copywriter.

Let me put all this under the microscope and you’ll see what I mean: Typically, a prospect receives his mail in a pile, addresses facing him. Then he becomes a Las Vegas blackjack dealer dealing down, making decisions, searching for valuable material, discarding the junk.

There are basically four kinds of mail in everybody’s pile:


These are all the unsolicited marketing pieces that land on the prospect’s desk. They are subjected to a merciless, one- or two-second review based entirely on the envelope. Yes. Envelopes are incredibly important. They crucially determine whether the prospect will open the letter and get to your compelling sales message.

Most letters will instantly be placed on the throw-out pile, but a few will survive. Hopefully yours! Here’s where things get interesting.

As you know from your own experience of being a prospect, there are some letters that are on the borderline. You’re a bit interested but are not really sure if the letter is junk or not. So you open it and quickly start scanning, looking for the writer to get to the point.

Here’s where the skill of the copywriter really kicks in. He or she has to quickly suck you in to the story, sell the offer, and make the sale.

One sentence that is unclear, one bit of ordering information that is vague, is all it takes to turn a moneymaker into junk mail. That’s why it’s so important to handle all the little details correctly when it comes to:

  • The offer
  • Product features/benefits/specs
  • Ordering and shipping details
  • The guarantee

If you’ve been extremely clear and focused, you have a real shot at making the sale. If your letter is vague, or a reader’s question is unanswered, your piece may wind up on the junk pile.

The take-away message this month?

You don’t have a lot of time to spend with your busy prospects as they sort through their mail, so get to the point quickly and make sure everything that needs to be explained has been communicated clearly.

The difference between junk mail and a sale is often about two or three seconds. Don’t blow it!

Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman’s Fund, Intel and Microsoft. Levison writes direct mail, emails and web copy. For a free subscription to his monthly email newsletter for marketers, and a free copy of his report, “101 Ways to Double Your Response Rates!”, visit www.levison.com.


Publish date: April 1, 2010 https://dev.adweek.com/performance-marketing/junk-mail-or-moneymaker-the-2-second-decision-415890/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT
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