11 Tips For Writing Persuasive Direct Mail Copy

headline image - 11 tips for writing persuasive direct mail copy

Do you have a reliable framework for developing high converting direct mail copy?

The most critical component in any successful marketing campaign is a great offer. Without it, you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone that you have something worth buying. 

The second? Great copy. Without great copy, no one will know that you have a great offer. 

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”

David Ogilvy

Copywriting is about crafting words that sell. You rely on copy to position your product as a solution to a problem or pain point that your audience is experiencing. Great copy walks the prospect through the process of learning about and evaluating your offer. 

Great copy does more than just inform, it creates an emotional connection with your ideal customers. It gives them two distinct paths — life with and without your product — and makes the choice clear. 

However, crafting persuasive direct mail copy isn’t so easy. The world’s best copywriters have trained for decades to become great at what they do.

However, knowledge of your customers and product can give even new copywriters a head start when it comes to crafting copy that is truly compelling. 

There are a lot of unique considerations that come with writing copy for direct mail. The format of your mailer, the graphic design of the mailer, and your offer all play a critical role in shaping the type of copy that you use. 

In this article, we’ll cover some simple tips that you can use to help you craft compelling and persuasive direct mail copy.

#1) Use Popular Copywriting Formulas

copywriting formulas can help develop strong direct mail copy

Newer copywriters can use copywriting formulas to help them craft their words in effective ways. A formula is meant to guide your own creativity, but can serve as a tried-and-true way to structure copy so that it is persuasive and hits all of the important beats. 

Use these formulas to serve as inspiration for your own campaigns. 

Before — After — Bridge

This copywriting formula is intended to help the reader build a story in their head — a story where their life changes because of their purchase of your product. 

You start with “Before.” This is their world now. These are the problems that they might be experiencing right now. 

In the “After” portion, you want to highlight how your world will change after they buy your product. How will those problems be alleviated? You should paint a picture of what their world will be like after investing in your product. 

Then comes “Bridge.” This is where you tell them how they can get there.

Let’s consider an example for a dentist. 

Before: Crooked smile got you down?

After: Never worry about your teeth again! Our braces will have you smiling big and feeling confident.

Bridge: Schedule your free consultation today to see if braces are a good fit for you. 

This copywriting formula is popular for a reason — it uses a narrative as a way to position your product as a true solution to a problem.  It speaks to their biggest pain points. 

Take the example above. The pain point is that their crooked teeth make them feel self-conscious when they smile. Then, positions their offer (braces) as a solution to that specific problem, ensuring that they will “never have to worry about their teeth again.”

Problem, Agitate, Solve

This is one of the oldest copywriting formulas, and for good reason, as it is one of the most effective. Copyblogger has called this formula the “key to dominating social media.”

This copywriting formula is very similar to the “Before, After, Bridge” formula. The one key difference is that instead of showing the prospect how their life would change (like in the “After step), this formula focuses on showing them how their life will be if the problem persists. 

Then, finally, you show them how to solve the problem. Let’s stick with our previous example. 

Problem: Crooked smile got you down?

Agitate: Do you really want to go through the rest of your life worrying about how your smile looks?

Solve: Schedule your free braces consultation and never worry about your teeth again!

Clear, Concise, Compelling, Credible

This formula is a popular one, but is really less of a formula and more of a guideline for writing effective copy. The 4 C’s, as it is often called. Following these guidelines can help you to make sure that you touch every base. 

In truth, the 4 C’s could be applied to any formula, but are important enough to stand on their own of a reminder of what we should try to achieve with our copy. 

Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA)

Attention, Interest, Desire, Action copywriting forumula

The most popular copywriting formula in the world. Attention, interest, desire, and action — the path that most copywriting attempts to lead the customer down. This formula can be spotted in popular digital ads, radio ads, TV ads, etc. AIDA is a great fit for most marketing platforms, particularly when you have a limited amount of time (or space) to make a connection with the prospect, as is true in direct mail copy. 

First, the goal is to get the reader’s attention. You want a compelling headline that draws them in and speaks to their biggest concerns. On average, 8 out of 10 readers will read the headline while only 2 out of ten will read the rest. Then, you keep their interest. Give them fresh and compelling information that connects to the points that you made in your headline. 

Then, desire. What are the benefits of your product or service? Do you have proof that it can do what you say that it can? Then we ask them to take action — buy the product, fill out a form, request more information — whatever action you would like the reader to take. 

Here’s an example of it in action:

Attention: Crooked smile got you feeling self-conscious?

Interest: Invisalign braces can help straighten even the most crooked smiles in a year or less, and you only have to wear it at night!

Desire: You’ll never have to worry about your smile again, just like some of our clients. (Testimonials go here)

Action: Call us today to schedule your free braces consultation and see if Invisalign is right for you. 

These are just a few of the many popular copywriting formulas that you can use to help get the gears turning for your next direct mail campaign. 

Now let’s dive into some tips that you can use to increase the effectiveness of your copy and improve conversion rates through direct mail. 

#2) Work Backwards from Your Offer For Better Direct Mail Copy

Working in reverse can be a great way to determine what you need to include in your direct mail campaign. 

If you know the end goal, you can outline the steps that it would take for the customer to get to that point. 

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that the end goal is to buy your product. Maybe invest in a new set of braces. What would the customer have to see before they reached that decision?

Well, they might want to make sure that braces have worked for other people in their position. Can it straighten their teeth? How straight will they be?

They’ll have other questions too. How long will the braces take to work? Maybe they’d like to get their teeth straightened before their wedding day and are wondering if one year is enough time to see results. What are the differences between standard braces and something like Invisalign? If they get taken off early, do the teeth remain in their new positions or do they migrate back?

They’ll want to know what steps are required to get their own set of braces. They may want to know what style and color options might be available. 

See? Working backwards from your offer can really help you to pinpoint the concerns, questions, and pain points that your direct mail copy should touch on. 

#3) Focus on Benefits, Not Features

Benefits work better than features in direct mail copy

This is a common mistake in any marketing channel. As marketers, we can sometimes get too close to our own products. We fall in love with the features that our product delivers. We see things through that pane. But customers don’t. They see products and services in terms of how it is going to help them. 

You don’t provide “adjustable braces fittings.” You help people fix crooked smiles with braces. 

This isn’t to say that features aren’t always important. Sometimes, a feature can be a benefit when it directly solves a particular pain point for the customer. 

For instance, maybe a customer had a bad experience with Invisalign braces. Maybe they found it to be bothersome that as their teeth straightened, they had to keep going back into the Dentist to have a new molding created. In this example, the fact that your braces are adjustable with a quick visit in just a few seconds is both a feature and a benefit. 

#4) Identify and Use the Customer’s Pain Points

Pain points are great to focus on

Your direct mail copy should zero in on a single pain point (or at most a few specific pain points) that you can solve for the customer. Key in on what it is that is driving them mad. The reasons that they sought out a product like yours in the first place. 

Using the previous example, some of the pain points that braces might help to solve for people with crooked teeth include:

  • Feeling self-conscious whenever they smile. 
  • Difficulties eating. 
  • Poor oral health from teeth being difficult to clean. 

People with all three of these pain points make ideal customers for a dentist that provides braces. Each of these pain points is probably deserving of its own ad campaign, so long as you know that your audience is experiencing a specific problem that you can solve. 

#5) The Deeper the Personalization In Direct Mail Copy, the Better

Use personalization to engage with your audience

80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from companies that personalize their experience. Including personal details that reference the recipient’s name, their previous interactions with the company, and requests that they have made.

Personalization is baked into everything that Postalytics does. We make it dead-simple for you to inject recipient data into your campaigns and facilitate the customer feeling like you are creating a solution that is specific to them. 

Insert Variable Data Personalization into direct mail copy

#6) Answer Objections In Direct Mail Copy

You know the objections, answer them in your copy

Look at copy as sales in written form. During any sales conversation, one of the main jobs of any sales rep is to handle objections and present alternative scenarios where those objections are proved to be untrue. 

There are five common objections that you will see in most sales conversations:

1. I don’t have enough time.

2. I don’t have enough money.

3. It won’t work for me.

4. I don’t believe you.

5. I don’t need it.

Being able to build answers to these objections within your direct mail copy is a simple way to improve conversion rates and keep more customers locked in until the end of the ad. 

For instance, if you offer a high-ticket product or service, one of your most common objections would be “I can’t afford it.” Including some copy about why an investment in your product will actually end up saving your customers money in the long run would be a smart choice, as those questions will need to be answered before the prospect is ready to buy. 

Figure out which objections are most relevant to you and your product. You’ll likely have a good idea of which objections are most common with your customers. Then, you can prioritize those objections in your copy. 

#7) “You,” Not “We”

This tip is similar to the features vs. benefits tip we gave earlier. Too often, we spend so much time focusing on what we can do for the customer that we forget how we can help them

In copy, you are writing for the customer. Frame everything in terms of what it would do for them. When you find yourself saying things like “Our product,” “Our platform,” or “Our company,” too much, there is a good chance that you are writing for the wrong audience. 

A focus on benefits naturally leads to a focus on your customer and framing everything in terms of how it will help them to solve problems and achieve goals. 

#8) Prioritize Readability

don't crowd your design or words

You want to write your copy like you expected a fifth grader to read it. Simple words, short sentences. Make sure that you leave plenty of room between paragraphs and white space in your design as a whole. 

Let your direct mail copy breathe!

You want headlines and important points to stand out on the page. A great tool for assessing the readability of any writing is Hemingway App. It’s a free tool that analyzes your writing, pinpoint problematic sentences, and helps you to improve readability. 

This study from the Nielsen Norman Group found that readers tend to read content in an F-shaped pattern — skimming headlines and opening paragraph sentences, deep-diving only into the portions that they find the most compelling. You can expect your readers to treat your copy in the same way. Take extra care in crafting your headlines and opening sentences to give yourself the best chance of drawing your readers into your ads.

#9) Enhance Credibility with Technical Details

While we’ve spent a lot of time discussing why you should focus on benefits over features, there are some cases where highlighting your features can be extremely useful. Highlighting technical product details can provide a boost to credibility. If your product is made from a stronger or higher quality material — that is something that you want to convey in your direct mail copy. 

Often, you can connect technical details about your product directly to benefits. Better materials might make your product more durable — if that’s a key concern among your customers, providing technical details about that can be a credible way to address those concerns. 

The level of detail you get into should also be driven by the format that you choose to deliver your direct mail copy on. A 4×6 postcard has a lot less real estate to let great copy breathe than does a 3 page letter. Don’t overwhelm your format with too much detail.

#10) Create a Truly Attention-Grabbing Call to Action

The only part of your copy that may rival the headline in terms of importance is a call to action. Your call to action must push the reader toward the desired action that you want to take. 

“Call Now to Schedule Your FREE Braces Consultation.”

Every piece of content that you deliver should call your readership to action in some meaningful way, whether that means buying your product, booking a call, or simply requesting further information.

Don’t bury your call to action with a small font, or competing visual elements. We recommend using visual cues to draw the eye toward the call to action. 

visual cues that draw the eye to your call to action

What are the characteristics of a strong call to action?

  1. It reduces risk – Free, Money Back Guarantee, Cancel Anytime
  2. It tells the recipient what to do next – Go To This Web Page, Scan This Code, Call Now
  3. It creates a sense of urgency – Now, Hurry, Limited Time Offer

When you combine these three elements in a well positioned and clear Call To Action, you’re making it easy for the recipient to respond the way you want them to. 

#11) Recycle What Works

Use successful campaigns to guide the way that you write copy in future campaigns. When you find copy that connects with your customers, save it. Even if it’s just general ideas — benefits highlighted, product details included, objections answered — copy that is proven successful with your audience is worth its weight in gold. 

Effective Direct Mail Copy Drives Successful Campaigns

At the heart of every successful direct mail campaign is effective copywriting. Copywriting is all about learning how to communicate with your customers and interested prospects, providing them with the details that they are most interested in and walking them through the process of learning about and evaluating your offer.