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Learning mail order advertising techniques is one of the most important sales and marketing skills you can obtain.

Why? Because mail order advertising is measurable. Each and every ad has to prove itself in results. You know if your advertising is working—whether it's making you money or not.

Here are eight tips to start you off on the right track:

  1. Write a compelling headline. It's the headline that makes the rest of the ad work. Every headline has one job; it must grab the appropriate readers' attention. To do that, create headlines that deliver a believable promise. The best headlines appeal to people's self-interest or give news. Long headlines that say something are better than short ones that say less. If you come up with a good headline, in most cases you will have a successful ad. But the greatest body copy can't overcome a poor headline. You can't make your ads sell unless you can make people read your copy.

  2. Use simple words. Speak directly and simply. When you finish writing your copy, have a young friend of 13 or 14 read it. If he or she doesn't understand a certain word or phrase, change it.

  3. Write to length. Use however many words it takes to tell the complete story—no more and no less. If it takes many words, so be it. The more you tell… the more you sell. Every word should have a reason for being there, relaying all the facts necessary. If it takes more room to tell your story than the size of your ad, you need to run a two-step campaign. Then your ad's job is to generate inquiries, not to sell. The package you send to the inquiries does the selling job.

  4. Get to the point. Be direct. Don't try to write cute or be funny or clever. Give facts. Begin with the best benefit—you'll have a better chance of keeping the reader with you. Share what they will miss if they don't buy. Repeat your main point in two or three ways. At the end, call the reader to action. Interested people reading your ad will want to know what to do. Tell them! And give them a good reason for acting—now!

  5. Use pictures correctly. Pictures take up expensive ad space and must pull their weight in selling your product or service. So your pictures should tell a story at a glance. The picture you use should be of the product, the product in use, or the results of using the product.

  6. Repeat the same ad. Many advertisers change campaigns too often. They get tired of seeing their ads long before the public does. By using mail order methods you will know what works; stick with it until you develop new ads that prove themselves (through measurable results) to be better.

  7. Learn from history. Many people in advertising think that the techniques that worked years ago will not work today. The fact is that times change but people do not. The basic human emotions, wants and desires remain the same. “Free” and “new” are just as powerful motivators now as they were years ago. Ads that appeal to the reader's self-interest and desire for self-improvement still work. Ads that offer news still work.

  8. Test It! Test It! Test It! With mail order advertising you can test every component in an ad to see what works best. What appeal, what headline, what offer, what price point, etc. If you have two different headlines that you feel are very strong, you can test both using a split run. Just remember to test only one component at a time and to key-code the ads for accurate results.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Schulte Mr. Schulte is a direct marketing and mail order strategist. He is also president and chairman of the National Mail Order Association in Minneapolis, MN