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"Listen to the music," they sang. And why should direct marketers listen to the music...?

Because the great composers are masters at creating tension to bring you along into the piece and then putting you at ease within specific movements. It is this dueling dialectic that creates great direct mail as well.
I hadn't thought much about tension as a key factor in driving response until I did a workshop for one of MooreWallace Response Marketing Services' clients with Allan Gross. Allan, long-time marketing strategist with the company, possesses an extraordinary knowledge of what works and what doesn't. He believes that if you don't create tension on the outer envelope, you won't get it opened.
There are a plethora of marketing strategies you can take in a package .... invitation, assumptive, professional courtesy, savings, challenge, urgency, and, of course, official. Whichever you choose, just make sure the envelope creates the tension.
For example, let's say you're offering a free seminar for Trump Institute on "The Way to Wealth." An invitation strategy would be suitable. You certainly want Donald Trump's name on the corner card. If you mail in an ivory envelope, address in a handwriting font, and your only teaser copy is R.S.V.P., that creates tension. The recipient wants to know "Why is the Donald writing to me? What am I being invited to?"
If, on the other hand, your teaser copy is "You're invited to a free seminar on building your wealth," there is much less tension. The recipient knows the deal.
Once you get someone inside the envelope, you play both the heavy, somber chords and the lilts. Your Johnson box might, for example, raise a problem or possible problem. This causes tension. You can ease that tension immediately with copy like:
Now you can solve your compliance problems quickly and
easily with help from ABC software. Read how, and learn
about a special offer that adds to your savings.

What you want to do in most of your copy is get people to relax about your product and what it can do for them, ease any fears of responding or ordering. The place for the requiem is when you talk about the consequences of not responding, and you can build this tension by throwing in response/deadline dates.
You can build tension on the front cover of a brochure with photos alone, or with photos and copy. The Lift Letter is a classic case of creating tension on the outside panel and then relieving it inside.
In the Trump example above, for instance, the outer panel of the Lift Letter might say,
Will you register for the Donald Trump Way to Wealth
Seminar in the next 24 hours? If your answer is "No,"
Mr. Trump has an idea for you.

Almost like the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth. You have to find out what comes after.
On the response form, you create tension with deadline dates, or other limits to the offer (a Fast 50 offer will do that nicely). Otherwise, the rest of the response form has to be an exercise in relaxation .... a superb andante or maybe even adagio.
One of the ways to create tension is by getting readers angry about a particular situation .... the cost of health insurance, for example. They can begin relieving the tension by responding.

Continue reading "Advice to Direct Marketers from the Doobie Brothers" ... Read the full article

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Lee Marc Stein is a direct marketing consultant and copywriter with over 40 years experience. He has developed and executed direct marketing programs for a wide variety of marketers in the publishing, insurance and financial services, nonprofit, technology, and business-to-business arenas. Current clients include Effectiveness Solutions Research, Entertainment Publications, Long Island Children’s Museum, National Grants Conferences, Rickard List Marketing, Travelers Insurance, and a number of direct response agencies.

As a direct response agency executive, Lee worked with companies like Chase, Colonial Penn Auto Insurance, Dial Corporation, Hertz, Mead Johnson, The Money Store, and U.S. Airways. He also held marketing management positions at Standard & Poor’s, BusinessWeek, and McGraw-Hill Information Systems Company.

Lee taught at NYU and Hofstra, and has spoken at 100+ industry conferences. He was a Founder of the Long Island Direct Marketing Association, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Direct Marketing Association of Long Island.

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