Wish I’d Written That
Smart targeting is the first step to a successful direct mail program.
A spot-on mailing list puts your mail in the right hands, but it’s powerless to reach minds. For that, you need writing that connects with your reader. When you have both—mail in the right hands and writing that resonates—ah, that is targeting at its most effective.
Free Inquiry, a magazine published by the Council for Secular Humanism that debunks nonsense and promotes critical thinking, reached me in both ways.
Since critical thinking and debunking happen to be passions of mine, it appears that they had a good mailing list. As for resonating, well, I’m an iconoclast, I care about evidence, and I have no patience with dogma. Knowing that much about me, perhaps you can imagine how receptive I was to the headline on their envelope: “For many centuries the world’s most opinionated fuddy-duddies have known exactly where independent thinkers who write, edit, publish, read or discuss magazines like FREE INQUIRY will end up. And that was even before I decided to tempt you with one hell of an offer.”
Inside, the sales letter does a wonderful job of flattering me. It opens with, “Dear Intelligent Reader.” Yup, I thought, that’s me. Never mind if it’s true. I like to think it.
The letter goes on: “There’s something I like about you. Maybe it’s a cause you contributed to, or another publication you subscribe to, or a petition you had the courage to sign.”
Bingo on all three.
“Whatever it is,” continues the letter, “I’ll make no bones about how I got your name and address. You landed on the sort of mailing list that told me you’re probably my kind of person—a list of people who are especially bright—independent thinkers with social consciences and an active interest in why individuals and organizations behave as they do.”
Again, bingo. Right nor not, critical thinkers indeed flatter themselves that they are especially bright, and that they are unusually enlightened when it comes to social values. We may be critical thinkers, but we’re not above being irrational when it comes to vanity.
From there, the letter goes on to describe the problems that irrationality causes, in pretty much the same terms I have used myself. In short, they had me. I read every word of the sales letter, brochure, lift letter, and reply form. The copywriter did a brilliant job of convincing me that this magazine truly was written for me.
Every now and then I stumble upon a direct mail package that I envy, that I wish I’d written. The Free Inquiry package is one of them.
By the way, I subscribed. You should, too.