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Tips & Tricks

Here are some quick ways to generate ideas and develop strong copy for any product or service.

Idea Generation: Use Doug Hall’s "flapdoodle" technique (Jump Start Your Brain by Doug Hall) or da Vinci’s "mind-mapping" techniques (How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb) to free-associate. To me, they’re very similar. On a blank page, draw a circle in the center. In it, put a word (or image) defining your objective. From there, draw other circles with other ideas that come to mind. As you continue branching out, new associations will come to you. It’s a great technique. For more specifics, see the books by Hall and Gelb.

Facts and Benefits:  To be sure you are providing benefits to your reader, use the “so” technique. It forces you to sell from the readers’ point of view. I think I initially saw this in the Wall Street Journal full-page ads on Advertising.

Here’s how it works: This phone has a built in speakerphone. So … you don’t have to hold the phone to your ear with your shoulder while you talk and write. So   you can sit in your hotel room, take notes on the phone and enjoy a drink at the same time.  So … your life on the road gets a whole lot easier. (You get the idea.)

For more on the Creative Leaders Series that run in the Wall Street Journal for over 25 years, see: http://www.aef.com/industry/careers/2026.

Writing Tip: One of the easiest ways to write a direct response mail package or email is to divide a page in half lengthwise, then list the facts down the left side, and the corresponding benefits on the right.  Once you decide which benefits are most important, you’ve got all the information you need to start writing (and selling)!

Final thought: If you see the same direct marketing creative year after year, review it carefully. In all probability, it’s working.


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Lifetime Value
This is a unique way direct marketers view the profitability of customers and mailings. Rather than focusing just on the cost of acquiring a new customer, you look at the average revenue you'll receive over a customer's lifetime. It can be substantial.
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