A friend recently asked me to review a letter – a three page sales letter a partner of their company wants to send to my friend’s customers. It’s a letter offering a service of the partner – part of a joint referral program between the two companies.

I read the letter, laid it down in front of me, and sat there silent. “What do you think?” I asked.

“I can’t read past the first page.” replied my friend. “The font changes six or seven times, the language has a funny tone…it sounds manipulative.”

My friend was right on every point. The letter read like a late night infomercial.  It’s the ginsu knife of sales letters:

  • Mr So-n-so here with a big offer…
  • I think so highly of (fill-in the blank) I had to make this offer to you…
  • But wait, there’s more…
  • Here’s the best part…
  • Act now, we can only make this incredible offer for x days…
  • PS
  • PPS

There isn’t a single element of the letter that makes it odd, it’s the continuous sing-song way it flows and the continual hooks that it offers. The font changes are effective at drawing attention, but are annoying.

Why mention this?

Because it is the exact type of letter we’ve all received in the mail. This letter is a perfect example of the type of copywriting you’d expect in stereotypical direct mail.

It’s technically perfect.

My friend said three other people at their company read the letter and had the same reaction — all thought the letter was old school, hard to read, manipulative, didn’t get to the point quick enough, and had the look-n-feel of junk mail sent from someone who’s not quite sincere.

They decided to give it to me for a professional opinion.

They didn’t need one. Their opinion is all that counts – they’re a typical recipient of such a letter. We all are.

The point to this post is there’s a lot of talk about Web 2.0 and how today’s Internet savvy surfer needs to be treated and communicated with different that their Web 1.0 brethren. The same applies to direct mail and copywriting.

It’s time the marketplace gets on board with Direct Mail 2.0 and stops the insanely antiquated copywriting techniques of continuous type treatments, hooks, and sing-song tone.

What do you think?

Do you think the direct mail copywriting tactics described above continue to be effective –or– is all direct mail dead and merely a thing of the past? Why? What, if anything, should be done different in this Web 2.0 world?

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