Too many good choices!

Issue #71—July 5, 2019

Happy belated 4th of July to my fellow Americans! (And happy belated Canada day to my Canadian friends up north.)

Hopefully you got a chance to relax yesterday---heck, maybe you're still relaxing. If so, I appreciate your taking a few minutes from your busy "chill" time to read this.

Personally, I've been on a roll with getting things done the past few days...starting with a much more organized office. It felt great to walk in this morning and not have piles of papers, promos, misplaced bills, and other stuff all over the place.

I even found (finally!) the promo I wanted to highlight in this week's "What's in Kim's Mailbox". We'll get to that in a moment.

But first, I want to talk about a common fallacy when it comes to making offers...

People love choices!

The truth is: they don't! As a general rule of thumb, the more choices or options you offer, the more you suppress response.

Now, there are clearly exceptions to the rule. For example, most people love the "customization" experience when they go to, say Chipotle. (I personally don't mind it if I'm just getting something for myself...but if I'm also getting carryout for the rest of the family, I find myself having to make 3,468 decisions and it drives me bonkers!) 

But when it comes to direct response offers--whether they're via email, online sales pages, or direct mail promos, the opposite is true. If you don't keep your choices simple and streamlined, you'll leave your prospect feeling like this...

(Yes, that's an ancient photo of me demonstrating how I do my brilliant copy research. And look how clean my desk's like that again now. Yay!)

In any case, you can leave your prospect frozen with indecision when it comes to making the crucial decision to buy. It's one reason why I've never seen one of my big-company clients have a successful acquisition promotion that offered more than one product at a time.

It's another reason why I've seen a few different trends with supplement offers. The first is having only ONE option...generally an auto-ship option. That way you're likely going to get at least 3 orders per person who ends up ordering (that's the average for most "til forbid" program), raising your AOV (average order value) to something you can live with.

The second trend is moving away from offering premiums as incentives. Some companies have tested out of them completely. My feeling is they could be distracting, on top of making the choice between, say "good/better/best" even more paralyzing.

My own little "experiment" proved it...

I proved this to myself earlier this week with my own little "experiment". I decided to run a Mid-Year Sale for 4 of my copywriting programs or products. It lasted 2 days, and I sent out 5 emails.

For a popular summer vacation week, it did okay. Some people came back and bought multiple times, even after the sale ended. And more people placed orders than unsubscribed (note: I still don't get why people unsubscribe from a marketing e-letter when they get marketing emails...but don't get me started on that.)

To see how this sale compared, I went back and looked at two other times last year when I offered sales. Both times the sale was for just one product. And both sales did much better, though timing could have been part of it.

My "black Friday" sale on my 3Rs: Royalties, Retainers, and Recurring Revenue program with Chris Orzechowski last November lasted 4 days and pulled in nearly 3 times as many orders as this latest sale did. However, there were two of us promoting it to our lists.

Another offer that performed better was for my Virtual LA Boot Camp Intensive a year ago this past March. It was a one-day sale for just one product. It was the same 50% savings I offered with my Mid-Year sale...yet it brought in twice as many orders.

I'm being transparent with you on this as I see it as a teaching (as well as, for me, a learning) opportunity. Think about this as you structure your offers---whether for your own business or for your client.

For me going forward, I'll be sticking to single-product offers, and doing them over shorter time frames. These "flash" sales will get even "flash"-ier, so be ready to act quickly when you see them.

Now let's take a look at a direct mail promo that breaks many of these rules I just "woman"-splained to you...

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

This fat 6x9 envelope showed up in my (increasingly empty) mailbox about 3 weeks ago. I remember looking at it and finding it "interesting" (I even texted my buddy Carline Anglade-Cole to see if she had written it---she said some might be her copy.)

I then promptly misplaced this promo somewhere in my office. Luckily I unearthed it yesterday during my rainy-4th-of-July office dig-out (along with that lost mortgage bill from last month that I had to pay by phone)...

The carrier has a clean, uncluttered look. The addressing on the back cover shows through the window (you can't see it because I put a blank label over it.)

It appears as if there's a newsletter inside---a variation of the popular "issuelog" look. And it has just one fascination on the front cover.

By focusing that one fascination on "heart problems", it's casting a wide net since a huge percentage of older adults have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or another heart-related concern. The fascination has curiosity as well as urgency in it to get the prospect inside.

Once you're inside, you get a 64-page, 2-color booklet with this on the front cover...

I like that it's going for a very editorial look...but I think that main headline is a little bit, well, boring. I would connect it more to the fascination that was on the front of the carrier...building in more urgency or curiosity. (In fact, one need only look at the fascination that was on the back for headline inspiration---I'll share it in a second.)

The front page copy itself is very good. It's creative in how it's addressing "arteriosclerosis" a.k.a. "hardening of the arteries", which generally is not considered compliant copy. But "turn your arteries to stone" is a good way around that.

There are also lots of other vivid words and phrases, like "life-robbing toxic metals" as well as another compliance dodge with "slowed by clogged passages in your arteries" instead of the non-compliant "blood clots". The promo is worth studying just for these artful ways around things you generally can't say in supplement copy.

I've never bought from this company. So I know they're using it as an acquisition piece. And they're doing something I mentioned earlier that I pretty much never see my bigger-company clients do: they're promoting 5 different products in one promo.

Each promo section runs anywhere from 5 to 13 pages each. I suspect they lifted the copy (including at least some sidebars) from separate promos that are controls for each of the products. What's more, each promo section ends with its own order form page. Let's take a look at the first order form page at the end of the heart supplement promo section...

All of these separate order forms have 4 different choices or offers on them. Now, I've definitely seen that work in direct mail supplement promos--though 3 is usually the max. However, I've never seen the acceptance copy for each option written like that. I'm not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. I don't know if that's how it's written in their separate control promos.

But I'd be concerned it's suppressing response rather than helping to boost it. If someone has what they consider a "mild" concern, they still might want to stock up and get the best price. I feel like this is discouraging them from doing so. And if anything, the sales copy should make everyone who reads it feel as if they have "serious concerns about my heart and vascular health."

As the legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz put it during his day-long presentation to the marketing team at Phillips Publishing (I was one of the lucky ones in that room), he always wants the prospect to feel by the time they're done reading his copy, "Am I really in that much grave danger?"

Now let's take a look at the inside back cover spread. It presents all 5 products once more, with one combined order form...

I think this is a smart move overall as it encourages combining offers and ordering more than one product. I also think it's done as simply as possible...but it's still a bit of work to fill it out. Sure makes calling in the order seem more desirable! (Generally this is what you want anyway so you can upsell.) I like how the callout "If phones are busy, please try again!" makes it seem like everyone else is doing it---why aren't you?

I also like having the page numbers to the individual product order forms right there in the order certificate section. I would just say if it takes 6 lines of copy to explain your instructions, maybe they're a little too complicated and potentially confusing.

However, overall this is at least a good test to see if combining these product offers into one gives a good enough ROI, as postage costs are high---so this is definitely cheaper than 5 separate mailers (and better for the earth, too).

I'll keep an eye out to see if I see this again, and then I'll know for sure if it's a control! In which case, any "crits" expressed here are just the musings of a slightly-hungover madwoman's brain.

Okay, this is probably the longest ever "What's in Kim's Mailbox" I've done (and that you'll likely see again) but there are two other things I want to point out in this promo.

The first is that back cover I mentioned earlier. These fascinations are all really good...and in most cases make for better main headlines on the sections inside than what's there now (by the way, it's sideways on the back for labeling purposes):

The second thing I want to highlight is the following spread, which appears right before the inside back cover spread I shared with you earlier. It's doing two things really well. There's a quality assurance/service sidebar and a guarantee that are both worth studying...

I love how they're playing up their customer satisfaction and quality assurance in the sidebar on the left. They use an actual statistic as proof, and inject the human element with the name (ideally there would be a last name, too) and a photo (though it looks like a stock photo).

Still, it's better than most of these I've seen (or even included in my Advanced Bionutritionals promos as it's one they put in all their promos) in that it doesn't sound too dry and is very customer-oriented...and has a call to action in it to boot.

The guarantee sidebar on the right is also written in a much more exciting and benefit-oriented way than most guarantees I've seen. This one is signed by an actual-sounding person, though it'd be good to also include their title. Overall this spread is done really well, and it shows up at a key point in the promo---right before the order certificate spread!

Thanks for taking time out of your busy 4th of July weekend to read this "longest ever" issue. And keep an eye out next week for a survey I want to get into your hot little hands (it's swelteringly hot here in the DC area right now). I'd love to get your feedback on some new initiatives I'm considering!

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. I can't help's one more "swipe" for you that arrived in my mailbox a few days ago. It's from Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale catalog mailing. Check out the drink recipe at the bottom of the inside back cover... I had no idea their stores had bars (though I doubt it's allowed in my nearby store, since it's in "the people's republic of Montgomery County" as my husband likes to say about their tight government control over booze sales).

But I like the idea of encouraging your customers to pour themselves a drink before they sit down at their computer to shop online. If there's one thing I've learned from my volunteer fundraising efforts when my kids attended a private Montessori school, booze at adult-only auctions always significantly upped the take (and helped to build a new arts center!) In any case, check out the recipe below. You can probably whip one up at home for far less than the 9 bucks they want for it in-store...

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