What's in Kim's Mailbox?
One year ago this month, after a 67-year run, MAD magazine published its last issue.
I'll never forget seeing Alfred E. Neuman's face smiling up at me from the page with the words, "What, me worry?" emblazoned below it when I was a teenager.
Decades later, those immortal 3 words are now fodder for countless entertaining memes. Unfortunately, we also now have a heck of a lot of people who are fraught with worry--and suffering from a serious, often debilitating anxiety or panic disorder.
Thankfully, it's a lot more socially acceptable to seek help for mental health care than it was back when I was growing up--when the message was suck it up or shrug it off.
And that leads me to today's promo breakdown. Just like any chronic health problem for which conventional solutions fall short (due to unwanted side effects, high costs, or other factors), there are now lots of natural treatments for anxiety on the market.
I've seen repeated roll-outs of direct mail promotions for an anxiety supplement offered by Healthy Directions, the company I helped launch many years ago. I'm sure there are other promos for this niche that are mailing successfully as well.
So let's take a look at the 24-page magalog that arrived for the first time in my mailbox about a month ago (to be clear, I didn't write it). I don't know how it's doing, and it'll be interesting to see if I get it again. Let's take a look at the front cover...
The front cover caught my attention and stood out because it doesn't look like the typical promotional magalog. The flowers definitely have a much more feminine appeal, so it appears that women are the primary market for this product.
The main headline goes straight to the main promise, which is specific yet broad in scope--as witnessed by the long laundry list that follows of anxiety and stress-provoking scenarios the target prospect may be experiencing. It does a good job of casting a wide net but also helping the right people see that this is "for them".
I have a minor quibble with leaving out the word "and" in the main headline before "Stress" as I tripped over that, and realize it could have been a rogue graphic designer's decision to make the headline "fit" (never let your designers go "rogue", unless they're Rob Davis--who's actually written great photo captions for me--or my good friend Lori Haller, who would always have the good sense to ask anyway).
There's also a nice dose of credibility at the bottom mentioning the LifeSeasons Medical Clinic which, unfortunately, is not carried throughout the promo as much as I thought it could be. This could be a legal or internal decision, or simply an oversight.
Now let's take a look at the back cover. Notice where I've circled some copy...
This would lead anyone to believe that they're giving away this product for free. But that's not the case once you get inside, giving it the air of a "bait and switch" and needlessly causing disappointment for the prospect.
Let's take a peek at page 3 on the front inside spread (we're going to skip page 2, which is mostly testimonials, as we can't look at every single page!)
The copy I've circled says I'm invited to home-test up to 3 FREE bottles, carrying this "nationwide FREE giveaway" charade along even further.
When you read through the pages that follow, you're presented with countless testimonials, "mini" articles on each spread written by a nameless "Staff Writer, LIfeSeasons Medical Clinic". Attaching real names to the article bylines, ideally having some come from the main doctor behind the clinic or other medical/research staff, would have been better.
But the main thing I want to talk about from here is how they dimensionalize the offer and guarantee. A guarantee for supplements in general, and particularly for this offer since it's likely a clinic they haven't heard from, with no real spokesperson behind it, is crucial. Yet there's also that "carrot" they've been dangling about getting it FREE. So let's take a look at what happens finally on page 14...
This is the first time I've seen mentioned that they're trying to save over one million Americans from anxiety, and end the anxiety epidemic in America. I would have put that in the opening spread myself (ideally attaching a doctor or clinic founder as leading the crusade). Crusades are very powerful, as is feeling a part of a movement. But this is the only place this is mentioned in the promo.
We're also starting to see some of the "strings attached" to the initial promise of trying it FREE. Ah, "it works of the product is free!" Still not coming completely clean here. I would talk about trying it risk-free as the specific promise earlier so it's consistent throughout, versus trying to shamelessly hook them in with "free".
It gets clearer on page 21, right before you get to the order form spread that follows...but the "crusade" is missing and the "Best deal" copy a bit misleading...because in order to get those 3 free bottles you gotta spend $214.95!
I think it would have been stronger to dimensionalize the "Try it risk-free" angle more, explaining (as backed up in the promo) that they've had so many success stories in their clinic, they're bringing this breakthrough solution to Americans across the country as part of their mission.
Most people are going to skew older (60s plus) when you send out a direct mail promo. They've seen it all. They're skeptical and cynical. Don't treat them like they're stupid by positioning the offer how it's done next to where I put an asterick above.
Let's wrap up by looking at what they're doing on pages 22 and 23..the inside back cover order form spread. They're doing a good job of playing up the offer and guarantee here...
This is one of the design tricks my favorite designers Lori Haller, Rob Davis, and others use expertly in every direct mail promo: a page facing the order form that visually dimensionalizes the offer and guarantee.
The best strategy typically, if there are bonuses associated with your "best deal", is to only feature the "best deal offer" If it's a more simplified offer, say a Buy 5 Get 3 Free without bonuses, you could show all 3 options (good, better, best) and have it visually demonstrate what a superior deal the "best deal" offer is.
But if there are bonuses on top of that, showing all 3 versus just the "best deal" option would get far too cluttered. And you want to especially avoid any hint of confusion at this critical juncture in your promo.
Everything on this page is clean and clear and directing me to the best, preferred option. I also like the name of their guarantee "Your ZERO STRESS Full-Refund Guarantee" and think they should have used that throughout the promo. The whole idea of COMPLETE removal of risk is crucial...just don't try to pass it off as getting FREE product. It seems disingenuous.
Okay, we're going to look at the order form page because it's a great example of presenting your "good/better/best" offer on an order form...which is crucial, even if the vast majority call or order online so at a glance your prospect can see, "what's the deal"...
We're still pushing the "best deal" at the top...and now that the offer has been fully explained, I'm fine with using that wording in the headline. The guarantee is crystal clear in the acceptance copy and featured right next to where they put in their payment info (another crucial juncture).
Also important to note: they LEAD with the most expensive "Best Deal" on the order form. I recently had a question about which offer to lead with from a top A-list copywriter who's primarily specialized in "soft offers" (i.e. bill me) where there aren't multiple options.
Always lead with the most expensive deal, which hopefully you've convinced your client if they don't know already that it should be packed with irresistible bonuses and incentives so it becomes the obvious, "no-brainer" choice...coupled with the complete removal of risk your constant guarantee reminder gives them.
For some reason, they're offering an extra 20% by having people order online. I cannot comment on the sanity or insanity of this. It seems to me like the last thing you want them to do is go online, find out they have 16 Facebook notifications or whatever, and get completely distracted from ordering.
It could be they've got upsells in place there...but, especially with an older audience, you'd be hard-pressed to beat upsells done on the phone, as long as you have reasonably competent and trained phone reps (which, I found out to my horror after the fact years ago with a promo I wrote that had a call-in only bonus, that the phone reps were actually hurting the sale! So always best to check first...)
Okay, that was a lot to cover here...these same lessons, of course, can be incorporated into any online VSL or sales page or other format you may write copy for. Hope you found them valuable. If you put them to work, I'm sure they'll make your promo far more successful and profitable!
Yours for smarter marketing,