Editor’s Note: Developing a compelling call-to-action is important in getting your target audience perform a desired direction for your business. In this post, Michael Dolen teaches us how calls to action are written and designed by credit card companies.
Credit card companies are quite clever when it comes to effectively marketing their products. Having worked in the industry myself, I’ll share some tips and tricks they use in their ad copy that you can use for your business, regardless of the industry you happen to be in.
Lesson 1: Show them the meat and potato
There’s no doubt that direct mail works. But to maximize your ROI, you really have to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is to put eye-catching information on your postcards, brochures or envelopes. I call this the “meat and potatoes” because that’s what you need to show, since you only have a couple seconds to catch the person’s attention.
Credit card companies accomplish this by highlighting the most attractive benefit. If the card offers 0% interest for 21 months, they will probably put that in a huge bold font right on the front of the mail. Ditto for cash back bonuses and free flights. If you didn’t see those, you would probably toss those envelopes in the trash. But if they can catch your attention, you’re more likely to investigate this further.
For your business, figure out the meat and potatoes you can use to catch people’s attention. Whatever the most enticing thing is, it should be featured prominently so no one can miss it.
Lesson 2: Look professional
The mailer represents your business. Sure, you could save a few bucks by throwing together your own design using low quality printing and flimsy postcards, but what does that say about your business? It says that you cut corners.
Think about it – would you feel safe eating at a restaurant that cuts corners? Or feel comfortable hiring a tax preparer who does things hastily? Probably not. But if your mailers depict those traits, that’s what people are going to think about you.
The banks don’t cut corners on their mailings – but at the same time – they don’t go over the top, either.
Most of the credit card applications which are sent out are professional looking (high quality printing on good paper) but not so fancy that they would cost a fortune to produce. You can accomplish the same and still keep a reasonable budget.
When it comes to printing quality, obviously PrintRunner has you covered for that. But did you know they can also help with graphic design, too? Having nice graphics will give your business that look of professionalism; it’s one of the best investments you can make when it comes to direct mail.
Lesson 3: Get customers one baby step at a time
If you’re at a car dealership and the sales associate runs up to you screaming “Buy it now! Sign on this line!” you’re going to be turned off. Hard pressured sales are rarely effective for any industry.
Now think of your direct mail. Is it making a hard pressured sale or is it encouraging the person to take baby steps and learn more about your product/service?
If you really study the way credit card companies market their products, you will see they have mastered the baby steps. They pull the potential customer along one baby step at a time, until they seal the deal.
First, they often say “learn more” or “find out more” on their ads, rather than a committal “apply now” statement. A gentler call to action like that is sometimes the key. As a case in point, on this page I wrote about the AmEx Gold Card, I recently changed the call to action from “apply now” to “learn more” and the result was nearly a 25% higher click-thru rate!
Secondly, once you are actually looking at a given card, the banks will encourage you to take another baby step, by waiving the annual fee for the first year. When they do this, they’re basically saying you have nothing to lose for the first year, so why not give it a try?
Third, even though many customers apply with the intention of cancelling before the year is up, the banks use clever strategies to keep them around after that. During that year, they pitch them other products and services (such as retail banking, investment banking, retirement, etc). That way even if bank doesn’t make money off the initial credit card, they can make it up elsewhere.
How can you apply this same strategy to your business? In your direct mailings, don’t feel you necessarily have to go for the big sale (at least right away). Instead, just use them as tools to get customers in the door and then you can upsell.
For example if you own a nursery, you would be hard-pressed to convince someone to buy a $50,000 landscape job with just a postcard. However if you use that postcard to convince them to just take the first baby step, such as scheduling a free design consultation, then you can use that as an opportunity to make the big sale.
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