Here’s an excerpt from one of the modules of my Freelance Copywriting Course . It talks about the power of using visual involvement devices in  your direct mail efforts.

Today, more and more people are getting bombarded by direct mail, and with that, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure your direct mail piece has what it takes to get to the top of that pile AND gets read. AND … if your clients are business decision makers it’s often even more difficult to get your letter seen by the right person because, quite often, the secretary or gatekeeper screens all direct mail before it gets passed on. If they don’t deem it worthy, it gets binned.

A fantastic way to double, even quadruple, your responses is to include a visual device in your package. A visual device stimulates your readers’ senses and helps them relate to what you’re saying.

What’s more, a visual device that is an unusual shape will arouse the curiosity of your prospect and encourage them to open your letter.

Chances are you have received a Reader’s Digest mailing in the past. Reader’s Digest is famous for the impact of their letters. On the outside of the envelope are enticing messages that promise huge amounts of wealth. Open it up and you’ll find a letter that tells you that you’re eligible for fantastic prizes if your envelope contains certain elements that match.

Inside the envelope you’ll find all sorts of interesting elements … – 4 playing cards, tiny stickers that you need to peel off and place on a reply card along with a whole host of other great gimmicks. This approach works and works famously because it involves the prospect in the selling process.

A US mail order company that sells hand knitted blankets made from ’Alpaca’ wool used this approach. By including a sample of the wool in each package they had a huge response. Readers couldn’t help but touch the wool, brush it against their face and smell it. This involved their senses,
stirred their emotions and sold Alpaca blankets by the truckload.

Why “the Right” Involvement Device Works so Powerfully

  • Because it attracts attention. Instead of opening yet another “boring old” sales letter they’re seeing something unusual.
  • Because many gimmicks engage the reader’s senses. By asking your reader to imagine something associated with the gimmick, by asking them to fold it, smell it, or do something else with it, you’re getting them involved and you’re helping them really relate to the benefits of what you’re selling so there’s a much better chance they’ll act upon your sales message.
  • Proof that the product works. If you’re selling a product that has outstanding demonstrable benefits, include a sample of the product in action … what better proof do they need that it works. For instance, if you sell scratch proof glass, send a sample and include a nail or a key with it asking your reader to scratch away to their heart’s content and see if the glass does scratch.
  • It adds “fun” to your sales message. Everyone likes to laugh or smile. And everyone enjoys something unusual. By getting  someone to smile you’re one step closer to winning them over. What’s more, even if they don’t respond, there’s a fair chance they may keep the letter as a reference.

Another great example of devices that give irrefutable proof of the benefits of your product …

A carpet manufacturer was selling carpet that could be cut into any shape or size without fraying. To launch the product they decided to run a launch evening inviting architects and interior designers along.

Instead of sending a rather boring invitation, they had a carpet square cut into the shape of a Compact Disc and had a CD jacket specially printed with the invitation inside. It was an instant and “big time” hit with a 90+% showup response rate (it was a qualified customer list)
There are two types of direct mail campaigns where novelty items work well …

First, there’s the appointment letter which (as its name suggests) is designed to generate an appointment for a sales person to meet with the

Gimmicks can work fantastically well with this type of letter because the gimmick can have the effect of arousing the curiosity of the reader so much, they’re actually interested in meeting the person who sent the letter. Here are some ideas:

  • Peruvian dollars or even monopoly money or outdated currency like old 1& 2 cent coins, the letter could explain how to use their ‘disposable’ income into gold or how to convert their ‘waste currency’ (money they throw away) into profit.
  • fake cheques (checks)
  • 3 minute egg timers suggesting time is running out for building a retirement nest egg
  • chocolate bar — always acts as a good ‘sweetener’
  • gold painted plastic egg (fairly obviously a nest egg)
  • an Easter ‘nest-egg’
  • used (losing) lotto tickets
  • $1 casino chips
  • Child’s maze
  • Whistle
  • Jigsaw piece
  • Pieces of straw

The second type of direct mail piece is the “one step” direct mail campaign that is designed to sell off the page. Your sales message in this type of
letter needs more strategic thought, more length and more salesmanship in print.

That’s where your gimmicks come in. Include something that involves your reader’s senses enabling them to get a better picture or feel for the benefits you’re offering or the “offer” that you’re promoting eg. a sample of your product, a checklist, a self- assessment quiz etc.

No doubt, you’’ve seen Reader’s Digest mailings where they include ‘scratch it’ cards and encourage you to place stickers in strategic places to see if you win a prize. They consistently enjoy “crazy” success rates. A word of caution:

Make sure you ensure that the involvement device you’ve attached relates directly to the benefits of your product and make sure that the opening paragraph of the letter ties in with the novelty item. If it doesn’t, readers will simply see it as a ploy to get their attention and you run the chance of having a negative impact.

Here are some examples of introductions to letters:

Example 1: A gold painted egg (plastic)

Wouldn’t it be neat if this egg was made of solid gold and together with 1000 more, formed your retirement nest egg?”

Example 2: Peruvian currency

“Most people believe that to make money you need a considerable amount to start off with but the truth is a different story”.

Example 3: Pieces of straw

“Wish you could spin straw into gold? Unfortunately, that’s just a fairytale, however we can certainly show you how to turn your savings
into more money than you could hope to own otherwise.”

Example 4: $1 casino chip

“Imagine it’s Saturday night and you turned this $1 casino chip into $2 and then turn that $2 into $4 and then $4 into 8 and before long you’ve built a bank of a whopping $xxxx” The good news is that through traditional investment avenues, it IS possible for you to double your money in a relatively short space of time without experiencing anywhere near the levels of risk associated with gambling.

Which Visual Involvement Device is Right For You?

The answer to that depends on your type of industry, the average sale value of the product you’re promoting, the benefits your product offers, who your target market is, and where in the marketplace you want to be positioned.