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There's Money In That Junk Mail!
By Karen Braynard
February, 2007, 13:50

Make money writing the words for the pile of junk mail received at your home.
Direct mail - junk mail, I used to call it. But that was before I learned that copywriters can make some decent money writing direct mail packages. After all, someone is writing all this stuff that the mailman brings to my mailbox (and eventually goes to my shredder) trying to sell me something I know I don't need.

Once I learned about direct mail as a potential avenue for revenue, I started to actually read it. And yet, even knowing that I won't buy whatever they're selling, when I skim through these direct mail letters, the really good ones draw me in. If the letters are well written, sometimes I can't stop reading them; somehow they compel me to finish.

There are classes out there and boot camps that can really help you learn how to write the type of copy that direct marketers are looking for. But before you chunk down the big bucks for these classes and events - and they can run from $250-$3,000 - there is a free way to learn from the experts and possibly land a few paying gigs before you've studied with "the masters" to perfect your craft. One of the easiest ways to learn is to study what's already out there and working.
After my own careful review of the "junk" in my "snail mail" box, I can sum up direct mail in one statement: It's all about the reader.

Instead of shredding your junk mail, open it and read it. Don't skim, read! Look at how it's structured. Notice that the letters always lead you to keep reading. Every single line in a well-written direct mail piece has a specific purpose to lead you to the end result, which is to take some sort of action - whether it's to purchase something, donate to a charity, or sign a petition. If it doesn't compel you, then it's probably not an effective piece.

There are several techniques used to hook you (the reader) and keep you reading. First, notice how a good piece of direct mail is written to you personally. Direct marketers spend that extra bit to ensure your name is not only on the envelope, but in the salutation and throughout the letter as well. Their words talk to you, not at you. They empathize with your plight, no matter what it might be.

Throughout the mailing, which is often several pages long, you are pulled into their personal story. Rarely does the letter ask anything of you in the beginning. A well-written letter reads like a friend reaching out to you, relating to you, finding your emotional point and touching it.

"Before I found this training, I had only $6.46 to my name . . . " 

"A cure for Samantha was only possible because people like you cared . . ."

"You're obviously a smart investor who isn't distracted by . . ."

For this reason, direct mail is also known as one-to-one or relationship marketing.

Notice how well-written direct mail will keep you intrigued, wanting to read the next line - even though you know they're going to try to sell you something in the end, you keep reading! Notice how it rewards you for reading all the way through by giving you teasers of something of value above and beyond their product simply by showing an interest.

After the letter has convinced you that you need whatever it is they're selling, it doesn't stop there. You might already be ready to whip out that credit card, but just in case you aren't, the letter usually ends with an incentive to act immediately. It might be a statement about how low the price is only for the next few weeks. Or, it might be a dire consequence of not taking the offer (often used by life insurance companies).

Direct mail almost always ends with an extraordinary guarantee to help you realize that you can't go wrong just for trying. And, in the very end, even after you (the reader) are totally convinced this is the best deal ever, they even add a P.S. to give you one last bit of reassurance that you're making the right decision. And, perhaps there's even a P.P.S. in handwriting script to give it that last personal touch.

I used to despise direct mail packages. But that was until I learned that there's a need for it and it works. And, since it works, then perhaps it's not really the nuisance that I thought it was. After all, look how much is being spent by these companies to get your attention - and as a writer, wouldn't you like a piece of that?

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Karen Braynard, a corporate writer and journalist, has enjoyed published success in several newspapers and magazines.  Thanks to her growing list of business clientele, she is now developing writing workshops to help her clients learn how to write for themselves, with Impact and Results!.  Learn more at or email A networker at heart, Karen would love to hear from you.

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