Playing it too “safe” with your copy

Jan 8, 2022

What’s in Kim’s Mailbox?
Happy Friday! To make it an even better last day of the first week of 2022, you’re getting the first “What’s in Kim’s Mailbox” breakdown of the year in today’s email.

I’m also putting the finishing touches on my latest compilation of “What’s in Kim’s Mailbox?” breakdowns from 2021… it will be my fourth annual volume of these popular breakdowns. I’ll let you know when it’s ready!

In the meantime, let’s hunker down (as many of us are in these snowed-in or Covid’ed-in times) and check out one of the latest direct mail promos to land in my actual, physical mailbox. Yes, these direct mail magalogs are still out there and being used, though I’m not seeing nearly as many as say 5 years ago.

Many smart marketers are testing their promos online using sales pages, and then investing in direct mail once the copy and offer has been proven. This allows them to reach new (typically older) audiences they’re not able to reach online.

The challenge is finding enough “direct mail buyers” to mail to profitably, since there aren’t as many of them on lists these days. But this could be starting to change as companies recognize the untapped opportunity of direct mail and far less crowded mailboxes.

I hope it comes back, because to be honest it’s a lot of fun to put these magalogs together. It’s more work than a sales page, since you have to write front and back cover copy, inside front cover copy, and sidebars… and then work closely with a designer to make sure everything lays out and fits optimally.

But creating that “final product” that’s physical and tangible is more satisfying than something that only exists digitally. (Funny, I feel the same way about REAL art versus NFTs, but that’s another topic for another day…)

In any case, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a vision supplement promo land in my mailbox. So my eyes perked up when I saw the front cover of this “slim jim” self-mailer…

The copy and visuals instantly telegraph to the prospect that this is about improving your vision. The main headline helps create excitement by trumpeting “The biggest vision discovery since lutein…” which speaks to a supplement-savvy audience. It’s communicating this is something they haven’t already heard before–important in the more mature, 4th stage of sophistication supplement market.

The “before” and “after” photos are demonstrating a promised transformation. However, I’m not sure how common it is to see dark spots unless you have a fairly serious eye condition. So for me, it required me to stop and think about what the photos were actually communicating.

These types of “before and after” photos work best when the promised benefit is instantly recognizable. I’m wondering if maybe a positive photo of the prospect’s “dream”, i.e., being able to see beautiful scenery on a trip or a grandson’s graduation or wedding would work better.

A few other things… on the back cover, there’s a bit of copy that to me made me stop in my tracks. Let’s see if you can spot it:

The bit of copy that made me stop in my tracks is “the #1 sight-saving nutrient that’s impossible to get from your diet…”

To me, this needs to be more clearly emphasized on the front cover as a way of creating intrigue and curiosity (it has more “heft” in terms of proof that there’s something here you haven’t heard before versus just “trumpeting” it).

Plus it also builds urgency that there’s something you need to do that you’re not currently doing to preserve your vision.

In the ultra-competitive supplement market… especially when it comes to these seasoned, savvy, and skeptical seniors who are on these direct mail lists… you need to focus on building belief, curiosity, and urgency in your copy.

And that’s even more crucial when it comes to your front and back covers so that your promo doesn’t end up in the “circular file”.

Let’s move on to a few of the inside pages, starting with the opening spread on pages 2-3 (a bit of it got cut off because I probably need a bigger scanner)…

The opening paragraphs are a series of questions that want to uncover some kind of problem the prospect is experiencing now. And while it’s true that many people are motivated to buy due to a problem they’re experiencing now, there’s also an element of “prevention” involved.

I know you hear all the time that people don’t buy for prevention, but it is an underlying motivator when it comes to supplements. I think I’d bring some of that into play early on because losing their vision, especially when you’ve seen it happen to your older relatives, is a real fear that people have.

The other quibble I have in this mostly well-written lead is when the “missing link” nutrient is revealed (in my opinion, a bit prematurely), it plays up the fact that it’s not in most vision supplements. But it leaves out to me the “double whammy” fact that it’s also not found in food, which to me makes it far more urgent and impactful. I would not leave this out here, since it’s a crucial point and motivator.

The next few spreads expand on how meso-zeaxanthin is needed to work with lutein and zeaxanthin to protect the macula of the eye and do other things to preserve healthy vision. Then it brings in another big threat to your vision health…

This two-page spread and the one that follows focuses on the threat of blue light from smartphones, tablets, TVs, even lightbulbs (which I would have expanded on a bit more for those older readers who don’t use a lot of technology). There’s great proof elements here with the Harvard name-dropping, and the solution offers a great defense against the blue light threat.

I think the “newness” of this modern-day threat — combined with the unique combination of nutrients and the claims they’re able to make about creating a “macula shield” that protects against this threat — make it a new positioning angle they might want to lead with.

Right now the front cover makes it seem like a vision promo I could have seen in my mailbox a decade ago. To really have an impact and shake a prospect out of their mail-sorting stupor and force them to read your promo, it’s essential to stand out with a new and different message with a new urgency that makes them HAVE to stop what they’re doing and pay attention.

It seems like they’re playing it a bit too “safe” here, and that’s a tendency many copywriters (and their clients) have that often keeps them from getting that next breakthrough. Something to keep in mind as you search for new angles for whatever copy you’re working on.

Your prospect is bored…skeptical…and has seen it all. So don’t just give them more of what they’ve seen and heard. You have to put out something that’s new and different to capture their attention and drive them to take action.

P.S. In my Million-Dollar Control Breakdown Master Class (which you can get here at 50% savings with coupon code MDC50), I take you through my entire process from start to finish for creating successful promos that grab attention and convert prospects to buyers. It’s the most in-depth training I think you’ll find for bringing together the art and science of writing long-running, multi-million-dollar sales copy. These rare half-price savings end at midnight Pacific time tonight.