They sure do!
Until late last year, Circus Sarasota sent out a basic letter in an envelope to raise money for its community outreach program. It did okay. This year, the circus stuck with the letter idea but disguised it in a brochure format. It worked better.
The blind headline in quotes got the brochure opened. Curiosity can work, especially double curiosity. What was the odd red thing on a string just above the headline?
Inside, the letter starts with a “Dear Friend,” opening but the reader’s eye will ignore that for a while because it is drawn to a ’50s-style photograph of a twinkly-eyed woman smiling at the camera and wearing a red clown’s nose. Her name was Annie.
Annie was rummaging through her purse looking for the red clown nose she got from the great folks at Circus Sarasota.
Annie had Alzheimer’s and her daughter (her name is Jill) had just picked her up from a day program. When Annie started rummaging in her purse, Jill asked her what she was looking for. “I’ll know when I find it, dear.”
So now we know what the image and headline on the cover mean and we get happily into the story.
Circus Sarasota people had shown up at Annie’s day program and a clown gave her the red nose as a souvenir. Annie put it in her purse and remembered she had something in there that she wanted to show Jill but she couldn’t describe it. Eventually she found it and put it on her own nose and when Jill looked over they both cracked up.
Nice story and it leads the reader through to a polite “ask” at the end of the brochure/letter.
The J. Peterman Catalog
I’ve loved this thing for years even though I’m not really in the target audience any more.
The Peterman Owner’s Manual No. 80 (Fall 2010) – that’s what they call their catalog – sat on my desk for a while and when I picked it up this morning, the copy grabbed me immediately and I started thinking of all the people I know who are in the target audience. Gifts?
What I like most about the catalog is that just about every item in it has a story. For instance, the copy for Holly’s Party Skirt starts off with this:
The invitation came.
Come to dance. Dress casual.
You knew this was the skinny jeans, five-inch heels crowd … and so on.
On another page, the copy for Woody Guthrie style jeans opened with this:
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma. He called it the “singiest, square dancingest, drinkingest, yellingest, preachingest, walkingest, talkingest, laughingest, cryingest, shootingest, fist fightingest, bleedingest, gamblingest, gun, club and razor carryingest of our ranch towns.”
People who live in a town like that need a tough pair of jeans so the Woody Guthrie jeans would certainly endure the harsh environment of Greenwich, Connecticut.
We’ve had a lot of success spinning yarns in direct mail. Writing to anglers (people who like to go fishing), we started a letter with “I don’t know how you feel about standing in the middle of a fast moving stream, but I …” and carried on from there. The reader was hooked, if you’ll excuse a very bad pun.
Test it yourself. Just be friendly, use easy language and work the product into your yarn somehow. And don’t forget to ask for the order. Let me know how it works out for you.