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Certificates are an all-purpose response-builder you should use.

My daughter, who has disabilities, moved into into a group home this month. Since she loves magazines, I subscribed to a bunch for her. I couldn't help thinking of my old friend the copywriter and consultant Rene Gnam and the many workshops we did together when I discussed Good Housekreeping and Better Homes and Gardenias (anyone who has attended Rene's dog and pony shows will recall him using those sobriquets).

Suitably inspired, I dove into my swipe file and came up with some ideas from Rene on an under-utilized newsletter marketing technique.

"If I could convince you to do just one thing to improve your efforts to get more subscribers," Gnam said, "one that is too often neglected by most marketers, it is USE CERTIFICATES.

"This technique works for almost every target audience. Adding one to your package should 'automatically' improve your response."

Key reasons for using certificates

The six principal reasons for using certificates are to:

* Convey a sense of value to your mailing or offer, inviting the decision and calling for action.

* Produce instant reading of the mailing--NOW.

* Dramatize the offer or the premium.

* Overcome mail room or secretarial resistance to direct mail.

* Stimulate re-orders from the same mailing or future mailings.

* Upgrade dollar volume from the mailing.

And yet, Gnam said, most of the direct mail field forgets to use certificates

Key design elements in using certificates

Keep these points in mind when designing your certificates:

* Use stock appropriate to the offer--inexpensive stock for discount offers, quality stock when used to enhance high-ticket sales.

* Always use a border on your certificates--large and almost garish for discount offers, conservative and official-looking for high-ticket offers. A variety of borders are available on standard page layout programs.

* Make the background instantly recognizable--safety paper which has a design in it, or by using tints or screens with a paper color that is distinctive.

* Identify it as a valuable certificate, in both its graphics and its copy.

* Use short copy to stress value and importance. Spell out the certificate deal. Ask for action. Cite a cutoff or deadline date, and tell how to use the certificate when "redeeming" it.

Certificate formats that work

* As a variation on the Johnson Box, place the certificate as a tear-off at the top of the letter, never the bottom. Use copy along the lines of "Read This Letter," "This Is Important," or "Act Immediately Because of the Cut-Off Date on This Certificate."

Placing it at the top captures the instant attention of the prospect to your deal.

* Use the certificate as an order form with the addressing right on it (using an outgoing window envelope). That will spur easy response and save costs of printing a separate piece on tight budgets.

* The certificate is most valuable when used as a separate insert (as opposed to the Johnson Box approach mentioned above), because it creates a hot-potato feeling: "What do I do with this valuable thing?"

As a separate insert, it makes the prospect refer back to the letter or brochure for details, and it lets you change deadlines without changing other package components.

Copy themes for effective certificates

* Dramatize the premium offer: "This certificate entitles you to ..."

* Hop on the bandwagon: "Complete this certificate and join our ..."

* Hype the product: "Enclose this certificate with your order and we'll give you an extra 500 paragraphs of Washington news."

* Get free consulting: "This certificate entitles you to call ..."

* Expand distribution: "This certificate brings your hospital four FREE issues of ..."

* Stress exclusivity: "This certificate qualifies you for ..."
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Title Annotation:DM Notebook
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jun 23, 2005
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