John Steinbeck and ‘East of Eden’

I have never read East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I have made feeble attempts. This time I think I’ll do it. I’m about 100 pages into it.

I picked up East of Eden this past weekend. It was sitting on the book shelf, one of my wife’s book club books. I’ve always been a Steinbeck fan. I read him in my youth—The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat, The Winter of Our Discontent, to name a few.

I like his stories. But I also like to read Steinbeck for his writing. I believe there is something to be gleaned from reading good writing. I’m convinced that it helps my own writing in some way. Good writing is good writing, whether fiction, non-fiction, direct mail, a blog, a newsletter article, a fundraising letter, or an ad.

I like to read as widely as possible for my enrichment and enjoyment. Steinbeck is a welcome diversion.

The last book I read was Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson. And my next book (if I get through East of Eden) might be a biography about Amelia Earhart. My curiosity is piqued after seeing the Amelia film last Friday with my daughter.


Always in Marketing Style: The Guarantee

I recently received a four-color, oversized, multi-page direct mail piece from Yahoo!. (Print is not quite dead, especially if you’re a search engine giant with a few extra bucks to throw around.)

I was reminded of the good old-fashioned guarantee, which was included in the letter’s P.S., also a reliable direct-mail device:

P.S. Right now, we’re also offering a Satisfaction Guarantee on Sponsored Search! Just sign up by April 1, 2010 … and try it for at least 14 days. If you’re not completely satisfied with your results, we’ll refund you up to $500 in click charges.

Are you using a guarantee in your business? Can you include one with every offer to a new customer or client?

This is an indispensable strategy, especially in a sucky business climate.

Use Exclamation Points Sparingly in B2B

I’ve been writing some direct mail lately for an ad agency client. While they are B2B pieces (the audience is small- and medium-sized businesses), they do have a bit of a B2C feel. As such, an occasional exclamation point has been in order, especially in the call-to-action language.

Generally, I see too many exclamation points in business communications. They’re everywhere—in Tweets, emails, blog posts and more. I find it even more distressing when I see exclamation points littering B2B marketing pieces.

Business people wouldn’t continually shout in face-to-face meetings or sales presentations, would they?

Besides, continual use of a particular punctuation device tends to diminish its effectiveness. Too much seasoning spoils the stew.

My advice: Refrain from widespread usage of exclamation points! Especially in B2B.

Check Enclosed: The Perfect Teaser?

I got a piece of mail last week with a teaser in all caps:


Of course, I opened it. Inside was a real check made out to me in the amount of $2.50.

The beginning of the letter read:

Dear Neil,

The enclosed check for $2.50 is real. You can cash it if you choose, but I’m counting on you not to.

I sent you this check to make a point …

OK, so I haven’t cashed the check. (And I won’t.) I also haven’t made a contribution to the charity. (And I won’t.) But the teaser did its job. I opened the envelope.

Is there anyone who wouldn’t open an envelope with the teaser, CHECK ENCLOSED? (Except Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.)

Is the promise of free money a nearly perfect teaser concept?

I would think this particular mailing had a high open rate. That’s always the first major hurdle in direct mail.