Some might say marketing is a science of its own. During a direct marketing presentation at a recent Direct Marketing Association (DMA) conference, one expert claimed we can go a step further by taking a behavioral scientific approach when crafting a direct mail piece, ad, or any form of marketing collateral.

The thought is that studying human behavior and employing certain behavior drivers into your message can help produce a more effective marketing piece to achieve better results. While design is extremely important, the messages we craft — headlines, supporting copy and calls to action — tell the story.

So when creating your next marketing message, think about how you might incorporate these behavior drivers to help entice, encourage and inspire your audience:

  • Use eye magnet words.

Studies show there are words that capture readers’ attention. Here’s a sampling: New, Now, Soon, Free, Easy, Quick, Improved, Sale.

  • Employ the principle of scarcity.

To initiate the desired action, use phrases like: Limited time; Limit 2; Hurry, Offer ends soon; Just 5 days left.

  • Get personal.

Use the person’s name in the copy. Include personal information like the recipient’s past purchases, recognition of children, birthdays, authors they like, or restaurants they frequent.

  • Use social proof.

Social proof is the idea that if they like it, you’ll like it. This can be conveyed effectively through testimonials; and for a more powerful connection, use a testimonial by someone like your target audience. Phrases like: “Professional women across the country use,” “More mothers agree,” “Great for single fathers on the go,” are examples of using social proof.

  • Engage the road sign theory.

Icons and symbols can often make a more lasting impression than words. It works for traffic engineers, so why not marketers?

  • Add a dash of color.

Adding a dash of color has proven to increase the three important R’s: readership, recall and response. In one test, a utility company added a color block to its invoices, which resulted in customers paying 14 days earlier.

  • Provide a reason why.

When you add the word “because” and give readers a reason to believe, they are more likely to respond.

  • There’s power in the little things.

Easy to read fonts are more persuasive. Too much reverse type can cut your response by 50%. Handwritten sticky notes can increase response.

  • Consider the fear factor.

Avoidance of pain or missing out on something beneficial can be a great motivator. Using phrases like “say goodbye to creditors” or “no more pricking your finger” are examples of infusing fear in the message.

  • Use the principle of reciprocity.

Make it easy for your audience to take action. Provide a business reply envelope (BRE), website address, or map showing the location of your nearest store, for example.

The goal is to get consumers to pay attention, to create a relationship with your company or brand, and to ultimately purchase your product or service. As you consider which behavior drivers to use, think about what works best for your industry, your target audience and test it.

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What word gets a better response?


Answer: Get. Earn makes it sound like work and will inhibit response.