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  • David Smith

Your Direct Marketing message should always focus on the benefits

In 1974 Trans-Lux Corporation introduced an innovation in communications: the TRANS-LUX TELEPRINTER for TELEX. History lesson: Telex was a method of long distance communication, using the telephone system, in which printed messages were sent and received using special machines called teletypewriters. (Remember, this was back in ancient times before the advent of the personal computer.) A copywriter at William Steiner Associates in New York produced a single-page sales letter to promote this new teleprinter. It has become a classic in the annals of copywriting. The letter began with a great benefit-filled headline: There are 9 Reasons... why you should mail the enclosed card to find out how you can replace your present telex equipment and enjoy greater speed, efficiency ...and quiet! ...and it won’t cost you one penny more than you are now paying! This headline would grab the attention of any purchasing agent aggravated by the slow and noisy operation of the expensive teleprinters then in use. But what really made this sales letter a classic was the copywriter’s effective use of benefits in the body of the letter. Instead of a boring list of product features, this letter presents enticing benefits to the prospect, and then wisely follows each mention of a benefit with the feature that supports it. Here are some examples from the letter that clearly showcase product benefits: (BENEFIT in red bold followed by FEATURE in black.)

  • Easier to operate ... its standard four-row typewriter keyboard eliminates figure and letter shifting.

  • Faster message preparation ... off-line typing capability and memory printout is twice as fast as your present telex unit.

  • Neater typing ... impact paper eliminates messy ribbons.

  • Saves money ... Lease price includes service and maintenance and costs no more than your present telex.

The letter goes on to finish with a simple, direct call to action: “Learn about these and other benefits by mailing the enclosed card today.” Was this 1974 sales letter effective? Well, I hope William Steiner Associates gave this copywriter a fat bonus for his efforts. Within a year the Trans-Lux Corporation had installed over 700 of these big-ticket items in corporate offices all across America. Deep down inside, whenever an offer is presented to us, we all ask ourselves the same question: “What’s in it for me?” Product features are important, but in direct marketing we don’t ever want to get the cart before the horse. It is tangible BENEFITS that grab a prospect’s attention. Always showcase the benefits, and then support your benefit claims with details about the features. With clearly written copy and compelling benefits, you can expect a good response rate from your sales letters. And of course, always end with a clear and strong CALL TO ACTION!

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