What's The Number-One Principle Of Direct Mail Copywriting?

In almost every industry, there's a bedrock principle discovered years ago... and reconfirmed again and again through the experience of everyone in the field...until it becomes the rule that all know and follow. In real estate, for example, it's:

You need a resume.

And it should be as persuasive as you can possibly make it. Indeed, it should be compelling enough to take on the hardest selling challenge of all: to make "cold calls" on complete strangers...and get results.

That's what a resume has to do as the core of a direct mail campaign. It arrives uninvited and unexpected. And usually it's assisted by nothing more than a brief covering letter. If it can convince someone who's never before met or heard about you to call you up or to write you a letter, then surely it can do everything else you could ask a resume to do.

You can trust such a resume to be your spokesman whenever you can't be present. Whether you leave it behind after a successful interview, or send it ahead hoping to get an appointment, it will give every recipient the same persuasive, ungarbled message you'd convey in person. Effective all by itself, your resume will also be an indispensable aid to anybody who wants to "sell" you to someone else...from the recruiter telling his client about you, to your potential boss telling her boss, to the CEO telling his Board.

Before we start creating your optimum "Sales Representative" resume, let's discuss why it's worth the effort, and dispose of your excuses for not making it. It's your most valuable credential.

How long did you spend in undergraduate college...four years? And maybe in grad school after that...two to five years? And besides the time... the money? And for what?

Alphabet soup. Credentials! Stuff on paper that you hoped-and to some extent you've found-could enhance your earning power and career achievement, in addition to culturally enriching your life.

Suppose it takes you a month, at the outside, working every spare moment nights and weekends, to compile a succinct but compellingly information- packed recounting of what you've learned and achieved since college...the only things a potential employer really cares about and pays you big money for. The resume you wind up with is the most valuable credential you can have today. Again it's symbols on paper, but this time far more negotiable at the bank.

"I don't need a resume right now, since I'm not considering a change."

Great! Now's the ideal time to examine your career and demonstrate its value. Now... when you have the leisure and the objectivity to do a really thoughtful, comprehensive job.

Tomorrow's paper may bring news of an unexpected opening at a leading company in your industry...one that's likely to be filled from outside, and one where you could easily reach the decision-maker through networking, or maybe just by picking up the phone. He'll probably ask for your resume. Is it ready?

And shouldn't you also have your most persuasive possible resume in the hands of your friends at the top retainer search firms? Even if you're permanently on file electronically, they may be glad to have your "formal" resume handy whenever they're actually presenting you as a candidate.

The "total immersion" study of your career and its accomplishments that's necessary to produce the ultimate "sales representative" resume will help- indeed force-you to size up (1) where you stand now relative to your long- range goals, and (2) how special you really are-or aren't-relative to your peers. Maybe you're already gaining momentum in the passing lane on the fast track. But maybe you're just cruising along an access road. There's no speed limit on your career, so why not step on the gas?

"I don't need a resume because it's classier not to have one."

Well, as least it's less work.

"I don't need a resume because I'm not looking.

And when the prestigious retainer recruiter comes after me, he'll create my resume."

That's true; at least so it will seem to his client. Even if you hand him an excellent resume, his assistant will retype it so that it will appear consistent with the papers he presents on his other candidates.

But suppose he's got a really terrific opportunity for you ...and five other people. Do you want to rest your case on what he'll write from memory after an hour or so of conversation? If you hand him a highly persuasive resume, he won't make it worse to match the rest. And if he has to write it, chances are he can't make it good enough to match the best.

"Fortunately, I don't have to bother writing my own resume; the people who fired me have paid for outplacement services."

Some things are more important to you and to your future than they are to anyone else. The document that positions you in the employment world is one of them.

Incidentally, a "superior-performance" resume trumps a "superior- education" one. Could this fact help you?

Okay, we've got the "whys?" and "why nots?" Now let's talk about your ultimate credential, the true "Sales Representative" resume... strong enough for use in direct mail, and therefore best for every other use, too.

Direct mail selling is the hardest test persuasive writing can be put to. By mailing to large numbers of potential purchasers, it's possible to blanket so many that you'll surely hit a few who have a need at the exact moment your envelope arrives. But grabbing attention, engaging interest, and convincing strongly enough to stimulate action...that's still a lot to ask of mere words on paper. You'd better send something powerful. And the core of your package is your resume.

The only reason that a resume blown in through the window...or abandoned on an airliner...or delivered by the Postal Service...prods any recipient into action is that it's an effective sales rep. It's a persuasive piece of writing that communicates enticingly and fully enough to convince the reader that the person behind the resume might be the solution to the reader's problem.

That's what your resume is: your "Sales Representative" on paper, who'll speak for you when you can't be there. And that's true regardless of whether your resume:

1. arrives "cold" in the mail, or by accident, or

2. is hand delivered...by you yourself, or by someone who's met you, and wants another person to know you as fully and favorably as she does.

Indeed, as we shall see, a resume effective enough to perform in this situation will also be effective when:

3. you offer it as an orientation aid at an interview.
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