When DIY Sales Letters Don’t Work

Susan Johnston

Courtesy: Rachel Hadiashar.

With Anna out on maternity leave, guest writer Susan Johnston was kind enough to contribute this post. You can check her out at her website or her blog, The Urban Muse. Thanks, Susan!

I recently received a direct mail piece that opened with this cheerful gem (unnecessary capitalization copied from original): “Happy Holidays! Did you know that a Dirty House could be a Sign of Depression?”

It went on to caution me that although a dirty home may not directly cause depression, when paired with stressful situations, it could lead to depression. It offered a discount on housecleaning services, and at the bottom, helpfully provided a link to a blog post from several years ago pondering the relationship between depression and a messy home.

Granted, I’m no doctor. But I have a hard time believing that people should replace their anti-depressants with a maid service. Sure, having a clean house might brighten your mood, but if you’re clinically depressed, methinks it’s unlikely to magically cure what ails you.

What approach would have worked better?

Instead of sweeping generalizations about mental illness, a simple message like “We know the holidays are hectic, so why not treat yourself or your loved ones to a professional house cleaning?” would avoid offending customers or insulting their housekeeping habits. Or a mention of how valuable time is and how gift recipients might appreciate having more time to spend with friends and family rather than scrubbing floors.

But hey, not everyone can write effective marketing copy. I can’t make my countertops shine the way they can, so I gladly outsource that task. Maybe next time they’ll do the same.

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