Can Bankruptcy Stop the Credit Card Harassment?

Once you retain the services of any attorney you have the right to tell your creditors that all further communications are to go through your attorney. If you also write a letter to your creditors advising them all further communications are to go through your attorney and send it certified, return receipt through the United States Post Office or other mailing service in which you have proof an agent of the creditor received the letter, then, if the creditors continue to call, you have a cause of action against the creditor and its agent. This is one of the benefits of hiring an attorney to prepare and represent you in a bankruptcy.

You are not alone in the financial stress you are experiencing. Research by the Federal Reserve indicates that household debt is at a record high relative to disposable income. Many households have experienced a reduction in work hours, thus a reduction in income. In fact, the American Bankruptcy Institution statistics show that in second quarter of 2008, 32,387 bankruptcies were filed in the State of California. In the second quarter of 2009, 53,505 bankruptcies were filed in the State of California. That is more than 60% increase in filings.

Your credit card debts are discharged through a bankruptcy, as long as there is no fraud involved. You may be forgiven of all the debt through a Chapter 7 or for a percentage of the debt through a Chapter 13. See previous blogs to understand which Chapter you qualify for.

Call the attorneys at Stone Haven Law Group at (909) 457 - 8200 to take the first step towards ending creditor harassment!

Bankruptcy and Your Lifestyle - The Effects of Filing

Bankruptcy doesn't just have something to do with your lifestyle; it has everything to do with it. While many people see correlations with your pre-bankruptcy lifestyle, there is another correlation that isn't quite as clear. They are both, however, very important points that need to be discussed.

The clearest connection between the two is the need to file bankruptcy and your financial situation. A lot of the time, the event that caused you to need debt relief is beyond your control. Usually, a devastating event like a job loss or medical emergency begins people on the slippery slope to debt. If you don't or are unable to change your lifestyle to fit your new set of circumstances, debt is almost inevitable.

Most, however, think that bankruptcy stops affecting your lifestyle once you've filed. In reality, your lifestyle won't stop changing because you've finally gotten protection from foreclosure, credit card debt help, or relief from your creditors. Continuously look at your life in a critical, progressive way and change it the best way you see fit. While a St. Louis bankruptcy lawyer can get you through your bankruptcy, it is in your power to make the most of your fresh start. Making a new life that utilizes the tools for success that you've been given is the surest way to live the life of which you've dreamed.

While your pre-bankruptcy lifestyle may be out of your control, your post-bankruptcy lifestyle shouldn't be. Make sure to make the necessary changes to build the life you want to live, like avoiding credit card balances, keeping a savings account for emergencies, and remembering how easy it was to get into debt in the first place.

Always be conscious of the effects your lifestyle is having on the future of your family. Whether it is your lifestyle before that got you into debt or not, your lifestyle afterward can keep you out of it. Keep in mind, the ability to be successful is completely in your hands.

If you are having trouble deciding how much debt is too much, start finding free information about your situation. Find free articles, blogs, bankruptcy FAQ, and even publications that could help you decide how close you are to financial hot water. And don't forget the value of a free consultation from an experienced St. Louis, Missouri bankruptcy attorney. You can speculate as to how much trouble is too much for you to handle, but a bankruptcy attorney could help you decide what consequences you may be facing today, tomorrow, or next year.

The Credit Card Shoppers and the Threat of Fraud

More and more consumers today are enticed to do their shopping over the internet. Despite the fact that many are still apprehensive, a significant percentage of shoppers today actually prefer to shop online primarily because it's more convenient for them. Each day, a new shopper is willing to try out shopping online and when the experience is a successful one, you can bet that this shopper will try again.

The increasing numbers of credit fraud and identity theft cases do not really prevent consumers from buying online and obviously online merchants continue to enjoy a profitable business. When the Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed, it gave consumers the right to dispute unauthorized charges in their account and be exempted from paying them.

However, not everyone seems to be aware of their rights or how to deal with fraud, in case they suspect one. In fact, some people have really no idea on what to do when they encounter billing errors with their creditors. Let's consider the basic pointers a buyer should know when using his card online:

Call your card issuer. When you receive your monthly billing statement and you notice unfamiliar charges in it, what should you do? The first step would to be to call your credit company's customer service department or complaints department and clarify these charges. In most cases, small discrepancies can easily be fixed simply by contacting your credit company without filing for a dispute.

However, for your future reference, it's still a good idea to follow-up your call with a letter and send it via registered post mail. Also, don't forget to take the name of the person you talked to on the phone and the response you received about the issue. As much as possible, record your call.

Send a dispute letter. For more complicated issues or complaints, a simple phone call will not be enough. To clarify the problem better, you should send a letter of dispute and point out the errors you've found in your billing statement. Make sure that your letter is addressed to the Complaints or Dispute Department of your credit card company. Include a copy of the billing statement with the errors clearly marked as well as other receipts or documents that support your claim. Mail it via registered post mail.

A letter of dispute is needed to settle serious problems in your account such as unauthorized charges, undelivered goods that you purchased through the card, returned items that were not credited to your account, and other similar complaints. Your credit company should be able to resolve the matter or give you the appropriate response within 30 days upon receipt of your letter.

If your dispute letter is neglected, you can demand that the matter be escalated to the higher administrative department of the credit card company. If that still does not solve the problem, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission for assistance.

Last but not the least, for your own protection, review and understand your credit card's terms and conditions as well as the merchant's policies on purchases, returns and guarantee protection. Before using your card for purchasing online, make sure that you are clear about your rights as a customer.

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, & Disclosure Act of 2009

On May 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Credit Card Responsibility & Disclosure Act of 2009 into law. The bill was designed to serve as a proverbial "Bill of Rights" for anyone who applies for and accepts a line of credit from any credit card company or lender.

The new law outlines a number of changes to existing credit card laws. The bill is designed to protect consumers from unfair credit adjustment practices but at the same time offers protection for lenders as well. Some of the changes implemented by the law are outlined below:

Unfair Interest Modifications One of the biggest problems consumers had with credit card companies was their ability to arbitrarily adjust the interest rates on an account with very little and sometimes no notice. Under the new law, credit card companies are prohibited from increasing an individual's interest rates at all during the first year after opening the account. Many card holders offered special deals with introductory terms expiring after a month or two. Under the new law, credit card companies must leave their introductory rates in effect for at least six months. Card issuers must give you 45 days notice before they can increase the fees or interest rates associated with your account.

Limiting and Control of Fees The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility & Disclosure Act of 2009 prohibits lenders for charging excessive fees to account holders. They are not prohibited from charging fees on certain types of specifically outlined electronic and digital payments and are no longer allowed to charge over-limit fees if the account goes over the limit due to a transaction that is under dispute. Creditors are no longer allowed to charge fees that are higher than a borrower's offense warrants and those issuing high interest cards with low credit limits must also lower the fees they charge.

Payment Requirements When you mail a credit card payment it can end up in the credit company's bank lockbox for days before it is posted to your account. This means that even if you sent your payment on time it may look late by the time it appears on your account. Under the new laws your payment must be posted as early as possible, credit companies cannot issue early morning payment deadlines, and any payment over the minimum has to be applied to the portion of your balance with the highest interest. Card issues are now required to mail your bills 21 days before the due date and may not charge late fees if they mail your bill late.

Protecting Youthful Card Holders The new laws also took youthful card holders into consideration. Anyone under the age of 21 who applies for a credit card must have a parent or guardian act as a cosigner. There are also new laws limiting when and how credit card companies can market themselves on college campuses. The new credit laws were designed to protect you as a consumer but if you already have excessive amounts of credit debt you'll find little relief from these changes. If this is the case you should contact a bankruptcy attorney at your earliest convenience to discuss the possibility of bankruptcy or some other type of legal assistance.

What to Do in Post Bankruptcy Filing

With the downward trend of the world economy today, many people have become financially unstable. Bankruptcy is defined as legally declaring the inability of an individual or an organization to pay its creditors. Post bankruptcy filing is an option to consider since it can provide relief to some individuals to eliminate a portion of their unsecured debt. This is especially true to those who don't have assets or income to pay off. Determine the Kind of Post Bankruptcy Filing You Need to File There are several types of bankruptcy based on the code of bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Law of the US Constitution. Individuals doing post bankruptcy filing can consider Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, while businesses can file under Chapter 7 or 11 of the Bankruptcy Law of the US Constitution. Chapter 7 is for individuals who acquired many debts and can no longer pay their basic living expenses. Also for those who have no assets anymore or no equity in real or personal property. Post bankruptcy filing under Chapter 7 will protect you from creditors in collecting any property to dismiss the unsecured debts.

This is also called straight bankruptcy since it is simple and straightforward and can be accomplished in just a few months. One of its advantages is that it can eliminate your debts entirely rather than letting your debtors take payment in longer period. Chapter 7 is applicable only to unsecured debts such as medical bills, utility bills, and credit cards debts but will not dismiss your secured debts such as house loan; it will not protect its foreclosure by the creditors. Post bankruptcy filing under Chapter 13 is for those individuals who have significant equity in their properties but do not want to lose them or for those who are able to pay for their regular living expenses but are not able anymore to pay for additional debts. Under this chapter, a payment plan will be worked out for you and your creditors by a Bankruptcy Trustee that will be assigned to you. You are given around three to five years to pay all or a portion of your debt depending on what agreed upon. In this set up, you pay the trustee and the trustee pays your creditors.

Filing bankruptcy under Chapter 11 is for businesses who inquired debts, a repayment plan is drawn, and the operation of the business functions normally.

You Need to Seek Assistance

In doing post bankruptcy filing, it is very important to contact or talk to a bankruptcy lawyer to help you evaluate the situation and the best option for you. There are also many available sites in the web that can help you study your options. What Would Life Be After Bankruptcy After post bankruptcy filing, you may find yourself in a depressive mode. This is only natural after all the legal actions that you have gone through and the restructuring of your finances. However, life still goes on after bankruptcy and you need to survive. You need to look at the future on how to rebuild your finances and to be careful on not doing the same mistakes again.

Do not allow yourself to be controlled by the bankruptcy trauma and feel hopeless about it, remember you have taken the first step of correcting your financial troubles and now it is time to take the next step of looking for a bright future.

Where Can I Have Post Card Printing Done and How Much Does it Cost?

If you want to have post card printing done from your own text or images, you need to know several things - where you can order post cards online, how you upload your text or images for the post cards, how you specify the design of the card, and how much it costs, for low, medium or high print runs.

Below, we give a link where you can get started with your post cards printing, but let's also look at the other questions, and describe everything you need to know.

As you would expect, color post card printing can be ordered, designed and paid for online, directly from your computer. Cheap post card printing can be requested from many post card printing companies, all of which will need much the same information from you when you place your online order.

First, you should decide how many post cards you want. Very low order numbers used to be problematic, but now the top post card printing companies will print any number from 50 upwards.

Next, you should decide what size you want your post cards to be. Standard options are 4" by 6", 5" by 7", 6" by 9" or even larger. If you have difficulty visualizing the size you want, have a look at some cards from you home or office and measure them. You can usually also choose to have your cards printed on gloss or recycled matte paper.

If you are ordering for a mail-out, you can also order a perforation of the cards, for your return address customer response.

What about the cost of your post cards? Post card printing services will typically offer lower costs for higher runs. For example, a typical cost per 4" by 6" color post card for a run of 50 would be 34 cents each, while for a run of 200 it would be about 16 cents each, 1000 would be about 5 cents each, and 10,000 would be about 2 cents each.

How do you specify your requirements for your custom post card printing? This is very straightforward. At the post card printing company web site you simply enter the size and number of post cards you want; you will then usually get to choose the turnaround time and the shipping option you prefer.

At this point, you will be able to type or upload the text you want on your post cards, and upload your image files. Most post card printing companies will accept images in JPG, TIF or PDF format. A top post card printing service will usually have online templates or even downloadable templates (for advanced users) in PC or Mac format to make the post card design easier, if you want to use them.

Easy Marketing Methods with Letters, Post Cards, Referrals and Testimonials

Easy Direct Marketing Methods for Insurance Agencies

This Month: Strategies for Letters, Post Cards, Newsletters,
Testimonials, Referrals.

Selling insurance is tough: too many agents selling too few clients, and
ouch - trying to show value when all you are selling is a piece of paper
that no one really thinks he needs... until it's too late. But you knew all
that. Here's how to get more business and keep the customers you

Send a "Thank you for your business" letter.

I'll bet you ten bucks that I know the last piece of correspondence
your customer received from you or your providers: it was a bill. Right?
OK - 99 out of 100 of you pay up. Break this cycle of insurance bills with
something refreshing. Send a bottle of champagne. Just kidding. Send
that bottle to me, Schramsberg/NAPA is just fine. To your clients and
prospects, send a couple of refreshing "Thank you" letters.

Spend the 74¢

To keep customers happier and longer, twice a year send them a
letter simply thanking them for being a customer. Let them know their
business is appreciated. Paint a picture of your firm on high alert 24
hours a day: if they need you - you'll be there. Let them know you
appreciate their business and that you are eagerly waiting to serve
them. Your customer retention rate will soar. Your customers will be
happier; therefore, your customers will be your customers, longer. As for
me, I'm still waiting for that bottle of Schramsberg.

Now I'm not talking about the pre-printed "Thank You" card you get
from your accountant each Christmas. Ugh. That's close to worthless
(don't tell your accountant, I'll start getting nasty letters). I'm talking about
a real, bonafide letter. Signed personally by you, or at least someone
who works with you who is willing to sign all those letters with your
name in a blue pen. Yes - twice a year. Cough it up: postage 74¢. That's
not much of a cost to retain a customer. Do you know what other
agencies call your best customers? Prospects. I personally think a letter
is the cheapest customer retention strategy you can use, and the most
effective. Hummmm... cheapest; most effective.

See, nice guy that I am, I started off this article with my best tip first.
It's all downhill from here. Or is it?

Don't start a Newsletter.

That's right, don't. You've got to be crazy to start a newsletter. 90%
of the ones I get are terrible: no direction, poor copy, lousy photos...
everyone's dressed. Nothing like that Hooter's newsletter I, er, a friend
of mine signed up for 2 years ago. What? What do you mean you don't
think there's continually fresh and interesting news from a restaurant

Most newsletters are written with no clear objectives, and some just
ramble on in a dialog "about" and "by" the president... like someone
cared about his babble on the new boat he just bought. In reality - where
I virtually think we are - newsletters are just a lot of work. They may start
out with some enthusiasm, but soon become the drudgery of month after
month of hard work, eventually assigned to someone as a thankless job
no one really wants to do. Without lively copy, great design, consistent
frequency and timely delivery, newsletters lose all effect of branding and
building customer loyalty.

Case in point: Q. The number one priority of a newsletter? A. It must
be read. To be read it must be fascinating and interesting beyond belief.
Remember, if it ain't read, it ain't working. See my article on newsletters
elsewhere on this site. Or visit for this and other
articles of marketing tips I've written.

Instead, create a series of post cards.

That's right, slightly oversized 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" post cards print nicely
2-out of an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet. Spend some time on graphics and copy to
make them really interesting and clever. Since I just mentioned
"newsletter," I know some readers are now hell-bent on creating a
newsletter, so you guys can title your post card "The World's Tiniest
Newsletter." Then design it like a tiny newsletter. Well, I hope that made
your day. Still stuck on newsletters? Call this number and complain:
610-642-683. If I really cared, I'd have given you the last number, which
is 2. It's our fax machine. Or at least the fax machine of our competitor.

Post cards can look good printed simply in one or two colors... so
they can be inexpensive to print. While I don't mind one color printing, I
do always prefer an upscale sheet of paper (like bright-white Cambric
Linen). Don't use glossy stock unless your post card is printed in 4
colors, as the post office mail sorting rollers will leave black marks on it.
Mail post cards once a month to every 6 weeks for consistency, or to
maintain Top-of-Mind awareness.

Write about anything... as long as it's interesting. The limitations of
space ensure the brevity of copy; this generally will make sure the card
remains interesting to a good degree.

Somewhere, somehow on the card, say "Call for a quick quote!" to
encourage people to call. If the objective of the card is to generate a call
and it doesn't, it didn't work, did it?. Supersize the phone number and
follow it by a longish laundry list of all the types of insurance your firm
offers (or that you can get for your customers). If it's a long list - and it
should be - set the list in small type - and print it on the lower portion of
the bottom of the card.

Here's an example: Since you live in Nebraska, boat insurance
probably isn't your main livelihood, or flood insurance either, so most of
your customers probably don't know you can get these kinds of
coverage for them along with their tractor insurance. By listing all the
kinds of insurance policies you sell on this card, all your customers who
own boats (both of them) will get the message that they can call you for
a quote. Other customers and prospects will see what they need also -
and call for quotes, too.

The list of services is not the main message in the card, but it lets
clients know that you offer a full depth of different products, and they can
get all their insurance quoted and placed by a quick phone call to your
office. Remember, if you don't get calls from your post cards, and thus
additional business - they didn't work. Then let me guess: Your mailings
went into your "we tried direct mail and it didn't work" file. How
unfortunate. Know who's getting those phone calls if you're not? Your
competitors. Their post cards went into their "Holy Cow! Look how much
money we made from this little post card mailing!" file.

Why are phone calls so important?All your business starts with a phone

Any time you can make the phone ring - especially for a quote, you
have the opportunity to generate a sale, or perform a service for your
customer. Either way, if you look at this more closely as an opportunity,
you'll find a phone conversation is a great way to increase a client's
loyalty and endear them even more deeply to you and your company.

If you can get the phone to ring from a mailed piece, the piece is a
total success, even if you didn't get any business at that exact moment.
Here's why I say this: I've been in direct marketing for... OH MY GOD
AM I THAT OLD ALREADY!. Anyhow, it's tough to sell something from a
sheet of paper, especially insurance, which is sometimes tough to sell
anywhere, even in a stuck elevator for 12 hours with 6 doctors whose
medical malpractice policies have an ex-date of tomorrow. Come to
think of it, if you want a business decision from a doctor you'll have to
ask his office manager or his wife. Either way, a "yes" answer will take a

By trying to sell something directly from a sheet of paper, you get no
feedback, no buying signals. You can't tell where the hot buttons of your
clients are. When do you back off? When do you press for a close? All
this may come subconsciously when you're selling in person, but I
assure you a lot of thought has to go into a printed piece to get to these
specific areas with just the right timing, correct pace and selling
proposition to close a sale from a flyer that you sent in the mail.

Armed with the knowledge that it's very difficult to sell anything off
the page, don't even think about trying to sell anything from your mail
piece. The objective of 99% of the letters, mailers, post cards and
brochures I create for clients don't sell anything -- the objective is simply
to generate a phone call. My client is the one that does all of the selling.
With your brochure, you do the selling when they call.

Face the further fact: create letters and mailers with the sole
objective of making the phone ring. When the phone rings - the piece
worked. Voila. Now we know it was successful. Then you sell the client.

For an article I've written on post cards, just drop me a letter
requesting it: Jeff Dobkin, P.O. Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066. No,
an email won't work. I'd like to make sure you really want it and an email
won't show me this - I don't want to get 5,000 emails requesting stuff like
the last time I offered something free on the Internet. Ugh.

OK, let's get back to more tips about your post card mailings.
Sending post cards every four to six weeks keeps your agency in "Top of
Mind" awareness of your clients.

When they need new policies, or a quote... when they have friends
that need insurance services -- they'll think of you. Whoa. When they
have friends??? Can you say "referrals?"

Referrals and Testimonials

I don't know about you, but I hate asking people for referrals. So
here's a way to get them, and how to use testimonials in your marketing.
It's even tough for me to write a personal letter asking for a referral
without sounding like a bleeding heart solicitation piece I once wrote for
the "Friends of Kaballah" association who needed money for guns,
but... a post card can serve this function just right.

Let's say someone refers a client to you, from the post card you just
sent them with the copy on it saying, "Thanks for all your referrals! We
appreciate our customers and friends who refer clients to us for our fast
and friendly quotes. Don't forget: we're always ready to help anyone -
whether they are our client or not - with any of their insurance questions
or problems. Please let your friends and colleagues know to just give us
a call at 800-987-6543 - we are always happy to help." You remember
that post card, don't you? So now what do you do?

Besides opening that nice bottle of champagne celebrating the new
client you just got, and then sending me a nice bottle of champagne for
that new client you just got - you know, the one you already forgot to
send me from the... oh never mind, you send the referring person a
thank you letter. No, a call is not the same. With a call, after you hang up
the phone you cease to exist. And don't even think about sending them
that pre-printed accountant's thank-you card we discussed earlier - it still
won't work. You send them a hand typed letter thanking them. Right
from your own computer. Signed by you in blue ink. Same as before.

Here's what we do around here when we get a referral. We send the
referring party a nice letter, a really nice letter, and a Cross Pen,
engraved with their name on it. Sure, we could have my company name
engraved on it, but the only person that would think that's great is... me.
That pen goes inside their desk drawer. Big deal. But when we
havetheir name engraved on a pen - well, that pen goes in their shirt
pocket (man), in their pocketbook (woman), or on top of their desk
(neutered). And you just can't buy that kind of "top-of-desk" real estate.
Or "top-of-mind" awareness.

Don't worry, they'll remember from whom they've received it - from
the nice letter you sent them with the pen. You, umm, did send them a
really nice letter with the pen, didn't you?

Thanks, Jeffrey...

Thank you very much for your kind referral of me. I appreciate it.

I don't take referrals lightly, or for granted. A referral means that you
thought enough of my services to recommend me as a professional, and
thought enough of me as a person to recommend me to a colleague.

I appreciate your trust - and assure you I will always act well within
the framework of fairness and good taste, and will strive at all times to
provide exceptional value.

Thank you again for the privilege of your referral, the opportunity to
be of service to your associate, and your trust.

Kindest regards,

Jeffrey Dobkin

A call - or an email - is not the same. You see a "Thank you for your
referral" letter is a touchy, feely thing - kind of like that cute little red
haired secretary you had until your wife found out. Don't feel too bad, my
wife won't let me go out on dates, either. What the letter really says is
that you cared enough to sit down and type a personal letter, print it out,
sign it, find an envelope and a stamp, and mail it. It was an effort.

Now they have a permanent record of your sincere thanks that can
sit on their desk for days, and if it's anything like my desk it probably will.
I have letters from 1995 on my desk. But that's in another article I was
going to write - about procrastination - but I keep putting it off.

So you've just sent a Cross Pen to a person who just referred a new
client to you. What do they think? They think: how nice it was, and start
looking around to see who else they can refer. Is a new client worth the
$25 of an engraved Cross Pen. I think so.


Has anyone ever said anything nice about you or your firm? Oh.
Don't worry, it hasn't happened to my firm yet either. But when anyone
does say anything good about you, your firm, or your services, tell them
that it's very flattering to hear, and ask them if they would mind if you use
that as a testimonial. Wait for their answer. After that awkward pause,
they'll say sure. Then they're committed. Then you make it more formal.

Youthen say, "Can I write down what you said and send it to you in a
letter, have you look it over, and if it's OK would you approve it. If not,
just let me know - that's OK, too." Most people, seeing that it won't be a
lot of work for themselves, will say sure.

So you can now write down pretty much what they said - and you
can take some liberties here, they won't remember exactly what they
said - send it to them in a well constructed letter and have them sign it.
You'll get a letter with a great testimonial (because you wrote it) that
someone has signed-off on without causing them to do any work. They'll
be happy. You'll be happy.

Also, here's a big plus: your testimonial letter will be free of any
spelling errors or typos that my own client's letters always seem to have.
You know, that's why letters and articles I've written always have a few
typos and spelling errors in them - so clients (and editors) won't feel
embarrassed that they're the only ones who make those errors. And I'm
a-stickin' to that story. Anyhow, never trust a man who only has one
spelling for any given word.

When pitching to a new client, tell them the difference between your
agency and others is service, and bring out a really big book of recent
testimonials. It's probably the most convincing sales tactic you can use.

©2003 Jeffrey Dobkin

Post Cards - Improving Instant Readership

Face it: most people sort their direct mail over the trash can.

This process works fast, like flipping channels on tv. Or better yet, think back: you're a kid and a friend is showing you baseball cards for possible trades: gottem gottem needem gottem gottem needem gottem. 200 cards, 50 seconds. Todays direct mail... Post Cards... Same thing: Direct mail credit card offers, direct marketing magazine subscriptions, direct selling insurance solicitations, and junk mail penny stock hawkers all get the briefest attention before being trashed.

But wait, there's more! Post card marketing adds another dimension to the view-and-toss direct mail sorting process. Create your card right, and post card readership can be quite high, instantly. Because - it's all right there, right in front of the reader-in his hand.

Post card readership is defined by how great the direct-selling copywriting and graphics are for your card. So the fate of your direct mail post card starts in the hands of the creator, which I believe is you, isn't it?

I call it "Instant Readership;" a term I coined, well... just now, to explain what happens the moment a reader glances at your direct mail post card that has just landed in his hands. Instant readership is the 2-seconds readers spend upon their initial glance on your post card: one second on headline and topic, one second on copy and the blink of an eye on graphics - unless they're really dazzling.

It's the same thing as in life! Like, when I meet a new woman: one second on headline and topic, one second on copy and a blink of the eye on graphics, unless they're dazzling... Hey, maybe this is a pattern of ALL life, and everything can be described by this phrase?

Wow, this is like discovering plutonium... maybe I'll get a medal! The Nobel Peace Prize - yes, I've always wanted one of these, especially since Obama received one for doing, well... I'm not sure - so they can't be that hard to get. Or a Pulitzer! Yes, for writing this direct marketing article! OK, I'm pretty safe here saying this won't happen. Or, maybe, just maybe I've just discovered all this writing is just a soliloquy for my own life? Help me out here, would ya...

Glance readership of a post card is like seeing the headline of an ad in a newspaper (remember them?): you only get a second or two to capture the attention of a fleeting reader, before they continue on to the obits, the comics or the TV page. Or is that just me?

Failure. Post card readership reviews can be fast and brutal and end in the briefest of time; failure resulting in the sudden spiral of your direct marketing mail piece directly downward into the circular file below. And your money following suit. Ouch.

Success. Or, you can instantly get an extremely high-rated review and have your post card placed in the highly coveted pile of "read later with the rest of today's important mail." It's your choice. Right now, you've got to ask yourself, "Am I feeling lucky?"

Rule Number 1. Write and design everything in your post card for the first two seconds.

When your recipient gets a good look at your post card, you get the immediate opportunity to pass or fail. So... what's it gonna be? Coveted pile, or circular file? Yea, or Nay? Success, or failure? Prosper, or fludghum? OK, I might have made that last word up, but you get the idea, and the reader's decision is immediate. Your choice.

The bright side: For us on the creative end of direct mail, it just can't get any better. Buy the right mailing list and get your post card into the correct reader's hands: I'll get him to read it. Your direct marketing agency will too... and if they can't, find another agency - plenty of good ones out there. Writing post cards is a favorite pastime of many people, like monopoly or tractor racing - but it pays better. A well written and well designed post card can enjoy exceptionally high readership - and get exceptionally high response.

OK, so your potential reader is now standing there with your wonderfully written, dazzlingly designed, properly prepared post card in his hot little hand and that, my friend, is great alliteration. It's where the rubber meets the road. Or hit the road, or something about the road. I forget--I have Alzheimer's. But... at least I don't have Alzheimer's!

Rule 2. You need to force the reader to read your post card.

How? Compelling headline. Followed by intriguing sub headlines. Brilliant body copy and great, great graphics. Spend a little more time (and money) here and what happens? Yes, the coveted "read later" pile. As in paragraph 6a above, subsection 254: The reader brings the card to his desk, and with no other option handy, reads the card you forced him to read.

Now, some nitty-gritty of how to do it.

"Instant readership" is based 100% on your headline hook, appropriateness of subject to your audience and dazzling layout. It's followed shortly by the value created in your offer, if they get that far. Wrap all these elements in sparkling printing and nice paper and now your direct mail post card presents itself in a glancing, fast 2-second visual bite.

Direct mail post cards are the visual versions of the sound bits you hear on MTV or promos for the evening news; which, come to think of it, appear to be written by the same writers. Designing for instant readership has the singular objective of drawing the reader into the post card, no more, no less.

On the immediate receipt of your post card, each reader has his or her own mental preference files that compels him or her to stay tuned into your card, yet some commonalities exist. Wait. Wait just a moment. This gender thing of saying "Him or Her" all the time has got to go-it's too clunky to keep saying "him or her, him or her," - so let me clear this up once and for all. I'll just place everything in the male gender until I get complaints from, well, you know... Hey, do you know how many men it takes to change the toilet paper roll? No, me neither.

Post Card Instant Readership & The first round of sorting

So right on the top section of your post card, as in all highly responsive direct mail, your headline needs to be great. If you have a "good" headline, no! NO! That just won't work. Strangely, "good" is actually not good enough. You need something more than just good, you need "exceptionally great!" Create this one line correctly, viola - instant readership on a maximum level. That's how important this single line is.

The first work-order of the day is to create an unbelievably great, maximum-interest headline so the reader is instantly hooked into staying in the copy and continues reading. So...

Rule 3. The goal of the headline: keep the reader reading. Nothing more. Nope. No selling.

Rule 4. Invoke The 100-to-1 Rule:

Since your post card headline needs to be G-R-E-A-T, use the 100-to-1 rule for creating G-R-E-A-T headlines (this rule is taken from the book, Uncommon Marketing Techniques): write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one. Oh, you like this idea! Plan to use it? OK, send me ten bucks. And you're getting away cheap. OK, jest kidding. Just send $5 bucks. Make that a Starbucks Card - they were going to get it anyway.

Rule 5. The founding principle of high readership: Headline = G-R-E-A-T, or else.

The objective of any direct marketing or direct mail headline is to grab the attention of the reader and yank him so far into the copy that if he throws your direct mail piece into the trash, he'll come back later and route though the trash to dig it out. Yes, and a really great headline is when the reader digs it out of the trash even though he dumped his kitty litter in there on top of it.

Rule 6. The headline is NOT the time to sell your product.

The reason? The first glance is a pivotal point in your presentation because the reader has no investment of time in your direct mail piece and so no commitment to read further.

Initially, your recipient isn't intrigued by whatever you're selling, at whatever price; because he hasn't seen your electrifying offer, hasn't seen any of your product benefits, and hasn't followed your compelling story line for 10 paragraphs and wants to see how you close the sale, or how your storyline finishes.

So right now, at this first glance - nothing: no commitment, no involvement - right now you're just another blah blah of direct mail; a piece of paper with no message, no heart, no soul. Man, these first 2 seconds are critical. And without any involvement, your reader is ruthless.

If the headline sucks at first glance the card can be tossed without regret. Kindly recall the reader has lots of other mail, and has years of practice at "getting fast" at his standing-there-over-the wastebasket first sorting time. You need to instantly connect and deliver: survive this cut OR your direct mail piece suffers death by wastebasket. Cruel. And buried along with your post card, your money. Whoa... Crueler still.

Rule 7. The rule of readership survival.

The rule of readership survival as it relates to the first glance of your direct mail post card: it's the critical changeover point where unless your headline and graphics are G-R-E-A-T, your loss of readership stops your post card from being your "investment" and shifts it to an "expense." What's it gonna be - Pass? Or failure? Good headline. Or great headline. Good graphics. Or awesome graphics. Your choices.

The second round of sorting

Ok, enough blah blah about Instant Readership of post cards. Like my first wife said about our marriage certificate, let's just get past this. Oh well; I thought we had a pretty good week. Evidently she didn't think it went that well. But opinions are like smelly feet - everyone has their own. I then discovered while only some women may marry you for your money, they all divorce you for it.

OK, so you and your post card made the first cut. Congratulations, y'old direct mail guru. Great graphics, hellatious headline, compelling, convincing copy; opulent irresistible offer. Having survived the first cut following the "Instant Readership" rules, your card now sits comfortably at the reader's desk with the rest of the "important" mail. Nice. But you're not out of the woods yet. Check your balance sheet.

This "Second Look" opportunity gives your direct marketing post card the luxury of more time - now that the reader has taken it back to the comfort of his office, a comfortable chair, a couple of beers, some good smoke and a little more time to invest in reading it. Or is that just me? Anyhow, to survive the first glance means the reader has made the decision he has an interest in whatever you're hawking, or at least in what you have to say. Congratulations. Welcome to Level II.

This is the first part of "Instant Readership" - A 3-article series on creating effective direct mail post cards.