The Basics

What the outdoor retailer offers is personal expertise which is something the web cannot deliver. In a world awash with product and competing claims, the informed sales person comes into his or her own. On these pages and in concert with individual sponsors we offer a series of bullet point guides to the basics of the key outdoor product categories. Our aim is to provide inexperienced sales staff a guide to what to remember and for more experienced ones a reminder of things they might have forgotten. The Basics has been produced so as to make it simple to download – in most cases each takes up no more than single sheet of paper.

The Basics of Writing Direct Mail

Most of the population may claim not to read direct mail, but the sheer ubiquity of it and the fact that so many big businesses use it to reach customers would tend to suggest otherwise. Sure a lot of it gets thrown away, but that’s because a lot of it is pretty poor. Making sure that this doesn’t happen to your direct mail requires common sense and the application of a bit of science. Here are ten of the main rules to abide by.


Keep it brief and carry on a conversation

Short paragraphs of six lines or fewer work better than longer ones. Sentences need to be clear and sequential. And everything should be in a conversational voice. It doesn’t matter what the subject is - good conversations use words that everyone understands.

Engage with your reader not your emotions

Describing offers as ‘fantastic’ or ‘brilliant is simply emoting, not engaging. Always use language which induces in the reader a sense of the enjoyment he or she is going to feel through you using your product. 

The power of three

It’s a simple rhetorical device beloved by politicians. Always group benefits and features in threes. It catches the attention, it delivers the message and it works. See what we mean? 


Images communicate, they don’t decorate. So don’t be tempted to include an image just for the sake of it.

Enough with the numbers

Data is like salt. It adds flavour, but you wouldn’t want to have it for lunch. So only use data to reinforce your point; don’t make it the point.

Use the layout tricks. It’s what they are there for

Fake highlighting. Bold, underlined italics. “Handwritten” notes in the margin. All have stood the test of being used millions of times. That’s because they work.


To sell successfully you have to be business-like. Avoid the temptation to use exotic typefaces. Direct Marketing experience indicates that the Courier typeface is up to 20 times more profitable than any other (no, really, it does).

Expressing the offer

Most people find it easier to understand words than numbers. So, for example, “half price” is more readily digestible than “50% off”.

Asking for the order

Here’s how not to do it. “If you would like to take advantage of this offer….” What do you mean ‘if’? You mean you’re not sure it’s a good idea? Always use an imperative. “Buy now and become one of the many who has experienced etc…”

Remember your PS

It’s the positioning of the PS that makes people read it, so always ensure that there is one below your sign off.

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