Why Wells Fargo Needs a New Copywriter ASAP

By Jessica Albon

Was I supposed to buy roses?
Image by andreyutzu
Apparently, I recently neglected to celebrate an “important” anniversary: the anniversary of my home financing. My home loan has been huffy the last few days, heaving big sighs and refusing to speak to me except to accuse me of being forgetful and uncaring.

Think that’s just me talking crazy? Normally, I’d agree with you, except I’ve seen the mailer. See, this weekend Wells Fargo sent me a self mailer that began: “You may not realize it, but you have reason to celebrate! It’s the anniversary of your home financing.”

To which my first response is: You’re kidding, right? Who the heck celebrates the anniversary of taking out a rather large loan for a very long time? Of all the dates I have marked in my calendar, and no matter how many ways I try to make sense of this, I cannot understand why “Anniversary of Home Financing” would be on the list.

I did actually celebrate the anniversary of *moving into* this house (at the end of November, actually), and it seems like that’s the date people are more likely to celebrate. So, why not send a note then instead of a month and a half later (to coincide with my first house payment). I just don’t see most people doing a jig each year on the date they made their first house payment (the last payment, sure!).

To me, this should be copywriting 101: Don’t invent something ridiculous just so you’ll have an excuse to try to sell something (in this case a “Financial consultation”).

Sure, invent an excuse if you literally want to say Howdy to a client. It’s okay not to always have a compelling reason to check in or touch base with someone. But if what you’re sending is a sales letter and you want the person receiving it to read it without growling, PRETENDING there’s a reason you’re writing ain’t gonna cut it.

So, what do you do if you’d really like to touch base with your clients and you’d kinda like to make that mailing, you know, profitable? Try this:

  1. Give real, tangible value. Tell your customers: a) something they don’t already know that; b) they need to know that; c) they’ll appreciate knowing; and that will d) have an immediate impact on their lives.
  2. Make it gorgeous. Find a photo that’s breathtaking, hire an illustrator, or do something fancy-schmancy with text so that what you’re sending makes them feel good when they pull it from the mailbox. (This is sort of like sending cookies with a proposal–not necessarily related to the business at hand, but at least it has some appeal which is a lot more than can be said about made up, self-serving “holidays.”)
  3. Be funny. Share a comic, tell a joke, or have a custom cartoon drawn. If you can’t meet all the requirements of #1, meet as many as you can in a way that tickles the funny bone. Your reader will be more likely to forgive you not being 100% relevant if you’ve been funny.
  4. Be honest. But don’t whine! When I lost a client in early December, I sent an email to 10 clients and friends for a referral or two. The email was funny, but more than that, it was honest. I was feeling a little vulnerable and nervous and needed some support. When you’re being honest, though, stay away from the “economy” if possible. You don’t want to sound like a CNN parrot and besides, you can’t be honest singing someone else’s song.
  5. Supplement it with a personal note. Let’s say you’re stuck in a position like my mortgage lender–she probably had no choice whether or not this mailing would go out to her past clients. So, if you work for a company inclined to do dumb things with your clients’ mailing addresses, make sure you’re mitigating it. Don’t apologize for an upcoming mailing, but make sure that your clients hear directly from *you* more often than they do your parent company. Make sure you’re in their mailbox with holiday cards, greetings, and friendly notes. If corporate headquarters is sending really silly stuff out and you’re not doing anything about it, you’re going to lose your clients.

So, Wells Fargo, don’t wish me a happy “financing anniversary” next year. Instead, send me a really pretty card on the date I bought the house. Invite me to listen to your weekly radio show on financial strategies. Offer to send me a 10-step report for paying off my house in half the time. Or, at the very least, include a box of chocolates next year as a bribe to keep me from using your mail as a “teaching opportunity” in my newsletter.