I have been involved in direct marketing since ... my God! Am I that old already? Over these years, I've learned a few tricks and stored them away.

Anyhow, here's a short list of some of my best tips of all time:

1. The most valuable tool in marketing: a letter. You can catch and hold the attention of a busy magazine editor or the president of American Airlines. Write several marketing letters every day.

2. The most valuable single sheet of paper in marketing is: A press release. You should be sending press releases every month.

3. The best headline formula: "New product offers benefit, benefit, benefit." Create the headline of ads, press releases and advertisements — for envelope teaser copy and for the lead-in sentences of your brochure. Example: "New keyboard offers faster typing, greater accuracy, and is less tiring."

4. The most effective trick in copy writing: Having a tough time writing? Start writing anything, then go back and cross out your first sentence. On really bad days, go back and cross out your first paragraph. A nice trick that immediately pulls you into the heart of your writing.

5. On follow-up: Follow up serious inquiries and sales leads with more than one piece of mail. Remember, a campaign is defined not as a single letter or brochure, but a sustained effort over time. Sales personnel don't always close a sale on the first contact, why would you think your letter will?

6. The 11 most valuable words to get your press release published: Before sending an important press release, call the editor and use this phrase: "Are you the person I should send this press release to?" Even if you know darn well they are the correct person, still call and ask. Asking this positions your call as, "Can you help me?” Then send your release, they'll be looking for it and will try to help you — by publishing it.

7. Create a promotional letter series in advance. Mail the series to new prospects over a few months. By the fifth letter they’ll be ready to receive your call as a friend. Stylize your letters to look like traditional letters, and make your prospect think he or she is the only one receiving them.

8. When something nice is done for you acknowledge it with a thank you letter. No, a call is not the same. A thank-you call is forgotten in a day, but the impact of a well-written thank-you letter can last a lifetime.

9. Write your "objective" first. All writing should have an written, stated objective. What are you trying to accomplish? If this document works exactly as you wish, what would you like to happen? Compose all of your writing to fulfill your objective. This clarifies your writing, defines its purpose and gives your writing focus.

10. If you'd really like a response from a personal letter, include a return envelope with a live stamp on it. It'll increase your response or it'll drive the reader nuts trying figure out what to do with an envelope printed in your name with a live stamp on it.

11. Ask for more money than you need. While money doesn't cure a lousy marketing strategy, it can buy you time to recover until you get it right. Don't start out undercapitalized. You know the amount of capital you were thinking of raising? Double it.

12. Take your time writing. No one will ever know the one-page letter they received took you three weeks to write. Just make sure that when you send it, it's perfect. It takes me eight hours to write and design a one-page letter.

13. Don't be afraid to ask for the order several times in your direct mail piece. Ask prospects to call (and to send in their order) throughout the package. If the recipient doesn't call or send an order, the piece fails. For best results, a minimum of twice in the body copy and again in the P.S. I once wrote a letter that said more than a dozen times to call.