Archive for the 'Direct Marketing' Category

What you like vs. what works: not always the same thing

November 14th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DH writes:

“Bob, what are your favorite websites in terms of the copy they
have, so I can see myself which copy style you think is great?

“I was working for a client and came across a website from a
company that sells the same thing he does.

“I was blown away by the simple, fun, almost magical style of
their site vs. the more technical copy on my client’s site.

“But I wonder if I was right to admire the competitor site —
does that kind of copy draw customers?”

There are two key parts to the answer I gave DH.

The first is something copywriter Peter Beteul said that I never
forgot: “Don’t let personal preference get in the way.”

Meaning subjective judgment is absolutely the worst way to judge
advertising.

Why?

Because countless marketing tests and many research studies prove
that there is no correlation between people liking an ad and
whether they buy the product.

Second, regarding DH’s websites, she has little or no access to
analytics and metrics measuring the website’s performance.

And results … not whether the site has a fun or “magical” style …
is what determines whether she should admire and emulate it.

In this case, she just doesn’t know. So following the competitor
site as a model would be questionable at best and unwise at
worst.

Back in the day, with print ads and direct mail, it was
different.

Running newspaper and magazine ads, and doing postal direct mail,
is expensive.

And so marketers who use them test very carefully.

If an ad or direct mail test is not successful, they will not
repeat it.

On the other hand, an ad or mailing that is profitable is run
over and over until it stops making money.

So if you see an ad or mailing that runs continuously, you know
that copy is working — and in that case, it would be wise to
emulate.

It’s pretty much the same for ongoing email campaigns and web
pages, although not as certain, because they are less expensive
to run than print — and therefore, are more forgiving of
mistakes.

One more point….

You only know whether someone else’s marketing is working if you
see the evidence with your own eyes, as indicated by frequency
and repetition.

If another marketer says response rates for their campaign are
through the roof, or that they are raking in money hand over
fist, the problem is you have no idea whether they are telling
you the truth.

As my good friend top info marketer Fred Gleeck says: “The only
numbers you can trust are your own.”

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Category: Direct Marketing, Online Marketing | 3 Comments »

Oh, those larcenous direct marketers of yesteryear!

August 15th, 2017 by Bob Bly

A lot of digital marketing today is direct response — only it’s
all done with electrons instead of ink on paper.

As a result of the rise of digital marketing, direct response has
now become mainstream.

But back when I got into direct response in the early 80s, DR was
considered the ugly stepchild of more respectable mainstream
Madison Avenue brand advertising.

One reason was that we direct people had the unmitigated gall to
want advertising to be profitable and actually sell something
with our copy. And not just win awards.

Another reason: while Madison Avenue worshipped beautiful graphic
design, direct marketers consistently found, sometimes to our
surprise, that “ugly” direct mail usually worked much better than
slick and colorful packages.

The third reason direct marketing was looked down on is that some
of the old-time practitioners had a … well, a penchant for
promoting questionable offers.

Promotions that bordered on sleazy. Offers that came close to
being deceptive — and a few that stepped over that line. Products
that were rip-offs.

One of the most famous was the mail order ad that offered “a
copper-engraved portrait of America’s 16th president” for only
$10.

When you sent in your ten-spot, the marketer fulfilled the order
by mailing you a penny.

Another mail order ad of this ilk had the headline, “Gets Rid of
Potato Bugs and Other Garden Insects Guaranteed.” The product
cost $5 in 1969.

When you ordered, you received two blocks of wood with
handwritten instructions on how to place the potato bug or other
insect on one piece of wood — and squash it with the other.

Says BC, a friend and fellow mail order old-timer who reminded me
of this ad the other day, “I laughed so hard, I was in tears.”

In addition, BC tells this classic mail order story: “A neighbor
of ours bought a set of lawn furniture for $12. Included 4
chairs, a table and umbrella.”

The neighbor received the actual scaled size furniture that was
in the print ad photo — good for a doll house or a little girl’s
toy, but not so good for a patio.

BC also reminded me of the mail order ad that sold a vibrating
lure designed to help you catch fish like crazy.

BC bought it when he was a kid and says: “I never caught a fish
on it. And I guess they have a contest every year and none of the
participants have ever caught a fish with it!”

Then there was the ad that said: “Turn your closet into a coat
room with sturdy metal coat hooks.” When you ordered, the
marketer sent you a dozen or so nails.

Another classic was “Portable Garage” — a plastic tarp you
placed over your car to keep the snow and rain off. Actually
quite handy for people who can’t put their car inside because
their real garage is filled with mowers, tools, boxes, and
assorted junk.

The classic of all time is the pet sea monkeys — a vial of brine
shrimp eggs that hatched when placed in warm salty water.

The ad proclaimed: “Instant Pets — a Bowlful of Fun!”

As a kid, I actually did have a lot of fun with the sea monkeys.
And I didn’t feel ripped off at all.

In fact, the brine shrimp are great live food for tropical fish,
and so my having fish tanks made the sea monkeys not only fun but
practical as well.

Although on South Park, Cartman wasn’t quite as thrilled as I was
with his sea monkeys:

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Category: Direct Marketing | 2 Comments »

Avoid “brag and boast” marketing

June 13th, 2017 by Bob Bly

A few weeks ago I got a press release from ad agency Imbue
Creative.

The headline: “Imbue Creative Wins Three Communicator Awards from
the Academy of Interactive Visual Arts in Logo, Packaging, and
Non-Profit Brochure Categories.”

You can imagine how interested I was in this important, timely,
and useful news.

(Yes, that’s meant sarcastically.)

It’s typical when you win an award to send out a press release
about it. And I am not saying you shouldn’t – although I certainly
don’t do it myself.

After all, some of your industry trade publications and local
media outlets may pick it up and give you a quick mention, which
certainly doesn’t hurt.

And you may indeed get inquiries or even business as a result of
the award announcement.

However, I wouldn’t get too excited about creative awards …
because the number of award-winning ad campaigns that absolutely
failed to produce positive results is legend.

For instance, the communications director of the now-defunct
Outpost.com bragged about one of their TV spots winning all kinds
of awards including several Clios.

And predictably, the advertising, marketing, and creative
communities ate it up.

But she followed up by admitting that the commercial “generated
no increase in sales. And it pissed off the shareholders.”

Advertising Age magazine wrote that while the commercial won
those Clios, it did not make clear to consumers what Outpost
actually sold online, which was computer products.

Despite the cache awards may give ad agencies and even their
clients within the industry, consumers often view these honors
with great indifference.

In your PR, your time and energy is better spent creating and
disseminating content of real value — from tips and surveys, to
how-to e-books and white papers — than this type of “brag and
boast” PR.

A more grievous offense, at least to me as a direct response
marketer, is the quote that appears later in the release from
Imbue VP Michael Piperno.

He says, “We are delighted to be recognized for creative
excellence by The Communicators Awards in the different
categories.”

Marketers who know what they are doing value response and
measured results — including leads, sales, and profits — over
“creative excellence” all day long.

“Creative” agencies have long made handsome livings preying on
foolish businesspeople who value creativity over sales.

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Category: Direct Marketing | 36 Comments »

Goodbye digital, hello paper

February 3rd, 2017 by Bob Bly

In an article in The New York Review of Books (2/9/2017), Bill
McKibben notes that an increasing number of folks are turning
away from electronic communication and instead choosing
old-school media.

For instance:

>> In 2006, just 900,000 new vinyl records were sold in the U.S.
In 2015, the number of vinyl records sold was 23 million — an
increase of 20% per year.

>> Despite a hefty $150 price for an annual subscription, in the
last decade the magazine The Economist has seen its print
circulation grow by 600,000.

>> Students who take massive open online courses (MOOCs) perform
worse, and learn less, than their peers who are sitting in a
school listening to a teacher talking in front of a blackboard.

>> In many classrooms and office conference rooms, schools and
corporations are replacing digital smartboards with paper and
colored markers.

>> Hundreds of board game parlors, where people get together to
play on game boards made of cardboard moving pieces made of
plastic or metal, have opened in North America.

So … what are the reasons a portion of the population is turning
back to old media?

>> Well, in the case of records, people enjoy handling and
playing them, and appreciate the cover art and liner notes. They
also gain a sense of ownership over the music some don’t get from
digital.

>> For The Economist, when you carry the print edition, people
can see what you are reading, which if the magazine is
prestigious, shows you are smart, cultured, and in-the-know. Much
harder to see that the bloke next to you is reading the digital edition of The Economist without sticking your face right in front of his smart phone.

>> MOOCs does not surprise me. Podcasts, online courses,
streaming video, and other digital classes simply cannot match
the interaction and personalized attention a teacher gives in a
classroom or a speaker like me gives at a live workshop.

>> As for video games vs. board games, McKibben quotes writer David Sax: “Even if you were playing World of Warcraft with the same group of friends around the world each day, talking smack over
your headsets, and typing in snippets of conversation, you were
ultimately alone in a room with a screen, and the loneliness
washed over you like a wave when the game ended.”

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Category: Direct Marketing, Online Marketing | 6 Comments »

7 small graphic tweaks that can create a huge lift in response

January 27th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Last week I asked ace graphic designer Dwight Ingram for some
ideas on how to improve the performance of our direct mail and
online marketing through changes in design.

Dwight replied:

“Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest
difference. I’m often called upon to ‘freshen up’ a fatiguing
control, and I’ve developed a toolkit of small design changes
that can revitalize a promotion without having to create a whole
new piece.”

Here are 7 of Dwight’s go-to design tips you can use to boost
response and breathe new life into your control:

1–Change the envelope or the outside of the mail piece. If the
design is too busy, remove or move something. If the design is
too simple, add something.

Use a new teaser, freshen up the design, and try new fonts. Use
the back … think of the extra space like a buckslip. It’s a great
place to showcase the product and reinforce the offer.

2–Use bigger buttons. For e-mails and landing pages, try a bigger
button, a different color, or change the shape. Add a button to
the top or bottom in a key location near the offer language.

3–Simplify. Make the order process clean and fast, especially in
digital efforts. Don’t make your audience jump through hoops to
order.

One of the first things to look at is how many fields are on a
form? Are there too many choices, and is the process intuitive?
Decide what information you must ask for and what you can
eliminate.

4–Change the order form. Enhance the format of your form by
adding a notch, or make it an L-shape. Strengthen your offer
language, focus on the key benefits. Add an offer summary box.
Stress the deadline. Use more personalization, but not too much,
and use it appropriately.

5–Add an insert. A lift note, buck slip, or other element can
focus your prospect on the right features or benefits of the
product. Highlight the guarantee, the premium, or a unique
feature of your product or service.

6–If you use a business reply envelope (BRE), change the color.
Using a different paper color for the BRE can lift response.

7–Make sure your e-mails, landing pages, and order pages are
coded to display optimally not only on PCs but on mobile
devices including tablets and smart phones. (I’ll have an entire
chapter on designing e-mails for smart phones in my forthcoming
book “The Ultimate E-Mail Handbook” from Skyhorse Publishing.)

Remember, it’s all about clarity and thinking like a potential
customer. If your offer is hidden, or too complicated, or if
you’re asking for too much information, your response will be
affected. Make it easy.

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Category: Direct Marketing, General, Online Marketing | 3 Comments »

Avoid disaster when migrating to digital media

December 16th, 2016 by Bob Bly

It’s ironic.

Direct response guys by far know more about what works in
marketing than anyone else, because we generate tangible results
on every promotion. And these results are measured.

Yet more and more marketers are bypassing direct response today
in favor of what is hot and trendy — specifically branding,
content marketing, digital marketing, and social media.

For instance, my friend BC, a veteran direct marketing pro,
recently wrote me an e-mail. He says:

“I’ve had so many clients insist on dropping what they call
‘traditional’ media for digital and social media, only to have a
harsh awakening as their response plummets.

“One such client is a small community college who was struggling
during the recession. They were down to just under 7,000
students and state funding was cut.

“Teaching jobs were on the line. We launched a campaign with
traditional media with the right message. And in just 2
enrollment periods — spring and fall of the same year — we
raised enrollment to just over 11,000 students … an increase of
57%.

“We sustained that number and even moved it up a notch or two for
3 years. Then the college’s Marketing Committee got comfortable
and bored, fired us, and hired a digital/social media agency.

“The new media agency produced disastrous results. Enrollment
went from just over 11,000 students down to 6,500 students in 2
enrollment cycles. The last numbers I learned of were below 4,500
students.

“Now the college doesn’t have an ad budget, and most of the
Marketing Committee, who were also professors and instructors,
have been let go due to lack of funds.

“The college’s Marketing Director was moved from his office suite
in the main building to an office on a remote side of the campus.

“This is why I always tell clients to ease into ‘new media’
slowly — and test, test, and test!”

I urge you to consider BC’s story and advice carefully. He is a
top pro and he knows what he is talking about.

In my view, this myopic college Marketing Director, who had BC’s
vast expertise as his disposal, starved to death with a loaf of
bread under each arm.

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Category: Direct Marketing, Online Marketing | 2 Comments »

Direct mail: what’s a good response rate?

July 29th, 2010 by Bob Bly

Most people, when discussing direct mail response rates, think in
terms of percentages.

For years, 2% was viewed as an “average” response rate.

The problem is that percentages don’t take into account things
like the cost of the mailing or the price of the product being
sold.

A much better measure of direct mail response rates is
“break-even.”

“Break even” means the sales generated by a mailing is equal to
the cost of the mailing.

For a mailing that generates 150% of break-even, you make $1.50
in sales for every $1 you spend on the mailing, including printing,
list, and postage.

Here is a free online calculator you can use. It calculates the
percentage response rate your mailing must achieve to reach break
even. That way, you know whether your 1% response rate is good,
fair, or terrible in terms of ROI.

The online response calculator is free ? there’s no cost to use
the calculator as often as you like:

www.dmresponsecalculator.com

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Category: Direct Marketing | 29 Comments »

Direct Mail Preferred Over E-Mail?

May 4th, 2010 by Bob Bly

In his column in Target Marketing (5/2010, p. 42), Denny Hatch said that a large percentage of the population — 18 to 34 year olds and 62-plus — prefer direct mail to e-mail.

If you are in these groups, or outside them, which would you rather receive — e-mail marketing, direct mail, both, or neither?

If neither, what’s the best way for marketers to communicate with you?

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Category: Direct Marketing | 38 Comments »