LinkedIn Influencer, Alex Banayan, published this post originally on LinkedIn. In business school we’re shown case studies about Apple, Starbucks, and those other big guys – but the idea that their marketing methods are “best” is the biggest lie in business. Just because it works for them doesn’t mean it will work for the rest of us who work at small or medium sized businesses. What you should be learning in business school is that you should not be focused on brand marketing like Apple or Starbucks – but rather on direct marketing. Every dollar you spend on marketing should be tracked and expected to produce a return. Billboards and Super Bowl commercials only work for the 1%. So if you’re serious about upping your marketing game, you need to refocus on learning what the best direct marketers do to build successful businesses. And one of the best resources on this subject is Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Direct Marketing. Below are 10 rules from the book:
1. ALWAYS INCLUDE AN OFFER
As Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of marketing is to create a customer.” If you don’t include an offer, you’re creating more awareness instead of more customers – a poor result when you have dollars on the line. Make the call to action clear and direct.
2. GIVE A REASON TO RESPOND RIGHT NOW
With everything going on in our busy lives, we’re either going to take advantage of an offer now – or not at all. Put a time limit. Make it a limited quantity offer. Put a sense of urgency. Grab the attention of the people who see your ads and give them a reason to act right now. Related: 3 Career Mistakes You Can’t Afford To Make (LinkedIn)
3. GIVE CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS
Don’t assume people will know what to do when they see your marketing material. Tell them exactly what step you want them to take next. You’ll be amazed how this skyrockets your conversions.
4. FOCUS ON TRACKING, MEASUREMENT, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
If you’re not testing and tweaking your marketing continuously, you are guaranteed it won’t be as effective as it could be. And the only way to test is to track and measure everything. In fact, if it can’t be tracked and measured – don’t do it.
5. ONLY DO NO-COST BRAND BUILDING
There’s nothing wrong with brand building. It’s only wrong when you pay for it. Jack Trout (author of Positioning) said it best when he said that unless you have a billion dollars, don’t start a brand building campaign. Instead, focus on direct marketing. Enjoy any brand building you get as a bonus of your marketing – not as the goal.
6. ALWAYS FOLLOW-UP
Dan Kennedy once asked a room of business owners which battery company ran ads with the bunny that kept “going and going”. Half the room thought it was Duracell. So if Energizer spent billions of dollars on advertising and still couldn’t get people to remember their brand – do you really think just one ad or marketing effort is enough to sway people to your cause? You need to follow up – follow up with your prospects, follow up with your customers.
7. MAKE IT LOOK LIKE MAIL-ORDER ADVERTISING
Most people think mail-order advertising is ineffective. But the truth is, it works big time. The point is that mail-order advertisements are some of the most tested marketing pieces that exist. So study them. Use them as role models for all your campaigns. Related: 3 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life (LinkedIn)
8. STRENGTHEN YOUR COPY
Most marketing we see in the digital age is made of nice pictures and cute catch phrases – seems that the people behind those ads forgot that those things don’t make people buy. And remember our goal: to make people buy your product. So focus on writing in a way that sells – focus on strong copy. (I highly recommend the book How To Write An Advertisement as a great guide for that).
9. FOCUS ON RESULTS. PERIOD.
It doesn’t matter what image or copy you like, or which ad you think you should use. As a marketer, you need to listen and act only on results.
10. PUT YOUR BUSINESS ON A STRICT DIRECT MARKETING DIET
Next time your local newspaper calls about putting your logo on the fourth page – say “no” – unless you’re ready to use the above 9 points in there as well. Forget about awareness marketing and go on the diet of business champions: direct marketing.
These days, marketing is all about digital. We are emailing, blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking our little marketeer hearts out. So direct mail (the kind that the postal delivery person puts in your mailbox, remember?) must be dead in the water. Right? Wrong. According to the Direct Mail Association (DMA) Factbook for 2013, 65% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase as a result of direct mail. According to Direct Mail News, in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4% for both business-to-business and business to consumer mailings—considerably higher than industry expectations, and surging past electronic mail’s response rate of just 0.12%. All this indicates that direct mail is alive and working well, thank you. Many of our clients, including those in high tech, are recognizing this and direct mail is going through a renaissance. They may have maximized their online spend and need to find another channel, or they may enjoy such a high response to direct mail that it’s added to the mix from the start. Either way, the results are highly satisfactory and direct mail is becoming a staple in their marketing plans.
COST PER LEAD ABOUT THE SAME AS EMAIL
“Well, OK,” you might argue. “But it still costs more to mail something printed than to send out email. What about ROI?” Good question, you! However, the raw cost of a campaign isn’t the true test of success. Cost per lead is. The DMA reports that the cost per lead of direct mail is in line with print and pay-per-click, and significantly less than telemarketing (See Table 1). Direct mail production costs are somewhat more than email, but not enough to make email the holy grail of direct marketing.
TABLE 1: COST PER LEAD COMPARISON
Source: DMA, 2012 Response Rate Report With a higher conversion rate than any other medium, the Print on Demand Institute (PODI) found that direct mail out-pulled all other channels tested in terms of conversion rates, both for lead-generating “free” offers and one-step “buy now” offers. Direct mail’s edge becomes even more dramatic when it is optimized with personalization and other factors, and combined with personalized landing pages. Try adding your existing landing page URL to direct mail. Some buyers really prefer to respond online, and this may bring in more business at zero additional cost. This becomes even more effective when you use a personalized vanity URL that is easy to remember and to type—www.ABCcorp.com/John.
Direct mail doesn’t have to be large and expensive to be effective. The U.S. Postal Service found that postcards are the mail format most likely to be read or scanned. It may be that postcards don’t take much time to read. This means that to be effective, the prospect needs to understand your offer within seconds of glancing at it. Some of the same rules apply to postcards as to emails in terms of how much information can be effectively communicated. Test postcard performance by using your best-performing promotional email as the starting point. Put the image and header on one side and the body copy on the other. Oversized postcards tend to get more attention, so try a large-format card size. Then see how your postcard test performs against email. Remember, postcards are a great deal less expensive to print and mail than most forms of direct mail.
DIRECT MAIL LISTS ARE BETTER QUALITY
Direct mail list vendors have been working on their databases for decades. Email lists are improving, but they are still not at the same level of quality. This means that your direct mail list from a good vendor will be more tightly targeted on your desired customer. Don’t forget to use your house list as well; house lists tend to outperform rented lists by orders of magnitude. If you haven’t started a house list, now is the time. Include customers who have responded or bought previously as well as former customers (you might be able to woo them back with the right offer). Your time and attention to this mundane but critical task will be repaid many times over.
BREAK OUT OF THE MAILBOX
If you are using envelopes, you already know that the only purpose of the “outer” is to make sure the envelope gets opened and the contents read. Take the time to test the messaging on the outers. Tweak the wording or rephrase altogether to see if one version pulls better than another. And test “blind” outers as well; they often pull better than teasers because they don’t notify recipients that they are opening direct mail.
USE THE RIGHT DIRECT MAIL FORMAT
How well does your direct mail format correlate with what you are selling? Fun, glitzy pieces that work well for cosmetics or fashion will not fly if you are selling financial services; a somber No. 10 envelope would be more credible because that’s what people expect from financial services. Start collecting direct mail pieces as a reference library. Focus on direct mail aimed at your audience and analyze what the senders’ intentions were, the calls to action, graphics, etc.
Personalized communications continue to out-do generic pitches in all categories. But using a person’s name is just the beginning—the content needs to be personalized as well. For example, if you are marketing high tech products that run on different platforms, users will have different hot buttons. A generic message that focuses on only one platform will not be relevant to other customers. Wording that tries to cover issues for all platforms will be cumbersome and uninteresting to most recipients. It’s worth the extra time and small expense to assure that your piece says the right thing to the right people.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Direct mail campaigns used to take weeks to execute because of the time it took to develop concepts, print, etc. That can still be true of large and elaborate campaigns, but now marketers can take advantage of digital print-on-demand. This allows you to be far more flexible in how you use direct mail. For example, American Signature Furniture once conducted a test, sending a self-mailer to people who visited a showroom but did not buy. The mailer included the customers’ names and the name and contact information for the sales rep who served them, as well as the date and time of the visit. Photos displayed the styles they considered during their visit to the store. Results were impressive. People who receive the mailer and return to purchase spend about 40% more than those who did not receive the mailer. The reminder also boosted return visits to the store by 10%. Use direct mail as an adjunct to other sales and promotion efforts. Salespeople who complete a sales call can drop a postcard in the mail on the same day, thanking the customer and perhaps offering a special discount. Direct mail can support an email campaign as well. Of course, seasonality is important. If your swimming pool-supply business peaks during the warm months, be sure to send direct mail in March reminding pool owners of the delights of the summer to come—and the importance of having a clean, sparkling pool to enjoy.
3-D or dimensional mailings, whether they take the form of a box with a teaser on the outside or a tube, outperform standard formats by 250%, according to the DMA, but increase the cost per lead by only 50%. Use dimensional mailers with high-value prospects, and make an even higher impact by following up with a telemarketing call. I’ve seen a combination of email, direct mail, and telemarking consistently yield a 13% to 15% response, and once you have them engaged on the phone you can qualify them for lead quality and pass the “A” leads immediately onto the sales department.
Amid a plethora of promotional techniques that are extremely hard to quantify (such as social media marketing), direct mail remains refreshingly measurable. Every lead or order can be traced back using source codes or other techniques. This allows you to experiment with different approaches to determine which ones are the most successful. It also allows you to quantify your ROI and justify costs.
Finding new customers can be a challenge, which is why the right marketing strategy is critical. While the growth of the internet has led many businesses to focus on online marketing, direct mail is still one of the strongest and most cost effective ways for small businesses to gain new customers. Below are three tips for using direct mail.
- In order to find new potential customers, it is vital that you have an understanding of your customer base. Who is your current customer? What characteristics do they share – The area they live, Age, Income, Home Value, Children, Occupation . . . as much as you can find. Use this understanding to help shape your marketing messages.
- Target those customers. Work with your direct mail consultant to identify consumers who are most likely to become customers.
- Choose the correct mailing list. Once you’ve identified your ideal customer and determined where they live, you can target them with your direct mail. A mailing list that matches your demographics will help you save money by avoiding areas that do not fit.
Source: “Direct Mail Marketing Is Still Relevant.” Sally Smith. www.exploreb2b.com, 12/21/13.