First of all, direct response is NOT direct mail…. it is all channels that effectively give consumers/donors a chance to engage immediately. The response is able to be tracked directly from the channel used (web, mail, TV, radio …).
Direct response advertising is carefully crafted to allow the customer/donor to understand the sales proposition and respond immediately and directly to the store/corporation/organization. The Snuggie has already sold 25 million products in the US alone…. all from that little infomercial popping up at Christmas. That means that tonight, as the sun goes down, 1 out of every 12 Americans is curled up in their little Snuggie, playing on the iPad, messing with games on their android phone or using the remote – without any fear of their blanket falling from their shoulders.
Is direct mail dead? For more than 10 years this little question has been lingering in the minds of marketers. According to All Business, more than $37 billion advertising dollars are still invested into direct mail. Where surveyed, 18 – 34 year olds preferred offline marketing for health and household products. 45% of US men and 35% of Canadian men do not use social media – at all (Epsilon).
Direct response tactics, carefully crafted and implemented should impact all of your marketing efforts. The days of a chasm between brand advertising and direct response marketing are gone – especially in on-line formats and immersion marketing tactics. With new mobile and tablet devices, the opportunity using direct response theory to effectively increase your sales or donations is critical. Understanding the push to purchase will make all the difference in your bottom line.
So here are some foundational principles for success using direct response tactics:
1. Know who you’re talking to. Whether you are using a house list or purchasing a list, the audience is will determine your tone, your offer and your format.
2. Start strong. David Olgilvy, famous for pithy marketing wisdom, said: “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that, if you don’t sell the product in your headline, you have wasted 80% of your money.” You have to catch the customer/donor’s attention immediately.
3. Understand that your ultimate purpose is to motivate the customer or donor to ACT. Direct response marketing is designed for action. It is not to educate, inform or inspire; your ultimate goal in choosing direct response tactics is to get a response.
4. Take the time to convince your audience. Professional direct response writers are savvy – they understand that the amount of copy required for a direct response piece is the amount of copy that it will take you to convince your audience to act – no more, no less. This is counter intuitive. Most of my clients tell me that a one-page letter out-performs a two page letter. I tell them to show me the numbers. Frankly, a well written 4 pager that is easy to read and motivating is often the winner. Don’t trust your intuition – test.
5. Talk to your customer – not to your programmer, project lead, board member, great aunt or product designer. Use simple words. When I worked as a copy writer, my boss would automatically discount any word with more than 7 letters. Oops…. he would slash any word with more than 7 letters. He immediately questioned any sentence that was verbose and refused to accept my argument that the reader wanted a more intellectual approach to the sales. Oops, again – he insisted on sentences of 14 words or less.
6. Sell, clearly outlining the way to buy. I saw an ad for a new video in a magazine. It was on the back page – good choice, easy to see, easy to read. It was bold. As I scanned the ad, I realized that I had no idea what they wanted me to do. I think they wanted me to order the video – but it had no order information, phone number or e-list. Using words like “Call now.” “Go to www.”; “Respond immediately…” work. Frankly, the longer I work in a marketing environment, the more I realize that we are simple people, requiring simple instructions (Go IKEA).
7. The offer is KING. The copy is queen, but using a medieval, gender biased example, offer is king. Fashioning the offer in a way that will motivate the sale means that you have to know your customer. Think about these two offers: “BUY 2 iPads today and we will reduce the price of both of them by 50%.” OR “Buy your iPad today and we’ll give you another one FREE.” The very same ad – but one packs a punch.
8. Test, test, test…. Testing helps you understand your audience, product offer, graphics and copy. There are many different ways to test and important factors to take into consideration…. it’s a great topic for another blog!
Here’s my little quirk – I talked about a past boss (thanks Grant, I learned sooooo much from you) – but I too have acquired little quirks about marketing writing. Whenever you see the clause “it is….that” edit is out. Those of us who have suffered the trials and tribulations of academia have been well versed in passive writing. There is ABSOLUTELY (I realize I’m shouting, but it’s the end of the day and I really want to emphasize this)… once more, there is no reason to ever use the words “it is… that.” Check your writing and see if it ever crops up! Enjoy cutting it out, making your writing active and interesting. You may want to edit this article and see where I’ve messed up!