The direct marketing principles in this article apply to other direct channels such as print, DRTV and permission email. These principles are generally accepted by direct marketing professionals who know what they know through empirical testing. In other words, for direct marketers, this knowledge does not come from customer surveys where customers say one thing but do the opposite when they pull out their checkbooks. But rather these answers are based on actual behavior and results taken from thousands of direct response tests performed across virtually every industry and audience.
1. Great creative execution is as important to a successful direct marketing program as the offer.
This is false.
A great offer will out pull almost any well executed creative execution.
Brawn wins over beauty in direct response marketing. In fact, slickness often reduces response. But all things being equal, make your offer easy to understand. Match it with well thought out benefit copy to show the prospect how to win by buying your product.
2. Words like FREE and INTRODUCTORY are so overused they have lost their effectiveness.
Again, this is false.
These words continue to increase response as they have for generations. I do believe, as some have concluded, that a good brand has become more important than ever in a world overflowing with new products. But wisely incorporate news and compelling FREE offers if given the opportunity.
For one high-end jewelry retailer, we overcame the concern we had about weakening the brand with words like FREE by converting the FREE offer into a Gift Certificate. The offer was a $100 free gift certificate for any past customer who purchased over $500 or more of product in a single visit if purchased within the next 30 days. It was the most successful traffic builder they had ever created.
3. Successful direct marketing copy should strive for brevity above all, because the audience of today has little time to read.
The opposite is true. Longer copy that spells out the benefits for responding to your offer now gets higher response rates. Oh, but you might say, my executive customers and professionals don't have the time to go through that much copy!
That seems logical, but long copy pulls better because your copy must neutralize buyer resistance.
Therein lies the key - the buying audience. This is the group that will actually respond to you and not everyone who receives your message. You are talking in full only to those prospects who intend to buy or respond to you for more information. Those .03%-2% of the direct mail recipients will actually read much of the copy. The balance of the recipients will scan your headline and your offer deciding not to proceed further.
Added to that, you want to do all you can to address your buying audience's questions and objections right then. It will often be your only chance to make the sale.This applies to all audiences.
I have tested long versus short copy across many professions and demographics. This included working moms, high-level executives, insurance sales representatives and physicians. The tests came back with the same answer. Write the complete story., even if it requires a lot of copy.
In future posts, I will address other assumptions about direct marketing creative work that hamstring direct mail efforts.