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Timeless Direct Marketing Strategies

Presentation given at Publishers Association of the South (PAS) 1999 Publishers Winter Conclave Jan. 22-24 New Orleans, Louisiana, Hotel St. Marie

31 Timeless Direct Marketing Strategies


Andrew S. Linick, Ph.D.—The Copyologist®

Keynote Speaker


There are really two major timeless strategies and two strategies only in direct marketing:

Strategy #1. For Maximum Results—Test and Measure Everything!

Strategy #2.   Repeat Strategy #1.

—The Copyologist’s Most Respected Strategies

The next 30 timeless strategies were culminated from some of the brightest minds in the DM/Publishing industry, namely—Bob Stone, Jim Kobs, David Ogilvy, Joe Pinkus, Ed Nash, Melvin Powers, and Jack Oldstein to name a few. Before we continue, let’s think about the inner meaning of the next three statements: The difficulty in life is choice. The cost of a thing is the amount of life you must exchange for it. Everybody is intelligent only on different subjects. As Arsenio Hall would say, "Hmmm." Here’s more.


1.) All customers are not created equal. Give or take a few percentage points, 80% of your repeat business for goods and services comes from 20% of your customer base.

2.) What is the most important order you ever get from a customer? The second order.

Do you understand why? A two-time buyer is at least twice as likely to buy again as a one-time buyer.

3.) Basically, maximizing direct mail success depends on three things. Can anyone tell me what they are?

• the lists you use,

• the offers you make, and

• the copy and graphics you create.

4.) Let’s talk about lists. How many of you have used "hotline" names from a given listand they didn’t work?    If this happens, forget about using other list categories from the list. Success is unlikely.

5.) How many of you are familiar with merge and purge for removing duplicate names from mass mailing programs?

A bonus feature of any merge and purge program is the multi-buyer file. Such names—those buyer names that appear on two or more lists— constitute choice prospects. They qualify for follow-up mailings on the same proposition and will outpull any single list from which these names have been extracted.

6.) Direct response lists—names of proven buyers—will nearly always outpull compiled lists. The names and addresses on these lists are derived from such sources as directories, newspapers, public records, retail sales slips, and trade-show registrations to identify groups of people who have something in common.

7.) Have you ever used cold lists, unconfirmed mail-order buyers? Lists that identify groups of people with something in common? What was your response? A new catalog to your catalog customer base (house list) will outpull cold lists by 400 to 800 percent.

8.) Overlays on lists, or list enhancements, such as lifestyle characteristics, income, education, age, marital status, and propensity to respond by mail or phone will always improve response.

9.) A follow-up to the same list within 30 days will pull 40 to 50% of the first mailing.

10.) What about strategic offers?

"Yes/No" offers, or involvement offers, consistently produce more orders than offers that don’t request "no" responses. You ask prospects to respond, to make a conscious decision. They express that decision usually through a token or stamp, indicating acceptance or rejection of your offer.

Historically, more favorable responses are received with this type offer than when no rejection option is provided. Can anyone tell me why?

The yes-no device plays on a basic human trait. it’s probably true that most people dislike saying "no." They are more likely to say "yes," if confronted with making a yes-no decision.

11.) The "take-rate," or acceptance, for negative option offers always outpulls positive option offers at least two-to-one. I’m certain most of you are familiar with these options, but let’s review them quickly:

Negative option: a buying plan in which a customer agrees to accept and pay for products or services announced in advance at regular intervals unless the individual notifies the company within a reasonable time after announcement not to ship.

Positive option: a method of distributing products/services incorporating the same advance notice technique as negative option, but requiring that a direct action be taken—a specific order each time from the customer. Generally, this is more costly and less predictable than negative option. Yet while front-end response is likely to be lower, long-pull sales are likely to be greater.

By a show of hands, who here has employed either or both of these offers? What was your experience?

12.) Have you utilized time limit offers?

This should interest you. Time limit offers outpull discount offers consistently, and especially when the gift appeals to a prospect’s self-interest. Setting a time limit forces action, either positive or negative. Usually it’s more effective to name a specific date rather than a time period.

13.) You’ve all heard the expression: can’t see the forest for the trees. Here’s a question to stimulate your thinking, although some of you may find it a no brainer. What type of gift offer, especially when combined with impulse-purchases, increases order volume by 35% or more? FREE gift offers, of course!

But free gifts can be a tricky business. To achieve best results, test several gifts to determine the most appealing. While there’s no set criterion for the cost of a gift as related to selling cost, the following criteria must be considered:

• gift appropriateness

• effect on repeat business

• net profit per thousand circulation or distribution, including cost of gift

14.) Credit card privileges will out-perform cash with order at least two-to-one. And the icing on the cake? When charge privileges are offered, the average mail order is 20 percent higher than the average cash order.

15.) Is it worthwhile taking the time and making the effort to get a merchant account?

Accepting credit card orders increases the size of your average catalog order by 20% or more.

16.) Another sales tool, also when combined with impulse-purchases, will increase your order volume 35% or more. It’s very well known in publishing. Can anyone tell me what it is? (Hint: Think Publishers’ Clearing House.)

You’re right! Sweepstakes. When it comes to sweepstakes contests, the yes-no feature discussed earlier is a legal necessity.

17.) Let’s touch upon fund-raising. Has anyone here had experience with this?

Most importantly, ask for a specific amount from a purchaser and you will collect far more money in a fund-raising effort. Likewise, you will collect more money when your appeal is tied to a specific project.

18.) Translate selling points into benefits—basic human wants. While selling points or features, or advantages, are important, benefits increase sales. The more benefits your customer perceives, the more likely the customer will buy.

Let’s use a portable counter-top microwave oven as an example. SP: Has a 2 minute operating cycle. BEN: Warms up your entire meal in only 2 minutes with a touch of a button. SP: Measures 20 inches in diameter. BEN: Small enough to fit under a counter top without taking up precious space.

In publishing, for example, a feature or selling point is a how-to book. The benefit is the various ways it’s going to help or affect readers. Here’s another example:

The Spring/Summer 1999 Career Press catalog features Roger Dawson’s Secrets of Power Negotiating. A selling point or feature is that this second edition is completely updated to reflect the changing dynamics of business today. But here is the benefit copy:

• Business owners will learn how to dramatically improve profits.

• All readers will find how to develop power and control over their ability to get what they want—in all areas of their lives.

• Readers learn how to win negotiations and leave the other person feeling like he or she has actually won. (This is the strongest benefit by far.)

Someone give me other examples of a selling point vs. a benefit.

19.) You improve your chances of making a sale the longer you can keep someone reading your benefit laden copy. Consumers gravitate to down-to-earth, me-to-you-ish copy, while the business professional likes to get down to the nitty-gritty pronto. Remember, for them time is money.

20.) I want to mention renewal letters here. Yes, timing and frequency is vital. But in all my 30 years of circulation experience, I’m convinced attempts to hype renewals with "improved copy" is a waste of time and creative effort. It all comes down to the "product"—a magazine, for example. The perception of an excellent publication where the benefits outweigh the price is the number one factor in making a renewal decision.

21.) How many of you use self-mailers in your marketing and promotions?

This may surprise you. While self-mailers are cheaper to produce, they practically never outpull envelope enclosed letter mailings.

22.) While we’re talking about response, realize that it’s easier to increase the average dollar amount of an order than it is to increase the percent of response.

23.) I’m sure everyone here advertises. How many of you use ad pre-prints in your sales campaigns?

Send out a pre-print of one of your forthcoming ads, accompanied by a letter and response form, and by our considerable experience, you’ll outpull your post-print mailing package by 50% or more.

24.) New catalog customers. You can significantly increase their number, if you put your current and past proved winners in the front pages of your catalog.

25.) Speaking of catalog customers, a 32-page catalog will always get a higher response rate than a       24-page catalog— assuming items of similar appeal.

26.) How many of you use bind-in-cards?

Attach a bind-in-card to a print ad and you’ll outpull the same ad without a bind-in up to 600 percent.

The reason is self-evident. Pick up a magazine, thumb through its pages, and see for yourself how effectively the bound-in card flags down the reader. Each time someone picks up the publication, there is the insert card pointing to your message. Another reason is the ease with which the reader can respond. The business reply card, or BRC, eliminates the trouble of addressing an envelope, providing a stamp, and so on.

Of course, you must face the fact that the best things in life are not free. While insert card advertising costs more, most times it’s worth every dollar spent.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb to guide you: when the cost of the insert unit adds up to as much as 4x the cost of an ordinary black-and-white page, you will have to receive 4x the response to justify the added expense.

For most direct response advertisers, the response is likely to be 6 to 8x as great when pulling for an order and as much as 6 to 8x as great in pulling for inquiries. You can expect to cut your cost per response by 50 percent or more with an insert card as opposed to an ordinary on-page coupon ad.

27.) What about TV commercials as a selling tool?

It may interest you to know that a 120-second direct response, direct sale TV commercial will outpull a 60-second one by better than two-to-one.

28.) A simultaneously running TV support commercial, run at the same time as any related newspaper advertising, will boost your newspaper response up to 50 percent.

29.) Let’s not forget telemarketing. No surprise here, only good, basic, common sense. You can increase your outbound telemarketing closure rate effectiveness by two to four times. Just use qualified leads over cold calls, sometimes called cold call prospecting or canvassing.

30.) And finally, telephone generated leads are likely to close four to six times greater than mail generated leads.

31.) Bonus: There are three kinds of people in publishing: those who make things happen, those who watch things happening, and those who don’t know what’s happening. I like this saying. Make certain you get into and stay in that first group of imaginative doers and you’ll experience both fun and growth in your own publishing activity.

Also, keep in mind, we all advertise to sell something to someone, hopefully more than once. If your direct mail piece, space ad, brochure, commercial and any other mediums worked once, continue to use it until it no longer pays out. Getting repeat sales and retaining loyal customers is key to making and keeping more profits in the millennium. Best of luck!

Andrew S. Linick, Ph.D., founder (1968), The Author’s, Writer’s & Publishers Advice-line™ helps thousands of self/first-time small and medium/large publishers—entrepreneurs successfully produce, market and sell books/information products. He’s author-publisher of 12 books … 450 articles … owns three book clubs. Get guaranteed, bankable marketing advice and dm/mo advertising copywriting expertise. Book NOW!

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