Are You Doing Direct Marketing?

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All true direct marketing messages, whether in direct mail, e-mail, print, television or other media, have three things in common: an offer; an answer to the question, "Why should I respond?"; and a way to get the offer.

If a message contains only one or two of these elements, it's simply a likeness of a direct marketing message rather than the real McCoy. Let's look at the three elements:

Make them an offer they can't refuse. Simply stated, an offer answers the question, "What do I get for doing what you want?" Here are examples of frequently used offers:

· Contests and sweepstakes (Kodak's photo contests).

· Early bird (buy at a special price before a specified deadline).

· Free trial (30-, 60- or 90-day).

· Money-back guarantee.

· Multiple-product offer (Ron Popeil's Ronco offers).

· Payment options (easier payment plans).

· Premiums (the Sports Illustrated cordless phone).

· Price incentives (discounts, sales prices, buy one get one free).

The best offers are attention grabbers, very believable and difficult to find elsewhere or turn down. Relating the offer to your product/service and the target audience (free commemorative football with a paid Sports Illustrated subscription) and making your offer free never hurts, either.

Many prominent direct marketers contend that the offer is the second-most-important direct marketing element behind the mailing list for direct mail and e-mail or media buy for direct TV.

Also, a common direct marketing tactic is to use a qualifier to clearly identify a target audience in conjunction with an offer. For example, if you're eligible for Medicare, call right now for this free guide to improving your Medicare coverage.

Tell them why they should respond. Boil down all of the possible reasons for using direct marketing and you're left with three primary reasons: making money, building a customer list or learning something. A direct marketer has to get a response to make money, build a customer list or learn something, though. So, getting a response is crucial.

When preparing a message, keep these three points in mind: People don't read a marketing message, they scan it; people look for what's in it for them first and foremost; and people need enough information to make an immediate decision.

A clear, compelling answer to the question, "Why should I respond?" greatly increases the likelihood of an immediate decision to respond.

Here are a few hints on writing a message that gets a response:

· The recipient of your message is the subject, not your product or service. Use "you" a lot.

· Presenting the benefits of your product or service is stronger than just giving features.

· Present the benefits of your offer and be as specific as possible in describing that offer.

· Answer "Why should I respond?" while writing with an audience of one in mind.

Give them a way to get the offer. After choosing an irresistible offer and writing recipient-focused copy, you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by making it difficult to get your offer and, ideally, your product or service.

The goal is to tell recipients exactly what you want them to do (call to action) and make it simple for them to do it. Giving several options is recommended in most cases: toll-free number, business reply card, e-mail address, fax sheet and URL for a Web site specifically for your campaign.

Without a clear call to action and a simple response mechanism, the effectiveness of your message will be reduced dramatically.


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