Direct Marketing: It's About the People

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OK, we have our demographics, psychographics, statistical modeling, ZIP analysis, name segmentation and all the facts and figures that tell us about segments, groups and tendencies. But do we really know the folks who make up these segments and statistics? Do we know the subjective traits about them? Are we positioned in their lives as someone who knows them and they like doing business with?


I've found some direct marketers and retailers do know about their customers. Most don't. "Know thy customer" is the No. 1 commandment of direct marketing. It's ingrained in copy, creative, product catalogs and direct mail offers. Bottom line, the more you know about them, the better your ROI will be. Here's what I have learned about people:


1. Change. The majority of people do not embrace change with open arms. There's comfort in sameness. When you offer a new product or offer, you have to make your customers comfortable with it by taking away all barriers that they could possibly say "no" to.


2. Folks will become advocates of your company if they believe in what you say. If your company can stake a credible product and overall leadership position within your marketing arena, people will sign on to your team and products. They also will dump you in a heartbeat when you show a lack of trust or inconsistency.


3. Like attracts likes. People are comfortable with other people who share the same interests, lifestyles and needs. If your company legitimately comes across as appealing to their lifestyle with products or services, they will reward you with an order.


4. I'll do it tomorrow. I'll exercise tomorrow. Why take the stairs when we can use the escalator? We are a lazy lot! The same holds true for the folks we try to entice with our direct marketing efforts. They do not want to jump through hoops or have roadblocks in the way when buying your product.


5. I don't have time for that, just give me the executive summary. We live in a 24/7 world with 25/8 things to do and accomplish. We just don't have enough time. The same holds true for all those people you're trying to get to buy your product or service. We have become an information byte world with no time. Today, folks glance at offers and ask, "What's in it for me?" or "How will it improve my life, looks, health or sex appeal?" If your mail offer, media ad or electronic message does not bring instant gratification, it will be doomed to the circular file.


6. We like organization in our lives. There's comfort in that. We spend inordinate amounts of time and money trying to get organized. The same applies to direct marketing. People like to see offers that can make things simple. A checklist of how to achieve wealth, a four-step plan to better health, the formula for looking beautiful. Your catalog, direct mail offer or Web site must reflect organization. Your products or services have to reflect it in the copy. Bullets, call-outs, checklists and recaps are organized thoughts.


7. People like the feeling of power and control. Some want more, some less. For the most part, folks like to be in the driver's seat calling the shots. Far too many direct marketers fail to realize that "yes" people want control, but that they need to be "nudged" into making a decision to order. This offer ends at "X" date … this is your last opportunity to save … be one of the first 500 people to order and get this free gift.


8. We are all hedonists to some degree. We expect and believe that we deserve all that comes with the good life. The same hedonistic belief dwells in the minds of your potential customer. It's your job to answer these questions and tell them convincingly how your product or service will benefit them. If you fail to answer the what's-in-it-for-me question, expect your P&L to run red.


9. People are cynical. Some a lot. Some not so much. Direct marketing in simplistic terms is the art of extracting money from people in exchange for goods or services. Unfortunately, the business also has its charlatans who sell by fraud and deception. The consumer has been taught to be cynical. Trust, credibility and honesty are subjective concerns that have to be positively addressed.


10. We are an inquisitive species. It's an admirable quality, but not when it comes to the direct mail offer. I continue to be amazed at how many marketers leave questions - roadblocks to ordering - in the consumer's mind. Committing and placing an order is a leap of faith on the customer's part. Really look at your offer and answer the questions before it mails so you won't be questioning its low response.


11. We want to be wanted. Clothing, fragrances, music, cars and more are out there to boost us up the scale of being wanted and desired. The same holds true for current and potential customers. They want to know that we need them and that we genuinely appreciate their business.


The point of all this is? Quite simply to get back to realizing that we're in the people business. It's absolutely critical to know the people who pay the bills. They are your customers. They have desires, fears, needs and wishes. Embrace them and weave your marketing and advertising strategies around them. Position yourself in every aspect to fulfill their needs and you'll take market share from your competitors … guaranteed.


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