Ram Rumps and New Year's Resolutions

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New Year's Day is one of the oldest, most universal celebrations. It began 4,000 years ago in Babylonia, where it was celebrated in late March and lasted for 11 days. Despite the centuries that have passed, much of what the Babylonians did is very familiar -- eating and drinking themselves silly, staging elaborate parades and, yes, even making resolutions.


What were the two most popular resolutions back then? To pay off debts and return borrowed tools. Those are still good personal resolutions, but what about business resolutions? Well, I don't know whether they made formal business resolutions -- I only know that since business back then was largely agricultural, they would rub the rump of a beheaded ram against the temple walls to ensure a good crop in the new year.


I've never tested ram rump rubbing, so I don't know whether it would have a significant effect on your direct marketing results. But there are other ways to ensure better business next year:


· Make it tempting. Maybe you have that one-in-a-million product that's so desirable all you have to do is stick it under people's noses and mention the price. But for everyone else, it's a good idea to make an offer: free trial, gift with purchase, dollars off, installment billing, whatever. (See my list of proven offers in the Marketing Resources section at www.DirectCreative.com.)


· Make it free. I've actually had clients tell me that their customers were too sophisticated to respond to freebies. Bull! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, likes free stuff. Anytime you can throw in something free, do it: free premium, free sample, free accessories, free upgrade, free consultation - you name it.


· Make it informative. People make buying decisions based on information. And if they don't have enough information, the decision will be "No." In general, the less familiar people are with the product category or the product itself, the more information they need. For products and services that are expensive, complex, new, hard to explain or which require a considerable commitment, you may need a two-step offer or a free trial.


· Make it easy. Convenience is one of the main reasons people make transactions by way of direct marketing. So it is imperative that you make response as quick and effortless as possible. Make your offer easy to understand. Give short, simple ordering instructions. Provide toll-free numbers and postage-paid envelopes. Allow response via fax, e-mail and/or your Web site. Make order forms easy to fill out by preprinting your prospect's name and address.


· Make it clear. People don't buy things they don't understand. It might make sense to you, but does it make sense to your prospects? Show your ad to a few people outside your company. If they can't explain what you're selling within 10 seconds, you need to do some rewriting. Don't be fancy. Put away the thesaurus. Just say it!


· Make it direct. If you want people to do something, tell them to do it. On envelopes say "Look inside" or "Open immediately." In letters say "More" or "Read on" to bump readers to the next page. On order forms say "Complete and mail within 14 days" or "Ask for your free issue today." If you don't tell them to do it, they probably won't.


· Make it urgent. Experience reveals two interesting facts: 1) The longer a decision is postponed, the more likely a decision will never be made. 2) The sooner you can provoke a decision, the more likely it is to be in your favor. Therefore, you should leverage urgency enhancers, such as deadlines and limited inventories, as well as create an urgent tone in your copy and design.


· Make it valuable. You must show a value that seems equal to or greater than the asking price. The greater the value relative to the price, the more likely people are to respond. If I say the Euro Sealer costs $19.95, it seems like a good price. But if I also note that other electric sealers cost more than $200 and that you can save over $500 a year in spoiled food, now it's a value that can't be ignored.


· Make it risk-free. You must always overcome a certain level of uncertainty. People ask themselves, "Does this really work? What if it doesn't? Has it worked for others? Can I return it?" Address these concerns by providing guarantees, testimonials, product reviews, return policies, customer service numbers and other assurances of satisfaction.


Of course, feel free to try ram rump rubbing if you want. I mean, it worked for the Babylonians. So maybe it'll work for you.


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