Top 10 Tips on Turning Yourself Into a Direct Marketer

For years, direct marketing was considered the step-child to brand and product advertising. DM isn't sexy. It doesn't have huge TV budgets and it doesn't demand that its creators dress in flashy clothes and exude chic 100 percent of the time.

I came from brand advertising. As a brand copywriter I won lots of major awards, blah, blah, blah. But over the past few years, I've come to admire and learn the disciplines of direct marketing.

So hereunder are my top 10 tips on how you can make the transition from becoming whatever kind of marketer you are into a direct marketer. Good luck.

1. Watch yourself: You're not all that different from your audience. If you think you are, something is probably wrong, as you need to identify and ally yourself closely with them. Examine what pitches appeal to you and which ones don't. Start a swipe file of best of direct mail and email solicitations. Watch infomercials. See what themes are repeated in the same spot and how the offer is structured.

2. Befriend direct marketers: Observe how they talk and what they talk about. The difference between these guys and brand marketers is like night and day. DMers believe in what works, not what looks good. Results impress them. Creative for creative's sake doesn't.

3. Subscribe to the trade newspapers: You must follow the trade papers and see where you fit in. Are you a database guy? A list manager or broker? A copywriter or art director? Ask yourself why.

4. Start salting your language with DM terms: Use DM phrases like “call to action,” “RFM” (Recency Frequency and Monetary Value) and “list fatigue.” Just make sure you know what these things mean before you start casually dropping them into your language.

5. Start an e-mail newsletter and track what works: True DMers never, never, never stop testing. They're fascinated by what works and what doesn't. Nothing is a failure, but rather more evidence of what does and doesn't work. An e-mail newsletter is an inexpensive way to start taking the temperature of your marketplace. When you speak from experience, people must and will listen to you.

6. Read the masters: Buy books from all those people who are mentioned in this newsletter. Never stop reading. While the laws of human nature (on which DM is based) don't change, the marketing environment and media through which offers are made does.

7. Check out seminars: Available from the likes of Jay Abraham and the Direct Marketing Association in order to meet and learn from leaders in this field. Note who their influences are and then read books written by those people as well.

8. Watch good sales people in action: These guys are retailers, but keep in mind retail is based on the same principles as DM. They show you value, a unique selling proposition and give reasons why you should buy now, instead of later.

9. Subscribe to direct mail newsletters: We recommend those from John Forde,; Dan Kennedy,; Bob Bly,; and Bret Ridgway/TWI Press,

10. Practice writing sales letter copy even if you're not a copywriter: By doing this, you'll have an insight into what goes into a compelling sales letter and how one is structured. You'll never look at another sales letter the same way again.

Bonus tip: Make sure you always include a bonus when you write a sales letter. People love bonuses and quite often make their decision to buy based on that bonus.

P.S. Always include a P.S. in your sales letter: After the salutation, it's the most read component of a sales letter. It typically restates the whole value proposition and often adds one more component to close the sale. Good luck.

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