The questions I get asked the most often by my prospects are “what is the role of direct response in marketing?”, “why should I implement direct response?”, and “how do I make direct response work?”.
Do you have those same questions? Then keep reading… because I am going to answer all three questions in this article.
Here you will learn:
- why the direct response approach is the best marketing philosophy for small businesses,
- some marketing mistakes that you look dumb,
- and how to make the most of your direct response tactics.
But first, let me define the role of direct response in marketing.
The Role of Direct Response in Marketing
Direct response marketing (also known as direct marketing) is one of two marketing philosophies you can apply to your tactics. The other one is the brand or retail philosophy, but we’ll talk about that later.
The direct response philosophy consists of your customers, demonstrating through an influential emotional appeal, that their lives would be so much better if they owned what you offer.
But, what do I mean by “influential emotional appeal”?
I’m saying that with direct response marketing, you focus on appealing to your consumer’s basic emotions:
- fear of loss,
- the desire of acquiring something,
- feeling pride in who you are,
- or fulfilling strong sexual desires.
Once you connect with your consumer emotionally, you can present logic (facts and statistics) and allow the prospect to rationalize what you are offering. Thus, further strengthening the connection you have just made. And now that you have your would-be customer fully invested in your message, you go for the close.
Let Me Give You an Example…
Let’s take a local baker who is trying to sell me cake.
Now, if you think about it, a cake should be a hard sell because of the number of health issues they can bring upon consumption. And in today’s world of health awareness, they are considered nothing more than “pretty junk food”.
So, that’s a strong fact against eating cake. How does the baker sell it?
Simple: by focusing on my desire for something tasty.
If your local baker is a good salesperson, they will present me the short-term benefits I get from eating a slice of cake. Like how sweet it is. Or how it will dissolve in my mouth because it is so soft and fluffy. And how about the looks – you always eat with your eyes first, and a beautiful cake can get your mouth watery easily.
So, now the baker’s got my attention… yet I’m still hesitant due to my knowledge of cake. But the baker has got a card under his sleeve.
He just tells me that “nothing can make me happier than eating cake.” Which is true – cakes are made of sugar. Sugar creates endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people live longer!
Who doesn’t want to be happy? I know I do.
So, as soon as I’m given a price (call to action), I reach to my wallet and pay for my slice of cake. And that’s how direct response drives sales.
Why Direct Response Is the Right Philosophy for Businesses with Small Marketing Budgets
Somebody asked on Quora “Why do some commercial advertisements have nothing to do with their product?”. On January 15, I gave them this answer:
The short answer: agencies don’t care whether the ad sells or not.
The longer answer: These days, advertising agencies are filled with people who care more about being cool than being effective. So, they have created this illusion that “cute and funny” are what makes advertising great.
In reality, unless you are a global brand, you should give two shits about how many people watch your commercials. What you should care about is that at least one out of ten people who watch your ad actually buys your offer.
If you notice, companies like Geico and the likes create about 20 different sets of commercials to promote their brand. That’s because one of those on its own is worthless. Instead, they bombard you with crap to make sure you remember their name. Is that strategy effective – there’s no way to know, as those ads are not trackable.
Meanwhile, a 90-second DRTV spot allows you to know whether what you are spending on marketing works or not.
But agencies don’t want you to know about that because it exposes their work as what it is – a bunch of wannabe writers looking for poor suckers to give them money so they can live their Hollywood fantasies. It’s what’s hurting advertising today – and until entrepreneurs don’t wake up, the trend of worthless advertising will continue.Juan Israel Ortiz on Quora
Now, I may have been a little moody that day to give an answer like that one. But the fact remains that, you must know what’s working and isn’t so you can make the proper adjustments.
But if you don’t want to take my word for it…
The David Ogilvy School of Marketing
If you’ve been in the advertising business long enough, you may have heard about this guy…
If you are new to the industry, allow me to give you a quick 411:
David Ogilvy (23 June 1911 – 21 July 1999) was an advertising tycoon, founder of Ogilvy & Mather, and known as the “Father of Advertising”. His book “Ogilvy on Advertising” is a general commentary on advertising. While his book “Confessions of an Advertising Man” is a book on advertising. Definite must-reads for any direct-response professional.
Ogilvy’s advertising philosophy followed these four basic principles: creative brilliance (have a strong emphasis on the “BIG IDEA”); research (never underestimated its importance in advertising); actual results for clients (“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”); and professional discipline (“I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance.”).
Four Lessons to Learn from David Ogilvy
Here are the lessons I’ve learned from studying Mr. Ogilvy’s advertising career.
- Sell the product: It doesn’t matter how much time or space you’ve got for your advertisement, make sure to let the consumer know what you sell, why it is important, and how they can get it.
- Write for the consumer, not your client: It is all fine and dandy to please your client. In fact, that is my guarantee. But you must do it while giving the consumer of what you’re promoting what they want and need to hear for the purchase to take place.
- Turn features into benefits: keep on my previous line of thought – people don’t care about how cool or awesome your offer is. They want to know “what’s in it for me?”. And that’s what you should deliver.
- Advertising is a science: For advertising to be effective, you must measure your efforts. You must know what works and what doesn’t (for the sake of your budget). Making A/B testing a marketing habit can do wonders for your branding and sales volume. Don’t overlook it.
If there’s someone you should research to learn about what works in advertising and what doesn’t, it is David Ogilvy."Never stop testing, and your #advertising with never stop improving." – David Ogilvy #directresponse #marketing #ABtesting #directmarketing Click To Tweet
How Safe Is Your Marketing Budget from Glory-Hound Marketers?
Now that you know what the direct response philosophy is and why you should apply it to your marketing strategy, I would like to abound on the topic of brand marketing and some practices that I completely reject from a number of advertising agencies out there.
First, let me say – I believe there is a place in business for brand marketing. If you are in retail and a large marketing budget, I don’t see why you don’t take the risk of adding a little edge to your presentation. Take GEICO for instance.
GEICO has a very sound direct response strategy that generates them millions of dollars from their insurance offers. Thus, their marketing budget has increased, allowing them to take risks with their promotional tools. I can totally dig that.
What I don’t understand is how a mom-and-pop shop sees those GEICO commercials and think “we should try the same”. Which leads them to an ad agency who doesn’t care about their clients. You know the one – filled with wannabe Hollywood scriptwriters telling anyone who would listen that high-value production is the best marketing message you can send. When all they want is to have someone else’s money so they can live their dreams of Hollywood-esque production.
And eventually, as a result, you get a small business filing for bankruptcy due to wasting their resources on marketing efforts that bring in no revenue. They were just “clever”.
Well, “clever” is not gonna bring home the dough. And that’s one of the many marketing mistakes most direct-to-consumer businesses make. Especially in their early stage.
6 Marketing Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb
Let’s face it – we all make mistakes.
We don’t come to this world with any knowledge. So, we acquire it as we go through this beautiful journey, we call life. Thus, we are bound to make mistakes at one point or another.
There are mistakes, however, that are…
a) too logical for you to commit or b) allowed to be made just once. These are the errors that should be easy to detect and neutralize. You should not be making these mistakes – either constantly in short bursts or for long periods of time.
If you are making these mistakes regularly, regardless of the reason, you are losing credibility within your industry and local community. And you need to make amendments right now. Check out the following list and see if you are making these marketing mistakes…
Not Being Obsessed with Your Business
Since the beginning of time, the people who don’t give a f*ck about what they do end up accomplishing nothing. Even those who are talented hit a plateau when they don’t care about what they’re doing.
Passion and skill beat talent every time. Repeat that until you believe it.
And how does that apply to you? Well… let me answer that question with another question…
Who wants to partner up with someone who doesn’t give a damn about partnering; who is only doing because of financial gain?
If you want to be the go-to guy for your industry or community, you must show that you honestly care about providing excellence to those who need you.
Maintaining a level of commitment to delivering positive results at work (yes, excellent service is part of the direct response marketing philosophy) every single chance you get demonstrates how much passion you have for what you do. Which can do wonders for your business in terms of word-of-mouth.
Also, make sure you are making use of every single tool at your disposal to provide the best service. Because excellence drives results.
Becoming Overwhelmed by Having Too Many Ideas
Everyone in the creative world has had to face this at one point or another. If you haven’t you are not trying hard enough.
But yeah, there are times when you think more than one idea fits the campaign you want to launch. So, you don’t know what to pick, and you end up being a victim of “paralysis by analysis.”
You’re just too overwhelmed to go on with your plan. So, you hang it up and think about going after it when you are not stressed. But what ends up happening is that you get more work and more projects to do. And that one plan you had at first falls to the wayside. Perhaps not to be discussed again.
By applying the direct response philosophy, you don’t have to get overwhelmed by having too many ideas. Because you can test each one eventually (A/B testing) and see what you should stick.
Here’s what you do right away when you get overwhelmed:
- Take a moment to breathe and realize that there’s time to make every idea happen at a reasonable pace.
- Then make a mega-list of ideas and execute them accordingly.
If you don’t know which one to pick first, then ask a colleague or supervisor for their opinion.
Not Looking the Part
I hate the whole “fake it to make it” philosophy. Because there is so much that you need to fake out to make your pretended status believable.
How can you pretend to be a successful anything when you are starting out and you don’t have the knowledge, experience, or referrals to back up your words? A nice suit and haircut might get your foot in the door. But once you start peeling out the layers, the truth eventually comes out. And you end up looking like a fraud – not getting the job and hurting your reputation in the process.
In business, applying the “fake it until you make it” philosophy to your marketing efforts (specifically your branding) is one of the worst things you could ever do for your business. Because you are putting the trust your market is giving up in the balance – and one false step can make your customers lose faith in you.
And once your loyal customers leave you, the chances are slim that they will come back. At least for the immediate future.
Do not play with the trust embedded in you by your audience. Instead, be transparent and showcase the progress you have made as a business. That way, your customers know exactly what they are buying.
Not Asking for The Sale
Take a moment and think about the girl you like. When you first met her… Did you want her phone number? And what did you do? You got her attention and made her have an interest in you. So, then you could ask her for her phone without making it feel awkward.
That right there is direct response in its most social form. And I hope you realize the concept of direct response includes the word “response” in it. Because that’s what you are aiming to get – a response towards an offer. Regardless of what it is.
So, this one infuriates me to no end. Because you put all the effort in getting someone’s attention, making them have interest in what you have to offer, and building a desire for it on the other end…
Only to then say “Alright, see you later. Bye!”
Have the confidence in your ability to close the deal. You already did the hard part anyway. Now it’s a matter of asking a simple question…
“can you sign/purchase/shake my hand/whatever else?”
Do not leave a networking activity without asking for something. Even getting something simple like a business card or a phone number makes the time spent worthwhile.
Ask for the proverbial “sale”. Always.
Focusing on The Negatives
You will always have hurdles to overcome. As long as you live, there will always be an obstacle between you and what you want/need/love.
What will determine how quick you manage to win over those complications is the attitude you take towards handling adversity. If you are a talented individual, but you like to complain and gossip about your problems, then it’s going to take longer for you to solve a situation. Yet, if you are quite skilled and passionate, and face adversity with a “get it right” type of mentality, you will overcome everything in your way faster than the average Joe.
As I mentioned before, talent gets bet by passion and skill constantly. And a positive attitude solves problems quicker than the constant bitching and complaining.
Mindset-wise, direct response in marketing suggests that you want a positive response from your target as soon as possible. If a problem arises, then your ability to solve that problem quickly can affect the response you get from the customer. Thus, solving problems quickly increases the chance of you getting that positive response, instead of getting grouchy and gossiping to your prospect.
Focus on the opportunity, not the challenge.
Thinking You’re Stupid
Let me define what being stupid is to me, and how it contrasts from being ignorant.
To me, results coming from a place ignorance should be tolerated because there is no knowledge. It’s hard to blame you for something you don’t know how to do or why it’s there. Stupidity, on the other hand, should not be tolerated.
When you do something stupid, it’s because of not of a lack of knowledge, but poor decision making. If you know something’s bad and you decide to do it anyway, why should you get a pass? You made choice, live with the consequences of it.
However, just because you were stupid at one point doesn’t mean you get to wear the label for life. At least not unwillingly.
What I’m going to tell you now is what I’ve tried to tell you throughout this part of the article: we all make mistakes – get over it. If you did something ignorant, learn the lesson and move forward. If you did something stupid, accept it and move forward. Do not dwell on any mistakes you make, regardless of magnitude.
The most successful people in the world tend to have short memories when it comes to the mistakes they have made. They take what they’ve learned and forgotten about the incident. It’s up with whatever’s next. I think you should think the same way.
How to Boost Response Rates and Build Long-Lasting Customer Relationships
What matters in business is your ability to make sales. And with a direct response mentality, your focus would be entirely on doing just that.
Now, obviously, your goal is the get response from prospects (those are new sales) and old customers (who would be repeat sales). But, how can your marketing aid you achieve that?
Here are some pointers to help you out…
- Embrace the Power of One
Your chances of closing a sale (whether in person or via advertising) are so much better when you don’t have your prospect bouncing around from idea to idea. Just present everything the prospect needs to know about one concept – the what’s, the why’s, and the how’s. Keep your presentation simple with one problem, one solution, and one way to get it.
- Remember the Fundamentals of Selling
If there’s one thing that you take out of this article, I hope it is what I’m about to present to you. Because without understanding the fundamentals of selling, every effort you put forward will be fruitless.
First, always remember that people hate (just HATE) to be sold. Think of all those instances when you entered a convenience store and some random guy asked you if you wanted XYZ. Obviously, you don’t cause that’s not the reason you went to the store, so you avoid that person immediately. That’s what will happen to you if you approach your prospects looking to cold sell instead of building a relationship.
Also, remember that you connect with people emotionally first. When you identify someone’s problem(s) and show empathy towards their issue, chances are high that you will get their attention. And not only that, they will be willing to listen to your story to see if you have a solution to the problem. Also, go for the feelings first.
And finally, once you got the prospect involved emotionally, that’s when you start talking facts and features and all that stuff that makes your offer so awesome. Because you now have them invested. Now they care. And so, they will get the picture you’re painting. Thus, increasing your chances of getting a sale.
- Strengthen Your Offer’s Presentation
I just mentioned that when you get the prospect emotionally involved, then it is time for you to present the offer. But exactly what should you be presenting?
Here are four “bullet points” that can help strengthen and balance your presentation:
The Big Idea: start by letting the prospect know “my offer can fix your problem.”
Credibility: show them prospect real testimonials of people who have benefitted from the offer. The more recent the testimonial, the better.
Track record: present to your prospect how consistent has your offer being at solving the problem at hand.
Future benefits: if there’s an extra perk that comes with getting your offer, then feel free to bring it up.
Those bullet points should help you present a strong case for your offer to your prospect.
- Engage in Conversation
Whether it is in-person or via a written piece, remember that you’re always having a dialogue with your prospect.
Be as conversational as you can be. Ask questions along the way so that the prospect feels involved with your presentation. “Are you a ?” “Do you consider yourself to be a _?” “How many times have you had to deal with __?”
By keeping the prospect engaged, you will be able to finish your presentation in a way that allows you complete the final step of the process…
- Ask for The Sale
Don’t wait until the end of the presentation to ask for the sale. Have a feeling of parts of your presentation where you can go ahead and present the CTA. You can present your first benefit and ask for the sale. Then you can present your second benefit and ask for the sale. And after presenting your third benefit… go ahead and ask for the sale. Just make sure you ask for the sale. Ask. For. The. Sale.
7 Direct Response Hacks: A Marketer’s Guide to Boost Response Rates
Now that you know what to do and not to do to apply the direct response philosophy to your marketing efforts, here are some shortcuts that you can take to accelerate your effectiveness.
Before You Start…
Make sure you take these steps before starting any marketing campaign:
- Start by figuring the core feelings (Fear, Greed, Benevolence, etc.) you will stimulate throughout your campaign. This will set the tone of your marketing and advertising materials, as well as your oral presentations.
- Establish the Big Promise: what is it that your prospect wants the most that you can provide? This can be the solution to a problem, a scenario the prospects wish to be in, or some desire triggered by the core emotions you look to stimulate.
- Know everything there is about the offer. Every feature and benefit that it provides. And be ready to answer any objections.
- Make sure your marketing strategy, tactics, formats, angles and content sharing triggers are appealing to the market. If they don’t like to read, perhaps video and podcasting should be the right format for your campaign.
If you take these four steps, you will have an advantage when it comes to creating a successful marketing campaign.
Create Swipe Files
Thanks to the internet, now you have access to a bucketload of information. Make the most of it.
Look for the most successful marketing campaigns out there and compile them – either in folders on somewhere in the cloud.
From sales letters and print ads to emails and VSLs, there’s a ton of good and bad examples of direct response marketing out there. Collect them for studying and as a resource when you run out of ideas.
Find Your Voice
As I mentioned before, the best marketing comes in the form of a dialogue. The friendlier and more open you can make your marketing efforts, the better chances you get of attracting the audience.
That’s why establishing a tone for your marketing and advertising that’s accommodating to your audience is a must.
But how do you make that happen? Here are some quick tips:
- Be conversational, but not too casual. Keep always a level of professionalism while maintaining an inviting, friendly tone.
- You can be persuasive, but do not overhype. Keep “the best” phrase out of your mouth. All you need to do is entice the prospect with what you can do for them and how you can do it.
- Tell the people something they don’t know. Be informative. If you have some insight that can help them make an important decision, share it with them.
- Always tell it like it is. Be candid and transparent… even when it looks like its not the right thing for you.
If you’re looking to establish true, long-lasting relationships with your marketing, follow the tips above to develop a tone for your marketing that will make your prospects trust you.
Learn How to Present Features as Benefits
I hate to repeat it, but here’s the reality of things – nobody gives a damn about your product. How cool it is or what it can do. What people care about is “what’s in it for me.”
When presenting your offer, try to answer “what’s in it” for your audience. And to do that, take all those cool features of your offer and present them in a way that you show how they benefit your prospects.
Because benefits connect with your prospect’s emotional desires… while the features connect to the market’s logical side.
Sell first with your offer’s benefits, and then rationalize their decision with its features. Make sure that your market understands what they will get when they buy from you. How you make their lives easier/better/more productive.
Sell Your Offer on Yourself
If you don’t believe 100% in the awesomeness of your offer, who else will?
Make sure you know everything there is to know about your company, your offer, and your market. Talk to managers, engineers, and salespeople so you can get the whole spectrum of what, why, how, and to whom you’re selling.
Also, make sure your professional goals are specific. What do you want your business to achieve? What’s your offer’s mission? How does it affect you, your family, and your customers?
Understand everything there is to understand so that you can get the responses you want at a moment’s notice.
Generate Ideas Rapidly
The value of knowledge…
If you really think about it, every business of an industry should be the same when it comes to its foundation. They all must be built under the same principles. What sets one apart from the other is their ability to present those principles in a unique manner.
Your capability to present your company in an innovative way can give you an edge over your competitors. But to do that you have to be able to think outside the box and generate different ideas.
And the way you get to think outside the box is to apply the knowledge you gather outside of your foundation into your presentation. The book Content Inc by Joe Pulizzi offers you a great blueprint on how to do just that.
But the way you can generate new ideas fast is by experiencing new things. Get adventurous – read books by authors you don’t know. Watch an episode of a TV show you wouldn’t normally watch. And eat different types of food.
All those experiences will open your mind to acquire new knowledge. The knowledge that will help you come up with new concepts when the opportunity arises.
Have Your Consultant Hat All the Time
It doesn’t matter what role you have within your company; at some point, you will have to solve a problem. Therefore, you must always be ready to do so.
Think like a consultant: don’t just jump into a situation trying to solve it without any data. Instead, take a step back and gather information. Ask whatever it is needed for you to comprehend what lies ahead. And once you fully understand the problem, then you present or apply a viable solution.
Do not improvise unless it is truly necessary. Like a life-or-death scenario. Because it’s not about trying to be right – it’s about getting it right. And to get it right, you’ve got to gain and apply knowledge. That’s what a consultant does. Think like that, and your reputation will skyrocket.
The role of direct response in marketing is simple: all your marketing efforts should focus on driving sales. Focus on boosting response rates and build long-lasting customer relationships.
Stop pretending that your marketing team is a Hollywood production crew. Your marketing team should focus on how to present your offers in a way that helps your market solve a problem.
And do not hire anyone whose intentions are not to increase your company’s sales rates.