Direct Creative - Copy & Design for Direct Marketing
May 2009

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Note: Occasional errors in this newsletter exist to bring joy to readers who find them and point them out. Please don't spoil their fun by demanding perfection from me.

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Quote of the Month

"There's so much truly putrid advertising out there it's embarrassing. But not all advertising is bad. Some of it is really quite mediocre." - Jef I. Richards

On the Blog

Visit my blog to get copywriting and design tips for direct marketing success. Here are some of the most recent posts:

Does your boss shoot down your best marketing ideas? 

Of all the problems I run into with my clients, this is one of the most common. You have a good, or even brilliant, idea. But your boss says "no." You know you're right, so how do you sell your idea?

The answer is How to Sell Good Marketing to Your CEO. This special report introduces you to the 8 different types of CEO and how to pitch your ideas to each. It's an essential tool for corporate advancement and marketing success in the real world.

Response Booster: Don't change your strategy without proof

You should be constantly testing new ideas in your marketing programs. However, once you find something that works, don't change your approach until you have conclusive, mathematical proof that a new strategy works better.

Many successful strategies are changed by new managers or creative personnel who wish to make their mark and "own" the campaign in use. Or, marketing people just get bored and want something new. While it's often a good idea to polish or update your ads from time to time, your basic strategy should not change until it stops working or you discover something better.

Make all decisions based solely on the mathematics of response and net profit.

29, 200 days 

Why do you work so hard? That seems like a silly question, but it's worth asking.

For the most part, people work hard to earn money so they can have a better life. But invariably, the harder you work, the less time you have for a life. I mean, if you're putting in 12 or 16 hour days, when exactly do you get to the "fun" part of being successful?

It's a catch-22 for many people. If you don't work hard, you're miserable because you don't have the money to do all the things you want. If you do work hard, you're miserable because you don't have the time to do all the things you want. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground these days.

I've solved this dilemma for the most part by escaping the rat race and running my own business by my own rules. But it wasn't always that way.

Years ago, when I was just starting out, I worked for a "book packager." That means I researched, wrote, and edited school textbooks, primarily in science and social studies.

The pay was lousy, less than $14 an hour. The hours were insane. I often worked for 48 hours straight with no sleep to meet deadlines. I researched, wrote, and/or edited 23 textbooks in 18 months. Was I getting ahead? Sure. The more I worked, the more I earned and I thought it would take me places if I kept it up.

But what really happened was that I got burned out. I started making mistakes. And I was utterly miserable.

Soon, I struck a deal with a local ad agency to write a couple direct mail packages for considerably more money than I was earning writing textbooks, so I shifted my focus to commercial copywriting, thinking I'd be much happier because instead of earning about $14 an hour, I'd be earning about $50 an hour, which at that time was astonishing to me.

But the same thing happened. I got burned out because the client made so many demands on me, as did other clients I acquired over the next few years, that I was right back to where I was before. Earning more money, but no time to enjoy it.

It wasn't long until I was earning up to $500 an hour, which should be enough to make anyone happy, but nothing changed ... until I realized what was going on and decided to stop killing myself.

Instead of a "live to work" guy, I've become a "work to live" guy. I have come to learn that freedom and control are part of the benefit package of running your own business. I've been offered jobs with hefty six-figure salaries and turned them down. I'd tell them, "Look, I earn plenty of money and I can do what I want when I want. I'm happy. If you can't offer me that, what's the point?"

Today, I tell clients that I'll give them my best effort, but I won't try to meet impossible deadlines working nights, weekends, or holidays. For the most part, I end my day at 5 p.m. so I have time to do things I enjoy, like working in my garden, cycling, watching movies, reading, or whatever.

And you know what? Most clients are fine with that. I feel refreshed and generally can work faster and with a clear head. I earn good money. I live in a nice house. I do good work. I don't have gray hair. No heart attacks. No strokes. No one has a perfect life, of course, but I think this is as good as it gets.

Here's the takeaway: Most of us have roughly 29,200 days on this Earth. If you can find the right balance between working and living, I honestly think more of those days will be good ones. And since I'm earning more and feel pretty energetic and happy most of the time, I think it tends to work out financially as well. And even if I could earn more, I don't care. It's not ALL about money.

In a way, I had it easy because freelancing was a step up for me. But most people are in a job they hate and can't figure out how to make the transition. A friend of mine did figure it out and took the time to put it all in a book that I highly recommend. It's simple and step-by-step. It's called Stop Wishing and Start Earning by Ed Gandia.

If you want to leave a job and start a career as an independent writer (or designer, photographer, or any kind of self-employed person), this is THE book. Ed covers all the details, from creating a transition plan to getting your finances in order to choosing a specialty and getting clients.

29,200 days, give or take. That's what you have. Once they're gone, they're gone. My advice? Don't waste a single day doing something you don't enjoy or earning less than you deserve.

How to Reduce Pesky Web Site Traffic

I wrote this article a few years ago when people were still figuring out the Web, so some of it is a little out-of-date. But surprisingly, you still find people doing dumb stuff like this. So it's worth a read.

Attend a conference on e-commerce, and the guru du jour will preach the gospel of usability, navigation and interface design, customer experience, and so on. The promise is that the more user-friendly your site, the more repeat traffic you'll generate.
Traffic schmaffic. Don't those Web gurus get it? Most businesses don't want traffic. They just put up a Web site because everyone else puts up a Web site. And more visitors mean more headaches.
I feel your pain. So I'm going to cut through all the baloney and give you some advice you can really use. Just try one or more of these simple tips and I guarantee you'll drive people away from your Web site and make sure they never, ever come back:

Keep out the riffraff with strict viewing requirements. Simply ask visitors to use a particular browser, adjust their monitors to specific settings, and download the latest plug-ins. Only a handful of people will ever go to all that trouble.

Flash and splash them without mercy. There's nothing like a pretentious front page to tell people, "We're better than you are. Na na na na na!" But the real beauty of Flash programming and fancy splash pages is that they usually take a long time to load. And statistics show that after ten seconds of waiting, half of your visitors will go elsewhere.

Pound them into submission with endless pop-ups. Whack 'em with a pop-up the moment they land on your home page. Smack 'em with a pop-up when they click on a link. Then thwack 'em with a whole series of pop-ups when they leave. And make sure all your pop-ups promote other sites. That'll suck away traffic like crazy. But if ordinary pop-ups are too wimpy for you ...

Trap them in a buttonless browser jail. All it takes is a little coding and your pop-up fills the screen and removes all browser controls. The only way out is to order your product or shut down the computer. It will enrage most people and they'll never bother you again. But, hey, you may actually sell something. Gotta pay the rent every now and then.

Regale them with the Welsh National Anthem. A little music file, a little scripting, and you have yourself a really annoying musical page. But who says YOU can't enjoy it? Indulge your personal taste. If an anthem is too starched shirt for you, try The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" or ABBA's "Dancing Queen." Music doubles your chances of reducing traffic because 1) it makes people think you're an amateur, and 2) it drives people nuts, especially when there's no off button.

Make them scroll through 26 miles, 385 yards of copy. That's the official distance of a marathon. And if it's good enough for a foot race, it's good enough for the Web. I mean, most people will poop out in the first mile or so. And just think how simple your design job will be with all your copy on one long, endlessly scrolling page.

Serve up mystery meat navigation. It's the cure for those "links that tell you exactly what you'll get and where you'll go if you click on them" blues. All you do is create beautiful but mysterious graphical images for links. No text. Or you require your visitors to mouse over secret areas on the screen before the navigation elements reveal themselves. It's sort of like hide and seek. The only people who will want to play are your tech-savvy colleagues. Everyone else will get mad and go home. Bye-bye!

Spawn new browser windows with every click. This one's really fun because most people are pretty fuzzy about all those browser controls. So when you create a new window, you'll take away the one feature they know how to use: the back button. It will be grayed out in the new window so they won't be able to use it. He he he. Oh, it's a laugh riot!

Dazzle them with dozens of blinking banner ads. Just remember that every new banner must be bigger, brighter, and flashier than the one before. Otherwise your site may stop looking like a neon nightmare, people will start buying things from those ads, and then you'll have to be in business for real ... and who wants that?

Ever wanted your own radio show? It's easier than you think!

It sounds crazy, because only famous people can be on the radio, right? Actually, there are zillions of talk shows out there hosted by ordinary people like you. I know because a friend of mine started his own talk show a couple months ago on a Cleveland AM station with no experience. How?

How to Create & Distribute Your Own Radio Talk Show for Fame & Profit gives you all the details. There are a lot of sources out there for radio, but next to nothing about how to start your own show from scratch. You'll see how to create your first show, book interesting guests, make money, and get syndicated.

This is a fantastic (and cheap) way to boost newsletter subscribers, get famous fast, sell your book, publicize your services, or drive traffic to your Web site. The author uses radio to help drive over 5 million visitors to his site every month.

It's cheap. Buy it here.

Dean Rieck is an internationally respected copywriter, designer, and consultant who has created direct mail and ads for over 200 clients.

Phone: 614-882-8823

Copyright 2009 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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