Fine restaurants in the Pacific Northwest had been serving cedar plank salmon for years. But Harry Aldrich and David Maddocks wanted to sell a home version.
Their idea was to manufacture a 6” x 12” piece of cedar wood. You put your salmon on the wood plank, put the plank into your home barbecue, and—voilà—cedar plank salmon.
When Aldrich met with the seafood buyer for the Fred Meyer stores in Portland, Oregon, he didn’t bother with sales patter. He just said, “I’m here to help you sell more salmon.” Then he let the buyer taste a filet cooked on one of his cedar planks. The reaction? “Wow!”
Aldrich provided some facts and benefits, but the buyer was sold with the first taste. Within a week, Aldrich and Maddocks had lucrative orders from more than 100 Fred Meyer stores. And they sold truckloads of those little cedar planks.
The lesson here is simple. One of the best ways to sell is to let your product sell itself. With a few proven techniques, you simply give your prospects a “taste” and their enthusiasm does the rest.
Want to beat your direct mail or advertising control but don’t know where to begin?
Here’s a strategy I’ve developed over the years that can point you in the right direction.
Simply analyze your control and mentally toss it into one of three “buckets”: Excellent, Good, or Bad.
This will determine whether you should come up with a completely new idea, tinker with your existing control, or trash everything and start from scratch.
Beat an Excellent Control with a Revolutionary Approach
An excellent control is one that makes the right offer, uses the right format, and deftly employs all the right selling techniques. From a purely creative standpoint, it delivers a high-quality message. Most importantly, the numbers indicate it gets a superior response when mailed to the right lists or placed in the right media.
By all appearances, Charley Hill was an average, ordinary guy.
He lived in a mid-sized town with his wife, two children, and a dog. He went to church on Sunday, coached Little League, and drove a pickup truck. He was friendly but quiet, the sort of guy you could walk by on the street without noticing.
But appearances can be deceiving. Because Charley Hill was one of the most successful salesmen in the Midwest. What did Charley have that other salesmen didn’t? Not a thing.
He sold the same products. Carried the same parts. Provided the same service. Yet his sales were typically two or three times that of competitors. The reason?
Charley Hill didn’t believe in “fair” offers. In fact, he went out of his way to treat his customers unfairly.
There’s a moment you dread. You know it’s coming. You know you can’t do anything about it.
You want to think you’ll be calm and rational when it happens, but the cold shock of reality will almost certainly catch you off-guard.
I’m talking about the day you get your first “senior” mailing.
It could be an invitation to join AARP. It could be a catalog of pain relief products. Or maybe it’s a mailer with a picture of a gray haired couple on the front.
Whatever it is, it’s something for seniors and you’re not happy about it one little bit.
At first, you assume it’s a mix-up. That envelope can’t be for you. Not yet. No way. But it’s addressed to you. And a quick glance at the birth date on your driver’s license confirms that you’re not exactly a teenager anymore.
That’s when you feel a twinge of anger. “How dare they mail this to me! Do I look old or something? I’m not old. And even if I am, they don’t have to throw it in my face like that.”
Telling the truth can be dangerous business.
Honest and popular don’t go hand in hand.
If you admit that you can play the accordion,
No one’ll hire you in a rock ‘n’ roll band.
Those are lyrics from a song performed by Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty in the movie Ishtar, one of the worst (and sporadically one of the funniest) comedies ever made.
Whatever you think of the movie, you can’t argue with the message of that song. Telling the truth can be dangerous business, especially if you work in direct marketing.
It’s dangerous because clients with crappy products expect you to lie, and telling the truth can get you in hot water with people writing the checks.
But I prefer to think that telling the truth is good for selling and for the whole direct marketing industry.
Think about it. Have you ever wondered why some people are direct mail responsive and others are not? Why some buy from catalogs, the Internet, or home shopping shows, and others wouldn’t even consider it?
Customer testimonials boost the selling power of nearly any direct marketing effort.
However, only about 1 out of 10 clients I’ve worked with makes an effort to consistently collect testimonials and keep them on file.
Why? Probably because it’s a hassle. Also, most businesses don’t have a reliable system for collecting testimonials. They just cross their fingers and wait for the random “thank you” message to drift in.
Well, that’s just not good enough. So I’m going to give you a simple way to gather solid testimonials from your customers.
But first …
A word about good customer testimonials
Testimonials work best when they are believable, specific, and enthusiastic. How do you achieve this ideal? You use real testimonials from real people.
Now I know that some marketers believe that you should write your own testimonials. But that’s a slippery slope.
Testing is at the core of direct marketing. It’s what makes direct marketing scientific and accountable.
Unlike mass market advertising, nearly every decision in direct marketing is (or should be) made by the results on a calculator.
But after working in this industry for many years, I’ve discovered that most people have a hard time wrapping their head around even the most basic testing concepts.
So let’s run through a few of these ideas in the form of question and answer.
Q: What’s the first step in any test?
A: Good testing starts with careful thinking. Before you rush into a test, take out a pen and paper and write down the answers to a few basic questions: Why am I testing? What are my objectives? What do I hope to learn? What questions do I want answered?
While wading through some of the more erudite (i.e. stuffy, jargon-laden, hard to read) periodicals at the local library, I ran across an old copy of the Journal of Advertising Research from way back in 1997.
The title: “To Whom Do Advertising Creatives Write? An Inferential Answer.” The premise: Carry out an experiment to see if creative personnel have difficulty making a connection to their audience.
The result: They do.
The authors selected a group of creatives and a group of TV viewers. They showed each group television commercials and asked them to respond “personally” to those ads through a questionnaire.
In a nutshell, these agency creative people could not respond personally to the ads, only “professionally.” Their responses “very closely paralleled those of the other advertising professionals who judge advertising awards.”
And the authors concluded that even though the creatives’ job was to “translate strategy into (a) meaningful message,” they did not in fact communicate with consumers, but with other advertising people.
Will cracking jokes help you sell?
Considering how often advertisers and agencies put on the fool’s cap and prance about in an attempt to evoke giggles, laughs, and outright guffaws, you would think the answer is “Yes.”
However, we in the direct marketing business are almost always warned against clowning around.
John Caples, in How to Make Your Advertising Make Money, states the generally accepted rule of thumb for most direct marketers, saying simply, “Avoid humor. What is funny to one person is not funny to millions of others.”
But I think Claude C. Hopkins said it best. “People don’t buy from clowns.”
However, while this is accepted at face value by the bean counters, creative people often don’t believe it, since they are by nature inventive, curious, and suspicious of any so-called rule.
Confronted with the dictum “Don’t be funny,” the doubting creative genius will nod in agreement to avoid an argument. However, he or she is secretly thinking, “Yeah. It didn’t work for you, because you didn’t do it right. You’re boring. You’re not funny.”
In my last post, I talked about the nightmare of customer defections and showed you a dramatic calculation that demonstrated the profit you sacrifice when they leave you.
If you lose one customer every day who spends just $5 a week, you’re out $94,900 a year ($5 x 52 weeks x 365 days = $94,900)! If you’re a service business, you’re losing 15-20 percent of your customers every year. So the actual loss is huge and growing persistently over time.
At the heart of customer defection is lack of satisfaction. This isn’t the same as dissatisfaction, which means an active dislike for something. Lack of satisfaction is simply the absence of any good reason for a customer to stick around.
Do you remember that U.S. News and World Report statistic I gave you? A whopping 91 percent of customers who leave do so simply because they are not satisfied.
How do you satisfy customers and retain their business? Any number of ways.