Getting to “yes”: the magic rule of authority

marketing rule of authoritypart 1 of a 2-part article

This is a true story …

Decked out in a uniform, badge, and baton, a television reporter stationed himself in front of a Las Vegas bank. On the ATM, he placed a sign with large lettering that read OUT OF ORDER — GIVE DEPOSITS TO GUARD ON DUTY. In the center of the sign was the shape of a large, gold badge.

When bank customers approached the ATM, the “guard” smiled, looked them straight in the eyes, and asked, “Do you need to make a deposit or a withdrawal?”

No bank would ever allow a guard to conduct private transactions like this, but were people suspicious? Not a bit. Without hesitation, customer after customer handed over not only cash and checks, but also Social Security numbers, credit cards, account numbers, PIN codes … private information that in the wrong hands could leave them penniless.

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3 little hints for effective limited-time offers

limited time offersPeople are procrastinators. That’s why the limited-time offer remains one of the most effective direct marketing techniques in the known universe.

It’s not an insult to call your prospects and customers procrastinators. It’s just true. I readily admit that I procrastinate. And I’ll bet you do too.

After all, making decisions takes effort. And every day forces us to make an endless series of decisions. What will we wear? What will we eat? What will we buy for that birthday? Will we go to the beach or the mountains for vacation? Which school will our kids attend? Will we say yes to the party invitation? Should we apply for that new job? Can we afford the new car?

Your customers live busy lives. They’re stressed and tired. And they don’t want to put any more effort into making a decision about your product or service than they have to. If they can put it off, they will. And that means a lost opportunity for them and a lost sale for you.

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The selling power of “social proof”

social proof in marketingI’m not a big sports fan.

However, my wife decided to invite her family over for dinner, totaling 12 adults, 2 babies, a 5-year-old, and a clowder of cats.

So, around day 3, after one of the babies peed on our new sofa, the refrigerator broke down, and every square inch of our house was covered with food, diapers, and suitcases, I suddenly became interested in getting out of the house to see a hockey game.

Go figure.

Along with another family member who needed to escape for a few hours, I drove down to see the local minor league hockey team play a regional rival.

The first two periods saw our team down by three points. Then, in the third period, in
a burst of explosive energy, our boys started fighting their way back.

The crowd began screaming. Clapping their hands. Stomping their feet. Taunting the opposing team’s goalie. Thousands of people were suddenly functioning as one. And oddly enough, though I’m generally not given to such displays, I found myself screaming and clapping and stomping right along with everyone else.

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Do you sell “things” or experiences?

sell things or experiencesYou’ve probably heard the expression, “People don’t want drills. They want holes.”

This is a reminder that benefits outweigh features. While this is good advice for creating more effective advertising and marketing messages, it’s not the whole story.

Top advertising and marketing pros have long known that people are less interested in having possessions than they are in having the benefits of possessions.

But the word “benefits” implies a utilitarian approach to buying things. It sounds as if people are always on the lookout for practical ways to solve problems.

Unfortunately, people just aren’t that rational. Apart from basic necessities, most purchases are discretionary. We buy things we want, but don’t necessarily need.

I’ve written about the motivations for buying, but an article at Psyblog got me thinking about this in a new and simpler way.

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6 secrets of buyer behavior in a recession

This is a short excerpt from an upcoming white paper called “Getting Response in a Down Economy.” I’ll announce it in my newsletter first. Click here or use the yellow box at the top right of this blog to subscribe.

buyer behaviorThere’s no doubt about it. Business is tough out there. Every day brings more unsettling economic news.

But have things changed as much as some people claim? Has the recession completely changed buyer behavior?

In my opinion, no. Buyer behavior in this recession is very similar to buyer behavior at any other time, but with this important caveat: While people may be buying, they’re being far more cautious and making decisions far more slowly. So it’s harder to sell to them. Harder, not impossible.

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Direct marketing extra credit reading list

I’ve been busy recently writing articles for everything other than this blog. So here’s a short reading list for a little direct marketing extra credit.

First, Melissa Data recently published The Ultimate Marketing Survival Guide for 2009. I wrote the lead article, “Direct mail remains the king of direct marketing.” Just in case you thought direct mail was dead or that tweeting is better than mailing, this article will disabuse you of that faulty assumption.

Next, there’s a fun little article over at Copyblogger titled The 3 Secret Persuasion Techniques Every Kid Knows. You parents will relate to this one. I don’t have children, but I know they’re often tuned into persuasion better than many adults.

Feeling a little burned out? Mary Jaksch asked me to submit some tips for Write to Done in a post titled 7 Easy Ways to Energize Your Creative Powers. If you’re a professional writer, you can’t just wait for the muse to drop by. You need a few techniques for flipping the switch on creativity when you need it.

Finally, there’s one of my regular columns for DM News, one of the most recent is Problem Solver: Is it smart for an online business to use direct mail? I discuss how you can’t let a particular medium dictate your marketing strategy and ways to use direct mail to build your online business.

This should keep you busy for a while.

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Obama marketing mania means big bucks

Obama Chia headCapitalizing on current events has always been a good way to boost sales. Obama’s inauguration is the most recent example.

Everywhere you look there’s an Obama product. I’ve seen Obama coins selling on TV and Obama shirts on CafePress and other sites. I even saw a barber shop that changed its name to “Obama’s.” They claim the new name has dramatically boosted profits.

Advertising Age is reporting that Obama mania is “staggering.”

From the article:

Inaugural tchotchkes are a given, but the breadth and depth of Obama merchandise available is staggering. For infants, there are onesies. For the tech-savvy, there’s an iPhone case. Coming is a Barack Obama Chia Pet. And for those who want to size up the president-elect, there’s a life-size cutout.

But it doesn’t stop there. Retailers are also using the inauguration as an excuse to promote big-screen TVs, digital recorders and patriotic party favors. Amazon last week launched its first Inauguration Store, featuring “everything customers need to get ready to attend the event, host an inauguration party or watch from home.”

This shouldn’t come as any surprise. Americans are idol worshipers. They love to associate themselves with famous people. All it takes is for a rap star or sports icon to be seen with a particular pair of tennis shoes and sales will skyrocket.

If you’re jaded, you’ll see America as a nation of sheep. If you’re a marketer, you’ll see America as a nation of opportunity. Take your pick. Either way, there’s a marketing lesson here.

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