B2B vs. consumer marketing: 5 key differences

b2b marketingWhen business-to-business marketers call my office, they always ask the same thing: “Do you have B2B experience?”

They ask it like they’re looking for a white-haired wizard with a pointy black hat and a big gnarly cane, some spell-weaving Merlin who understands the strange and ancient ways of the “business buyer.”

I reply in two parts. First, I assure them. “Yes, I’ve worked successfully with a tremendous number of business marketers.”

Second, I shock them. “But you know, there really isn’t that much difference between B2B and consumer marketing, at least from the standpoint of creating offers, writing copy, and designing ads and direct mail.”

“No difference?” they sputter, “But … but … but ….”

Having had my fun, I then smooth their ruffled feathers and explain what seems to be shameless heresy.

You see, I admit that there are certainly vital differences between B2B and consumer marketing, but in my experience, the differences too often overshadow the similarities. And this can lead to some truly bad selling messages.

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15 copywriting formulas that sell like gangbusters

copywriting formulasIt seems like people in direct marketing are crazy about formulas.

I suppose that’s because we are focused on what works, rather than what’s cool or pretty. And a good formula gets us to where we want to go a lot faster.

In the world of copywriting, there are plenty of arcane formulas. Some are useful. Some are absurd. But all of them are interesting.

I’ve collected copywriting formulas over the years and would like to share 15 of the very best.

The first you’ll recognize because it’s the most famous. But I’m guessing many of the others are new to you. I’ve even thrown in one of my own for good measure.

I’ll admit that I don’t put a lot of faith in rigid formulas, since they are often of little use in actually writing copy. But they are quite good at analyzing copy after it is written.

So here are 15 of my favorite copywriting formulas:

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Is it time for a BIG direct mail piece?

large format direct mailAh, the good old days.

Just a few years ago, I could count on receiving a mailbox-full of direct mail nearly every day, including the crown jewel of direct marketing, the BIG direct mail piece.

Thick #10′s, fat 6×9′s, and beefy 9×12′s once stood atop the mountain of attention-grabbing communication.

But then came hard days for the publishing industry, higher postal and printing costs, the rise of electronic media, and a faltering economy that dried up the stream of direct mail.

Today, the mail delivers anemic postcards, cheap fliers, and the occasional #10 envelope with a short letter inside. And it’s made many wonder if direct mail has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Industry pundits have been sounding the death knell for direct mail. Though, those pundits have generally been young and directly involved with social media, email, and other electronic media. They’ve had no love for, or experience with, traditional media and shed no tears for its assumed extinction.

But as I’ve been saying for some time, the reports of direct mail’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

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Dazzle your clients with Google search hacks

Dazzle Your Clients and Double Your IncomeThis is an excerpt from my just published free report, 12 Astonishingly Simple Ways to Dazzle Your Clients & Double Your Income.

I encourage you to download it now and share it with your friends.


Before I write a single word for any direct marketing project, I ask a lot of questions. A LOT of questions.

In fact, I use a checklist to gather basic information. And I recommend you do the same.

However, even if you’ve asked lots of questions, there is no substitute for digging deeper and learning about your client’s company, products, customers, and competitors.

Clients can’t be fully objective, so you can often discover facts and ideas that your client can’t see or doesn’t think are important.

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Perform a direct mail autopsy in 6 easy steps

direct mail autopsyDirect mail is a powerful and effective medium. But it’s a cruel world out there. And sometimes, your mail dies a gruesome death.

Maybe you don’t get the response you want. Perhaps the piece doesn’t get delivered correctly. Or fickle fate steps in and, for no apparent reason, murders a mailer you’ve successfully used a dozen times.

It’s enough to make you sick to your stomach. But rather than just shrug and accept it, there are steps you can take to discover the cause of death.

Here’s how to perform a “direct mail autopsy” in 6 simple steps:

1. Analyze the results. You can’t fix a problem until you know what the problem is. So take a stiff drink and sit down with the numbers for a while.

Is the response rate low or non-existent? If it’s a two-step, is the problem on the front end or the back end? How about your return or cancellation rate? What about net profit? Crunch your numbers every which way to see if you can hone in on the problem.

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Is it smart to use direct mail for online sales?

direct mail for online salesI won’t keep you in suspense. The answer is “Yes!” It is indeed smart to use direct mail for online sales.

There was a time not that many years ago when the “World Wide Web” was a mysterious and magical place. Gurus proclaimed that everything would soon change.

Other media, including direct mail and nearly anything in print, would die a rapid death. We were destined to live in a “paperless” world. “Brick and mortar” stores would transform into “virtual” businesses.

Well, like most idealistic visions, this scenario hasn’t played out as expected. The Web has not killed real-world stores. We shuffle more paper than ever before. And direct mail, while certainly affected by the rise of online media, isn’t even close to death. In many ways, it’s stronger and more effective than ever.

People are so annoyed and suspicious of unsolicited email, they now consider direct mail to be a relatively trustworthy medium. And while SEO, social marketing, pay-per-click, and other online strategies are powerful tools, they tend to reach only those actively searching for a product like yours.

This is why smart online entrepreneurs understand that the medium is not the business. The bigger you want your business to be, the more media you must use to expand your reach. And there is no other medium that gives you more reach than good old fashioned direct mail.

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How to use the ingenious “yes/maybe” offer

yes maybe offerA few years ago, Inside Direct Mail ran an article on offers and interviewed me about one of the most clever offers ever devised: the yes/maybe offer.

If you can be a fan of an offer, then I’m a fan of yes/maybe. It’s an offer you often see with subscriptions, but I’ve used it for many different products and services.

What is the yes/maybe offer? Here’s how I describe it in my list of proven offers:

Yes/Maybe – This is another way of making a low-commitment or no-obligation offer. You’re happy to get the “maybe” response, which could be for a free trial, product information, introductory offer, etc. And if you get some “yes” responses, that’s gravy.

In other words, the yes/maybe offer lets you make an offer for those who are ready to say “yes” and for those who might want more information before making a decision. “Yes” might mean a purchase while “maybe” could be an information kit. Or both could lead to more information.

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Q&A on running good direct marketing tests

direct marketing testsTesting 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?

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Occam’s Razor: 16 obvious ways to connect with consumers

Occam's RazorWhile 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.

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Divide and conquer to boost direct mail results

divide and conquer direct mailDivide et impera is a Latin saying that translates to divide and rule or, more commonly, divide and conquer.

While the term generally refers to political maneuvering or military strategy, I use it when talking about direct mail envelope packages.

Here’s why …

I see far too many direct mail packages that include pieces randomly, with each piece carrying the same information. The brochure will seem to be an illustrated version of the letter. An insert will make the same points as the brochure. The lift letter will repeat the offer in the same words as all the other pieces.

It makes you wonder why the mailer chose an envelope package format in the first place. Why pay to have all those pieces printed, folded, inserted, and mailed when they all do the same thing?

Each element of a direct mail package has its own purpose and its own strengths.

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