Do You Make These Common Direct Marketing Mistakes?
by Dean Rieck
One of my neighbors has a beautiful green lawn. I asked her to tell me her secret, but she said there wasn't any.
According to her, the reason her lawn is so nice isn't that she does anything special, but that she simply tries to avoid making the mistakes most others make, such as over watering, over cutting, or under fertilizing. She says a lawn wants to be green and gorgeous if you just let it.
I could say the same for direct marketing. People want to buy your products and services if you just let them. Success is often simply a matter of not making the mistakes others make.
Here are some of the most common mistakes I've seen businesses make.
- Choosing an unproven product. If I had 10 bucks for every inventor who has called me wanting help selling a "revolutionary" product, I could retire. There's simply no getting around the fact that people only buy what they want. So whatever product you sell, it must be truly desirable. New, truly revolutionary products are rarely successful. What tends to work best are old, proven product ideas with a fresh spin.
- Mailing to unproven lists. This is a mistake usually made by young companies without a direct marketing track record. Along with choosing a poor product, it may be a primary reason most mailing ventures fail. There are lists and then there are lists. And you always want the lists that are as closely aligned with your offer as possible. The ideal list is one filled with people who have purchased similar products recently, frequently, and in a similar price range.
- Making no compelling offer. Some marketers simply refuse to make an offer beyond the standard selling price. Technically, the price is an offer. But it's a lazy offer. There are well over 100 time-tested offers to choose from, any of which is more powerful than your price a free trial, a strong guarantee, payment options, mark-downs, add-ons, you name it.
- Getting locked into one medium. Just as some plants thrive better in one environment than another, products often tend to thrive better in certain media than others. But that's no excuse for ignoring other media. This is really about breaking out of your comfort zone and testing new things. If direct mail works, great. But what about e-mail? Or print? Or radio? The medium is not the issue. Selling is.
- Failing to train your call center. It's difficult to make headway when your call center is falling down on the job. They have to take orders promptly, be reasonably knowledgeable about the product, do the appropriate up-selling or cross-selling, collect tracking information, and perform other basic tasks. If you're taking orders by phone, it all comes down to that one call.
- Sending prospects to your home page. More and more people are buying over the Internet. But in order to make this work for you, it's imperative that you send them to a specific landing page for the offer you are making. Often that means creating a special, dedicated Web site with an easy-to-remember and easy-to-type address. It's more convenient to send people to your company home page, but people will then have to hunt for the product they want, and you'll lose most of them out of sheer frustration.
- Airing overproduced radio ads. A 60-second radio spot goes by very, very fast. So you simply don't have time to get too creative. You must be clear and direct. Remember, people seldom just sit and listen to the radio. They are usually driving their car, working in a busy office, cleaning the house, or engaged in some other distracting activity. You have to grab their attention, explain your offer, give them a reason to respond immediately, and repeat the phone number or Web address three to five times. That's a lot easier to do with a straightforward pitch delivered by one announcer talking directly to listeners.
- Blowing your TV budget on unproven products. What I said about old product ideas with a new spin is even more important for television sales. This is a brutal medium. Even if you can find a great product with all the earmarks for success, you still have only about a one in 20 shot of success. Stick with proven product categories. Follow a proven creative formula. Use a proven media buyer. Then roll the dice.
I've said it a thousand times: Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance. You can see that as cynical if you want, but I prefer to see it as inspiring. It says to me that you don't have to be a genius to get ahead and that anyone can be successful selling a product or service.
As with most things in life, direct marketing is more perspiration than inspiration.
Copyright © 2007 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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