Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

Power Direct Marketing article INDEX

There are no failures ... only lessons

I f you've been in this business more than a day and a half, you have undoubtedly heard someone say: "Direct marketings' middle name is Test-Test-Test." Probably with an exclamation mark!

I challenge that thinking.

Let me explain. It is NOT wrong to test. Far be it for me to say that testing is wrong. It is not wrong. In fact, in my seminars, part of the program often includes a section on testing.

It is also true, however, that testing is frequently impractical. For everyone sometimes it does not make either time or economic sense. For others it never makes any sense at all!

Why? Simply because of numbers. If we use USA figures only, there are about 12 million businesses in this country. At least half of these are very small ... 5 or less people. Something close to 87% have less than 20 employees. 97% less than 100.

We all know that getting your message to the right audience is absolutely mandatory ... and will equate to about 60% of the success you will or will not enjoy with any direct marketing program. Since that is a fact few will find fault with, at least in theory, walk with me a minute through these numbers.

Ualt="U" border="0" hspace="1" WIDTH="48" HEIGHT="47"> sing a major list broker as the source, here is what I found in their 1993 catalog. When we look at the category of attorneys, there are 45 divisions by specialty. Agriculture attorneys number 2,730 nationwide. Civil rights/equal opportunity attorneys number 11,040. Even the taxation group has fewer than you might think: 100,760.

When you select by state, using just the "A" states, (Alabama/Alaska/Arizona/Arkansas ... just these four) there are only 19,017 attorneys total in all categories.

Under the medical doctor field there are 87 separate listings. The total number of doctors in the USA is 557,701 ... approximately 641 per category. Infectious diseases has 1,936. Child psychiatry 2,825. Abdominal surgery 194. Cardiovascular disease 12,323. California has 67,089 total / Wyoming 671.

What about less well known markets than attorneys and doctors? There are 1,099 surfboard stores. 2,258 airports. 1,252 audio visual dealers. 933 4-H Clubs. 660 Knights of Pythias. 3,609 professors who teach police science. 10,566 fabric shops. 18,260 wholesale grocery stores. 2,508 ice and roller skating rinks. 90 farm magazines. 1,092,563 who buy garden supplies by mail-order.

196 weekly newspapers with over 10,000 circulation. 3,172 quarries and pits. 2450 rabbis and 1,435 racquetball clubs. 50,742 pizza restaurants. 11,677 "T" shirt shops. 5,618 stamp and coin dealers. 48,055 speech therapists. 30,003 welding shops. And 483 water distribution engineers.

Now let's take a quick glance at a special consumer select: America's most wealthy families. 209,467 own their own plane. 65,490 own a 30'+ yacht. And 188,763 are considered wealthy women.

W hat does all of this say? It says very clearly that America is made up of niche markets. That it is filled with specialist. The reason the Yellow Pages has more categories than ever is simple to understand ... there are more segments than ever.

Which is the clear answer as to why the vast, vast majority of the nations direct marketers do not test. They can't. Their marketplace is too small to be able to make a significant, meaningful, learning test. They do not have the numbers.

Years ago I worked with a company who had created a product exclusively for the sugar beet industry. It had to do with air pollution control.

After you get the sugar out of sugar beets, there is a pulp which must be discarded. In the old days it would be burned ... and dump all sorts of nasty stuff into the atmosphere. My client had a product which would collect this gunk, so it would not pollute.

Do you have any idea how many sugar beet plants there are in the United States of America? Try 79. Yes, only 79. Yet, it was a good audience, as each of these plants had to put in some new equipment. They could easily be identified. And there were three-four-five people at each plant site to talk to. Direct was the way to go. Direct was the ONLY way to go.

Did we test? Absolutely not! Test what, with less than 400 people at 79 locations to talk to? We just did it! First, we called each location to confirm the name/title/address of each person we knew we needed to reach. Then we mailed. And mailed. And mailed. Followed by telephone sales calls. To set appointments to give a demonstration. No testing ... just action.

Let's "assume" the sugar beet mail/phone program did not work the first time out (it did, but let's say it did not). What would be the next step?

Very simple: DO IT AGAIN! Try another approach. Make a different offer. Upscale. Downscale. Bundle with another idea. Unbundle from the first package. Aim high. Aim low. Anything that was not the same as the first time.

Why? At least two reasons:

  1. Multi-contact/multi-media programs is something marketing and direct marketing has learned from advertising. Just as Pepsi and Nabisco, Kellogg's and Chevrolet do not put one TV or print ad into the marketplace one time, and then stop ... neither can we in direct. We have to go at it again and again, over and over.
  2. The title of this article: "There are no failures ... only lessons" applies. I firmly believe these words. This is business ... not school. You never fail in business ... you learn something for next time. This is certainly applicable in direct marketing. So, it doesn't work. What did you learn? How can you use this knowledge the next time out?

Some may say my #1 point is testing. Fine, I will not get into a semantics review. My point is still the same. It is still that many, many -- in fact most! -- in direct marketing do not test. And I believe should not test. Why? Because they can not test effectively and learn anything useful.

Recently I enjoyed a delightful discussion with a DM pro who is working with Goodwill Industries. This lady had a real challenge. She was looking for companies who had special needs for specific woodworking products that Goodwill could produce. Using the Goodwill employees.

At best this is a tough job. She had done her homework. She knew the SIC codes most likely to have firms who might have a need for what she offered. She knew the associations that supported those industries. She had talked to publishers that had deck card mailings, mailing lists and, of course, magazines that reached that audience. She had, at least in a general way, "clearly" identified her audience.

Could she test? Well, yes, she could. She could test media. Mailing lists from different publications against each other. And those against the deck cards offered. Vs. space advertisements in the various magazines.

And she should probably do all of that. Use solo mail/co-op mail and space ads. Reach out through a variety of means to get the audience to raise a hand. And, be willing to talk with Goodwill about their woodworking needs.

On the other side, Goodwill has a very narrow offer to a very narrow audience. And only because this was a new effort should she even think about a multi-media campaign. The thing about this opportunity from Goodwill, is that they need only a half dozen or less positive responses to stay busy for the balance of the year.

And because Goodwill Industries is a non-profit service organization, they "never" have any money for a full blown effort as briefed here. They really don't have the bucks to invest in such a program.

So, what do you do? You do just what this experienced direct marketer did: You guess -- you gamble -- you throw the dice at the audience you "think" is best ... and then you pray a lot! Certainly, this was not a structured, highly measurable test. Because it could not be. There was no money. There was very little time.

If your business is such that you have an unclear or difficult to define and reach audience, maybe with small potential numbers, what do you do? Here is a list of nine ideas:

  1. First, obviously, as clearly as possible, do define your audience. Define who you want to talk with. Your marketplace.

    You must have some ideas who your audience is. Based on previous experiences. What your competition is doing. Something.

    You must know something about your target in order to aim your arrow. Know this first.

  2. Next, think about getting noticed. Try something odd. Color. Size. Weight. Shape. Design. Shocking copy. Surprising look. Anything to get noticed.

    Notice is a key word. Getting through the mail slot or into the in-basket is not enough. You must be noticed.

  3. Get your package opened. Notice is not enough. You want your audience to get into your package -- to read your offer -- to learn about your products and services.

    Use teaser copy. Bold graphics. Windows. The front and back of your envelope. Stickers or stamps or coins. Make your package lumpy by including a "thing" inside. All ways to get your noticed package opened.

  4. Consider using a self-mailer. This format may work for you if your offer message is blatantly clear. And, at least remotely aimed at the right ears and eyes.

    Self-mailers also work well when your audience already knows who you are. When it is part of a series -- when your message is short and/or easy to understand. They work when you really only need low response to be successful. Consider self-mailers.

  5. Use informal copy. Copy that makes your offer and tells your benefit story in the first few sentences (please note I said sentences, not paragraphs!).
  6. Make your message readable. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. In the language of your audience. Do not talk down. Do talk "eye-to-eye".

    Abe Lincoln's most powerful speech was the Gettysburg Address. 267 words ... 200 of which are five letter words, or less. With all of Hemingways works his average sentence length is 13.5. Make your writing readable, too.

  7. Understandable, readable so it is totally understandable. So your audience gets the deal, the offer, with the first look -- see-read. Make certain your benefits jump ... the one/two or maybe three reasons why anyone should do business with you. Now. Why should anyone respond? Now! Make your message totally understandable.
  8. Make me an offer I cannot refuse. Something over and above features and benefits. Something so outstanding I will not be able to resist.

    Free something. A demonstration. Limited time opportunity. Sample. Anything that will get me to raise my hand and express a willingness to talk with you. Make me a strong offer.

  9. Always, Always, ALWAYS A.F.T.O. Always Ask For The Order. Always let your audience know you do want to do business with them. Why else are you sending your message? You are doing so ONLY to get more, new business.

Yes, I firmly believe that most people do not like to be sold. I equally believe these same people most certainly do like to buy. Let them know you want them to buy from you. Always A.F.T.O.

Nine ideas. Nothing biblical here. Just basics. And ... as I read these again ... not solely for those who really can not test effectively. Really, for all of us.

Yes ... and I also firmly believe "There are no failures ...
only lessons."

Power Direct Marketing article INDEX

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