Six Factors That Determine Direct Marketing Success

In real estate they say the three most important factors contributing to success are location, location and location… but you’ll agree that location is meaningless if the price is too high… and appropriate price may be meaningless if mortgage rates are not favorable… if zoning is wrong… if occupancy is questionable…

As you can see, success in business is dependent upon numerous and different forces coming together at the same time. It’s not enough to have one or more factors working for you… the slightest overlooked detail can make the difference between success and failure.

This is true in every business… multiple conditions need to exist simultaneously in order to make a “deal” right… If any one of those conditions don’t work, the entire deal can blow up… In Direct Marketing, there are six key general factors that determine the probability of success. Your individual situation may require more than the six basics… and only you can determine what those additional factors may be… but two thing are certain…

1. Without these six factors all working for you simultaneously, the odds of success are severely threatened, although marginal success is possible.

2. With these six factors all working for you simultaneously, the success achieved will be greater.

If you try to boil it down to a single sentence try this one on for size… Offer the right products (or services), through the right media while using the strongest unique selling propositions within an environment that is proven to be most conducive to prospect involvement as measured by test results.

How’s that for a turn off. It’s enough to make many novice and even some experienced marketers throw their hands up in disgust and walk away from the entire premise.

But if we break it down step-by-step you’ll find that “eating this elephant” can effectively and efficiently be achieved… one bite at a time.

1. The Right Products (or Services) – NO business can survive without the right product (or service). Years ago it was not uncommon to find the sale of product using mail, space, broadcast or the web was to “dump” overruns, close-outs, “last years” items, “off-brand” products that never made it to traditional retail… but today direct marketers offer quality products at fair value. Clearly there are those who are dumping closeouts… but today they make it very clear… even use it as a “Unique Selling Proposition”.

2. The Right Media – Some experts say half the success of a direct mail promotion is based on the list used. The same is true of the list used to entice traffic to a web page, or the list that results from the enticement copy used in click through ads… for that matter, the publications that house the ads, whether they be magazines or newspapers or the stations used in broadcast… coupled with the time of day (or night) the ads are run.

3. The Strongest Unique Selling Proposition – Nothing is more important to the success of a direct marketing promotion than the offer and the offer must be housed within a Unique Selling Proposition. You can have the right product (or service), the right vehicle to distribute the offer, but without the right Unique Selling Proposition (offer), you’ve got to overcome the natural skepticism that every prospect has. Remember, your approach to them is an interruption, an assault on what they where doing when they became enticed by your solicitation.

4. The Environment Proven To Be The Most Conducive To Prospect Involvement – This is the style used to deliver your Unique Selling Proposition. There’s no limit to what you can do. In direct mail, for example, you can send everything from a postcard to a DVD… a four page letter to a 32 page (or larger) tabloid that looks like a newspaper or magazine… in broadcast you can deliver your USP within a shopping channel, a 30 second spot… even a one hour infomercial… and on the web, well, you can have a simple landing page with short copy… long copy, a mixture of copy, slides and voice… a complimenting or free standing video presentation… even a live “chat” with an agent to help walk the prospect through the last steps in the sale.

5. The Test – With all the variables the chance of doing the wrong thing is more likely than doing the right thing. While you may rule out many of the variables due to your own thoughts, budget limitations, time factors or any other reason you can come up with, measured tests are what will lead you in the right and most profitable direction. In direct mail you can scientifically test headlines, USP, format, lists and so on. In print, regional ads give you the ability to test an audience without having to pay for the entire circulation… and you can test one ad against another in different segments of the same circulation. Newspapers give you the ability to run different ads in different parts of the country at the same time to see which format, USP, Headline, etc. is best. And, with different landing pages set up to alternate feeds from the same click through ads, you can tell pretty fast what combinations works best.

6. Test Analysis – It all comes together with the analysis of results achieved. Direct Marketers don’t look for “long term results”… they need to live long enough for those long term results and an ad that doesn’t pay it’s own way is tantamount to a slow, lingering and expensive death. The interpretation of the test results is crucial since misinterpretation will result in the wrong conclusions. An ad needs to pay for itself. If it breaks even you’ve got something to work with, to try further testing, to adjust several of the components discussed earlier and try again. If it doesn’t pay for itself you want to know what was wrong, you want to learn from the ads that lose money… to avoid making the same mistake again.

Once these six factors are tested and understood, you’ll come up with the single most effective ad… and you’ll have a mathematical formula that tells you for every dollar you put in you’ll get back that dollar plus a specified amount… Some think that’s it… but that’s just the beginning!

Because now you’ve got your “Control” ad… Now you can “roll-out’, now you can justify use of more expensive media… larger mailings, higher circulation, more click through ads… although you need to constantly watch and analyze the results of each of your efforts with the Control… and cut your advertising as soon as you see declines to the point of break even… but now you’re ready to Challenge the Control… which means you develop a new ad… test it in the same manner you tested to achieve your Control… your objective is… Beat The Control. If you don’t beat the control, you’ve got an ad that may generate massive results for years to come… and if you do, the money comes in faster than you can count it!

The process is a discipline and the discipline never stops. Test, adjust, test some more, establish a Control, Challenge the Control and never, never rest on your laurels.

At this point some advisers may say “Good Luck, My Friend”… but if you follow these disciplines, luck will have nothing to do with it.

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