Editor's Picks: 2012's Top Direct Marketing Tips for Each 'Target Marketing' Editor
As we put together our "35 Top Tips of 2012," it became obvious early on that not all of our favorite tips were going to make it into the magazine. Here is each editor's favorite 2012 tip that didn't make the final cut, along with why those tips made an impression on them.
Heather Fletcher, Senior Editor
Don't ask for metrics that are not actionable.
Phil Mui, Google Analytics (now at Acxiom)
From what I've seen of Phil Mui, he'd come in last in the Passive-Aggressive Olympic Games. I partly base this impression on the "Don't ask for metrics that are not actionable" answer he shot back to an audience member who'd asked for some squishy metric to be included in the Google Analytics Social Reports he was announcing on Mar. 20, 2012 at SES New York.
Searching through my notes, I now see the audience member asked if the tool could include impressions. Mui, then group product manager at Google Analytics, provided that "Don't ask for metrics that are not actionable" answer, then asked her a question that I can only paraphrase now: Do you care about the metric if it doesn't drive sales?
Mui—now chief product and engineering officer and executive vice president at Little Rock, Ark.-based data solutions firm Acxiom—got to the heart of what marketers are asking about social media. But, like all good direct marketing, his advice can be integrated across all channels.
Melissa Ward, Managing Editor
Never print dark copy on a dark background (e.g., red on dark blue). Always make a black-and-white photocopy of a catalog page, ad or direct mail element. If the type does not pop out, send the design back for surgery.
Denny Hatch, direct marketing consultant and author
"Breaking Every Rule in the Book!" Oct. 16
I work on Denny's weekly Business Common Sense e-newsletter columns, as well as his monthly Famous Last Words magazine columns, so suffice to say, after nearly five years I've received quite the copywriting and design education. While some direct marketing design tips clash with my own personal aesthetic, I can at least appreciate that good design is calculated; it's drafted to make a sale, not just look pretty.
Denny's tip to not print dark copy on a dark background might seem obvious, but take a look around at advertisements—especially those in women's fashion magazines—and see that many miss the mark on this. How am I supposed to place an order for a snazzy new winter coat when I can barely read the information about it in the catalog?
But, better yet is his tip about photocopying the catalog page, ad, etc. The classic office staple of the copy machine wipes away all the color and leaves the designer and copywriter with a page of black, gray and white. Copy both pops and is readable, or it's a haze of gray. Sometimes the simplest tests are the best.
Thorin McGee, Editor-in-Chief
Simplify the form: Long, complicated forms with many required fields are an invitation to abandon the page. One look at such a form can turn otherwise interested prospects away. Your goal is to capture a lead to make initial contact. Ask for name, company, email address and maybe a phone number. That's all you need. The rest of the information can be filled in later as you begin to engage with your new lead and learn more about their needs.
Chris Chariton, GlobalSpec
"10 Tips for Improving Landing Pages," May 23
In other words, customers are more likely to complete simple tasks. A similar tip did make the Top 35 from Daryl Nielsen of HP about a way he had changed HP's approach to e-newsletter sign-up forms, and we heard the same thing from many other sources throughout the year. This is my favorite tip precisely because we heard it from so many different marketers in so many different contexts. Across the board, marketers who were doing the testing reported to us that asking for less lead to higher conversions, regardless of what the desired conversions were.
This is part of a wider direct marketing truth that Denny Hatch hits on whenever he warns against "me text," or scolds an online marketer for poor website design: The easier, more inviting, more optimized you make the experience for your customers in every channel, the more likely they are to buy your products.
It's not new thinking, direct marketers have known this for decades, but marketers are relearning it for the digital age. Most conversions—from email sign-up to purchase—create the opportunity to market to that customer again. That's the key to lifetime value, and it's worthwhile sacrificing a piece of information early in order to get them into your sales funnel and loyalty programs (and you can try to collect that info again later in the lifecycle).