B-to-B Insights: A Perfect ‘10’
You can’t tell from my picture, but I’m a tall person. And while I don’t play it as well as I used to, I’m fascinated by the game of basketball—and have been ever since I was small.
Growing up in southern California, being a student of basketball meant studying John Wooden, the legendary UCLA coach whose teams once won 88 games in a row and captured 10 NCAA championships, seven of them in succession.
Whenever “March madness” approaches, as it does now, I think of the Wizard of Westwood. Wooden told me he hates that nickname because his success had nothing to do with wizardry and everything to do with the mastery of fundamentals.
Just like successful direct marketing.
Our business is replete with sophisticated data models,intricate research methods, dynamically assembled messaging techniques and all the rest of it. But when it comes to the essence of what we do—presenting an offer within a message to a select target audience segment that causes it to respond immediately—advanced success comes from implementing the fundamentals of direct marketing.
I’m amazed at how frequently fundamental concepts are forgotten, overlooked or simply ignored in direct marketing campaigns. This lapse leads to campaigns that are high on concept and brand integration but low on results.
To forestall this at The Kern Organization, I always ask the presenting team: “Have you executed the fundamentals with perfection?” I’d encourage you to do the same with each of your campaigns, using the pyramid below.
Getting Their Attention
As we know, consumers are overwhelmed with messages—as many as 3,000 per day—competing for their attention and trust. So the bottom row of our pyramid contains four adjectives that should apply to every one of your outgoing messages.
s Arresting: How eye-catching is your message? What have you done to make it impressive, noticeable or striking? A message that is arresting is not necessarily one that shouts from the rooftops. Interest can be piqued by speaking softly. Curiosity can be aroused by not using any words at all. Or, alternatively, by not using any pictures.
s Compelling: How forceful is your message? Have you connected with your readers’ hopes, dreams and/or fears? How have you persuaded your readers that they really need to find out more?
s Clear: Since e-mail can be deleted with a click, commercials skipped and mail tossed aside, direct marketers have somewhere between two-tenths of a second and two seconds to make messages understandable. So, is it instantly obvious what you’re offering? Why a reader should care? Why a reader should take action? Are the benefits of doing so readily apparent? Is it easy to see how to respond? Are brand messaging, graphics, standards or package concept getting in the way of any of the above?
s Credible: Consumers are skeptical of advertisers, to put it mildly. Are you delivering a message that is honest, realistic, sincere and believable? To what degree have you convinced readers to reduce their skepticism and actually read/listen to you? How about the brand behind the message? Is it well known and well respected? If so, how effectively are you leveraging the brand to maximize your credibility?
Get Them Involved
We know from the study of psychology that humans typically act on their emotions while using logic to justify their behavior. This is a fundamental concept of brand advertising. For example, consumers buy Mercedes Benz automobiles for the prestige they confer, while pointing to the vehicles’ superior engineering and safety to justify the purchase. We also know that humans always want to move from pain to pleasure. With all this in mind, let’s examine the second row of our pyramid, which focuses on tying into your target’s emotions and logic.
s Emotional: Does your message move your readers to laugh, smile, cry, agree, yell? What have you done to arouse the spirit of your readers? Is your message exciting, poignant or even disturbing to such a degree that you’ll get an immediate “rise” and, hopefully, response?
s Insightful: Have you demonstrated your understanding of your target audience’s problems, needs, desires, hopes, dreams or aspirations? Have you made your audience aware of a new solution or product usage? Having read or heard your message, will they say to themselves, “I’ve never thought of it like that before.” Delivering new insights is hard. It requires field research and knowledge about what your targets are using now and how your product or solution will help them do something better, easier, faster, quicker and/or cheaper.
s Informative: How educational is your message? In exchange for your readers’ consideration are you revealing new, important or little-known information and using it to build your case for action on their part? If they don’t respond this time around, is your message still helpful to them in some way?
What’s in It for Them?
All consumers and business people have one thing in common—they are self-focused and evaluate all advertising messages (brand or direct) from the point of view of self-interest. The challenge, and opportunity, for direct marketers is to use data, past behaviors and market insights to create messages that scream, “THIS IS JUST FOR YOU. HERE’S WHY.” It starts with personalization, but ideally extends way beyond by delivering offers based on past purchases or messages based on insights into job role, responsibility and company size. Before you launch your next campaign, consider row three of the fundamentals pyramid.
s Relevant: What have you done to make both the message and offer germane to your reader? (And not just germane, but important.) How applicable is your offer to the problems your readers are facing?
s Valuable: Do you have an offer that’s important, priceless or, failing that, just downright useful? How well have you persuaded your readers that your offer is worthy of their time and indispensable to the improvement of their daily lives? Observing more than 25,000 test panels for both B-to-B and B-to-C marketers, I’ve consistently seen that, when the offer is valuable, unique and/or exclusive, almost any creative will work. If not, no creative will work.
Tell Them What to Do
At the end of the day, everything you do is about driving immediate action. Overcoming complacency, sparking desire in the mind of the reader and prompting response is the ultimate goal for any direct message. Even in this era of integrated direct, this must never be forgotten, which is why the element of motivation sits atop our pyramid.
s Motivating: How moving is your message? How immediate? Have you employed proven response words and motivational phrases (e.g., “discover,” “learn,” “gain,” “reveal,” “take away,” “go now,” “find out,” “visit,” “call today,” “don’t wait,” “avoid missing out”) to drive response behavior? Does your message have urgency built into it?
A Final Word
As direct marketers, you are constantly being measured—by cost per response, cost per inquiry, cost per qualified lead and cost per sale. Your job, through your offer structures and messaging, is to get just one more person per hundred to respond … now! Which is why mastery of the fundamentals is so vital. Ignore them, treat them casually or allow them to be overshadowed by brand or other considerations, and when the results come in, the score will not be in your favor. Just ask Coach Wooden.
Russell Kern is president of The Kern Organization, a fully integrated offline and online direct marketing agency in Woodland Hill, Calif., and is the author of “S.U.R.E.-Fire Direct Response Marketing: Generating Business-to-Business Sales Leads for Bottom-Line Success” (McGraw-Hill, 2001). He can be reached at (818) 703-8775 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark your calendar to attend a Target Marketing/The Kern Organization webcast on February 22. Russell Kern will share 26 essentials for transforming campaign performance—online and offline. Sign up now at www.targetmarketingmag.com.