Message & Media: Head of the Class
As a workshop leader and teacher of compulsory English composition to college freshmen at 7:30 in the morning, I've learned that for every question people ask, many questions go unasked. And unanswered. And not having these answers can affect success, especially in the world of direct marketing.
So, if you've ever wondered how long your copy/content should be, whether or not you should tap social media, or what kind of response rates to expect, keep reading.
1. How long should a letter, email or subject line be? (The person asking this question usually adds, "I never read long copy.")
Answer: No matter which type of media is delivering your message, the content needs to be as long as it needs to be to generate action from your targeted audience. That said, here are some guidelines:
- Lead generation copy is typically shorter than one-step sales or fulfillment kit copy;
- Email content with the job of generating clickthroughs to a website is generally shorter than the page(s) it links to;
- Effective email subject lines can vary in length. When in doubt, test.
2. I'm new to direct marketing.
What response rate should
Answer: It depends. Response rates are affected by many variables, including media selection, list segmentation, timing, offers, copy and creative.
While companies with a response-rate history can project response rates fairly accurately, new tests are more difficult to project. If you have no history of doing direct marketing (tracking, measuring and analyzing results), you have no basis for making a projection other than industry standards or results generated by others. But neither is necessarily meaningful nor reliable for your situation.
For example, life insurance marketers with high value customers and high renewal rates can live with lower initial response rates, sometimes under 1 percent.
But this may not work for your business model. Track, measure and build a response history to help you make future projections.
3. Does an offer have to be free shipping or a free gift to
Answer: Offers are actually much more than just freebies that you throw into your marketing campaign. An offer is a package of elements. It's everything you're willing to give your readers in exchange for their response. Your offer is what pushes a fence-sitter off of the fence, adds value to your buying proposition and addresses buyer objections.
So an offer is not just free shipping or a premium. Offers are multi-faceted and include product, pricing, customer service, incentives, and even payment options and terms. Test your offers for the best response, because they're essential to your direct marketing success.
4. Is direct mail dead?
Answer: Direct mail is not dead, but it's changing. To remain cost-effective, it's become much more targeted and is now integrated with digital media.
Direct mailers also are testing the use of QR Codes to link their ink-on-paper messages to videos, personalized landing pages and other digital content. If you've always used direct mail, don't jump ship without testing. If you've never used direct mail, consider whether or not it may be appropriate.
Even Google has recently used direct mail to reach small and medium size businesses. And insurance and credit card marketers continue using direct mail as a mainstay of their media mix. I repeat: test, test, test.
5. Social media is all I'm reading about in trade pubs and hearing about at industry conferences.
Should my company be using
Answer: I'll counter this question with another: Is social media appropriate for your audience, your offer and your brand? I once wrote for Kleen Leen, a division of Ralston Purina that sold hog sperm to hog producers for breeding using artificial insemination. If Kleen Leen were still around, I doubt that social media would be the best option for engaging hog producers with their brand. But who knows?
That's why whether you use social media now, later or never, you need to become informed so you can make smarter, educated decisions about what is appropriate. With social media opportunities, followers and analytics changing almost daily, the best answer is to stay informed, keep an open mind and test for success.
6. Why should writers, designers and others involved in the creative process care about response rates?
Answer: Front-end response and back-end customer satisfaction are what drive everything direct response writers and designers do. No matter how many creative awards our work wins, awards don't matter if we're not generating profitable clicks, calls and visits to websites and stores.
The best direct response writers and designers learn from their successes and failures. They appreciate the power of tracking, measuring and analyzing results.
7. Why do direct mail letters typically include a P.S.? My boss says a business letter with a P.S. doesn't look professional.
Answer: Tests show the P.S. is one of the most widely and first read elements in a letter—B-to-B and consumer. In fact, 30 percent-plus look at the P.S. first. AT&T takes advantage of this with their new customer signup thank you letter.
That's why when I write a letter, I write the entire letter first, then pull out a key benefit and move it to the P.S. where I know it will get seen first.
8. Are direct marketing and direct mail the same thing?
Answer: No. Direct mail lists were the original workhorse used by direct marketers, but the two terms are not synonymous. The direct marketing process is channel agnostic and is powered by both traditional (such as direct mail lists) and new digital media. What makes direct marketing unique is that it allows you to track, measure and analyze response/action to the individual level no matter which type of media you are using.