Message & Media: Meet Your Marketing Allies
"Clue in Your Copywriter" generated a healthy response from both writers and those of you who deal with us, so I knew I hit a hot button. One woman wrote to me that she went so far as to tape the column to her boss' desktop.
Now, I'm expanding the discussion to help you get more for your money invested in direct response writers and designers.
In a recent phone call with Patrick Fultz—one of my favorite direct design colleagues—he summed up the problem: "People don't really understand what we do, why we do it and how we work together." This lack of understanding gets in the way of us doing our joint job of generating response.
That's why I'm giving you a glimpse into the thought process of a direct response creative team: writer and designer. Or as Patrick says: 1 writer + 1 designer = 3 times the ideas.
First, think of us as your marketing allies. We want what you want—increased clicks, calls, visits and sales. As direct response designers and writers, we are highly competitive professionals who measure success not by the awards we win, but the controls we beat.
Second, it's time to rethink the old direct marketing adage, "Copy is king." From my experience working with top-notch direct response designers, I know we give you a stronger end product when we work together from the get-go.
We are creative strategists first, writers and designers second. This is why we ask so many questions. We don't work in a vacuum. We need information and have a reason for just about everything we do. Help us do our best work by giving us a creative brief with access to the following information:
• Business objective: Help us understand the marketing goal. Is it to acquire new customers? Transform first-time tryers into second-time buyers? Increase the average sale? Identify better qualified landing page leads? Counter new competition?
• Targeted audience: Tell us everything you know about the audience. We want to know them inside out. Statistics are good; so are anecdotal and qualitative insights. Give us demographics, psychographics and behavioral patterns. The more we know about the individual whose behavior we are trying to change, the more successful we'll be.
• Product details: What are the top three selling points of your product/service for the audience targeted? What are your competitive advantages? Give us features and benefits. Tell us if the product is new, improved, an exclusive or available in limited quantities. We like to see charts and graphs—we may use them. What you take for granted after years of working with your product may be the creative "hook" we need.
• Competitive insights: What are we up against? Who are your top competitors? What differentiates your product or company from theirs? Comparison shoppers know who your competitors are—your creative team should, too.
• Media rationale: Tell us why you selected direct mail, email or whatever media you're using. Let us know how you're supporting it with social media. Tell us which media you've tested—which worked, which didn't. Last, but not least, we need to understand customer expectations. For example, if you are testing email to a customer list that has always heard from you via direct mail, tell us.
• Buying objections: Do you know why qualified buyers aren't buying from you? If not, ask your sales or customer service staff. Better yet, let us ask them. We love a challenge, but we need to understand the obstacles we have to overcome. Experienced writers and designers address buying objections in their creative strategy.
• Format: Is the format pre- determined? If so, tell us what it is and why we're using it. If you want format recommendations, let us know. This applies to both traditional and digital media.
• Customer reviews: As much as we need information from you, it also helps us to know what customers are saying about you. In their own words, please. It's not unusual to find a control-beating subject line, headline or outer envelope teaser buried in a customer comment.
• Test results and response rates: It's useful to know what you've tested in the past—what worked and what didn't. While you may prefer not to disclose response rates, we need to know if we're trying to beat a control generating 1.5 percent or 15 percent response. And please let us know by how much we need to beat the control to be a winner.
• Beyond response rates: Don't assume we don't care about numbers beyond response rates. We understand the value of increasing your back-end closure rate, order size, lives per app and little details like lifetime value across all channels.
• Production/technology matters: Many of us like to talk with vendors and production resources so we understand their capabilities and use them cost- effectively. Today's direct response writers and designers embrace change and jump at appropriate opportunities to test new technology such as QR Codes.
As you can see, direct response writers do more than string together words punctuated with the word FREE. And direct response designers do more than just put a pretty face on a ho-hum offer. We are your marketing allies—both strategists and tacticians.