Strategy Session: Creative and Offer Strategies in the Age of Disbelief
We're in the "Age of Disbelief." That means you CANNOT do whatever it takes to get through to prospects and customers. Deception is verboten. It's not the way to start and build long-term relationships. The consumer's radar will detect the deception ... and government and media scrutiny will mete out justice.
This raises some key questions: What separates deception from acceptable techniques for getting attention and arousing interest? How can we get prospects and customers to read our messages without using deception?
Direct Marketing Tactics That Feed Disbelief
Here are just a few of the tactics and techniques that are killing our credibility:
Reader's Digest has moved away from sweeps, but now it's doing something that may be even more deceptive: giving a free book as a premium with the magazine without telling consumers that accepting this premium automatically enrolls them in a book continuity plan.
Consumers laugh at claims of exclusive offers when they've clearly been sent to millions. Don't label an invitation exclusive if the reply form contains a reservation number or priority code with more than three digits.
Seven Ways to Suspend Disbelief
Bill Jayme said, "In the marketplace, as in theatre, there is indeed a factor at work called the willing suspension of disbelief." What can we do to get this factor working in our favor?
Use self-qualifying quizzes. Quizzes get prospects to have a dialogue with themselves about the subject of the mail package. When prospects read through the rest of the package, you want them to say "Hey, this is me, and I have to send for more information/order this because my answers to the quiz indicate that I should."
Master the tone and language of your customers. Listen to how they talk. Use their words.
Many years ago, I did a user survey among buyers of construction estimating manuals. We asked for user testimonials, but because these were architects, we could not use their names. The language of the testimonials was so real that they were fully believable.
In focus groups for an insurance client, we found that prospects were calling the type of policy being offered something very different than we were. When we tested the prospect terminology"Renter's Insurance" (rather than our term, "Contents Insurance")in our next mailing, results shot up.
Acknowledge skepticism and disbelief. This says to the prospect/customer, "We know you've heard all the hype, all the promises that are never fulfilled. Here's why you can count on us."
Put a face on it. It's well known that people are responsive to and buy from other people much more readily than from faceless corporations. Substitute photos of "workers" for photos of buildings or machinery. Have your letters signed by a real person.
Provide value-added information that transcends marketing communications. We call this "selfish altruism." In an auto insurance mailing, the information might be "Tips for Avoiding Having Your Car Stolen"; for a health publication mailing, it might be a wallet-size card with tips for preventing heart attacks.
Use testimonials from the converted. Real testimonials disarm disbelief, to an extent. What works even better are testimonials from skeptics: "I really doubted that any system could double my ability to remember names. I wasn't going to send for it. But they offered a money-back guarantee, so I said what the heck. It was great ..."
Let the prospect see the "uglies." One way to suspend disbelief is to uncover the truth. This translates to raising possible objections the prospect could have to responding ... and then parrying those objections with honesty and conviction. For example, in B-to-B circulation, it often pays to deal with the issue of available reading time, which always is present in the prospect's mind.
Lee Marc Stein is an internationally known direct marketing consultant and copywriter. He has extensive experience in circulation, insurance and financial services, high-tech, and B-to-B marketing. He works with direct response agencies in addition to having his own clients. Read more of Stein's articles at www.leemarcstein.com.