Russell Kern

Russell Kern
B-to-B Insights: How to Succeed in Sales Letters

As a columnist, my job, more or less, is to let you pick my brain every other month. And while I’m more than happy to oblige, I do think a bit of full disclosure is in order. Frankly, much of what currently resides in my brain—or at least much of the stuff that relates to direct marketing—has been shamelessly picked from the brains of others—from John Caples’, from Victor Schwab’s, from Stan Rapp’s and many, many others. Over the years, a healthy percentage of my spare time has been spent reading the writings of direct mail’s “grand masters.” Then reading them again. And in some cases,

B-to-B Insights: What Are We Doing Here? (Part Two)

In my June 2007 column—before taking a break to unload my summer reading list—I started to talk about the aspects of B-to-B direct marketing that appeal to me. Since the folks here at Target Marketing sensibly allow me only a finite number of column inches each month, I didn’t get that far in Part One. So I’m back with more of what I love about this business. And if you’re still reading along with me at the end, then I guess you love it, too. I Think My Roots Are Showing I come from a family of physicians. So it’s no surprise that the science of

B-to-B Insights: Even More Summer Reading

It’s that time of year once again. It’s time to get out in the sun, have some fun and maybe do a little reading, too. Most of America, of course, will be poring over a John Grisham legal thriller or immersing themselves in Khaled Hosseini’s successor to “The Kite Runner.” But you are not most of America. You’re a dedicated direct marketer looking to build your skill set and, ultimately, your bank balance. And I’m here to help with my third annual listing of what—along with the sunscreen—you should stuff into your beach bag. Since I finished compiling last summer’s reading list, I’ve come across great

B-to-B Insights: What Are We Doing Here? (Part One)

Regular readers of this column may be surprised to learn that, although I’ve spent my entire career in marketing, I didn’t start out in B-to-B direct marketing. Yes, Russell Kern got his feet wet as a general advertising account guy! And you know what? I’m glad I did. Experience in the general advertising world has equipped me—and, by extension, The Kern Organization—­­to better balance the requirements of direct marketing with those of branding on behalf of our clients. But when it came to my own career choice, I found the requirements of B-to-B direct marketing to be considerably more interesting, more stimulating and ultimately more

B-to-B Insights: Attain Success in an Integrated World

Most marketers can recite the official chief marketing officer (CMO) mantra: “Integrate all campaigns! Speak with one voice! Deliver a brand-consistent message across all channels!” This mantra is accompanied by visions of steadily growing awareness, preference for a company’s brand, along with ever increasing shareholder value. Where mantra becomes shibboleth—for B-to-B and B-to-C marketers alike—is in its application to direct marketing. That’s because marketing organizations often don’t appreciate the subtle tactical differences between brand-building and response generation. Earnestly supporting the vision of the CMO, they routinely send their agencies on missions to create work that is fatally flawed. Not the result you had

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

B-to-B Insights: Hit the Hot Buttons

Marketers today are doing as much demand generation and lead nurturing activity as possible via e-mail and online channels. And who can blame you? After all, online is much sexier than “snail mail,” and much less expensive. But despite its old school persona, postal mail offers benefits that simply aren’t available online. Not only can it deliver different prospects from those generated electronically, but it also provides you with the space and creative flexibility to initiate—or nurture—the brand experience. And if you get your strategy right, the lead quality couldn’t be higher. All of which means that, sooner or later, you’re going postal. So you’d

B-to-B Insights: Powerful Prose

13 proven strategies to create high-performing copy. Whether you’re using online or offline media channels to drive your direct marketing, copy significantly impacts your results. Direct is about getting prospects to read your message and respond right now. While you strive to build and support your brand using high-impact formats and images, you also must deliver copy that touches the heart and head of your prospects. Here’s a checklist of 13 essential points to help you create high-performance copy. Be specific. Words are the writer’s paintbrush. Your words should paint a picture that is vivid in detail. Instead of “How many times are

B-to-B Insights: Success Is in the Numbers

Remember story problems, such as two trains heading toward one another? The problems looked so innocent and easy but usually had some tricky twist. Well, if you attempt to solve my story problem, it could mean the difference between a campaign that sizzles and one that fizzles. Come with me through the story of sharp marketer Margie and her manager Sue. Using marketing math fundamentals as touchstones, let’s see how they tackle their current marketing mayhem and ultimately succeed based on a sound, tried-and-true solution. Sue and Margie’s Dilemma Manager Sue comes down the hall to speak to her demand generation employee—marketer Margie. “Margie, we’re not going

B-to-B Insight: More Summer Reading

It was with great joy that my wife, Lynne, and I recently moved our eldest daughter, Michelle, to New York City to start her new career in advertising. As soon as she graduated from the University of Southern California with a double degree in Communications and Spanish in May, she hit the streets of Manhattan and landed her first “real” job in Hispanic marketing. She has always had a great deal of passion for the Spanish language and the cultures that accompany it. Michelle is eager to learn her new craft in advertising and direct marketing. However, as I look at this young upstart—through the

B-to-B Insights: Test Your Way to Success

As direct specialists, we are a lucky group of marketers. Unlike the bulk of our brand-building brethren, we actually can measure what works and what doesn’t. Our ability to do this, however, is a mixed blessing. For, as frequently as it makes us feel like heroes, it also makes us feel like crawling under the desk. Working with B-to-B and B-to-C direct marketers both large and small for 25 years, it has become increasingly clear that B-to-B marketers aren’t doing anywhere near enough testing. The B-to-B Conundrum B-to-B marketers are in a quandary: Should they adhere to the traditional guidelines of testing, or yield to their emotional

B-to-B Insights Powerful Prose

By Russell Kern 13 proven strategies to create high-performing copy. Whether you're using online or offline media channels to drive your direct marketing, copy significantly impacts your results. Direct is about getting prospects to read your message and respond right now. While you strive to build and support your brand using high-impact formats and images, you also must deliver copy that touches the heart and head of your prospects. Here's a checklist of 13 essential points to help you create high-performance copy. Be specific. Words are the writer's paintbrush. Your words should paint a picture that is

B-to-B Insights Powerful Prose, Part 2

By Russell Kern In my B-to-B Insights column in the April issue of Target Marketing, I presented a baker's dozen of copywriting tips that can be leveraged to create response-generating direct marketing campaigns. But I was just getting warmed up, so here are six more prose pointers you could apply to your creative efforts for stronger results. 1. Make your headlines and subheads so compelling, readers will want to act now. People don't read direct mail, or even e-mail, in a linear fashion. Their eyes jump around, looking for information that helps them understand the value and benefit of investing more time in

Powerful Prose

Whether you’re using online or offline media channels to drive your direct marketing, copy significantly impacts your results. Direct is about getting prospects to read your message and respond right now. While you strive to build and support your brand using high-impact formats and images, you also must deliver copy that touches the heart and head of your prospects. Here’s a checklist of 13 essential points to help you create high-performance copy. Be specific. Words are the writer’s paintbrush. Your words should paint a picture that is vivid in detail. Instead of “How many times are you going to fix your accounting software

Put Brand in Its Place

Direct campaigns that have been designed with brand policy edicts in mind—without the proper application of direct marketing fundamentals—consistently cause a direct communication to look great but under-perform and deliver less than acceptable ROI. For example, an insurance client selling to small businesses is introducing a new brand. The brand is designed to be positive, fun, engaging. These all are great attributes for advertising. However, when using direct channels to get small business owners to pick up the phone and discuss proper coverage, historical evidence shows that fear, worry, uncertainty, discomfort and potential financial loss are what drive prospects to action. So the battle begins