Steve Trollinger

“Sex appeal”—it sounds so “red lights and velvet.” I think about fashionable women’s magazines and the “advice” they provide for putting forth the better you. Stealing a page from Cosmo, I’ll talk about your online sex appeal and how to make your Web site “hot.”

You can call it barbecue, barbeque, BBQ or just plain ’cue. Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, of course, calls it business. In particular, it’s a family business that started in 1957 when the Fiorella clan opened the first of its barbecue restaurants in Kansas City, Mo., called Smoke Stack Barbecue. In 1974, the eldest Fiorella son, Jack, added another branch to the family trade by opening his own operation, which he later distinguished by renaming it Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, introducing hickory wood to the grilling process and adding seafood to the more traditional pork, poultry and beef offerings.

There’s an economic concept known as the “wealth effect.” In essence, the wealth effect postulates that as consumers’ portfolios expand in times of strong economic conditions, their spending increases. In other words, as people’s wealth increases, their spending increases regardless of disposable income.

Most multichannel marketers think of customers in straight-forward terms: females, 45 to 60 years old, $75,000-plus household incomes, for example. These broad-sweeping demographic descriptors have a place in customer definitions but aren’t the end-all, be-all in defining who does business with you.

Direct marketing, regardless of channel, in so many ways is a scientific endeavor. Direct marketing strategists strive to isolate the drivers of better response rates, open rates, clickthrough percentages and conversion. The mathematical and scientific nature of direct marketing lends itself, more than any other marketing discipline, to experimentation. And we call that experimentation "testing."

Direct marketing 101, lesson one: Test the big things first. And few things are bigger than creative formats. But you don't want to test new formats solely on principle. Author Stephen R. Covey said it best in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People": Habit two-begin with the end in mind. In format testing, you must begin with an understanding of what you are attempting to learn or prove, as well as an understanding of what you will do with the results of your test—before you start.

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