Where Do You Start? Teaching Direct Marketing to College Students

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

I remember sitting in the parlor of a Catholic parish rectory in North Jersey while my wife was participating in a wedding rehearsal. The Mets game was on TV. The brother of a parish priest who was visiting from Ireland asked me to explain baseball. Explain baseball?!?! Where do you start?

Despite all of the professional speaking and training I’ve done in direct response marketing, the first time I taught a college course devoted entirely to it was last spring. I started with the fundamental concepts of media, offer, and creative. I had them write about each of these concepts from their own experience. We went over the various targeting opportunities marketers have online and offline. And at the end, we covered measurement and metrics.

At the end of the course, I asked the students to tell me what worked, what didn’t, and what should be changed. The most insightful comment was from a student who said:

“I wish you had covered all that measurement content at the beginning of the course. It made me realize why all that other stuff was important, and how it fit into the big picture.”

HELP!

Now, as I embark on teaching a course dedicated to Direct Response Marketing at Rutgers School of Business Camden, I’m looking for advice about how to sequence things.

Last year, when I bemoaned the lack of an appropriate up-to-date textbook for this discipline in this column, Dave Marold and Harvey  Markowitz stepped up and recommended the Fourth Edition of “Direct, Digital, and Data-Driven Marketing,” by Lisa Spiller. (Thanks for that Dave and Harvey; I’m using that book in the Fall).

What Do You Think?

Now I see the benefit of stressing measurement early. Even though I told the students every class that the coolest thing about direct marketing is that you can measure it, apparently the mechanical reality of measuring something like search engine keywords was not real for them. So:

  • Do I incorporate some form of measurement into every lesson?
  • Do I introduce a comprehensive measurement unit early in the course? (Spiller’s book does that early on, in Chapter 4).
  • Or, do I go full-on “math course” at the beginning, and thin a 40-student class down to 20 students after two weeks? (Just kidding).

Opinions welcome. (Actually, encouraged.)

17 Principles of Persuasion, Direct Marketing Style

So you’ve created your campaign and attended to all the details of identifying your audience, created your offer, and toiled for hours and hours, honing copywriting and design. But in the end, the tipping point for your success likely stems from the degree to which you emotionally persuade an individual to take action.

So you’ve created your campaign and attended to all the details of identifying your audience, created your offer, and toiled for hours and hours, honing copywriting and design. But in the end, the tipping point for your success likely stems from the degree to which you emotionally persuade an individual to take action.

Persuasion builds. It doesn’t just pop up and present itself. By the time you’ve engaged your audience and you’re moving toward the close, you should already have stimulated and calmed emotions, presented your USP, told a story, and walked your prospective customer or donor through logical reasons to purchase.

But to seal the deal, you need to return to emotion, and you need to persuade. So today I offer 17 principles of persuasion, direct marketing style.

Persuasion is an art, really, that builds over time. It’s earning trust and leading your prospect to a place where they give themselves permission to act. That permission comes from the individual recognizing that acting is in their interest and that they will feel good about their decision. You want them to say “this is good, this is smart, I’m going to do this!”

A place to start this list of persuasion points is with the six principles from the landmark book, Influence: How and Why People Agree to Things, by Robert Cialdini:

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

Expanding on Cialdini’s concepts with additional principles for direct marketers, I offer this checklist for direct marketing persuasion:

  1. Trust and Credibility: Persuasion isn’t coercion or manipulation. Trust is earned. Credibility is built. Without these two foundational elements, most else won’t matter. Begin persuading by building trust and credibility first.
  2. Authority: People respect authority figures. The power of authority commands respect and burrows deep into the mind. Establish your organization, a spokesperson, or an everyday person, relatable to your customer, as having authority.
  3. Express Interest: Your prospects are attracted to organizations that have an interest in them. Use this starter list of the six F’s as central topics to build around so you can persuade by expressing interest: Family, Fun, Food, Fitness, Fashion, or Fido/Felines.
  4. Build Desire for Gain: A major motivation that persuades your prospects and customers is the desire for gain. Give your prospect more of the things they value in life, such as more money, success, health, respect, influence, love and happiness.
  5. Simplify and Clarify: Communicate clearly. Obsess over simplifying the complex. Write to the appropriate grade level of your reader. Your prospects are more easily persuaded when you simplify and clarify.
  6. Expose Deep Truths: Go deeper with your persuasive message by telling your prospects things about themselves that others aren’t saying. Don’t be judgmental. Be respectful.
  7. Commitment and Consistency: When your prospect commits to your idea, they will honor that commitment because the idea was compatible with their self-image. Compatibility opens the door to persuasion.
  8. Social Proof: Even though the first edition of Cialdini’s book was written in 1984, a generation before the explosion of social media, he recognized the power of people behaving with a “safety in numbers” attitude from seeing what other people were doing. Testimonials and an active and positive presence on social media are often a must that leads in trust and persuasion.
  9. Liking: The term “liking” in 1984 was developed in the context of people being persuaded by those they like. People are persuaded and more apt to buy if they like the individual or organization. Still, it’s affirming to be “liked” on social media!
  10. Confidence is Contagious: When you convey your unwavering belief in what your product or organization can do for your prospect, that attitude persuades and will come through loud and clear.
  11. Reciprocity: It is human nature for us to return a favor and treat others as they treat us. Gestures of giving something away as part of your offer can set you up so that your prospects are persuaded and happy to give you something in return: their business.
  12. Infuse Energy: People are drawn toward and persuaded by being invigorated and motivated. Infuse energy in your message.
  13. Remind About Fear of Loss: No matter how much a person already possesses, most want more. People naturally possess the fear of missing out (FOMO). When you include them, they are more easily persuaded.
  14. Guarantee: Your guarantee should transcend more than the usual “satisfaction or your money back.” Your guarantee can persuade through breaking down sales resistance and solidify a relationship.
  15. Scarcity: Human nature desires to possess things that are scarce when we fear losing out on an offer presented with favorable terms. But make sure you honor the any positioning of scarcity in your message. If it’s an offer not to be repeated, don’t repeat it.
  16. Convey Urgency: With scarcity comes urgency. Offering your product or making a special bonus available for a “limited time” with a specific deadline can be a final tipping point to persuade.
  17. Tenacity and Timing: Just because a prospect said “no” the first, second or more times, it doesn’t mean you should give up on someone who is in your audience. It can take multiple points of contact, from multiple channels, before you persuade your prospect to give themselves permission to act.

What would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below.

How to Create Content That Converts

It’s time to stop creating compelling content and start creating content that converts. The “create compelling content” mantra has failed us. We’re awash in a sea of ineffective, self-centered articles, videos, ebooks and whitepapers that fail to create leads. So follow these three handy success principles to create content that converts.

It’s time to stop creating compelling content and start creating content that converts. The “create compelling content” mantra has failed us. We’re awash in a sea of ineffective, self-centered articles, videos, ebooks and whitepapers that fail to create leads. So follow these three handy success principles to create content that converts.

3 Guiding Principles of Content That Converts
These are the three success principles powering today’s content marketing success stories like HubSpot and a handful of others. Now it’s time for you to apply them and create content that converts for you.

Content that converts does three things. It creates …

  1. Action: Customers cannot resist DOING stuff with it—including signing up to become a lead.
  2. Results: It doesn’t just impart knowledge; it increases the success rate of prospects (for free).
  3. Confidence: Buyers ultimately convert based on trust created by positive results.

Create Confidence
For years we’ve been told “create compelling content!” So we got busy. The goal was clear: get customers to consider, select and buy from us.

But for most of us, videos go unnoticed. Blogs aren’t shortening the sales cycle. Well, you’re not alone in taking your eye off of what works, and that’s confidence.

The difference between content that converts and all the other crap out there is simple: It gives prospects a free sample or “taste” of actual success. Real results.

Content that creates leads and sales uses results to manufacture confidence in buyers.

I know, I know. It isn’t very sexy. We’ve been engaging transparently, branding authentically, telling compelling stories … and let’s not forget the customer advocacy we’re fostering. But the truth is nothing works as well at creating leads as confidence.

Why Customers Will Ask You for the Sale
Let’s say you apply an idea from this blog post and have success with it. Maybe you take action on the three success principles and start getting more (and better) leads with your blog. Because of this experience, you sign up for my free training course where you learn more and experience more success.

Would those positive results be powerful enough to make you crave more? If I helped you change the way you’re blogging (to the degree you started getting more and better leads) would that be powerful enough to make you reach out to me?

Might you write an email to me saying, “Jeff, you’ve helped me see things differently and start to improve how I’m blogging. I’m actually getting leads now. Thanks, Jeff. This is so cool. How can I turn up the volume on this? What’s next?”

In other words, could I somehow convince you, through experiencing a steady stream of my content, to ask ME for the sale a few weeks from now?
Answer: Yes, a significant percentage of people who read this blog post will, likely, convert for me.

Move the Needle
My goal for you, right now, is for you to finish reading this post, apply my tips and experience an increase in success. Period. Forget about you liking me or even sharing my content. That’s not my goal. First I need to get you confident. I need to move your needle.

If I truly deliver results, you’ll share the good news (advocate for me). You’ll likely consider and possibly even buy from me. Why? Because I just proved myself.

This is how you use social media and content marketing to create leads. By creating a little bit of success in people’s lives through what you publish—helpful blogs, ebooks that guide, videos that teach, checklists that speed things up, whitepapers that create curiosity, tutorials that help people learn, etc.

Why Give Away ALL of Your Best Advice
Let’s get real. I’m not getting paid to give you my best tips and advice in this article. So why would I?

Answer: Because I don’t have time to worry about if you are actually my competitor, hoping to steal my material. I’m not losing sleep wondering if you’re going to take these instructions and do it yourself—without ever buying my coaching program. Neither should you.

You need to get customers’ success to increase—because of you. You need to get them confident. You need to get them doing something meaningful with knowledge that is truly new, insightful, powerful.

Because ultimately the knowledge WILL be given to them. They will discover the details of “how to do _______,” which you would prefer to sell them. Some customers will do it themselves because they can’t afford it otherwise.

Others will be able to afford to hire you, try it, fail and return to the market as a highly motivated buyer.

The only thing for you to decide on is who they will return to. Because the most likely selection they’ll make is the business or person who gave them the instructions.

So how did I do? Do you now feel an urge to DO something with what I shared? Because I now want you to do something that moves the needle. I don’t care if you see me as a thought leader or want to follow me. I want to sell something to you if it’s right for you. That’s why I gave you my very best tips and insights. Let me know how I did in comments or shoot me an email?

6 Energizing Principles From Video Sales Letters

Video sales letters are being used more and more by traditional direct marketers. The videos are simple. No fancy graphics—just words on screen, flowing in sync with a voice-over. This format works well when you have a product or service that doesn’t demand dynamic visuals as much as it demands a compelling message, well told, to an audience who rabidly follows you. Here are six videos sales letters principles that can energize

Video sales letters are being used more and more by traditional direct marketers. The videos are simple. No fancy graphics—just words on screen, flowing in sync with a voice-over. This format works well when you have a product or service that doesn’t demand dynamic visuals as much as it demands a compelling message, well told, to an audience who rabidly follows you. Here are six videos sales letters principles that can energize what you do for your own online video marketing initiatives.

Direct marketers in the publishing niche (for example, investment newsletters, health newsletters and nutritional supplements) use video sales letters extensively. The marketers get viewers by way of their opt-in customer list; sending an email that directs the prospect to a landing page containing the long-form video sales letter. These are often long-form copy letters (on video) and can last 10 to 15 minutes—even longer.

Video sales letters are often educational. Viewers are conditioned that they will learn something if they invest the time to absorb the message. Rewarded by discovering something new, they don’t find them annoying. And they’ll buy when the message is convincing.

Direct marketers who successfully use video sales letters know their market, their audience and how to generate sales.

Certainly not everyone will watch a 10-to-15 minute video. You may be among those who say you never would. But clearly there are people who stick through video sales letters—just as many people read through long-form printed letters that are relevant and engaging—and they convert to sales. Even if your product or service doesn’t lend itself to this format, here are six principles to consider that can energize your own online video marketing programs.

  1. Classic copywriting formulas are your foundation
  2. You, the marketer, control the pace
  3. Flow and pace are nuanced
  4. Energize your message with a persona
  5. Give viewers mental redirects
  6. Strategically delay the appearance of call-to-action buttons

I elaborate on each of these six principles—the deep dive—in this video.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

Have a Happy & Profitable Earth Day 2012! A Good Time to Enter the ECHO Awards’ Green Marketing Competition

For the past three years, the Direct Marketing Association has awarded a Special ECHO Award dedicated to incorporating sustainable, environmental concerns in marketing. The award is given NOT for being “green” (which is self-limiting), but for being successful in marketing—read, profitable—and demonstrating environmental performance in the process.

For the past three years, the Direct Marketing Association has awarded a Special ECHO Award in its International ECHO Awards competition dedicated to incorporating sustainable, environmental concerns in marketing: The ECHO Green Marketing Award.

The three winners to date—the United States Postal Service (2009), the World Wildlife Fund (2010), and Consumer Reports (2011)—each have taken the direct marketing process and used the DMA “Green 15” environmental marketing practices and principles to illustrate how marketing activity can be both successful in driving response and interaction, and adhere to best practices for environmental performance. Note, the award is given NOT for being “green” (which is self-limiting), but for being successful in marketing—read, profitable—and demonstrating environmental performance in the process.

Importantly, the award—which is judged by members of the DMA Committee on the Environmental and Social Responsibility, under the auspices of the DMA ECHO Awards Committee—looks to evaluate and recognize the marketing process, and not the product or service being marketed. Thus, the product or service being marketing need not be environmentally focused (though it certainly can be). What the judges look for is the usual hallmarks of an ECHO Award-winning direct-response campaign—strategy, creative, results—and adds a fourth component, adherence to environmental principles which apply to direct marketing. These principles are clearly stated in the DMA Green 15, which articulate list hygiene, paper procurement and use, printing and production, mail design, fulfillment and recycling collection & pollution prevention in everyday direct marketing business decision-making.

To date, each previous winner interpreted this objective in in very different ways. The USPS sought to demonstrate how direct mail advertising can be very environmentally sensitive (and sensible) in its multi-faceted “Environmailist” campaign, targeted at advertising agencies and brands that use the direct mail channel. In Australia, the World Wildlife Fund, working to promote its “Earth Hour” environmental awareness effort, sent carbon-neutral plant spikes via potted plants to office managers around the country to promote greater efficiency in office environments. Last year, Consumer Reports—in promoting subscription to its ShopSmart and Consumer Reports magazines—used the Green 15 to audit each of its business decisions in data management, supply chain engagement, procurement, production, logistics and customer communication, and to apply the principles where they made economic sense or were revenue-neutral.

The deadline for entering the 2012 DMA International ECHO Marketing Award competition is April 25, 2012, with a late deadline of May 2, 2012: http://dma-echo.org/enter.jsp

As brands and agencies enter the Awards, there is an entry field where consideration for the ECHO Green Marketing Award is prompted. If the “yes” box is checked, an additional Green Marketing Award Addendum can be promptly accessed that allows up to 1,000 words to explain how the entry:

  • Employs Innovative Green Tactics & Strategies Employed Throughout the Direct Marketing Process
  • Inspires Action & Making a Difference to the Planet
  • Demonstrates Measurable Environmental Impact of the Campaign
  • … all the while being a successful marketing campaign overall.

Happy Earth Day 2012—and take the time to show others how your brand or your client’s brand is leading the way in incorporating environmental sensitivity in its everyday marketing decision-making—and producing outstanding, profitable results. I’m hopeful I will be writing about your winning campaign once the 2012 winner is announced during the DMA2012 Conference this October in Las Vegas, NV.