The Truth Is, There Is No Truth — Let Alone in Advertising

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally.

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally. Or we didn’t experience the results firsthand that a customer claims to have experienced from a company’s products or services.

So can we really trust or should we believe what others “report” to us? The answer to this is widely debated on Facebook and news stations as we face all of the “fake” news we get daily, and as we become more aware that so much of what we see and hear is just that: fake. We are finally being made aware of the fact that many propogandists will overlay someone’s face on another person’s video image to “fake” that someone in the public eye said something harming that, in most cases ,they never did. Scary. We are also learning that so much of the posts we see on social media — Facebook, especially — were created by propogandists and posted to our accounts because of the demographic profile Facebook created from our past posts and those of the “friends” connected to us. We’re really starting to get it, whether we face it or not.

One thing we marketers need to also face is the how the “truth” we are putting out there is being received. As consumers are starting to watch the “news” and read social media with a different lens than before, we need to look at how that new lens affects their vision for our marketing messages. Here’s just two examples.

Testimonials

These have been the foundation of marketing since the beginning of time. They’re claims from one customer at a time about how products or services changed their worlds. We’ve used them, believing prospects will believe them if we attach them to a real person. Perhaps not so much anymore. Celebrity endorsements have been decreasing in influence rapidly for the past few years. We all know celebrities can be bought for the public appeal of their personal image, and that many are willing to put their mouth when the money is, and so these appeals don’t influence our purchasing choices like they used to. The same is holding true for ordinary people testimonials. Especially as more brands offer to reward us for posting reviews about them.

A testimonial is only true for the person speaking, and at the time they wrote the testimonial. Their truth may not apply to someone else, and it may not be true anymore, due to subsequent experiences with the brand involved. Testimonials can also backfire, as the prospects will expect to be just as delighted as those customers they believed, and the reality is that this is not likely the way it will go. Ever. As all customers’ needs, expectations and experiences are as different as the individual using the product or service. We see and judge life’s experiences through lenses of our experiences, culture, expectations, social situations, life’s challenges, and so much more.

Product Claims

Time to drop the hype. We’re so used to making self-proclaimed endorsements of our competitive advantages, product quality, results generated, and so much more. If anything has come out of the “fake” news movement, it’s that we are learning not to believe hype and claims that can’t be substantiated. We marketers need to start writing more like journalists were trained to write decades ago, before they cared more about ratings than news or truth. When I attended to journalism school as an undergraduate, our work was thrown out if we used adjectives or made suggestions that were not attributed to quotable sources. This needs to become the new norm for marketers, many of whom were raised to use big words, project big claims, and spark curiosity, and then explain later.

Many consumers today have become jaded, skeptical, and cautious to trust, and for good reason. They have been bombarded with “fake news,” “fake promises,” fake claims,” and more “fake” truths. Generation Xers, Millennials, and the up-and-coming generations are learning not to believe more than believe. There are a lot of reasons for them not to trust what they hear or see. TV and digital and print news can be manipulated with Photoshop and other special effect tools. Video and comments from spokespeople can easily be taken out of context and, in reality, we are learning to expect that they are more often than not.

What Marketers Can Do About Truth

Marketers can overcome this jaded vision of the world and brands in business today by addressing truth firsthand. You can do this by creating more interaction between your brand and consumers online and in the real world. Let customers experience what you are all about — your products, your persona, your values — more than reading your carefully crafted statements. Apple’s stores are a great example of how this can be done. The atmosphere is open and engaging, not stiff and overwhelming with merchandise and sales signs popping out in front of you at every corner. They simply ask how they can help, educate you about their technology and your options, and let you explore and experience the products for as long you want to, in an engaging, no hype, no hard-sell setting.

In short, “truth” is not in the written word or video snippets, but in the actual experience of each customer. Creating personal realities that are meaningful and relevant should be every marketing team’s top goal.

How to Overcome Resistance With Direct Mail

The biggest challenge for marketing, no matter what the channel, is driving response. One of the best benefits of direct mail is that it has an easier time overcoming the resistance to responding. Of course, not all direct mail works. How can you get your direct mail to drive a better response? Let’s look at four tips.

The biggest challenge for marketing, no matter what the channel, is driving response. One of the best benefits of direct mail is that it has an easier time overcoming the resistance to responding. Of course, not all direct mail works. How can you get your direct mail to drive a better response? Let’s look at four tips.

4 Ways to Overcome Resistance to Your Marketing With Direct Mail

  1. Emotion: Start by addressing the emotions people have about making a purchase. They have fear about the unknown. Give them some testimonials from people like them that loved your product or service. They have some anger about having to deal with this now and the urge to procrastinate about it. Provide benefits for them to see how great it will be after the purchase and give them a deadline to respond by. Finally, you need to address the self-doubt they are having. Are they making the wrong decision? Will it work? You can help reinforce them with compliments and positive messaging.
  2. Experience: Use the direct mail piece to create and experience for your customers and prospects. There are many ways you can do this such as adding video, augmented reality, texture and so much more. Hands-on experiences are powerful. The most important part here is that the experience is relevant to your product or service and is engaging and fun.
  3. Trust: People buy from companies they trust. Your direct mail needs to be trustworthy. In order to do that you need to be clear about what they can expect from your product or service. You need to be very open and honest with your messaging while keeping your tone optimistic. This is another place where testimonials really help. People believe other people like them. Another factor is repetition. It really does take eight to 10 touches with prospects before they feel comfortable buying from you. Keep in mind that multi-channel marketing can help you here. In many studies over the years direct mail has been the top trusted marketing channel so use that to your advantage.
  4. Focus: The focus of you direct mail piece should be on converting the people who are ambivalent into buyers. They are the quickest way to increasing your response rates. They are not a full on “no,” they are a “maybe.” Find out the ways to reach them specifically to address the three ways above. When you are able to address all their concerns you can get them to act and buy from you.

Keep in mind that you are asking people to make a change when they buy from you. Many people do not like change and that is why your messaging is so important. Grab their attention with your design, but get them to buy with your message. The four ways discussed above will help you drive your response rates up, but the only way to sustain growth over time is to be driven and consistently changing what you are doing. Yes, you should be sending mail to people multiple times, but not the same thing — you need to change it up.

The real power of direct mail is targeting. When you add variable data messaging to your highly targeted list, you are tapping into a persuasive method. Make it easy for them to respond by providing them an offer that is relevant, a web address they can make a purchase from that is mobile friendly, and any other ways you want to provide a phone number they can call. The easier it is the more response you are going to get.

How to Create Sticky Direct Mail

By sticky, I mean direct mail that really resonates or makes an impression on your prospects and customers. When this happens, they are more likely to respond to your offer. After your first hurdle of grabbing attention so that your mail piece does not end up in the trash, your next hurdle is drawing them into your messaging. This is where the sticky part takes place.

So, what do I mean by “sticky” and why should your direct mail be sticky? By sticky, I mean direct mail that really resonates or makes an impression on your prospects and customers. When this happens, they are more likely to respond to your offer. After your first hurdle of grabbing attention so that your mail piece does not end up in the trash, your next hurdle is drawing them into your messaging. This is where the sticky part takes place.

Here are three ways to make your messaging sticky:

1. Testimonials

People trust the opinions of others more than they trust companies. When you add testimonials to your direct mail you make your product or service more trustworthy, and people are curious about what others say so they will take the time to read them. The testimonials provide you with an unbiased opinion of your products or services; this is powerful for people who are unsure if they should buy from you.

2. Stories

People enjoy stories. When you create direct mail messaging with a story concept, you draw in the reader. In order to keep them interested, you need to have a good story. Build up curiosity so they want to know what will happen. Of course your story needs to fit in with your brand and product or service — just adding any old story is not going to help you. Everything in the direct mail piece needs to tie together to be effective.

3. Emotional

Emotion is a powerful sticky point. When nonprofits tug at heart strings to get donations, it works! Use emotion to draw people in. Even for-profits can do this. Think of ways that your product or service can create an emotional appeal. You don’t have to focus on just sad emotions — try out each one to see what will work best for you by testing ideas with a focus group of clients or people outside of your organization.

No matter what the format of your direct mail piece is, such as a letter, postcard or self-mailer, the stickiness of your messaging matters. On postcards, you will have to be very concise while still drawing them in. Letters give you plenty of space for messaging — keep in mind that people like to read the P.S. lines, so have a great sticky message here. Images can also help your direct mail be sticky. When you are able to convey your message through powerful images, it creates a great way to draw people in. Make sure that you are not using language to disengage people. Stay away from clichés, boasting and arrogant messaging. No one wants to read that. Open, honest language is the best.

Consider the messaging you have used on past direct mail pieces. What could you do with that messaging to make it even better? Do you find any of it to be boring? One thing you can’t do is have boring messaging in your direct mail. That is a sure way to get it thrown into the trash. If you know you have used good messaging in the past, use it again — but not word for word. Change it up to keep it fresh. If you use testimonials, don’t always use the same ones — switch them out. Interest in your direct mail pieces over time tapers off, so freshen up not only your look, but your messaging too.

Create your sticky now to increase your 2017 results. When you send mail to the right people, create an impression and provide a good offer: You will get results.

How Events Hurt Major Gifts — And What to Do About It

I was in a meeting with the fundraising staff of a very prominent and successful nonprofit, and the leader of the major gifts program told the familiar story of how he and his staff had been pulled away from their major gift work to organize an event that “meant a lot to the board.”

eventIt happened again.

I was in a meeting with the fundraising staff of a very prominent and successful nonprofit, and the leader of the major gifts program told the familiar story of how he and his staff had been pulled away from their major gift work to organize an event that “meant a lot to the board.”

I was stunned by what I was hearing, because the major gift staff already had its hands full with substantial increases in goals for the fiscal year, and now it was being recruited to spend a good deal of time and money organizing a feel-good event that, quite frankly, had nothing to do with fundraising.

It was true that the event would net $50,000. But when I heard that number, I asked if staff time had been calculated into the cost. No, it hadn’t. And when we did the math, that $50,000 net disappeared in a nanosecond.

What is it about nonprofit boards, leaders and staff who so easily catch events fever and lose their way on thinking objectively about this topic?

Yes, a well-organized event, with the right content, can raise the profile of a nonprofit. But then, why not have the public relations or communications department handle it? Why pull the major gift folks away from relating to their good donors to do this work? I know. Because it’s the donors on the caseload that will be the core group who will make the event financially successful.

Hold on. Did you just hear what I said? The donors on the caseload will make the event financially successful. Hmm. So we are moving money from the major gift officer’s caseload to the event and increasing the expense to secure that money? Yep. Crazy. And, likely, the gift the major donor gives at the event will be far less than what she could have given if the major gift officer had managed the giving outside of the event.

But these major donors will bring their friends, and we can make them our friends, and everything will be grand. It’s true. I have seen this happen. But not very frequently. Here’s why. The friend has come at the invitation of the major donor, and two things are working against them getting further involved:

• The friend is simply servicing an obligation. They have no intent to get involved. It is a nice social time out with a good friend and that’s that. Or they are trading favors. “You came to my gig last month. I go to yours now.” And while you could turn this around with a compelling program, the fact is …

• There is no compelling program presented. This has always amazed me. We get all of these wonderful people together. And they have a ton of capacity to give. But all we offer, besides a nice meal, is some quick facts about who we are, a testimonial, an award to a board member or key volunteer and other nicey-nicey things. And everyone goes home feeling good.

If the leaders in your organization have events fever — in other words, hardly any argument or reasoning will dissuade them organizing an event — then make the best of it by doing the following:

1. See if you can get some other department to do the heavy lifting. Get PR, communications, the volunteer coordinator, the assistant to the executive director — someone other than you — to organize it. In other words, protect your major gift time as best you can. Time is all you have. And there is very little of it to put toward relating to your caseload donors. So have a mindset of delegating as much as you can.

2. Sell tickets to cover costs. This isn’t a new idea, and it’s regularly done. I only mention this to set up the next point. Your objective is to break even or have a positive net to cover the labor involved.

3. Create a compelling program that presents an “I can’t avoid supporting it” project. Yes, you heard correctly. I am suggesting selling tickets and asking for gifts at the event. And the ticket-selling process should clearly outline what you are doing. “I am selling tickets to cover costs because I want you to come with your friends and hear about this exciting must-do project.” Obviously, you have to create something that the donor and their friends and other prospects want to attend.

Think about this like you do when you go out with friends to dinner and split the check. That’s all that is going on. The donors are covering the cost to attend a presentation. The whole event must then be carefully choreographed, from start to finish, so that the donors and their friends are completely engulfed in the drama and journeys of the people who will be helped when they get involved. When I say start to finish, I mean things like:

  • The look of the ticket and program.
  • Signage at the venue.
  • Material on the tables or, if outside, those materials as well.
  • What the greeters say to people coming in.
  • The sequencing, cadence and messaging of the program — every single element is discussed and programmed. Nothing is left to chance.
  • The testimonials and comments of people invited to speak.
  • The pictures, videos, music and any other program elements.
  • Every single element is strategic — even when and how a meal is served. Everything.
  • The price tag for the project needs to be large enough to accommodate the giving goals you have set for every donor on your caseload and their friends and other non-donors who may be present. You do not want to have a $100,000 project when the sum of all the goals of the donors present is $750,000. Doesn’t make sense.

Here’s the thing. Nothing is left to chance. Everything is intentional. And all of it draws you to this amazing thing “we must all do!” That is what I mean by compelling. You are drawn in and compelled to act. That is how engaging the program/project is.

4. Seed the event and the giving at the event with up-front giving by selected donors. Go to selected caseload donors and ask them to come to the event and make a commitment to the project. You might ask for a matching gift that can be unveiled at the event. It could really be quite dramatic. Picture this. The project is $850,000 and one donor, in advance, has pledged a $300,000 matching gift.

At a strategic moment at the event, the executive director calls on the donor to speak. She says something like, “When I heard about this project, I just had to get involved. Think of the difference we all could make if, tonight, we funded the whole thing! It would be so exciting. Look at all the lives that would be forever changed. That is why I am putting up a $300,000 challenge grant. Whatever you give tonight, up to $300,000, I will match. Come on, let’s get this done!” Wow, that would be something.

***

So, you get what I am saying about the same old, same old event vs. a version of what I am describing above. This is a real fundraising event. Not the faux event that so many nonprofits spend so much time on. If you are going to do an event, do it right. Make it cause-oriented vs. just a happy time.

The cause is why the donors are involved — they want to make a difference in someone’s life. Program your event toward that reality. It will make a tremendous difference in the financial outcome and how the donors feel about your organization.

3 More Direct Mail Ideas (+1 Bonus) to Drive Local Business

I heard from an old friend a few weeks ago who, in a roundabout way, asked me for some free marketing advice. This is kind of rare for me, and I asked a lot of questions. When she told me that Facebook was just not working well enough for her, I think my next words were: “direct mail.”

I talked with an old friend a few weeks ago who, in a roundabout way, asked me for some free marketing advice for her housecleaning business. This is kind of rare for me, and I asked a lot of questions. When she told me that Facebook was just not working well enough for her, I think my next words were: “direct mail.”

Now, I like housecleaning, but I know a lot of people don’t. There’s a really good market for this kind of work. I showed her how the Cleaning Authority does a terrific job detailing its services in a very simple self-mailer.

Then I remembered my blog post on copy and design ideas for using direct mail to drive local business. I listed seven of them then, but in talking with her, I came up with a few more, thanks to mail that comes into Who’s Mailing What!.

1.Tap Into Emotions
Salvation_01
This one is so obvious that I can’t believe I missed it the first time.

To make a personal connection with a prospect, your direct mail should use copy (and images) that generate an emotional response. Although there are many motivators, the seven main drivers of action are: fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, salvation, and flattery.

Over the years, I’ve seen all of them used in local offers, whether mailed solo or as part of a co-op package. Salvation seems to be the most common, as in this example.

2. Ask A Question
Question_01
This is an easy way to involve a prospect in your promotion. Providing the right answer helps customers to self-qualify for your services. In this case, it’s helped along by a bullet-pointed checklist that backs up the impulse to take the offer … or at least think about it.

3. Use Testimonials
Testim_01
The voices of satisfied clients can be quite powerful. Existing customers can talk about their own experiences, in their own words. For prospects, reading the opinions of other people that are similar to them the most, maybe even their own neighbors, can make the offer more relevant. Using a photo of a real person, an authentic story, and a specific problem or issue addressed by one or more of the selling points helps bolster a company’s claims. Add social call-outs adds even more credibility.

BONUS: Include The Magic Word
Free_01
That magic word is “free.” Or even better, “FREE!” This is pretty simple. Free estimate. Free inspection. Free bonus. Free item. Free membership. Free Service. Free dessert. The possibilities are endless for offering something of value.

Direct mail is highly measurable and cost-effective, when done well. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to help. I also pointed out to my friend that many of these tactics can be applied to the online world. When I last checked in with her, she was working with a local marketer on a direct mail plan, as well as her Facebook and the rest of her online presence. She should be turning away business in no time.

Using Video Production as Part of Your Customer Retention Strategy

Video is a tool designed to communicate with your customers. If you follow the statistic “80 percent of your future revenue will come from 20 percent of your current customers,” you know that the greatest part is to keep your customers happy so they keep coming back. The best way to preserve your clients is to keep them engaged.  You can keep your clients engaged by offering new videos about your product or service

How strong is your relationship with your customers? Do you have a customer retention strategy in place for your business? What are you doing to maintain your customers loyalty?

These questions are extremely important, and it’s up to you to come up with ways to maintain a healthy system designed to keep your customers and help them grow with you not against you. These hints will give you some fresh ideas that you might not have considered to plan on growing your client retention.

Video is a tool designed to communicate with your customers. If you follow the statistic “80 percent of your future revenue will come from 20 percent of your current customers,” you know that the greatest part is to keep your customers happy so they keep coming back. The best way to preserve your clients is to keep them engaged. You can keep your clients engaged by offering new videos about your product or service. Be careful not to over due it with the social media. People will get angry if you spam them out on Facebook and the like. Thinking of new ways to communicate to your clients is a big responsibility, but with a few solid ideas, you can give your customers a dose of encouragement and keep them wanting to know more about what you can provide for them.

Video can be a great answer as it’s good for promotions, technical issues, special discounts, customer appreciation, etc., etc., etc. Keeping the client engaged is one thing, but the end goal should be to keep your clients devoted to you and your brand. Video allows you to communicate with the message you want them to receive while sending that message to more of your clients. Although this can never take the place of the human element in communication, it can be a terrific alternative for when you need to send the message to the masses.

Here are some ideas that will help gain trust with your clients, keep them remembering your products, and accepting your messages.

  1. Product review
  2. Customer support, repair, assembly
  3. Customer conferences
  4. Customer testimonials
  5. Employee testimonials
  6. New product launch
  7. Webinars
  8. Video newsletters and blogging

Video featuring your product or someone talking about a focused area of your service can be extremely effective, not only by gaining a lot of attention on YouTube, but also developing trust by demonstrating your product online. Remember to have a lot of cutaways and b-roll (the images that support the dialogue).

Customer support, repair and videos of assembling a product can not only be useful to post online, they can save you money by not hiring staff to answer specific and common questions. There is customer service 24/7. More companies are using Vine for this type of video communication. Vine is great because you can create video with your cell phone. However, remember that these can only be short videos. Companies like The Gap have found this to be a unique tool to their culture.

Customer conferences are great and you can get some exposure through press releases announcing the conference. Depending on the success of the conference, often times you can gain some additional sales through word of mouth. Word of mouth is the best advertising possible.

Testimonials are always terrific for people looking to do business with new companies. Testimonials can be effective by selecting real clients, with real stories that they can relate to. Also, give your interviewee enough time to prepare what they would like to say. Remember not everyone is comfortable around the camera. Even a cell phone can be intimidating when you aren’t sure what to say.

Any time you have a new product a video, it should be on your marketing strategy. People love to read about new products, but they love it even more when they can find out pertinent information about that product for 30 seconds. Disney Collector BR on YouTube discovered a way to make a living from product reviews. She has over 800,000 subscribers who want to know what the toy features before buying it.

When it comes to B-to-B marketing, one of the best ways to make an impact on your clients is by hosting a webinar. Incorporate video subscription to those that want to attend but cant, so that they don’t miss your important message. Webinars are great because they are informative as well as valuable.

Last but not least is the use of video blogs. When your clients are interested in what you have to offer a newsletter or blog keeping them updated helps to build a relationship with them. I know many executives that utilize this method of communicating to their teams overseas and abroad.

There are thousands of terrific ideas for using video as part of your customer retention strategy. Video can always be measured by viewership and analytics. In any case if your goal is to get your clients to be loyal to your brand then using video as part of that net will be sure to help you succeed.