I’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking for ways to simplify my Direct Marketing business. Not just for myself, but for clients and co-workers as well.
Our industry as a whole has gotten unnecessarily complicated and it’s driven us to the point of analysis paralysis. I see it every day. Rather than moving forward and testing new ideas clients get stuck in an endless loop of trying to stay on top of the best, most up-to-date marketing advice.
Here’s the reality. Almost all of that stuff is minutia. It’s unimportant compared to the big concepts of direct marketing. And if you understand those big concepts, it really doesn’t matter what sales funnel you use or what marketing tool you build with.
So if this direct marketing stuff is so simple, why does it seem like it has to be updated every single week (according to the gurus) in order to remain effective?
Because it’s the nature of the beast. The marketing industry is built on convincing people to spend more money. If you’re a marketing expert, it is literally your job. If they can’t convince you to buy stuff, they don’t have an income. And telling people to go look up 200-year-old books in the library generally doesn’t drive up sales. LOL.
So, as unprofitable as this might be… I’m about to reveal something that could save you a whole lot of money.
Almost all direct response ad campaigns being run today can be traced back to less than a dozen campaigns created over 200 years ago. People don’t change. Psychology doesn’t change. And just like the movie Industry, there are very few original plots.
So what are these original “rainmaker” campaigns. Well, as much as I’d love to go into detail on all of them (and we may one day) today I’d like to focus on three in particular. The coupon campaign, the application campaign and the giveaway campaign. And it is my firm belief that with just these three advertising campaigns you could sell nearly anything. So let’s dive in.
The Coupon Campaign
Originally invented by Claude Hopkins, sometime when dinosaurs roamed the earth, this has been one of the most widely adopted and effective advertising campaigns in history. In fact, this campaign is so ubiquitous that you may not even think of it as an advertising campaign. Almost every retail business in the world uses this as a staple form of marketing. But at one point, sometime in the past, these were all brand new ideas!
So what is a coupon campaign? Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now… It’s a coupon! Specifically, it’s a coupon for a great deal pushed up against a deadline. And that alone, put in front of an interested audience is often enough to get a buyer to purchase. Of course there are other mechanisms at play. Things like convincing headlines, benefits, features and social proof, but the main ad campaign boils down to a discount and a deadline. And this still works incredibly well today. incidentally, this was one of the first methods advertisers used to track response. Different coupon codes were used in different cities and when the campaign was over, everything was tallied and they knew which advertisement performed best. 200 years later it still works incredibly well.
The Application Campaign
I love this one. Out of all the campaigns that I’ve used in the past, this one is my favorite. Why? Because it flips the dynamic of the sales conversation entirely. Application campaigns are used to sell higher priced items or products with longer sale cycles where a client needs to be educated first.
Typically when selling more expensive items or services a client discovers your business by looking for a solution to their problem. They may visit your website, they may attend your presentations and they may read your emails. But at the end of the day, almost all of that material serves the same purpose – to try and convince them to give you money. And that is the exact same strategy that every other business out there is using as well. The business tries to convince the prospect. There are entire books around the concept of “ The Sale Starts At No.” But what if “No.” isn’t even part of the equation?
Rather than trying to convince a prospect to sign up, why not first ensure they’re a good fit and that you can actually help them? Flip the script. Explain that it would be unethical for you to take their money unless you can help them and for that reason they need to go through a short application process first. Have them fill out a short application form asking qualifying questions to make sure they’re a good fit. Then book a short phone interview with them. In almost every case the client ends up spending the majority of the phone interview excitedly explaining why they’re a great fit. I’ve literally lost count of the number of times clients have said “this is the best sales call I have ever been on.” Everybody ends up happy, and there was almost 0 sales friction because there is no uncomfortable sales pressure.
The Giveaway Campaign
This campaign is so effective for e-commerce and retail that it should be illegal. Ok, I say that for dramatic effect. But it’s really good. And just like the rest of the advertising campaigns in this article, I guarantee that you've seen this somewhere at least once in the past week. These giveaway campaigns are that prolific. Why? They deliver a 1-2 punch of getting you sales immediately, while covering your advertising costs upfront at the same time.
The best modern-day day example I can think of for this would be the McDonald’s free coffee campaign. A few times a year McDonald’s has one day where you can get a small coffee for free. No strings attached. Just go in and get your free coffee. But McDonald’s isn’t stupid. They know that the vast majority of people that go in for their free coffee – perhaps people that haven’t been McDonald’s coffee drinkers previously – will also get a muffin or a breakfast sandwich. They were enticed by the free giveaway, which cost almost nothing to for fill, and purchased other items which covered the cost of the coffee. And McDonald’s not only brings in a whack load of cash every time they do this, but they bring in new customers as well.
Another great example of this are all the bath and body shops that give lotion and soap samples away to people that walk by in the malls. You walk in to get your free sample, which cost them pennies, and you walk out with $30 in bath bombs.
You’ve more than likely seen these campaigns online as well. E-commerce owners will give products away for free as long as you cover the shipping and handling. The S&H covers the cost of the product, the advertising, and the handling to fulfil it. So the product seller gets to put “FREE Product” in the ad and get a new customer and you’re happy because you got it for free. From there the product vendor can go on to sell any number of complementary products or services to dramatically increase the average order value.
And no matter what type of business you run these three campaigns can be adapted to fit your needs. You don’t need to stay on top of the latest and greatest marketing improvements. You don’t need to buy any kind of newfangled fancy software. You don’t need to attend long winded presentations. And you certainly don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
I’d love to tell you these are all my ideas. I’d love to be able to claim them as my own and take credit like so many other marketers to, but that would be wrong. There’s a really great saying that comes to mind when I think of our industry.
“I see further because I stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Marketing legends like Claude Hopkins, Robert Collier and John Caples have already developed the wheel for us. This stuff has been tested it ad nauseam. Human psychology doesn’t change over time. We are the same simple creatures we were 200 years ago… except with Netflix. There’s no sense in re-creating what already works. 😉