Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

Baker's Dozen INDEX

The 13 Platinum Most Fundamental Direct Marketing Creative Ideas

This may be the toughest Baker's Dozen I've written.

Why? Well, because creative is so subjective - the "most fundamental" to one is not a consideration for another. Still, someone has to take a stab. And several of these - without a doubt - are base. You undoubtedly will agree with some - and not others.

To select just 13 ideas I read and re-read. Specifically a pair of my previous writings. A booklet written a dozen years ago, with 66 copy and art thoughts. And my book, which houses a variation of that group, plus 33 more - total 99.

And then I looked about for what is "new" for this new century ... and still a true creative fundamental. All is condensed in The 13 Platinum Most Fundamental Direct Marketing Creative Ideas. Here goes.

Creative Fundamental #1- Aim your message at the right marketplace

The 21st Century is an extension of the 20th when it comes to this basic; your message, whatever it is, must go to the right audience.

My 40-30-20-10 success rule says it best;

40 = audience, marketplace, list selection,

30 = offer, a reason for action,

20 = copy & art to present your message,

10 = media, the way you reach your marketplace.

This formula, one way or another, has worked for decades. And it will not change any time soon.

Always, and first, put yourself in the place of the person who can buy what you sell. What would you need to know about the product or service offered? What do you need to know before you make a decision? Whatever the answer, this is what you then say to the person who can buy what you sell.

Aiming your message at the right audience is still a base, a fundamental.

Creative Fundamental #2 - People are your audience

Marketing - direct marketing - is a people business.

People make decisions. Not companies. Or committees. Or boards. Or groups, Or organizations. Or associations. Only people.

So, "talk" to and with people. Get people involved with your message. With what you offer. With what you do. With what you bring to the marketplace.

"Yes", this is a time when quality is expected and service is key to repeat business. Yet, we must always remember it is people who create the quality and provide the service. It is people who make decisions. It is people who take action. It is people who make things happen.

So, your message must be directed to the people, within your total marketplace, who will benefit most from your offer.

Creative Fundamental #3 - In direct, copy is the royal family!

Copy drives direct. Which means your copy had better be better than just good. It needs to be "perfect".

To begin, have a method. Here is one that works for me;

  1. Think
  2. Plan
  3. Organize
  4. Revise
  5. Revise

How you do the first 3 points is a matter for discussion at another time. And it truly depends on you. That you do the last 3 is mandatory. No discussion. Just do it. This process is the exact process I went through in writing these words. Note points 4, 5, 6 ... they could continue to 7, 8, 9, and onward. They did for this piece!

At the same time, do not be a slave to grammar. Copy writing for communication is different than English (or any language) composition. This does not mean you should write like an illiterate ... it does mean you write for understanding. And selling. The key is to be conversational ... just as when you're face-to-face.

And believe it or not - copy is not long. Nor short. Copy is interesting, or it is not. To your marketplace. The "more your tell the more you sell" is not a sales slogan - it is a marketing axiom.

Write to be read. Write to be understood. Write for action. This is direct!

Creative Fundamental #4 - Write for a 13 year old

If the 13 years olds on your block cannot read and understand the words of your copy, you are writing over the heads of your audience. Period!

Doubt me? Well, this mornings newspaper is written at a 13 year old reading level. Ditto tonight's television news. Exceptions? Sure, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and Fortune magazine.

Still, that's how we talk. All of us. We talk day to day, with friends and at work, in just about everything we do, at about a 13 year old reading level. So, write it like you say it.

You must keep your copy simple. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. And stay away from "me-me" copy. All about yourself is not the way to endear yourself to your audience. Talk about "you", and you're on the path to success.

Plus, make your message a dialogue, not a monologue. Remember, this is direct. You're seeking a response, some action.

And "talk" to your audience in an language she can understand. It's obvious a professional music teacher needs to hear a different message than an auto parts store manager or a hotel casino director. Or a grandmother. Even thou each may be the "perfect" market for your service.

Last, keep your tone friendly. Your prospects and customers will appreciate your old-fashioned friendliness ... just as you do. When you're "friendly" with your copy you'll make friends for your product, your service and your company.

That's just how it works ... we're all 13 years old. Again.

Creative Fundamental #5 - BENEFITS, Benefits, benefits

Quick translation of benefits: WII-FM ... What's In It For Me.

The difference isn't in size, shape, color, variety, number of buttons, type of fabric, years of experience or other "feature". The difference is what the size, shape, color, variety, number of buttons, type of fabric, years of experience mean. Your prospects are less interested in what your product is than what it will do for them. i.e., what your buyer gains by doing business with you.

This is what benefits are ... how your buyer will be ahead. Not that it has red buttons ... instead, what happens when you push red buttons. Does it allow them to make, earn, save, improve, win, teach, help, lead ... make their personal life or business activity better?

The sales phrase USP - Unique Selling Proposition, or PoD - Point of Difference is fitting. Usually it is only 2 or 3 benefits of your service that give your marketplace exactly what they're looking for.

So, do not tell a lie ... be honest, straightforward, up-front, true. Tell a funny story, be entertaining, weave a theme to make your point, play "games" ... all as long as everything leads to a customer benefit.

Creative Fundamental #6 - Facts are stubborn things

Facts and figures and formulas appear specific, and are thus believable. Statistics "prove" who, what, why, when, where and how.

People are drawn to these numbers. Just as to water. Even when they are not understood, we tend to "drink" in numeric data. Those wonderful performance ratings. They all "sound" so good.

Nothing changes or gets better if you ignore facts. Of course, your facts must have something to say. To support your message. Which may seem unusual to say ... yet, many messages seem to say very little. Or, even worse, are not clear what they are saying.

So, no matter the quality of your message, when you offer "facts" to back it up, your marketplace is much more likely to respond in kind.

Creative Fundamental #7 - Say it ... prove it

Sometimes your word isn't good enough. Even with facts and figures.

So, prove what you have to share with testimonials, case histories ... "live" examples from real situations ... and with quotes from experts who support your point of view. And then, offer a strong guarantee.

Testimonials have been with us since Biblical times. And they still work wonders. Because a testimonial is someone saying something nice about you. Testimonials work in print, in mail, on your web site, with E-mail and fax marketing, and on broadcast.

Story telling is "in" this decade. And case histories tell stories. "Live" stories about real people and organizations doing real things, and how they benefitted.

"Quotations" are wonderful, too. Frequently words from others allow you to be believable. When an expert in your field says what you say, in another way, all of a sudden you become the knowledge expert. You become the one the marketplace turns to.

Then you back it all up with a strong guarantee. A money-back or satisfaction guarantee is worth its weight in gold in direct. What a guarantee says is ... D.W.Y.P.Y.W.D. ... you Do What You Promise You Would Do.

Say it ... prove it.

Creative Fundamental #8 - Always offer an offer

An offer says to your marketplace: "When you do 'A' I'll do 'B'. And you'll earn 'C' ... a benefit."

Offers were yesterday, are today, will be tomorrow, a fact in direct marketing. They are not going away in the "new economy". E-commerce does not eliminate the need for an offer.

There are dozens, scores, hundreds of offers. Such as a free booklet or sample. A free trial. A free cost estimate. A 2 for 1 when you buy today.

Many offers are based on moving people emotionally. Getting them involved enough to do something ... to do almost anything. Limited Time Offers and Limited Number Offers work exceptionally well. Time is an incentive to get an audience to do something now ... for, if they do not respond by 'X' date, the offer goes away.

LNO works as a motivation, too. With a limited edition of an item - that is it and there will be no more. Just 1000 of a piece of sculpture. 2500 only of a specific model of an automobile. Prospects tend to move quickly to take advantage of these LNO opportunities. These people say "I want _______" ... "I have _______". They proudly point to their decision to make such a purchase.

Premiums are also wonderful offers. A "item" your prospect gets when they do something ... when they ...

  • raise their hand,
  • listen to a sales presentation,
  • visit your trade show stand,
  • accept a product for beta testing,
  • buy the product or service,
  • come to your early bird or mid-night sale. Always doing something. And always an "extra" benefit to responding.

What you offer is important. That you have an offer is more important.

Creative Fundamental #9 - Options increase action

The marketplace expects several things. Options is one.

Product options include size, color, shape, model, type, with various accessories or not, delivery and many others. One option is how to order. Meaning by phone, fax, E-mail, through a web site, at a trade show or other physical location.

Another option is how to pay. By credit card, money-order, cash, bank transfer, early payment, delayed payment, by barter, by trade.

Yet, even though the market asks for options, too many can confuse your audience into making no decision. How many is too many? Don't know, and it depends. Tests have shown most people don't recall which box they check or how they fill in the blank when they place a written order. Or who they talk with on the telephone. Theoretically, this means the more options, the better.

However, there does appear to be a leveling point. Which is different for different consumers and different businesses. The real answer is to understand your audience and use good judgement. Without a doubt, more then basic small, medium and large is needed.

Offer options and increase response.

Creative Fundamental #10 - Use graphics to be "inviting"

"I can't save this copy". A quote from an art director, commenting on his challenge to "save" a set of poorly written copy.

Art, graphics, illustrations, photography, the layout, format, design, size, shape and color are the responsibility of the entire creative team. Yes, we call upon the art director for her skill in capturing the flavor of the print ad, mail piece, web page, brochure and more. Yet, without good copy to begin (remember, this is direct! we're talking about), we shouldn't expect much.

Graphics has a responsibility to "embellish" the creative concept. To make it come to "life". To make the copy readable, to make the ad inviting, to encourage the visitor to "stick" to the web site. The copy may say 'Certificate of Membership' ... the graphics job is to make it look like what it is. The caption gives the facts ... "art" insures the message is understood.

This expands to include simple •bullets•, *asterisks*, /slashs/, (parenthesis), checks, stars, boxes, numbers, CAPPED words, italics, underline, or other symbols - anything it takes to make the message kind to the eye. And easy to read. Design that encourages action to happen.

Use graphics to invite your reader to be your customer.

Creative Fundamental #11 - Be a copy cat

K.I.S.S. is well known. It represents the slogan Keep It Simple, Stupid. One of the better ways to keep it simple is to be a copy cat. To learn from others.

"It's no bad thing to learn the craft of advertising by copying your elders and better. I started by copying the best American ads. Later I began to do my own thing." So writes guru David Ogilvy.

Another copy cat axiom is SWIPE. It is probably your best indicator as to what is really happening in the marketplace. SWIPE simply means you save all ads, brochures, direct mail ... anything physical that appears interesting ... and build a reference library. A collection of material from others you feel will be useful to you in the future. i.e., ideas you can SWIPE, or steal from.

A third copy cat idea is to give whatever you write to someone else to read. Do they understand your words with the first reading? If so, fine. If not, back to the keyboard. No matter how good you are, you will be better when another reads what you write ... they will give you ideas.

Last copy cat point; keep up to date with what's happening in the marketplace. Direct for certain ... this is your business. Stay on top of the new, and "old" that re-surfaces and is again applicable.

And, know what's important for your clients, too. What do they read, what exhibitions and conferences do they attend? By having at least a passing knowledge of their business you'll be eons ahead of your competition. Simply by staying in touch with the active marketplace.

This is business. Being a copy cat will work for you.

Creative Fundamental #12 - Repeat your message ... repeat your message

Good friend Herschell Gordon Lewis talks about repetition this way; "You tell them once, they doubt you. You tell them twice and they believe you."

And sometimes it takes many more than 2 messages. McGraw-Hill says it's an average of 7 contacts to gain a new piece of business. Sales & Marketing Executives International reports it takes, on average, 5 contacts to make a first time sale. What they all say is redundancy works.

The worlds most recognized icon is Coca-Cola. None of us - anywhere in the world - will go a day without seeing or hearing something from Coke. They are ... literally ... everywhere. In fact, more people have seen the Coke logo than the icon of any single religion. Scary fact!

Well, very few of us will ever be able to do what Coke does. Yet, we can get the message; repetition builds reputation. Translated; one shots are sure shot failures. The option? Repeat your message ... repeat your message.

Creative Fundamental #13 - AFTO ... Ask For the Order!

Bottom line for direct is the bottom line. Meaning, get an order, a donation, a response, action ... turn a prospect into a customer.

You must be specific. With instructions on what you expect your audience to do. Complete this form. Fax this back. "Click" this box. Send a check. Visit the trade show. Sign-up for the congress. Tour the mall. Answer this E-mail. Go to this web site. Punch out this token. Redeem this coupon. Fill out this application. Use this sticker. Cut on this line. Remove this label. Call this number. Come to my store.

That is, do something!

Plus, know you have only seconds to make anything happen. With a newspaper or magazine, 3 or 4 seconds per page. With direct mail, 2-3 seconds to get your reader past the teaser and to the body copy. Ditto with fax. E-mail is like newspaper ... 3 or 4 seconds. A web site gives you no more than 12 seconds. A teleselling call up to 17 seconds.

In no case do you have much time. Truly seconds, not minutes. And in each case you're seeking action. Which, if not the order itself, a step that leads to the order. A step toward an exchange that involves money. The bottom line.

To get action you need to be specific. You may need to be dramatic, too. Using words and phrases, thoughts and ideas that paint a picture. That tell a story. Whatever it takes to gain involvement.

Asking For the Order is not an option. It is most definitely a Creative Fundamental.

That's it. Another from The Baker's Dozen Collection ... The 13 Platinum

Most Fundamental Direct Marketing Creative Ideas. They work today - in this new decade. Use ... and EnJoy.

Baker's Dozen INDEX

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