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.

 

Power Direct Marketing: The Book


The 8ight Point Market Action Plan

POWER DIRECT MARKETING is

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Let’s walk through the 8ight steps of this action planning process. One-by-one. Let’s summarize the meaning—and benefits—of each point.

Objectives

Do have a mission. A goal. A stated focus and direction. Begin the plan with a simple summary of what business you are in and what you plan to achieve over the coming year. Or with this campaign. With this effort. With this program.

Including specifics that can be measurable. Real, live numbers you plan on meeting—or exceeding. Pinpoint your objectives. The real tragedy of any program is not in not reaching your goal. The real tragedy is in having no goal to reach.

Ask questions to firm up your objectives. Ask: What market share—how much? What increase—how much? And where? What markets? Which consumers? Have specific, measurable objectives, and you’ll be well on your way to success.

Be tough with your objectives—realistic. IBM is one of the better companies at setting objectives with all their sales teams. One by one each year, for each product line, they set realistic objectives. Each sales rep has a different set of goals. Based on that rep’s experience, the territory, the product line, the objectives are set.

Your objectives must also fit—be compatible—with the other activities of your organization. Because if they do not you may soon have a major in-house problem. Possibly even a true disaster.

When the Apple Computer people decided to build the Macintosh they gave themselves a year to do it. They also recognized that such a major project would be disruptive to the other good things going on inside Apple.

So, they selected a project manager, lifted him out of the central organization, and planted him and the entire Mac team in another physical location. They were given a budget, a timetable, the necessary personnel, and told to build that box.

It worked. The story became famous in the Santa Clara Valley of California because, among other things, they had a 24-hour-a-day work schedule and a video game room as a "standard" part of their operation. Different, certainly not compatible with most business practices. But at the end of the year that new computer was built. They achieved their objective.

All objectives must be reached with a set time frame. You must have a schedule to reach your objectives. Rarely do you book too much time. Usually it is the other way around—you fail to allow sufficient time. But in any case, include timing as part of setting objectives.

Although I’ve never worked on any direct marketing program where we didn’t have at least some of the direction in writing, I do know of those who wing it. Those are the type people who say: "So, you’ve got a problem? Here’s the answer. Got another problem? Here’s another answer. Nobody reads all that stuff anyway. And besides, putting it in writing takes away time from real work."

Sound familiar? If that is what happens in your company—you play the game by the "seat of the pants" response method—you are less likely to have good objectives. And even less likely to achieve much of anything.

Another reason you put your objectives in writing is so you’ll have something to change. As Katie Muldoon, president of her own direct response agency, says:

Be prepared to revise your marketing plan
as time goes on. Review it,
both in terms of overall policy
and the numbers you came up with originally.
Review your image and your product mix.
Often we become so busy
with day-to-day
running of our business that
we forget to step back and ask ourselves,
"Are we on track?"

When your objectives are in writing it is easier to do what Katie suggests.

Timetable

The next step in The 8ight Point Plan. Having a timetable involves two activities. First is a schedule to implement your direct marketing program or campaign. Second is when—when is the best time to use direct response for your product or service.

You must have a time frame to achieve the objectives you’ve set. If you don’t set a time to reach your goals, guess what? You’re much less likely to arrive anywhere!

The same reason limited time offers work to get people to take action applies to having a time frame to reach your corporate or program objectives. We as people tend to procrastinate.

Are you caught up with your business reading? That stack of night and weekend reading material? Why not? One of the reasons has to be that there is a lack of urgency to it—so you just put it off. You can’t do that with your direct marketing plan. Professor Thomas W. Bonoma said it best: "You can’t know if your plan is any good if it is not executed."

The second reason you have a timetable is to plan what season to be in the marketplace. To decide the best timing to reach your best prospects and key customers.

For many products and services timing is a non-issue. An example is telephone products. Any time is a good time—they move year around.

For others, timing is important. They are big movers only at select times of the year. Christmas trees in July is a tough sell—but between Thanksgiving and Christmas you’ll do just fine. Sometimes we make more of "season" than it deserves. Businesses make buying decisions every day. You and I at home make buying decisions several times each month.

Consideration of when to introduce your new product, have a special product line sale or do a lead generation program for your sales staff can be totally up to you. On the other hand, a fund-raising drive for a special disaster relief project, or an invitation to your customers and best prospects to a trade show you are exhibiting in will be dictated by outside forces. Sometimes the timing is picked for you.

When you have total control you may look at market trends in your industry or evaluate competitive activity. You may decide the first half of the month or the last third of the quarter is best.

There is no right or wrong with setting a timetable. There is only a "do"—you must do it.

Budget

Budget is the third point of The 8ight Point Plan. Accounting sees it as an expense. Top management views it as an investment. For the marketing team it’s the life and blood of the organization—it’s the effort that keeps the phones ringing, the sales team singing, and the factory humming. And it’s never big enough.

Of course, it’s the budget.

When you’ve been in marketing for one day, you’ve experienced a budget. Because you can’t operate without one. Money—in whatever form you get and use it—is a necessity.

There are a multitude of ways to set a budget for your campaign. Many in direct response prefer to work on a project by project basis—with what is called the task method of budgeting. It is popular because you assign what is necessary to accomplish your agreed-upon objectives within the time frame allowed.

Sometimes this is not only the easiest way to calculate your budget, it is the most efficient and effective. Because you are working with a known situation on a project basis.

Using some arbitrary formula or estimating based on what happened last year or from raw industry statistics is also easy. Unfortunately, easily developed budgets also tend to be poor performers. You spend too much—or not enough—or worse yet, you don’t know if it’s right or wrong.

Budgets need to be planned, just as everything else in direct response. Here are some things to look for as you plan your budget:

  • Start with specific objectives. Deal with projected figures rather than ancient history—last year’s performance doesn’t tell you enough. Aim for real numbers, not X% of something or other. Remember, direct response must be measurable if you’re to improve your program and know where you’re growing.
  • Look at the competition. If for no other reason, know where you stand in comparison. If your objectives include some goals that relate to share of market or overtaking another position in the standings, you need to know what is going on in the marketplace.
    This does not mean a small company can always do big things. It does mean if you’re going to play with the big boys you have to act like the big boys. By knowing what’s happening, you can plan where to be with your budget for the most effective results.
  • Know where you are in your direct marketing cycle. Are you a well-established company? Is your product established or new? If you’re launching anything new it will take more than if you’re in a maintenance mode. Is this a prime promotional time or a quiet period? Know where you are. It will affect your budget.
  • Know what portion of the marketing message will be carried by marketing. And what share by sales. Sometimes marketing is NOT the answer. Sometimes something else will be better. Advertising, public relations, sales promotion may be needed to create awareness, set the image, position the product. It could be that this time marketing will play a secondary role. Know the marketing responsibility.
  • Get ’em while they’re hot! Build budget flexibility into your plan to allow you to react to a situation. Be prepared to speed up the use of funds if required to take advantage of an unusual opportunity.
  • Allow enough money for an ongoing campaign. Those companies who float in and out of the marketplace show inconsistency not only with their programs but also to their customers and prospects. Even though it is not always so, you don’t look as stable as if you’re always visible. Plan your program to be around when your customer is ready to buy.

Just as you need to plan your budget, you also need to make a firm commitment to the budget. A commitment which says you’re going to support direct marketing, its objectives, and planned programs.

Audience

Audience is the next step of The 8ight Point Market Action Plan. And the most important.

Larry Lamattina, an advertising executive from New York, made an "interesting" prediction late in the 1980s. Mr. Lamattina said:

In the year 2010
many more media vehicles will be used.
The end result
will be more fragmented,
but far more targeted.

Where has this advertising professional been? For at least the last two decades, direct marketing has known the advantages of a "more fragmented, but far more targeted" audience.

No matter how great your promotion is, your sharp direct mail, your four-color coupon ad, your slick television commercial—it won’t do well if it goes to the wrong people. Getting your message to the right audience is THE key element in direct response marketing. If you do all else only so-so but target the right audience you have an excellent chance of turning up a winner.

The single most important part of audience is identifying their interest. Determining what is most interesting. Offers are not good or bad, creative is not short or long—everything can be reduced to simply "interesting." Or not.

Here are 6 ideas about selecting the right audience for your message:

Redefine your market before you begin the creative process.

Get the most current demographic/psychographic/geographic information available. If you’re in business marketing, identify the proper SIC codes. And the correct titles.

Redefine your product or service and how it fits with each of your markets.

Make certain you know what you’re selling, understand what your offer is. If you’re not up on the product, talk to those that are. Know as much as you can before you start to create. Know your audience and their wants, desires, and needs.

Talk to your current buyers. Know what they know.

Find out from them what they think of you. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Does your audience know? Do they care? Talk to your customers.

Redefine your prospect sources, based on what you learn from your buyers.

If geography is a factor, find those prospects closest to your current customers. Know you probably will have to "ask for the order" several times before receiving it.

Fit your service or product to your marketplace.

Prepare your creative to fit your audience. Talk to them in their language. Choose the right words for direct mail, for print, broadcast, and telephone.

Sell the benefits and advantages, address the needs, express understanding—be interesting to your audience.

The sizzle still moves as many people to take action as the steak. Make certain your audience know WII-FM—What’s In It For Me.

Direct mail is still the major tool of direct response. Selecting the right list—getting to the preferred audience—is mandatory for success.

Here is a laundry list of ideas lifted and revised from Citibank/Australia: things to look for when you rent a list for your use. Here are some questions to get answers to before making a list-purchasing decision:

  1. What type of list is it—customers, inquiries, compiled, response, active, or inactive?
  2. Personal data—what demographic and psychographic information is available?
  3. Transaction data—do you know if this audience has been active recently, with what frequency, for what dollar amount? The classic RFM formula—recency/frequency/monetary.
  4. What media was used to acquire the names in the first place—direct mail, space, broadcast, a trade show, a consumer sweeps, or how?
  5. What is the size of the list—the universe—and the minimum quantity to test?
  6. In what sequence is the list available—postal code, alpha order, how else?
  7. In what format is it available—cheshire or peel-off labels, mag tape?
  8. What form of key coding is available—what options to code for measurement do you have?
  9. How often is the list cleaned and updated?
  10. What method of random sample selection is available?
  11. How often has this list been used in the last 12 months—what was the last date of usage, who has used it most, and what have the results been?
  12. Does the list owner require a sample of our direct mail package prior to mailing?
  13. How much—what is the rental rate, test rate, repeat order rate, and selection surcharge?

As you’re putting your direct mail program together—if you will be purchasing outside mailing lists—this checklist should prove useful.

No matter the tools you use—mail, print, broadcast, telephone—your audience is still your most important element. Select it carefully.

Offer

If a man can write a better book,
preach a better sermon,
or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor,
though he builds his house in the woods,
the world will make a beaten path to his door.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The fifth point of The 8ight Point Plan is offer. Your offer is next in importance to audience as you plan your direct response marketing program. The quote from Mr. Emerson may have been true in his day, but it certainly is not today. Just because you have a product or service that offers some benefits to your select audience, it does not mean anyone will even think about you—let alone beat a path to your door. Which is why an offer is so important in direct response.

The purpose of an offer is to get that special audience to stop, look, listen, and understand that your product or service is of benefit to them. And they should take advantage of the opportunity and place an order. With you. Now!

How do you put a good offer together? What makes a good offer? Here are 17 ideas—17 ways to present your message—to get that audience to STOP and consider you:

  • Free information, a booklet, or literature
  • Free gift or premium, tied to an order, a product demonstration, or a lead program
  • A bonus for quick reply or cash with order
  • Yes/no/maybe involvement devices—to get your audience to do something
  • Free product trial opportunity
  • Discount price for response within a limited time
  • Product guarantee or guarantee of satisfaction
  • A contest, a sweepstake, or other "game"
  • A limited time offer with a bonus, gift, or premium
  • "Friend-get-a-friend" bonus offer program
  • Negative option—your order continues to be fulfilled unless you say "no"
  • ’til forbid, your order continues to be fulfilled without you doing anything
  • Stamps, stickers, coupons, pop-ups, cut-outs, tear-offs, perforations . . . all ways to gain more involvement
  • Free sample of your product
  • Charter "membership" in your organization or for a new publication
  • Testimonials to the service you provide
  • Case history stories to support your product applications

There are many more offer ideas. This list will get you thinking about the best way to present to your audience.

A word about business versus consumer. Yes, they are different—BUT you are still talking to people. People make decisions, not companies. And for the most part, the same good offers that work to you and me at home will work equally well to us at the office. As you plan your program and consider the best offer to make, give every idea equal weight. Then decide, after some common sense evaluation, what will work best to your audience.

Maybe one of these next 7 ideas will work for you. Many times we’re dealing in everyday items, commodities, possibly with a mature product or service. How can you make an offer that will get your audience to pay some attention to you—to even consider what you have? Try one of these ideas:

1. Upgrade

Upgrade your product—make the upgrade the offer. Take your basic product, add to it, improve it, give it value. That’s why a gold credit card is worth more than a green card. That’s why designer jeans cost more than "regular" jeans.

In many cases a luxury automobile is not much more than fancy trim, comfortable seats, and more buttons to push.

2. Downgrade

Downgrade—take away from what has always been. If status, image, polish, and position have been your trademark, remove some of the brass and offer less. Computer stores have found they have a type of customer that wants only the basics...nothing more. They offer that (with clone products) and keep more of the marketplace.

Generic almost-everything is an example of downgrade.

Even Rolls Royce has a "downgrade" model—the Bentley.

3. Bundle

Bundle together a group of your products or services that go together. And sell them that way—as a group—in a bundle. As a package.

The telephone companies have been excellent at doing this—packaging office products and services together and offering them at a special price. An example is the custom-calling group of services (call waiting, call forwarding, and similar) which they "bundle" into a nice package for the consumer market.

4. Unbundle

Unbundle—the flip side of bundle. If you already have a package, divide it up and offer the parts. Allow your audience to pick and choose only what they really want.

The entire financial industry offers a variety of products that you can buy in pieces. Life and health insurance companies and banks are examples. With the discount brokerage house probably being the best example—their "unbundled" service being the offer.

5. Narrowcast

Narrowcast—when your audience is huge and your competition numerous, you might find it beneficial to select from the total a smaller group. And work with a niche of the market—specializing in a "narrow" part. Doing what direct response does best—concentrating your offer on that segment you can serve best.

6. Mass Market

Mass market—the opposite of narrowcast. You have been successful within a niche. You now take your idea, your success, your offer to a broader base. This concept has worked many times when an industrial product has found a spot in the much larger consumer marketplace.

Many of the cleaning supplies in our homes today originally were found in factories. A host of the 60,000 products of the 3M Corporation began their commercial life in offices around the world—and now are everyday items in our homes. Scotch tape is the most notable example.

7. Price

Price—an offer consideration. In every survey as to the most important factors when a buying decision is made, price is there. In the top 10 always—many times the top 5. But NEVER the top spot. Important, but not most important.

Here are 4 ways you can compete on price:

  1. Offer more real or perceived value at a higher price.
  2. Offer more value for the same price.
  3. Offer the same value at a lower price.
  4. Offer less value at a lower price.

As you consider how to present your offer to your audience, look at these 7 ideas. See if one (or a combination of 2 or more) of them might work well for you and your audience.

Creative

Creative is the tactics of direct response. It is what you do to implement the strategy. It is putting your plan to work. Creative is the sixth point of The 8ight Point Plan.

Until you have the first five points in order—objectives, timetable, budget, audience, offer—you cannot do the creative. YOU CANNOT BEGIN YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS UNTIL YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING AND WHAT THE PURPOSE OF THE PROGRAM IS. And before you know that, you must have the first 5 points of The 8ight in order.

Yes, sometimes the specific offer falls from the creative efforts, but even in those cases there is some general thought and direction as to what the offer might be.

While many times we look for creative work that is very different, unusual, innovative, sometimes it is better to be "safe" and stay with the known. And sometimes it is not!

The best creative work isn’t necessarily that which appeals to you. Instead, it must appeal to your audience—your customers and prospects. It must meet their needs with a message in both copy and art that offers a benefit of doing business with you.

The best creative work is that which meets this short list of criteria:

  1. It stops your audience—it is noticed.
  2. If it is direct mail it is opened—now!
  3. If it is mail or print it is read—now. If it is broadcast or telephone it is listened to.
  4. The message is easy to understand—your audience knows what is expected and how they’ll benefit.
  5. There is a reason to act now—there is an offer.
  6. And then A.F.T.O. Always ask for the order. And do it more than once. Your audience, your prospect, your customer may not have heard you the first time you A.F.T.O.

Some good friends from Ogilvy & Mather Direct in southeast Asia have prepared a list of IDEAS to make your creative development work better. To help you evaluate the direct response work you prepare. Let me share my version of these thoughts with you:

  1. Is your direct mail package, space ad, television commercial designed so that your specific objectives are likely to be met? From the beginning do you know what your program is to achieve? Do your message, the creative approach, the offer all work together to meet your objectives?
  2. Is your direct marketing program, its presentation, the copy, the look and "feel" consistent with your overall company and product positioning? Does the creative complement you—does it fit your image in the marketplace?
  3. Is your direct response program working in a synergistic way with your public relations, sales promotion, and advertising? Do all of your communication efforts look like they might have been planned—are they working together as a team?
  4. Is your product or service offered in terms of the benefits your audience will gain by doing business with you? Are the features translated to benefits your reader or listener will understand?
  5. Is your offer clearly, cleanly, distinctly stated? Is your best offer listed first? Does your audience know what they will earn, learn, get, receive, win, buy when they respond to your offer?
  6. Is your coupon, business reply card, order form, 800 or 900 number, ticket, response device of any and all types a standout piece? Does your audience "automatically" see this element in your mail or print and gravitate toward it?
  7. Is this response device simple to understand, easy to read? Does it tell me what to do and when and where and how to do it? Is it easy to follow and to use? Is it easy to respond to your offer?
  8. Does the headline in your ad and the teaser copy on your outgoing direct mail envelope encourage your customer or prospect to read more? To dig into the body copy and find out all they can? To get the complete message?
  9. Does your entire direct mail package or space ad go together? Do all the pieces of the direct mail fit, one piece with another? Are the outer envelope, the letter, the brochure, and the response piece a compatible unit?
    For your print advertisement, do the headline, the body copy that carries your message, the layout and design, the graphics—do they all fit together as a unit? And get your audience to the 800 number, the coupon, or the order card? Does it all "feel" right?
  10. Do the graphics support the copy? Are they outstanding, to get attention, but not overwhelming? (Remember, copy is king in direct response. The sales message, the action is with the words.) Do the graphics encourage your audience to read the words?


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