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Archive for April, 2005

Does Long Copy Work Better Than Short Copy?

April 28th, 2005 by Bob Bly

In a ?Views? column in DM News (4/25/05. p. 32), George Le Pera makes the case that long sales letters are better than short sales letters.

Accoding to Le Pera, who is creative director at Chinnici Direct (New York, NY), long letters cement relationships, strengthen brands, stand out in the mailbox ? and get read.

Being a freelance copywriter who specializes in writing long sales letters, I want to agree with George.

But I don?t think that a long letter is always better than a short letter in every situation.

Your thoughts?


Category: Direct Marketing, General | 337 Comments »

Affiliate Marketing: Another Ethical Dilemma?

April 25th, 2005 by Bob Bly

If you publish an e-zine like I do (my Direct Response Letter), and your subscriber list is fairly large (mine is 55,000), you will be inundated with e-mail correspondence from e-book publishers — and other online marketers — asking you to promote their product to your list on an ?affiliate basis.?

In the affiliate arrangement, you ? the e-zine owner — get a commission on every sale generated by the promotion to your list, typically ranging from 25% to 50% of the product price.

The product can be promoted in a solo e-mail marketing message to the e-zine subscriber list or an online ad in the e-zine itself ? or both.

My question is this: is the e-zine publisher obligated to disclose to the reader that he is an affiliate for the product and will receive a cut of the sale? (I should mention that the overwhelming majority of affiliate promotions I receive as a consumer make no mention of this.)


Category: Online Marketing | 185 Comments »

Do You Obsess About Money?

April 20th, 2005 by Bob Bly

The song ?I Am? by Train has this line: ?I never had a day where money didn?t get in my way.?

Is money a problem for you?

Numerous surveys show that couples fight about money more than anything else, with the possible exceptions of division of household labor, parenting, and sex.

I am in the middle of the road as far as money is concerned: I like money and it is important to me, but I am not obsessed with it.

Here are 5 money tips that have worked for me; they may or may not work for you:

1. Do something in which you can make a higher than average income. A lot of white collar corporate guys my age (47) in my neighborhood (Bergen County, NJ) make around $100,000 a year. So I want to make at least double that. (I typically make at least 5 to 6 times that, but my goal is to double it.)

2. The best piece of financial advice for self-employed people I ever got was from Florida freelance writer David Kohn: ?Live below your means.? This was easy when I was single; having a wife who likes to spend money makes it more difficult.

3. Train yourself to enjoy feelings of affluence and wealth from having money rather than from having possessions. If you have to buy and own stuff to feel wealthy (the BMW), you will get caught in a vicious cycle of spending money as you make it ? and always needing more.

4. Have no consumer debt. I always pay cash for cars. I bought my first home with a mortgage because I had to. But the next house I bought for cash.

5. Avoid ?compare despair.? There will always be people richer and poorer than you. Unless you are Bill Gates, you will never be the richest kid on the block. So don?t get caught up in worrying about whether your neighbor has more than you.


Category: General | 110 Comments »

Should You Stuff Your Web Pages With Keywords?

April 11th, 2005 by Bob Bly

In a recent issue of my e-zine, I quoted an article from Catalog Success that advised repeating keywords on your site as often as possible, and in multiple places, so search engine ?spiders? can find them.

Pretty standard advice. But as soon as he read my issue, copywriter Nick Usborne e-mailed me to let me know what he thought of the suggestion.

?This is the worst possible advice you can give to anyone about optimizing their site for the search engines,? says Nick.

?It’s an element of what is referred to as ?keyword stuffing? and is either ignored by the search engine algorithms or, in bad cases, your page and site will be penalized. Worse still, it results in pages that read very strangely to human visitors.?

What about you? Do you try to get your keywords into your Web copy frequently, as Catalog Success advises? Or, like Nick, do you use keywords sparingly?

And more important, have you measured results to see which approach works best?


Category: Online Marketing | 96 Comments »

Don?t You Hate it When Salespeople Do This?

April 8th, 2005 by Bob Bly

There are two types of salespeople: good salespeople and bad salespeople.

The bad salespeople rely on outdated 1960s sales training, spewing canned scripts that repulse and annoy prospects, sending them running for the door.

My wife and I were fed one of these lines recently when shopping for a mini-van.

We were in an exploratory stage, and had no reason on Earth to hurry: our old mini-van was running fine, and would do so for many months. But it was getting old and unreliable, so we were planning to upgrade.

When the salesperson saw that we were going to walk out of the dealership without buying, he ran after us and repeated, like a robot, a line I knew he was given in Sales Training 101: ?What would it take to put you in this car today??

Our skin crawled and we ran, he in hot pursuit. Did he ask where we were in our buying cycle ? just looking or in dire need ? and tailor his approach accordingly.

His question was clearly 100% motivated by his self-interest ? his desire to get a sales commission ? and not what might be best for us? So his personality immediately became repellant instead of attractive to us, and we responded accordingly?

What experiences have YOU had ? what things have salespeople said or done to you ? that similarly turned you off and lost them the sale?


Category: General | 65 Comments »

Businesses Designed to Not Help Their Customers

April 6th, 2005 by Bob Bly

Are there certain industries whose business model is dependent on not helping customers?

Here are some that have been suggested to me by various people:

1. Insurance ? my late father, an insurance agent for five decades, once said, ?Insurance companies want to write fire insurance policies for pig iron at the bottom of the ocean.? They want to collect fat premiums for policies they will never have to pay off, and often make it difficult for policyholders to collect on legitimate claims.

2. HMOs and managed health care — see #1 above.

3. Psychotherapists ? if the psychotherapist quickly cures every patient in a few weeks, the lifetime value of each client diminishes drastically.

4. Stock brokers ? Wall Street is rigged against the individual investor. Brokers are told to push shares their firms underwrite, not those stocks that are the best investment. If the stock they recommend loses you money, they make commissions three times — first when you buy, then when you sell, and again when you put it into something else.

5. Advertising agencies ? have a financial incentive to sell you ad campaigns that are (a) the most elaborate and expensive (increases billings) and (b) win creative awards (which helps win them new business).

I don’t mean to imply that everyone, or even the majority, of practitioners in these fields are out to cheat customers.

I am just observing that there is an incentive inherent in each business model NOT to always do what is best for the customer (which a smart practitioner knows is canceled out by the business benefits of delivering superior customer satisfaction).

Would you dispute any of the above? Or do you agree wholeheartedly? Any other industries you?d add to the list?


Category: General | 86 Comments »

Are Sponsored Blogs Credible Marketing Tools?

April 4th, 2005 by Bob Bly

A small company with just a few employees wants to promote a new anti-cancer technology ? specifically, a cancer vaccine — it is developing.

The company president, an R&D scientist, is busy 24/7 in the laboratory and has neither the time nor the inclination to write a blog.

The marketing director suggested, ?Why don?t we hire a writer to write a blog on cancer vaccines ? which of course will talk a lot about our company and its research program??

They asked for my opinion.

To me, it sounded like a good idea ? except wouldn?t they ethically have to divulge prominently on the blog that it is sponsored by them and that they are paying the blogger to write it?

And wouldn?t that in turn entirely destroy the blog?s credibility and marketing effectiveness?

What do you think?


Category: Blogging | 526 Comments »