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Archive for July, 2008

“Old School” Direct Marketing on the Internet

July 25th, 2008 by Bob Bly

My colleague Denny Hatch is one of the most respected of the “old school” direct marketing copywriters and publishers operating today.

He says the reason so many Internet marketers get it wrong is that they fail to apply DM selling techniques online.

“One reason for the bust was inexperience,” Denny writes. “Quite simply, many of the hotshot twenty-something marketers did not have a solid grounding in the basics of direct marketing. They did not know how to make an offer, how to ask for an order, and make it easy to order.”

Yet I increasingly hear new media gurus saying that old-school direct marketing copy is the WRONG way to go on the Internet — that it’s all about conversation, free content, social networking, and making a connection.

Many new media marketers have posted comments on this blog saying direct marketing copy is irrelevant and will soon disappear.

So what do you think?

Are Denny and I dinosaurs, writing our direct response copy, doomed to extinction? (The money we both make from our copy would seem to indicate not.)

Or is he right, and is knowing how to sell the missing ingredient that stops so many Internet marketers from converting their brilliant content and concepts into cash?

What say you, Dear Reader?


Category: Online Marketing | 77 Comments »

Opposing Philosophies on Viral E-Book Marketing

July 22nd, 2008 by Bob Bly

I have the greatest respect and admiration for David Meerman Scott.

But the advice he gives on his blog on viral e-book marketing is diametrically opposed to mine.

David advises: “Make the content totally free with no registration requirement at all so people are more likely to download it and share with colleagues.”

As a result, his latest free viral e-book was downloaded 250,000 times.

I advise my readers to require the user to submit his e-mail address … and opt into my e-list … in exchange for getting my free viral e-books like my latest on selling to the “GOM” market — men age 50 and older.

You can see the landing page — and get the free report — at

I understand David’s thinking: he wants his e-book, name, and ideas to spread as quickly and widely online as they can.

I don’t care about that: my purpose is to build a large opt-in e-list of qualified prospects for my paid information products.

Why? Because with an e-list, I can consistently and reliably monetize my online promotions — and measure the results to the penny in real time.

If you are an Internet marketing entrepreneur, your e-list is your most valuable asset — the key to building a successful online business.

Everything you do should be aimed at either making a sale or getting the visitor to opt into your e-list.

Obviously in David’s world — mainly corporate B2B marcom — the goals are quite different, though I am not fully convinced they should be.

What about you? Do you currently give away free content online as part of a viral marketing campaign (if not, you probably should)?

Do you let people download it without capturing their e-mail addresses, as David does — or use free content offers to build a large and profitable e-list, like I have?

Does David know something I don’t? Or vice versa?


Category: General | 63 Comments »

Does Sex Sell?

July 18th, 2008 by Bob Bly

New media gurus these days rave about getting tens of thousands — or millions — of page views on MySpace and YouTube.

But any idiot can put up a video that gets a ton of traffic. The easiest way: just use sex.

As Steve Hall writes at “Anytime you stick a stunningly beautiful, hot looking, busty girl in a video, wide viewership is not far behind.”

When I took my first marcom job in the late 1970s at Westinghouse Defense, a product manager told me: “Forget all that marcom crap you guys do; HERE’S how to sell defense systems.”

He opened a thick binder with 8 X 10″ color photos of bikini models straddling missiles and control panels.

What the social media/online video crowd seems to be missing is that getting attention is easy — always has been. Just use sex, violence, or weirdness.

However, getting the kind of attention that draws qualified prospects who are interested in your product — and ultimately buy — is another story.

And relatively few marketers — new media or old — are masters of that skill.

Anyone can post a video of a hard body girl in a bikini doing jumping jacks.

But how do you monetize that if you are not selling relevant, related offers like beauty, health, travel, or fashion?


Category: General | 80 Comments »

How Critical is Your Mission Statement?

July 17th, 2008 by Bob Bly

When I began my corporate career in the late 70s, corporations spent huge amounts of time and money perfecting their “mission statements,” which they proudly posted on placards in the lobby.

Multi-channel marketing guru Don Libey thinks most mission statements are for the most part banal and of limited value.

His advice: “Get rid of the silly framed parchment proclamations and teach everyone the following: ‘Sell more stuff to more people any way we can!'”

Do you agree that Libey’s version gets right to the point.

Isn’t the idea to sell more stuff and make customers happy and increase revenues and profits?

Or do you prefer the thoughtful, conceptual, idealistic, warm and fuzzy mission statements that companies throughout America have spent so much effort to dream up and display?

Source: Libey Economic Outlook, 7/08, p. 1.


Category: General | 37 Comments »

Is “Content is King” a Load of Crap?

July 7th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Gurus like David Meerman Scott say that giving consumers lots of useful content is the key to marketing success — at least in the 21st century.

But something Tim Sanders says in his book “The Likeability Factor” (Crown Publishers, 2005) seems to contradict that belief.

Says Sanders:

?There?s too much information in today?s world, and our defense mechanism to sort through it all is to vote with our gut, to vote what we feel. We look for shortcuts, and those shortcuts are called brands. The reason you buy Tide detergent at the grocery store is that you don?t want to read fifty labels. You trust Tide because you already know it works.?

We’ve heard this comment before, of course.

It basically boils down to: the consumer is time pressured, overloaded with information, and too busy to read — which seems on the surface to be an accurate description of the harried pace of modern life.

But if it’s true, then how can content-based marketing work?

If people are too busy to read, then won’t they throw your white paper in the trash … or click away from your content-rich site long before they can dig into all the great information you posted there?

Who is right? Sanders, who says we don’t want more content to make decisions? Or Scott, who says we do?


Category: General | 50 Comments »

Should Direct Mail Design be Ugly?

July 1st, 2008 by Bob Bly

“Ugly works” in direct mail design, writes my colleague Denny Hatch in his latest column in Target Marketing (7/08, p. 50).

His premise: direct mail should be intentionally designed to look ugly and junky, because it will increase response.

The reason (here Denny quotes his former boss Lew Smith): “Neatness rejects involvement. If a thing is too neat, a reader will look at it and say, ‘Isn’t that nice?’ and move on.”

Old school DM experts have preached the “ugly direct mail design is best” rule for decades.

But … I can’t help noticing that most of the winning direct mail promotions that cross my desk today are not ugly. They are cleanly designed and easy to read — not at all “junky.”

So let me ask you, Gentle Reader: which school do you stand with?

Do you, like Denny, deliberately create direct mail packages that look crude, ugly, and cluttered — in the belief that “ugly works”?

Or do you find today’s direct mail prospects respond better to a more professional and sophisticated graphic approach?


Category: Direct Marketing | 46 Comments »