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More bad marketing advice to steer clear of

August 3rd, 2018 by Bob Bly

A marketing seminar company sent me an email invitation to a
workshop on “brand journalism.”

The headline read: “Your old strategies aren’t cutting it
anymore. It’s time to trade in boring copy for sharp storytelling
and amazing visuals.”

This message can be taken two ways.

The surface message makes sense: (a) copy should not be boring,
(b) storytelling is an effective marketing technique and (c) so
are great visuals.

I don’t think anyone would argue with that.

But the way I read it, I see a subtle dig at traditional
marketing and a plug for bright shiny objects.

Specifically the message to me reads: (a) copywriting is old hat,
ineffective, and rapidly becoming obsolete; (b) telling stories
works, and old-fashioned copy that sells doesn’t; and (c) people
look at pictures but don’t read copy any more.

And if that’s indeed what they meant, then you can do yourself no
greater disservice by listening to them.

Why not? Let’s examine each claim:

A–“Copywriting is old hat, ineffective, and obsolete.”

My clients and others who are making millions of dollars from
long-copy sales letter, video sales letter, and multi-page direct
mail laugh at this — all the way to the bank.

Content, social media, infographics, and blogging all have their
place. But at the end of the day, nothing happens until the sale
is made. And it’s copy that makes the sale.

B–“Storytelling trumps copy.”

Storytelling is a great copywriting technique. Some of the most
famous advertising sold a ton based on a good story.

But if you think storytelling is the only way to write copy, you
are sadly mistaken.

C–“People don’t read and graphics are king.”

The old saw supporting in this is “One picture is worth a
thousand words.”

But a promotion combining those 1,000 words with great pictures
will likely outsell pictures alone by a country mile.

You may argue, “Well, video is pictures, and that works.”

But before you shoot your video, you write a script — which is
words and copy.

So the idea that video makes words irrelevant is patently
ridiculous.

The bottom line?

Getting sucked in and overly smitten with bright shiny objects —
and abandoning the persuasion methods that have been proven for
decades — risks driving the sales curve way down.

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Category: Direct Marketing | 10 Comments »

Today’s most under-used marketing technique

March 23rd, 2018 by Bob Bly

In my opinion, the best TV commercial running today is this one
for Flex Tape:

The reason I think it is so strong is that the commercial
masterfully employs one of the most powerful — and also one of
the most neglected — copywriting persuasion techniques:

Demonstration.

Direct marketers as well as salespeople have long known the
effectiveness of demonstration.

Yet so many copywriters today strangely neglect it.

But Flex Tape makes full use of the tactic with one of the most
dramatic, attention-getting, and convincing demonstrations I
have seen in recent memory.

The TV pitchman cuts a small metal boat in half with a power saw,
tapes it together with Flex Tape, and then takes it out on the
lake for a ride.

He points out, and you can clearly see, that the interior of the
boat is completely dry!

Obviously, he must be confident in the tape’s ability to stick
even when wet.

There’s a lot of other good stuff in the spot I want to call your
attention to as you view it:

>> There are multiple smaller demos packed into the 2-minute spot
such as patching a leaking roof in the rain and instantly fixing
a broken pipe.

>> The pitchman is sincere and enthusiastic without, at least
IMHO, being over-the-top, irritating, or grating, as some are.

>> Quick descriptive phrases convey a lot of features and
benefits; e.g., “super-wide,” “triple-thick.”

>> He implies the tape is equivalent to a weld without violating
the law, saying it “virtually welds” as he slaps it over the hole
in a water tank, immediately sealing it.

Now, as persuasive as the Flex Tape spot is, notice what it is
NOT:

It’s not clever, creative, funny, or entertaining — as it would
be if the typical Madison Avenue ad agency had produced the
commercial.

It just sells.

So you can be pretty sure it was written, produced, and approved
by a direct marketer who counts sales, not creative awards, as
the indicator of a job well done.

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Category: Direct Marketing | 17 Comments »

Is content marketing overhyped?

February 9th, 2018 by Bob Bly

A week or so ago, I received via email a link to an article
titled — “How to Stop Acting Like a Marketer and Start Thinking
Like a Publisher.”

And the misguided ideal it promotes — that we are all publishers,
not marketers — is a sure road to ruin.

The problem with this attitude … that we are educators, not
sellers … is it fools too many unsuspecting content marketers
into believing we are in the business of creating and giving away
free information.

But we are not. No, the business we are really in is that of
marketing and selling our products for a profit — ideally,
products that can help our customers solve their problems and
give them better value than anything else out there.

To that end, content marketing (publishing) — is merely one of
multiple channels we use to promote our business.

But it is not THE business we are in. It is simply a way of
generating leads and sales. The thinking implied in this article
title is fallacious and potentially wasteful and costly.

For instance, if you manufacture valves, pumps, and mixers, you
are in the chemical process equipment business.

You may publish a variety of materials about these products and
their features, design, and application — everything from data
sheets and videos, to technical articles and white papers, to
case studies and installation manuals.

So yes, you are publishing useful content.

But, you are not IN the publishing business. You publish these
materials only to support the real business you are in: the
process equipment business.

If you believe otherwise … that your business is publishing or
brand journalism … you are fooling yourself.

Worse, you may be turning out a ton of publications that, while
interesting and educational, are not supporting the marketing and
selling of your products — and are therefore largely a waste of
time, money, and effort. In other words, content pollution.

Action step: create a marketing plan, and integrate content in
support of the sales funnels, calls to action, marketing
objectives, and the information needs of buyers — overcoming
objections while convincing them that your technology is the best
solution for their problems.

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Category: Direct Marketing, General, Online Marketing | 8 Comments »

Copywriters: escape the “commodity trap”

January 19th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC writes, “What’s the biggest threat facing freelance
copywriters?”

Then he answers his own question: “It’s commoditization.

“To see where copywriting is going, look no further than
translation.

“This is now almost a commodity, in which freelance rates are in
a ‘race to the bottom.’

“In copywriting, barriers to entry are so low … and anyone
anywhere can bid for work.”

Then DC asks, “So how can copywriters avoid becoming a commodity
— what strategy works?”

To answer, here are 5 ways copywriters can escape the commodity
trap:

1–The “double pipeline” strategy.

You calculate the amount of marketing needed to generate enough
leads to keep busy.

Then, do twice that much marketing!

Result: a lead pipeline filled to overflowing — making you an
in-demand copywriter with more potential clients than you could
ever hope to possibly handle.

And when you have 2X more copywriting jobs offered to you than
you can take, then commoditization doesn’t matter.

Demand for your time outweighs the supply, and you eliminate
cutthroat competition or the need to compete on price.

2–The “niche” strategy.

Specialize either in a particular industry, such as financial,
health care, or manufacturing.

Or in a medium or copywriting task such as white papers, email
marketing campaigns, or long-copy sales letters.

The more narrow your specialty — e.g., direct mail selling
insurance — the more you can charge and the fewer your
competitors.

3–The “multiple streams of income” strategy.

If your gross revenue goal is $150,000 a year and all you do is
write copy for clients, you must get and complete $150,000 worth
of copywriting projects.

On the other hand, say you want to make $150,000 a year, and you
can make $25,000 in speaking fees, $25,000 in book royalties, and
$50,000 creating and selling your own info products online.

That adds up to $100,000. So the pressure is off, because now you
only have to make $50,000 a year in copywriting fees to hit your
$150,000 total revenue goal.

4–The “guru” strategy.

Write articles, publish special reports, author books, present
seminars, give talks at conferences, have a content-rich website,
build a Facebook group, tweet, and do other things to help build
your reputation as a guru.

5–The “superstar” strategy.

Be in the top 1% of copywriters in terms of results generated by
your copy.

This is an extremely difficult strategy as most of us have mixed
track records and almost no one writes a winner every time.

The preeminent copywriter in the superstar category today is
Clayton Makepeace.

All 5 strategies are essentially variations on one theme: Be
different in a way that makes you better or more desirable.

But it’s not enough to build or become a better mousetrap.

To get the world to beat a path to your door, you’ve got to
effectively communicate that difference to your potential
clients.

In Working Moms e-newsletter (9/7/17), Dan Kennedy writes:

“Project a powerful, persuasive, intriguing, compelling,
fascinating message. Is your message ordinary or similar to
others in your market? Is it plain vanilla? Easily ignored? Just
about the facts? If so, it needs to be doctored so that it
stands out. This is especially true if your product or service is
widely available.

“Review your marketing. Does it differentiate your business and
perhaps establish you as the expert people should work with,
regardless the cost? If not, it should.”

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Category: Direct Marketing, General, Writing | 14 Comments »

9 reasons to market yourself by writing articles

January 12th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DK writes:

“How much stock, if any, do you put in the strategy of putting
articles on-line (or elsewhere) for free?”

Answer: a lot.

I wrote my first article for one of the marketing trade
publications when I launched my freelance copywriting business in
1982.

And I’ve been writing articles to promote my copywriting
business, info products, and books continually since then right
up to this day — and I still do it.

Why?

Here are 9 specific ways you can profit by writing and placing
articles for free online and offline:

1–Builds your reputation as an expert in your field.

Writing how-to articles about your area of expertise helps
position you as a leading authority in your subject matter.

2–Makes great sales literature.

Whether in print or PDF, reprints of your published articles make
great sales literature.

I always recommend having one of your articles as part of the
standard information kit on your services or products.

Also, a PDF with 3 to 5 articles can be an effective lead magnet.

3–Pumps up your online bio.

If you have written for major consumer or industry print
magazines, or even top e-newsletters, say so in your bio.

It impresses prospects when you tell them you have been published
in the Harvard Business Review or even Hydrocarbon Processing
magazine.

4–Drives traffic to your site.

Editors typically include a URL or hyperlink to your website in
the short “about the author” paragraph that runs with your
article.

In this regard, publishing in online media can often out-perform
print, because online has a live hyperlink vs. print only offers
a URL that must be manually keyed into a browser.

5–Gets you free advertising (sometimes).

When a print or online publication doesn’t pay for articles, they
may be willing to give you something else instead — such as a
free ad in their magazine or e-newsletter, or a free banner on
their website.

Not all will. Others might agree to it, but only with authors who
specifically ask.

6–Raises your website’s search engine ranking.

Posting a lot of keyword-rich articles and other content on your
website can raise your ranking with Google and other search
engines.

7–Improves your workshops, seminars, and speeches.

Reprints of published articles with your byline make great
handouts at events where you are a speaker.

8–Broadens your knowledge.

Writing articles educates you as much as your readers.

It forces you to organize your thinking, dig deeper into your
topic, and gain a better understanding of your subject and your
audience.

9–Builds your content library.

The articles you have written for publication and now store on
your hard drive are your content “goldmine.”

You can and should continually recycle your articles. No need to
reinvent the wheel every time you write about your topic.

The key to getting maximum ROI from your content is to retain all
rights to everything you write.

Type “first rights only” in the upper left corner on page one of
every article you submit to any outlet. This way you remain in
control of the rights.

If you sign the rights away, you can’t recycle your material for
multiple uses — which dramatically lowers the ROI from your
article writing.

 

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Category: Direct Marketing, Online Marketing | 10 Comments »

Get others to sell your products — without commission

December 26th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber MI writes:

“‘Influencer marketing’ drives me crazy. Many outdoor
businesses are joining the trend to hire athletes to promote
their products.

“At an industry conference, I asked one ad agency rep what the
return on investment was on influencer marketing. His response
was void of examples. He told me it boils down to brand
awareness.

“I think there are better ways to sell because influencers fail
to mention ‘what’s in it’ for consumers who use the products they
are sponsoring.

“I’m an outdoor recreation junkie, so I’ve been using the gear
and clothing these athletes are promoting for decades. But
instead of telling me how to use rock climbing gear more
efficiently so I can climb faster, influencers tell me stories
about their climbing adventures.

“I could be missing something, but I don’t understand the draw to
use this marketing strategy.”

Let me see whether I can give a quick answer here….

To begin with, an “influencer” is a person who can influence the
actions, behaviors, and opinions of others.

Influencers exert their sway online primarily through blogs,
online newsletters, content, and social media including Facebook
posts, Pinterest boards, YouTube videos, Tweets, Instant posts,
Snapchat stories, and more.

Influencer marketing works because, as shown in research from
Nielsen, more than 8 out of 10 people use recommendations they
got online from an influencer to make a purchase decision.

The leverage online is this: If you just tell a neighbor you like
a particular bar in your city, you’ve influenced that one
neighbor.

Back in the day, we called this simply “word of mouth
advertising” … or in business and professional services “referral
marketing.”

But a bar blogger who recommends a pub can influence hundreds of
his readers to give that watering hole a try — so influencer
marketing is often more effective online than offline.

For instance, Ace Hair enlisted actor Josh Peck, who has over 4
million Instagram followers, as an influencer.

The most effective offline influencer marketing is through people
who reach a wide audience in traditional print media — magazines
and newspapers — as reviewers, critics, columnists, or other
trusted resources who recommend products and services.

Why does influencer marketing work? According to the 2016
Influencer Marketing Guide, “Influencers draw passionate audience
that engage with their content and actively take part in the
community conversations that stem from it.”

An article in Forbes reports that 85% of marketing communications
professionals worldwide will launch at least one influencer
marketing campaigns within the next 12 months.

Done right, influencer marketing is like having another team of
sales reps out there selling your product or service for you —
only in most cases they are doing so for free.

And they are often your most effective sales reps, because they
are credible experts or respected celebrities, and their
recommendation of your product more effective because it is an
endorsement.

I wish I could steer you to a report or info product of mine on
influencer marketing, but it is largely outside my wheelhouse and
so I have none.

If you offer or can recommend resources on influencer marketing,
please email me at rwbly@bly.com so I can share them with your
fellow Direct Response Letter Subscribers. Thanks!

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Category: Direct Marketing, General, Online Marketing | 9 Comments »

What you like vs. what works: not always the same thing

November 14th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DH writes:

“Bob, what are your favorite websites in terms of the copy they
have, so I can see myself which copy style you think is great?

“I was working for a client and came across a website from a
company that sells the same thing he does.

“I was blown away by the simple, fun, almost magical style of
their site vs. the more technical copy on my client’s site.

“But I wonder if I was right to admire the competitor site —
does that kind of copy draw customers?”

There are two key parts to the answer I gave DH.

The first is something copywriter Peter Beteul said that I never
forgot: “Don’t let personal preference get in the way.”

Meaning subjective judgment is absolutely the worst way to judge
advertising.

Why?

Because countless marketing tests and many research studies prove
that there is no correlation between people liking an ad and
whether they buy the product.

Second, regarding DH’s websites, she has little or no access to
analytics and metrics measuring the website’s performance.

And results … not whether the site has a fun or “magical” style …
is what determines whether she should admire and emulate it.

In this case, she just doesn’t know. So following the competitor
site as a model would be questionable at best and unwise at
worst.

Back in the day, with print ads and direct mail, it was
different.

Running newspaper and magazine ads, and doing postal direct mail,
is expensive.

And so marketers who use them test very carefully.

If an ad or direct mail test is not successful, they will not
repeat it.

On the other hand, an ad or mailing that is profitable is run
over and over until it stops making money.

So if you see an ad or mailing that runs continuously, you know
that copy is working — and in that case, it would be wise to
emulate.

It’s pretty much the same for ongoing email campaigns and web
pages, although not as certain, because they are less expensive
to run than print — and therefore, are more forgiving of
mistakes.

One more point….

You only know whether someone else’s marketing is working if you
see the evidence with your own eyes, as indicated by frequency
and repetition.

If another marketer says response rates for their campaign are
through the roof, or that they are raking in money hand over
fist, the problem is you have no idea whether they are telling
you the truth.

As my good friend top info marketer Fred Gleeck says: “The only
numbers you can trust are your own.”

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Category: Direct Marketing, Online Marketing | 9 Comments »

Oh, those larcenous direct marketers of yesteryear!

August 15th, 2017 by Bob Bly

A lot of digital marketing today is direct response — only it’s
all done with electrons instead of ink on paper.

As a result of the rise of digital marketing, direct response has
now become mainstream.

But back when I got into direct response in the early 80s, DR was
considered the ugly stepchild of more respectable mainstream
Madison Avenue brand advertising.

One reason was that we direct people had the unmitigated gall to
want advertising to be profitable and actually sell something
with our copy. And not just win awards.

Another reason: while Madison Avenue worshipped beautiful graphic
design, direct marketers consistently found, sometimes to our
surprise, that “ugly” direct mail usually worked much better than
slick and colorful packages.

The third reason direct marketing was looked down on is that some
of the old-time practitioners had a … well, a penchant for
promoting questionable offers.

Promotions that bordered on sleazy. Offers that came close to
being deceptive — and a few that stepped over that line. Products
that were rip-offs.

One of the most famous was the mail order ad that offered “a
copper-engraved portrait of America’s 16th president” for only
$10.

When you sent in your ten-spot, the marketer fulfilled the order
by mailing you a penny.

Another mail order ad of this ilk had the headline, “Gets Rid of
Potato Bugs and Other Garden Insects Guaranteed.” The product
cost $5 in 1969.

When you ordered, you received two blocks of wood with
handwritten instructions on how to place the potato bug or other
insect on one piece of wood — and squash it with the other.

Says BC, a friend and fellow mail order old-timer who reminded me
of this ad the other day, “I laughed so hard, I was in tears.”

In addition, BC tells this classic mail order story: “A neighbor
of ours bought a set of lawn furniture for $12. Included 4
chairs, a table and umbrella.”

The neighbor received the actual scaled size furniture that was
in the print ad photo — good for a doll house or a little girl’s
toy, but not so good for a patio.

BC also reminded me of the mail order ad that sold a vibrating
lure designed to help you catch fish like crazy.

BC bought it when he was a kid and says: “I never caught a fish
on it. And I guess they have a contest every year and none of the
participants have ever caught a fish with it!”

Then there was the ad that said: “Turn your closet into a coat
room with sturdy metal coat hooks.” When you ordered, the
marketer sent you a dozen or so nails.

Another classic was “Portable Garage” — a plastic tarp you
placed over your car to keep the snow and rain off. Actually
quite handy for people who can’t put their car inside because
their real garage is filled with mowers, tools, boxes, and
assorted junk.

The classic of all time is the pet sea monkeys — a vial of brine
shrimp eggs that hatched when placed in warm salty water.

The ad proclaimed: “Instant Pets — a Bowlful of Fun!”

As a kid, I actually did have a lot of fun with the sea monkeys.
And I didn’t feel ripped off at all.

In fact, the brine shrimp are great live food for tropical fish,
and so my having fish tanks made the sea monkeys not only fun but
practical as well.

Although on South Park, Cartman wasn’t quite as thrilled as I was
with his sea monkeys:

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Category: Direct Marketing | 6 Comments »