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How Direct Marketers Think

November 23rd, 2004 by Bob Bly

In this blog, I want to provide the blogosphere with a view from my side of the fence as a member of another ?sphere? ? old-fashioned direct marketers who still believe the main purpose of marketing is to get the cash register ringing and not just have ?conversations.?

To start off, let me share with you what I believe is the ?mindset? of direct marketing, based on my quarter of a century in the business:

1. Direct marketers are only concerned with one thing ? ROI (return on investment). That is, if you spend a dollar on a mailing, do you get two or three dollars back in sales?

2. Direct marketers don?t care if other marketing experts find their promotions loud, unappealing, too hard sell, or behind the times. We only care if those promotions work.

3. Direct marketers know that often ugly and crude outperforms beautiful and sophisticated. Not always, but often.

4. Direct marketers know that subjective opinion about copy and creative count for squat. The only way to determine whether my copy is better or worse than your copy is in an A/B split test ? not subjective judgment.

5. Non-direct marketers get very excited about new media and methods early, despite the fact that they have not proven their ability to generate positive ROI ? and largely, it seems to me, because they are new. They are very eager to spend time and money on new vehicles that have not proven themselves in the marketplace.

6. Direct marketers, on the other hand, are cautious and conservative. We want to know something works before we spend money on it. And even then, we conduct small tests to make sure it will work for us before rolling out with it on a larger scale.

7. Non-direct marketers are obsessed with branding, awareness, and image. Direct marketers consider ROI the primary objective, and we resist having our promotions being controlled by any branding requirements that might interfere with achieving it.

8. Direct marketers are increasingly finding that what works in offline (print) ? direct mail, space ads ? works online. Yes, there are some differences. But strong selling copy is needed to secure the order whether from a DM package or a landing page.

9. Direct marketers expect to see immediate ROI from their marketing efforts. Non-direct marketers hope to see their efforts change behavior or attitude in the market over a much longer horizon.

10. Non-direct marketers take extra pride in campaigns that are creative, clever, edgy, funny, or splashy. Direct marketers couldn?t care less about such things and some of us even look down our noses at them.

If there are folks in the blogosphere who find the above guidelines foolish, unwise, or outdated, I?d love to read a post from you stating your position. And thanks for visiting my blog!


This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004 at 9:26 pm and is filed under Direct Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

126 responses about “How Direct Marketers Think”

  1. » Bob Bly Starts Blogging… » The Guru Gazette Niche Marketing Profit Blog said:
    […] gave in recently and started his own. Already with the very first post, he’s got an excellent conversation going on about Direct Marketing vs. Blogging. Check it out. And if yo […]

  2. Nick Usborne said:

    Thank you Bob! Seems you know your mind!

    OK, here is my take. For those who don’t know me, I worked as a direct mail copywriter for a little under 20 years, with clients like Citibank, Apple, Chrysler, Franklin Mint, TV Guide, Diners Club International and many others. But since 1997 I haven’t written for paper at all, and have found a new niche in online copywriting.

    So, first off, I agree with Bob in all but the subtext of what he says. Direct marketing is about ROI. Period. Well, almost period. A large company won’t sacrifice its brand just to make a few extra bucks on a direct mail piece. i.e. American Express won’t run a letter intro that says, “Sign up now for the chance to mud wrestle with this month’s Playboy centerfold.”

    Now for the subtext. I think I hear Bob saying that online marketers are all interested in having cute and cuddly conversations with their prospects and customers. I think I hear him saying that online marketers don’t have the discipline, skills and knowledge to spend their budgets wisely.

    First, keep in mind that this is a very, very young industry. But things are developing fast. I tend to work with some quite large clients online, like Yahoo!, Wells Fargo, Intuit, MSN and others. And I can tell you, things are becoming pretty sophisticated.

    Even for smaller clients and partners I now track the results and ROI of promotional activities right down to the finest detail. When someone clicks on a link to a site, I know EVERYTHING about what that person does. And I have a huge advantage over traditional direct marketers…I can track and analyze campaign responses in real time, as they happen. I can even adjust promotions on the fly. I can test 100 versions of ads, email and landing pages concurrently. I can start testing at 9:00am and begin tracking results at 9:01am.

    So yes, Bob is right in what he says. But beware of what he doesn’t say. : )

    I’m a canny old direct marketer and I now have access to technology online that would make offline direct marketers weep in frustration.

    Nick Usborne

  3. Bob Bly said:

    Nick, you’ve got it all right except one thing.

    You say, “I think I hear Bob saying that online marketers are all interested in having cute and cuddly conversations with their prospects and customers.”

    Modify the “all” to “some” and then you have it 100% right.

    Virtually all of my DM clients do both online and offline, and none of them are interested in “cute and cuddly” … they leave that to the Cluetrain and the branding folks.

  4. Nick Usborne said:

    I agree, more or less….but things are changing very fast now. The number of companies out there who don’t track their promotions is shrinking very fast indeed. Even the smallest online companies can use software like ClickTracks and get incredible detail on what’s working and what isn’t. The ‘Cluetrain group’ is shrinking fast.

    THAT SAID… don’t sniff too much at conversations. The medium allows for it – which direct mail doesn’t – and having conversations can turn out to be extremely profitable.

    Nick Usborne

  5. Debbie Weil said:

    Congrats on your launch… we’ll win you over yet! – Debbie

  6. David St Lawrence said:

    Congratulations on your launch.
    Welcome to the blogosphere.

    As we have discussed before in various emails, blogs are not a DM channel.
    I feel their value lies in establishing long term relationships.

    In this medium, as in DM, the rules are made on the basis of what works.
    The only little difference, is that the rules may be quite different.

    It will be interesting to see how your audience responds.

    Best of luck!


  7. Paul Chaney said:

    First, let me say how pleased I am to have you join the “blogosphere.” I consider it a signal event, and here’s why. You have the opportunity to take this somewhat yet unproven new media for a spin. As you learn about its nuances and benefits, you may be able to apply the direct marketer’s commonsense, get the cash register ringing approach to blogging. If you do, then we all benefit. Just give the medium time to grow on you.

  8. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    For a few years before I became a copywriter, I was in sales. (BTW, I can’t think of a better training ground for a direct-response writer, but that’s another story.) One day, early in my career, my sales manager sat me down and said, “Steve, there are three rules to making it in this business: 1. Get the order; 2. Get the order; 3. Get the order.”

    He wasn’t kidding.

    If I, or any of the other sales reps, wrote “had a great conversation” on our call reports, we’d be shown the door. There wasn’t any such thing as an ALMOST sale. You either had the customer’s signature on the doted line or you didn’t.

    Yes, being friendly with prospects and customers was important. Getting information on needs and trends was important too. But, ultimately, we were paid to sell. Period.

    I suspect that’s why direct marketing folk (like myself) have difficulty with blogs. Sure, they’re interesting to read. I even participate in a few. And, yes, the insights gleaned from the posts can be valuable. But where’s the sale?

    Banner ads may be an answer. But click thru rates are notoriously low. And I can’t see these improving substantially just because the banners are on a blog.

    And as for RSS feeds, how many people will actually opt-in? Realistically? And what will be the tolerance level to receiving promotional messages? Answers? Unknown.

    These aren’t criticisms. Just questions. Maybe my skepticisms are unfounded. Hey, if there is money to be made in blogs, I’m in.

  9. Radiant Marketing Group said:
    Bob Bly Blogs!!!!!
    BREAKING NEWS: Bob Bly has joined the Blogosphere! I have an announcement to make. . .just got an email from Bob Bly saying that he has just today joined the blogosphere with a post about how direct marketers think. That

  10. Nick Usborne said:

    Want to talk about Blogs? OK, let me take the gloves off for a moment…

    If you think blogs have nothing to do with sales, you need to take the training wheels off and get up that learning curve fast!

    I use blogs specifically for sales purposes…directly and indirectly. One site I work on derives over 10% of its new traffic from its accompanying blog.

    Plus…the things I could tell you about using blogs to improve the listing of web sites on the search egines. Actually, I won’t. But blogs are wonderful things when it comes to driving traffic, pre-selling prospects and improving search engine listings.

    Best wishes,

    Nick Usborne

  11. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    One thing is clear. Blogs certainly have the power to evoke emotion. Especially when debating the merits.

  12. Neville Hobson said:

    Bob, good to see that you have concluded that blogs aren’t a complete waste of time after all. Smart move to continue the conversations with your own blog forming an active part. Congratulations!

  13. Bob Bly said:

    But here’s my question, Nick.

    Aside from the fact that blogs clearly and indisputably generate site traffic through search engine optimization, can actual sales be measurably and directly linked to blogging activity for anyone other than marketing consultants, who seem to be major users of bloggers?

    I’m not saying blogs are worthless if the answer is “no” — I am just asking the question as part of my education here.

  14. Bob Bly said:

    Thanks, Neville.

    I am in a learning mode and being open minded, though I lean toward skeptical and am very far from being a blogging evangelist ….

  15. Toby said:

    Bob – Adding my “welcome to the blogosphere” and looking forward to some challenging and energizing debates as we all learn from each other.

  16. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Is there a case study available (featuring a company that is NOT a marketing firm) that showcases:
    — traffic increases to e-commerce websites;
    — click thru rates to specific landing pages that sell products;
    — quality sales leads generated; and/or
    — actual sales generated
    as a direct result of a blog? If so, let me know where I can find it. It would certainly help me to understand the profit-potential of blogging.

  17. Bill Denneen said:

    It really doesn’t need to be either/or. I work in migher ed marketing which is both a heavy DM market and a heavy branding market. Branding directly influences which piece of mail a prospect will open out of the 30 in their mail box.

    Blogs are starting to appear in college admissions. The day-in-the-life perspective they provide can give prospects a real perspective they can’t get from scripted formats. With interesting blogs, schools are getting prospects to come back to their websites, learn more about the institution, and ultimately submit an application.

    There are plenty of products and services where blogs won’t have an impact, but in higher education, I think they are starting to make a difference.

  18. Bob Cargill said:


    I am delighted to be joined by another direct marketing copywriter — and one of the best, too — out here in the blogosphere.

    Bob Cargill
    Senior Creative Director
    Yellowfin Direct Marketing

  19. Bob Bly said:

    Steve, I’ve been asking for this for weeks. I get a lot of replies to the effect that “Nike has a blog” and they wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t working … but no hard number case histories such as we see every week in DM News for direct mail and e-mail marketing. I am told that “blogging is not a DM medium” and we should not measure it in the same way we measure DM.

  20. Debbie Weil said:

    To respond to several of the inquiries above re blogs that produce results more measurable than branding… B2B Lead Generation is an example of a business blog that is effectively generating leads and has also won the author (CEO of the company) a book contract: Brian Carroll’s B2B Lead Generation. Click on my name and you’ll go right to it at:

  21. Marc Orchant said:


    Welcome you argumentative curmudgeon! Like everyone else here, I’m delighted to see you at least dipping your toe into the water to get a better feel for where blogs fit into the marketing mix. We’ve had some offline conversation on this topic, as apparently have some of the others here, and your positions are very clear, easy to understand, and well articulated.

    If I’m correct, where you and I left off, we had agreed to agree that blogs are not yet a proven tool in the DM toolkit but they are a valuable tool for less ROI-focused aspects of marketing communications. Just as DM does not define all marketing activities, blogs may or may not have a good fit in the narrower DM channel (yet anyway).

    I figure if anyone is likely to figure it out, it’ll be folks like you, Nick, Debbie, Anne, etc. who have both the DM experience and the openness to explore new mediums before they’re ready for “prime time”.

    I will certainly be keeping my eye on this space to watch the conversation (and arm wrestling) continue.


  22. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Thanks Debbie. I know Brian. I’ll check out his blog more closely.

  23. Bob Bly said:

    Marc — thanks for the kind words of welcome.

    Deb — as I mention in comment #12, we doubters want an example other than a marketing consultant. So Brian does not fulfill our request for ROI proof.

  24. Nick Usborne said:


    In answer to your question in comment 12: Yes.

    Yes, I have worked on an ecommerce site and used an accompaning blog to drive traffic to landing pages on that site. And yes, some visitors will then buy on that first visit. Others will buy on subsequent visits.

    But here is the gold… I can track it all. I know which blog post they came from, even which link within an individual post. I know if someone is a first-time visitor or a returning visitor. I know which pages he or she sees on that visit, and how long he spends on each page. I know if he buys.

    Tracking has become hugely sophisticated.

    As for blogs, they are unique in what they can and cannot do for you. If you try to turn a blog into nothing more than a promotional device, you’ll lose your readership. People don’t come to blogs to be ‘sold to’. You have to understand and respect the character of the medium. But yes, you can use blogs to drive sales and track everything that happens from the first click forward.

    Best wishes,

    Nick Usborne

  25. Bob Bly said:

    Nick, bloggers need to write up such case histories with the numbers you talk about and publish them in BtoB or other appropriate journals — in the same way e-mail and direct mail case studies are published all the time. Otherwise blogging skeptics will remain so.

  26. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Deb, in response to your comment #19:

    I visited Brian’s company website, InTouch. It lists a number of success stories (case studies), but none feature blogs as a marketing tactic. Do you know if Brian has any documented successes using blogs to generate quality leads for his prestigious list of clients?

  27. Nick Usborne said:

    Well, figures for all kinds of online activities are slowly becoming available. Like I said in my first comment, this is a young industry.

    That said, if traditional direct marketers make a virue of being conservative and don’t take the initiative with some of these new opportunities, it will be to their disadvantage.

    As you know, I am a direct marketer from a long way back. And I’ll tell you, the web is a direct marketer’s dream – sites, email,newsletters, blogs, wireless, all of it. The ability to test and track is so fast, so inexpensive, so detailed…it’s incredible. I was going over some figures this morning, looking at the conversion rates for traffic coming in from Google, and comparing those conversion rates based on the keywords and phrases used by the visitors. Truly fascinating…and VERY useful.

    Best wishes,


  28. Brian Carroll said:

    Bob – great to see you’re blogging. It was great chatting with you off-line too.


  29. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Nick, I couldn’t agree more. The Web is a direct marketer’s dream. As you know, I’ve been involved in hundreds of successful email/landing page campaigns and some of the Top 100 B2B websites. So I’m more than a convert to the Web — I’m an evangelist.

    It may sound like I’m a grumpy blog naysayer. But I’m really just a healthy skeptic. Show me some analytics that suggest blogs make money, or at least quality leads, and I’m sold.

  30. Rick Bruner said:


    I can never resist this argument with direct marketing purists, and I don’t know why, because, as I said in my blog post about all this, it’s like arguing religion or politics. We see the world differently and will never agree. Nonetheless, here I go. I can’t help but reiterate a few points others have already made in this thread that you’re ignoring:

    1) Not every business sees itself as a direct marketing business. Nike, Marlboro, Coke and lots of others have built healthy brands through brand advertising, not coupons and flyers. And many businesses that are direct marketing businesses also do engage in non-direct marketing (credit card ads on TV come to mind, among many others). Starbucks built its business through neither DM nor mass media advertising but simply through signage. You’re treating DM as a hammer, to which everything looks like a nail. The way people buy and the way most companies sell is a lot more nuanced than you’re giving them credit for.

    2) Where is the ROI in the opinion piece you wrote for DM News? You spent time writing it, and your time is money, so you made and investment in it. I have every confidence it helped promote awareness of yourself as an expert, but I doubt that you can track back every lead to that specific article any better than a business blogger could. There is a certain faith in the value of building awareness and brand trust.

    3) Where for that matter is the ROI in a customer service department? A web site? (I notice you have one.) A telephone, letterhead, business cards? Communicating with customers is important and there are expenses associated with it that we don’t necessarily map back to selling costs in every case.

    4) Besides, what expenses are we talking about in terms of blogs? Where’s the “I” in this formula? Sending out a direct mail campaign costs a lot of money. Sending out a blast of email to half a million customers even costs a fair bit of money. Writing a blog costs virtually nothing. If a CEO wants to spend a couple of hours a week sharing his ideas with the world, that’s a pretty loose “investment” for a hard-core DMer to worry about trying to justify.

    5) Who, besides you, ever said blogs were a DM medium? No-frickin’-one. This is a total red herring. We’re all trying to answer your criticism of them by showing that many businesses have seen sales leads come in as a result of them (not have a warm fuzzy feeling about it, but have actually see the dollars get signed thanks to the blog, as I quote the presidents of Sun Microsystem and Jupiter Research as saying as much on my blog, to name two, though you somehow don’t seem to credit them with knowing what they’re talking about). But there are many marketers out there who don’t view EVERYTHING as an exercise in DM. You have blinders on. Most marketers, in my considerable experience (clients like American Express, Gillette, IBM, AOL, Microsoft) see DM as PART OF THE MIX, but not the entire ball of wax. Your seizing on the idea that blogs are no good for DM is like saying that baseball will never catch on because you can’t catch a football with a baseball mitt. NO ONE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE IS SAYING THE BEST USE OF BLOGS IS DIRECT MARKETING. You’re creating a false dichotomy. The best values blogs represent for marketing are awareness, brand trust and customer communication. You’re trying to hold them to account for something no one is evangelizing. If you want to pick a fight about the value of brand marketing or customer service, rant about TV or call centers while you’re at it.

    6) If blogs are such a waste of time, why have you bothered with one?

  31. Rick Bruner said:

    Oh, and by the way, the blog I linked to in my signature in the post above is my personal blog, while the one I was referring to throughout is (soon to be renamed in your honor, Bob)

    (I kid! I kid because I love!)

  32. Nick Usborne said:


    You’re such a pest!!


  33. Liz said:

    I would like to see a study differentiating direct marketing of services vs. direct marketing of products. I suspect that blogs are more effective in selling services for the same reason that we use newsletters and ezines. By providing value, sharing some of our life with the readers, and educating them on our services, they become more likely to consider buying the services. I have no studies. It just seems to me that if ezines are effective, then blogs will be effective as well. I have or 6 blogs and the most popular in terms of hits provides information on breast cancer. So at the very least, I’ve identified a hungry niche that I could start targeting instead of going after my current, too-large niche. I think that was worth the hour a day or so I’ve put into my blogs over the last month.

  34. Stephen O'Grady said:

    While I think this is – as one poster pointed out – a real mars/venus subject, I couldn’t help but notice the mindset you articulate here, with a few exceptions, is pretty much what you hear from email spammers. If you distinguish yourself from them – how do you do it? And if you don’t, do you think that’s a problem?

  35. Ben Kaplin said:

    Something I’d like to throw in:
    I don’t read blogs that smack of product placement, and tend to side with Bob on this one. If I get the sense that a blog is trying to sell me something, whether it’s a third party blogger being paid for an advertisement, or a company blog that doesn’t have that whiff of authenticity, I’ll stop reading immediately.
    Now, with company blogs, I will admit that I have to allow for sugarcoating. But coming out and saying that this product is amazing, or that product will enhance my sex drive drives me nuts.

    The blogs I read occasionally blister the products they’re sent for free, and these are sometimes several hundred dollars worth of electronics. Typically I can’t tell which ones they’re sent, and which ones they get for free, because they point out flaws and strengths equally.

    A perfect example is the Digital Photography Review (, because unless prohibited by NDA, they are so so bloody impartial. They gave a scathing review of Kodak’s new DSLR, without seeming partial. They simply compared it’s feature set to other cameras extant, and let the reader draw their own conclusions.

    I honestly have no idea how to make money from a blog, and am content to leave that to you folks. I’m watching closely though; I plan to join you in ten years or so.

  36. Yvonne DiVita said:

    WOW! First, welcome to the blogosphere, Bob. You are a much needed voice. Those of us serious about our blogs, and about helping others build a solid online presence that can help build or increase sales, welcome you whole-heartedly. Because we know that blogging isn’t everything, and the Internet isn’t the be all and end all of marketing. That said, I still predict that blogging will be more successful than direct marketing in the long haul. I am not able to give my reasons…time is against me at this moment…so I will sign off with a promise to visit again, to post your link on my blog (and tell people why) and to be ready to learn from you. As you will learn from all of us who consider this part — the interaction part– of blogging, so much better than the dry DM marketing you’re used to. Cheers!

  37. Bob Bly said:

    Rick — Bloggers don’t claim blogs are a DM medium. I never said they did. But bloggers DO say “blogs make money.” And only us DMers can not only prove that our promotions make money, but can tell you how much down to the penny. No other form of marketing offers that kind of measurable ROI, which is why I love DM. As Lord Kelvin said: “When you can express something in numbers, you know something about it.”

  38. Patrick Gant said:

    To me, blogs are a bit like business cards. They’re relatively cheap to produce, they say something personal and their value is realized by their propagation. Welcome to the blogosphere, Bob.

  39. NevOn said:
    The copywriter who may now get it
    Copywriter and direct marketer Bob Bly, who was vilified by many bloggers earlier this month for his claim that blogs are a complete waste of time, has now started his own blog. As a result, some interesting conversations developed on

  40. Paul Woodhouse said:

    Maybe bloggers should generate the leads and the direct market folk can close the sale.

    If you want ROI I’ll supply you with graphs, facts, figures, or whatever you want. I’ll also tell you about the conversations that helped me make those conclusions.

    Oh that a direct marketer should use a blog to discuss the relative merits of either. Should you not be elsewhere peddling some utterly useless product?

    I eagerly await the Kirby Heritage Vacuum Blog – Suck It and See.

  41. Bob Bly said:

    Paul — I’m bothered by your comment about “peddling a useless product.” That’s the attitude of people who don’t understand and don’t believe in selling and marketing. The purpose of marketing (direct or otherwise) is not to sell people stuff they don’t want, which doesn’t work anyway. It’s to persuade people who need the benefits that your product offers that they should try it (in direct marketing, it’s always try, not buy, since they can always return it for a refund). No?

  42. Paul Woodhouse said:

    Bob – I’m sold. I’m only trying to add to the controversy!

    I’m more interested in people getting to see what kind of company they might be dealing with than getting wound up by ROI and the perfect sales pitch. I still get the opportunity to throw in a spot of sales copy once in a while if need be and I can offer you ROI – to the penny, but even my Gran can smell a sales pitch from 200 yards these days.

    Instead of just trying to spin folk a yarn as to why they need a product then allowing them the opportunity to return it, why not be honest and deal with them properly? And don’t talk about trying and buying – we all offer refunds these days. It’s the last bastion of the desperate salesman.

    I accept that the bottom line is to make a living and I’d be a liar if I pretended otherwise. This is probably where everybody may share a common ground, but it’s how you actually see your customer that counts. And I simply don’t come from the camp that they’re there to be milked as a relentless cash cow.

    Understanding selling and marketing isn’t the key here, it’s about understanding what your customer actually needs and whether you can supply it to them and then being trusted to do it.

    And I see blogs as the perfect tool for the job.

  43. Bob Bly said:

    I appreciate that you’re fueling the controversey here, but you are putting words in my mouth I never said. Example: “And I simply don’t come from the camp that they’re there to be milked as a relentless cash cow.” Who ever said that?

    You also say, “Understanding selling and marketing isn’t the key here, it’s about understanding what your customer actually needs and whether you can supply it to them and then being trusted to do it.” Paul, that IS marketing and selling!

    You are picking imaginary fights here.

  44. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Paul, you say: “Understanding selling and marketing isn’t the key here, it’s about understanding what your customer actually needs and whether you can supply it to them and then being trusted to do it.” Paul, isn’t that exactly what selling and marketing is all about? Understanding the customer? And then satisfying a need?

    Also, I don’t share your opinion that direct marketers milk customers as “a relentless cash cow.” In fact, most of the DMers I know treat customers like gold. Why? Because it works. Treating customers like gold SELLS.

  45. Paul Woodhouse said:

    So I do understand marketing and selling then!

    Apologies for picking imaginary fights, Bob. I’m just feeling a bit mischievious this afternoon;-)

  46. Rich Westerfield said:

    Kudos to you, Bob, for at least trying. I hope you blog for a long time. I’ve been a fan, have a couple of books and even attended one of your seminars a while back. We can use more hard-core DMers out here.

    I happen to be one of those marketing consultants who is already seeing a trickle of income and will eventually be profitable from blogging. My blog, combined with RSS, opens up a new audience for my newsletter I likely wouldn’t find from my own prospecting efforts. 10% of my current subs have come on board from the blog. With little effort. This results in a better message to my soon-to-be advertisers. And the blog will become a keystone of my seminar marketing strategy in the future. All for $7.95/month and whatever time I choose to devote to it. Mine is not a pure DM vs. non-DM issue as I don’t do traditional DM – I can afford to write individual letters to and/or personally call ad prospects – but as I’ve traditionally done most prospecting at events that cost on average $1000 to attend, that 10% from inexpensive blogging is a significant windfall.

    Anyway, nice to see you out here and I think your continued presence will help marketers of all stripes. Hopefully you’ll make a buck or two along the way.

  47. B.L. Ochman said:

    As Rick Bruner so eloquently pointed out, not every company sees itself as a direct marketing business. Many companies — Dell, Microsoft, Sun, and others dealing in new mediums — have built quite respectable businesses without relying on direct response. And the CEOs of many such companies are blogging to help present a human face to their customers.

    Sure, they include direct response in the mix. But it’s a MIX, not a my way or the highway world.

    Clearly you value PR, which is not direct response. Why else would you have asked me, and I suspect many other bloggers, to help you spread the word that you are not blogging.

    And this will not be a blog, Bob, until you prove that you are going to post frequently and interestingly over a period of time.

    Right now, this is an advertisement for you. And I think it ultimately will backfire.

  48. The Guru Gazette Niche Marketing Profit Blog said:
    Bob Bly Starts Blogging…
    I don’t talk much about my copywriting life in this particular blog, but I wanted to share this with all of you because of the immense value you can get from it over time.

    Bob Bly is an expert copywriter who I quietly watch, read, and learn from. H…

  49. Bob Bly said:

    BL — I started this blog yesterday and already it has one entry and 48 posts, which Paul Chaney thinks may be some kind of record. How you can accuse it of being not active is beyond belief.

    And for you to say it is an advertisement for me is unworthy of you, since I know how smart you are. This blog has not one word about my services … I haven’t even said on it what I do. All we have done is discuss one issue which the participants seem fascinated by: DM vs. non DM marketing.

  50. Paul Chaney said:

    I just wanted to be the 50th comment. This must be some sort of record.

  51. Ted L. Nancy said:

    I hate junk mail. It goes right in the trash.

  52. Radiant Marketing Group said:
    Some Sort of Record
    I don’t know if the Guinness Book of World Records has one for the number of comments for a first time blog post. If they do, Bob Bly’s first post just shattered it! He has 50 and counting! (Even if

  53. B.L. Ochman said:

    I did not accuse your blog of “being not active.” I said that to be a blog, by definition, it will need to have frequently updated and interesting posts over a period of time.

    Yes, you certainly did get a whole lot of response to the issue you raised. I look forward to seeing you turn this into a real blog.

    Right now, it’s a discussion forum for DM v non-DM. Let’s see some new topics. Or if this is the topic, new posts that expand on it.
    B.L. Ochman

  54. Bob Bly said:

    BL — You say “Right now, it’s a discussion forum for DM v non-DM. Let’s see some new topics. ” BL, the blog has been up, at this point, about 24 hours! How often should a new entry be made? Every day? 3 times a day?

  55. Scott Allen said:

    Steve asked for a case study. This may not be quite the level of detail you’re looking for, Steve, but here’s an excerpt from our upcoming book about a lawyer who’s used his blog to grow his business significantly:

    Martin Schwimmer is an independent lawyer who represents owners of some of the most famous trademarks in the world. He was formerly a partner at Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu. Managing Intellectual Property magazine selected Schwimmer as one of the best trademark lawyers in the United States.

    Schwimmer started his blog ( in May 2002. He spends about 30-60 minutes per day maintaining it, primarily commenting on intellectual property news. He needs to keep apprised of the news just to do his job; the marginal cost of his time in maintaining the blog is low, because he is leveraging his preparation time.

    His blog has created three networks for him:

    • Search engine users. Clients have approached him solely as a result of his very high search engine placement, which is created largely by the blog. For search terms like “trademark”, he is typically the highest-ranked lawyer in the results.

    • Fellow bloggers in his space. The blog keeps him in contact with other bloggers in his sector. Some referrals have come out of that.

    • Certain clients, colleagues, and practitioners have become regular readers.

    Schwimmer has now built a three-person law firm specializing in intellectual property, and he says that at least 20% of his practice is directly related to clients who came via his blog.

  56. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Thanks Scott. That’s good information. Anecdotal, but good. It seems that, at the very least, blogging has helped your lawyer friend become a recognized thought-leader on his topic, as well as boost his search engine rankings. He also gained a few referrals. But I wonder: wouldn’t writing articles — for online and print publications — accomplish the same things?

  57. B.L. Ochman said:

    How many times a day should one update a blog? Many established bloggers, including me, generally post several times a day. The beauty of the blog is that most posts are short, link-rich, quick takes. Newsletters, articles and Websites are used to expand on topics.

    My blog is an example of one that makes money. I have sold more than 100 of my reports and e-books through my blog. How do I know? I track my stats to see where my sales come from.

    I have a client right now who came to me through my blog, and those fees will pay me for my next few yeats of blogging.

    Plus, I am creating blogs for three clients, all of whom have me on retainer.

    I call that pretty damn good ROI.

  58. Des Walsh said:

    Great discussion, a range of interestingly divergent viewpoints, evidently some very experienced and knowledgeable people. Had some of my prejudices shaken up, which is good. I was halfway through reading the posts and had to go out on a chore – as I was driving the conversation here was going round and round in my head and I couldn’t wait to get back to read more. Then got to some interesting different perspectives. Then got to a row of spammers! Bob – I think it is perfectly ok blogiquette to bounce these irrelevant posts and block their urls.

  59. Strange Attractor said:
    Maybe blogging is not so pointless after all
    Marketing expert Max Blumberg conversed with Bob Bly, saying: […] Blogging is more likely to raise brand awareness, but that the impact on direct sales will be more difficult to assess. Blogging is akin to, and probably forms part of…

  60. Jason Cain said:

    Aloha Bob,

    Welcome to blogging!

    There is a huge misconception. People get thrown off by the word “blog”. A blog is a tool for managing content — nothing more. If you want to incorporate direct marketing into your blog (think website) then you can!

    What are the benefits?

    That conversation, that you spoke of in your post.

    Want to see an example of direct marketing incorporated into a blog?

    “Special Report: Guerilla Info Product Creation”

    A blog is just another way of communicating with clients and prospects. It doesn’t eliminate the need for snail mail or email. It is just another ‘avenue of approach’ (to use a military term) that gets my message before my target market.

    Aloha and much success,

    Jason Cain

    PS: I just completed the last section of my AWAI copywriting course. It was the smartest thing I have ever done — and I look forward to my continuing education. I appreciate your contributions.

    I also received your book “Become a Recognized Authority…”

    I leafed through it today, and I look forward to studying and applying it.

    Jason Cain is the #1 best-selling author of
    “GoldBlogging: How to Find the Wealth In Your
    Writing And Make A Fortune Doing What You Love!”

    Find his book at

    Read his mind at

  61. K. Greenhaw said:

    Interesting comments on your post Mr. Bly. Another thing the “Direct marketer knows”: That it often takes a great deal of persistence and hard work to get just a fraction of one’s market to pay attention to their product or service through offline direct marketing techniques. Take direct mail marketing for example: You may need to send out a mailer several times to get any response at all and often this response is an extremely small percent of those who originally received the mailer.

    Now, here is something the ‘online marketer knows’: Whether your blog or website takes a direct or indirect marketing approach, you are reaching out to a potentially limitless audience for a fraction of the cost of direct mail marketing. So, whether or not your percentage of responses is marginal or significant, either way you have made a direct and personal connection to a mass audience that will, in turn, tell a friend or keep your blog or business in mind. And in today’s digitally and web enhanced world, getting on the ‘blog’ bandwagon may be just the thing to make your business stand out from some of the more traditional direct marketing competitors.

  62. Matt Biskup said:

    Hey, DM’ers,
    The baseball bat over the head days are over – the customer has more power. They have instant research at their fingertips. No more getting duped by crappy products. Do it on Ebay and you’ll get a bad “reputation.” Do bad and stupid things in your brick and mortar biz and you’ll wind up the fodder of consumer and industry niche forums, blogs and other online communications that will raise hell about your poor business practice. is Where the online world goes to discuss and review technology products before purchasing. The same principle is now available to the consumer at every web site that blogs and specifically, blogs its’ product pages! Comments, posts, feedback, exchange, etc. on every dang product page on someone’s web site let’s them be the focus of information, not Consumer Reports, key influencers, and other external sources. Amazon does it with “review this product” comments from people who already bought the book. Blogging product and service pages on a web site lets the merchandiser provide that “independent reveiew” service for their customer. What better way to show confidence in your products, technical knowledge, market knowledge, ability to provide customer service than open up dialogue right at your product pages on your blog/website?

    Think Progressive Insurance “we’ll give you quotes of other major insurance firms.” Ebay, Cnet, Consumer Reports,
    Amazon, Progressive Insurance… how are those for proving that the concept of getting in front of your customer’s
    needs electronically is effective?

    So the concept of getting the consumer some info before they commit to a purchase isn’t new at all.

    Branding today has become in part “Who can give me the info I need prior to purchasing, as well as the product itself” in addition to the lifestyle/positioning component that links up with the “all sales are emotional” axiom.

    Then why is it that people think that blogs don’t work?

    It’s because most people don’t understand what they’re trying to accomplish by using one.

    In the DM world, they’re afraid that the power is shifting from the marketer to the consumer. And in terms of controlling the presentation of the message, it is.

    The days of beating ones message to death until the customer yields his cash are changing to areas that the consumer can control i.e. reading blogs to get information and news and not web sites, email, or offline publications full of advertising.

    Blogs are new, not-broadly-adopted-yet technology, but this will change fast. I personally use a newsreader (software to read blogs quickly) for RSS feeds (syndicated blogs) that is plugged in to my internet browser. Keep reading you off-liners… I’ll make this make sense as we go along. That made things greatly simpler for me, and I’m a technology buff. I used to have to read rss feeds with a separate software product, now I don’t and I’m reading much more in the way of blogs/RSS feeds. Microsoft is studying this big time so I expect future versions of Internet Explorer to simply include RSS/blog reading as simply another button at the top of the browser window and BAM, people will start to “get it.” They will be able to get the info they want when they want it. I would rather go to my rss reader (again, now in my browser) and view the messages when I want than respond to unsolicited email, pop-ups, etc. When a company finds a new way to violate my personal space with an intrusive vehicle, I get massively offended and adamantly boycott those products. And if you think I’m alone in this thinking, you’re wrong.

    Which brings me to the positive side for the DM community. Figure out how to give the pre-sale information to them,
    ’cause the first ones who capture this realm in each business niche will win the “mind share real-estate gold rush”
    much like Amazon did when it comes to selling books. But it won’t cost them more than few bucks plus some employee time to do it.

    Frankly, these people (blog readers) are better customers anyway. They actually present themselves as willing to hear your message just by visiting your blog. It’s like a golden mailing list! It’s better than a mailing list. It’s like having potential clients all assemble for a focused and vigorous debate about your products right in your lobby! In the off-line world they call this having an open house, a focus group, a “Sale”, or a customer appreciation event. Blog readers are metaphorically waving a flag over their head and identifying themselves as interested in your product line! Hello? Are you still with me? See, I told you I’d make this make sense for you.

    The DM world needs to understand how to maximize exposure through a blog. In even more terms “off-liners” will
    understand, a campaign to publicize a product/service through a blog is really just an electronic version of a
    creating a customer referral, a warm lead. Keep reading if that doesn’t make sense. People and other businesses
    that link to your blog postings (trackbacking), put people on their blogroll (rolodex), and comment on posts (laser
    focused customer survey), or collectively read blogs (clearly interested, focused, and most of all identifiable and
    approachable potential customers) are exactly what the DM has been looking for for eons. The off-liners just need to recognize the new paradigms. What’s really beautiful is that the old business axioms of the old DMers are all still true, they’re just manifesting themselves in different, contemporary methods.

    I’m a technology consultant for marketing consultants. I help bring them up to speed in non-techie terms and minus
    the impatience and arrogance of the younger set (I’m 39 years of age). My background is in brick and mortar retail chains. Most of my clients are over 50 years of age. I literally make a living teaching technology in person and over the phone to former “off-liners.” And most I find are happy to learn that all the life lessons and business maxims they have accumulated in their previous years are still true!

    So reading this line of posting where people are either still skeptical or believe that it’s all about web traffic or that blogs aren’t direct marketing has popped my eyes wide open. Those people are wrong.

    You CAN use this technology to bring real sneakers into your brick and mortar store. I show clients how to do it everyday. And you can make this technology make a telephone order line ring. You just gotta’ have it in the correct perspective and don’t give up on all the business principles that you learned along the way… they still work.

    Technology right now is in the hands of non-experienced DM’ers. They think they know how to get hits, clicks, etc. but that ain’t all there is! Technology applied correctly by the hands of an experienced DM’er is GOLD. My favorite sound is still the opening of a cash register.

    Matt Biskup

  63. Shelle Castles-Melton said:

    LOL! Man, you created a monster Bob! Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!! Blessings my man. Blessings!

  64. Evelyn Rodriguez said:

    Bob I agree with you that the purpose of marketing is to have the cash register ring. Many conversations are of no value to either side. CEOs don’t give a rat’s ass about vague concept of conversations, but they do care about the growing the top line. Coming from a product management point of view of marketing, there is absolute value in a dialogue with customers that helps you to truly understand your customer and step inside their shoes. And thus build and create and tweak and refine the product or service itself to ensure sales downstream because you have perfectly met those oft unstated needs and wants. Too many product managers have built products or selected features for the next model in a vacuum (a focus group is a close second to a vacuum). Virtually no one speaks of this value of blogs to help discover, create and deliver the right product, but I do see product managers from companies like Microsoft starting to do just this.

  65. Crossroads Dispatches said:
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    Companies that lose touch of their customers stumble. And conversely, if you look at the success of WalMart a lot can be attributed to the fact that they are closer to the customer than their suppliers. They are eating these

  66. Working Pathways, LLC - The Work Better Weblog said:
    Clicks vs Impressions
    Eminent writer Bob Bly dissects the difference between direct marketers and non-direct marketers.

    In my experience, his analysis is spot-on.

    I had a client where both mentalities struggled for dominance. The incumbent mentality (non-DM) was a…

  67. The PRESSblog by Press Marketing said:
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