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The danger of subjective opinion

August 7th, 2013 by Bob Bly

“What’s hot in B2B marketing?” I recently asked my colleague JD.

“Video,” JD replied without hesitation.

I smiled, because I have been writing video scripts for over 30
years – ever since I worked in marketing communications for a
large defense contractor in the late 70s.

Back then, people had more time and greater attention spans than
they do today, so many of our videos ran 10 to 12 minutes.

A few were longer. We had an introductory video to educate new
employees and others about the company that was 23 minutes long.

TS, my boss, told me he had wanted Burgess Meredith to narrate
it.

But Meredith was anti-war and would not work with a defense
company.

Back in the day, production standards for marketing videos were
higher than they are today.

All our videos were shot by professional crews using
professional equipment.

Because of this, TS had a rule: the videos we did had to be of a
production quality that matched or came close to what the
prospect saw on TV.

Today anyone with a cell phone thinks he can shoot an acceptable
video.

Because of that and YouTube, today’s prospects are much more
forgiving of middling quality in marketing videos posted on the
web. Some marketers even say videos that look home-made actually
pull better than those that are “slick.”

Many of my corporate clients tell me, as if it were an
indisputable fact, that no one on Earth will watch a video
longer than 3 minutes today.

Yet many of my direct marketing clients in financial and health
care routinely ask me to write video sales letters that are 20
to 25 minutes … and these videos generate higher conversion
rates than static landing pages. So much for “indisputable”
facts.

You see, when someone tells you a “fact” about marketing like
“no one reads copy anymore,” they are almost always basing it on
their subjective opinion and personal preferences – yet they
proclaim it as the gospel truth. Their mistake.

Copywriter PB once told me: “Never let personal preference get
in the way.”

For example: I strongly dislike sweepstakes direct mail
packages. And I throw them away the instant I get them.

But does my throwing them away have any bearing on whether they
work? Of course not.

If you are a direct marketer – someone whose marketing generates
a measurable response – as so many online marketers are these
days, it’s easy enough to test and know for a fact what works.
You don’t have to leave it to opinion.

One client, the marketing director of a software company, had a
rule for the direct mail packages we produced. She said, “Always
have a picture of a bearded programmer on page one of the
letter.”

This, however, was not her subjective opinion. They tested this
multiple times, and adding the photo always lifted response.
Why? Well, their target market was programmers, so perhaps this
helped them relate to the letter writer.

This brings up a broader principle: People buy from people they
like, and they like people who are like them. Therefore, it
makes sense to have the copy written in the voice of and signed
by someone who is a member of your target audience. For
instance, if you are sending an e-mail to nurses, have the
e-mail coming from a nurse.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 at 4:13 pm and is filed under General. 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.

5 responses about “The danger of subjective opinion”

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