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“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?


This entry was posted on Friday, July 25th, 2008 at 6:57 am and is filed under Online 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.

77 responses about ““Old School” Direct Marketing on the Internet”

  1. Dianna Huff said:

    I hate to say this, because I respect Denny Hatch too, but his magazine about direct marketing is dying, so I’m not sure he’s the best spokesperson for your cause. Each time the mag arrives in my mailbox, it’s slimmer than the month before.

    “Old school direct marketing” obviously has principles that still apply in today’s world.

    BUT, “old school direct marketing” has somehow lost touch with the new world. And that is the problem.

  2. Bob Bly said:

    DH: In what way has direct marketing lost touch with the real world? I see the very successful stuff YOU write for your clients. Your landing pages have headlines, list benefits, and make strong offers. Classic direct response.

  3. Mark said:

    Can’t we divide the question? If the issue is selling via email, I suspect DM principles can directly transfer (that would be my assumption until someone showed me evidence of a need to change). But I remember you asking a question about the content of blogs awhile back, which I think called for a different answer.

    With landing pages, I have no idea. I’d love to hear some analysis. It doesn’t strike me as intuitive that the first people in web marketing would have no experience in DM. I would think such people would be likely to see an opportunity and be recognized as desirable due to their experience.

    Another way the question may be confused is whether or not we’re really talking about marketing or PR.

    (Whether or not Hatch has a point, I think he is way overstating his case to claim the dotcom bust was due to a lack of DM knowledge)

  4. SpongeBob Fan said:

    “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.)”

    Oh, I don’t know!

    I do know that – with all the firepower on this blog … think of the thousands of years of solid-real word experience represented by both Bob and the responders here! … why can’t it be stipulated that there’s more than 10 ways to skin a hypothetical cat and move on to a few discussions about how we can all make money and improve our skills doing just that?

    I know I read this blog less – which doesn’t make me happy, at all. ButI can’t answer the question of A versus B, and I realized that I think it’s not either/or anymore.

    There were stupid marketing people and marketers before there were typewriters, after all!

  5. Bob Bly said:

    Sponge: This blog as I see it is for having interesting discussions about marketing, but not dispensing how-to advice. I do that it my online newsletter, “The Direct Response Letter,” which you can get for free — along with a free bonus library of special reports worth $116 — at

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Apparently, the period at the end of the above sentence renders the link nonfunctional. So click here instead:

  7. SpongeBob Fan said:

    Of course!

    I meant to stipulate there that it is, absolutely, your blog.

    Just find myself often wondering what other fascinating things you might be up to lately.

  8. Bob Bly said:

    Sponge: I assume you mean business projects, not my personal life. My latest project is a free web site to educate people about online conversion with landing pages and name squeeze pages:

  9. Chris Yeh said:


    Having spent the past couple of years working very successfully with social media, I can tell you that traditional direct response marketing does work and is still relevant.

    The problem is that many old-school direct marketers either fear or scorn the new tools, and haven’t really investigated them in depth.

    When direct marketers fail to provide thoughts on how to use Twitter, et al, they lose credibility with the young Turks.

    Me, I prefer reading books that are over 30 years old, but still relevant–that makes them timeless. But I’m in a small minority.

  10. Dianna Huff said:


    Please explain to me why direct marketing publications are dying if old school direct marketing hasn’t lost touch with the real world.

  11. SpongeBob Fan said:

    Hey, Bob – I’d even be interested in whatever fascinating stuff you’re up to … professional or personal.

    (I’m enough of a marketer/ad person/nosy parker to often find that people’s personal passions lead to relevant and unexpected business insights. A friend of mine is a lawyer, and his passion is fly-fishing. It’s always amazing to hear what fishing has taught him about the law.)

  12. Bob Bly said:

    Dianna: if traditional direct marketing is dying, why is spending on direct mail marketing increasing every year, despite all the new media?

    The health of trade magazines is no indicator of the health of an industry. IT is as strong as ever, yet there are a fraction of the number of IT magazines around today vs. 20 years ago.

    The decline of direct marketing magazines tracks with the decline in magazine publishing in general. People are getting more of their content online and less in print. That has nothing to do with direct response techniques and their effectiveness or lack thereof.

  13. Warren Whitlock said:

    Does there need to be just one or the other?

    It’s true, if you just throw copy at people today, they won’t read it.. Great copy that isn’t read isn’t going to get results.

    I have met a few great copywriters that won’t make it in social media.. they are hermits.

    But using the principles learned in direct response, you can be a better communicator. And communicator rule in any technology.

    Hatch is right that dotbomb marketing sucked (though I don’t see that as a primary cause of the irrational exuberance). Same for 2.0bombs out there today.

    The “will build a free user base and sell the company” business plan makes from great stories for the minority that make it. I’ll take sound marketing as a better bet anytime.

  14. Sonia Simone said:

    The problem is that each side sees the two as mutually exclusive. They are not. Effective direct response technique can be tied to content and conversation in ways that can be delightfully profitable.

    I wouldn’t say there was anything genuinely new in that combination. Gary Bencivenga has long preached the advantages of creating advertising that is intrinsically, genuinely valuable. Am I remembering correctly, didn’t John Caples extol the virtue of the space ad that looks like an editorial? There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of entrepreneurs combining solid, valuable content with direct response and making very nice livings with that.

    Lots of new media types are allergic to selling. They make some sales anyway, despite themselves, but they could do better. On the other side of the equation, many DMers either feel the social media model has a lot of wasted work (I disagree–it’s just another version of a copywriter’s duty to drill into the product until she understands it at the core) or they think it’s some kind of idealistic audience that doesn’t buy (not true in my experience–people are people, they have problems, they want to find solutions and to reward themselves with treats).

    There’s a lot of fluttering & sputtering that goes on about this, but in the end, the folks who quietly just figure out the right blend of the two (and it does take finesse) make lots of money.

  15. Craig Hysell said:

    It’s my humble opinion “conversation, free content, social networking, and making a connection” are all about building a name and trust with a brand or product over the extended time period that this “Web 2.0” medium now dictates we (or allows us to) have.

    Which, I see, is merely an extension of the same DM “I’ve got ’em, I only have a limited time with ’em so let’s knock ’em dead” animal.

    You build curiousity and emotion with conversation, free content, etc. At the same time (if you’re good at what you do) you build interest and trust. Eventually you get to the offer of a product. You provide a call to action, you close a sale.

    In my eyes those are the very same principles as the “classic” DM approach just offered on a longer time frame in a different manner.

    Maybe it takes more time than the old-school DM approach but, in the end, what are the differences in ROI? Bob tracks potential customers through his newsletter. Meerman Scott tracks potential customers in page views. Both are doing very well. Both are doing things differently.

    Both carry the same principles: build trust, move product. You cannot do anything if you don’t have trust. Any reputable marketer, no matter which “school” they attend, certainly can agree on that.

  16. Victor Cheng said:

    Denny is right on the principle, but wrong on the specifics.

    I have Denny’s books and Bob’s and very much consider myself a direct response marketer and copywriter (among many other things).

    Good direct response copy is simply salesmanship in “print” (thanks Claude Hopkins, John E Kennedy, Gary Halbert), mathematically speaking it works when you’re trying to get someone to take action.

    Now on to the specifics.

    Good copy in online ads, definitely works. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t counting their numbers.

    Landing pages with headlines (tested), clear benefit oriented offers works. Extensive test data is available on this from Fortune 500 companies on down to solo entrepreneurs.

    Copy in email, definitely works — though to maintain on-going research and prevent unsubscribes or people tuning out the ratio of content to sales pitch is heavily weighted towards content. Look at Bencivenga’s ezine… 2 years of content, only 2 email pitches the whole time.

    Will offer, offer, offer work in email… yes, for those who open the email. Think of the content you deliver as the equivalent of the envelope in direct mail. You buy a high “open rate” of the digital envelope by your reputation for emailing useful stuff a high percentage of the time.

    Even Denny would agreed that great copy in an envelope that never gets opened isn’t effective. This is a big issue on email marketing.

    Years ago, you could do offer, offer, offer and it would work. My email conversion rates from offers sent via email in 2003 show this. Try the same thing in 2008 and your email will frankly either never get open or much more likely will never even get delivered due to the spam filters.

    This was a very serious issue for offer, offer, offer email marketers that watched their conversion drop like a rock about 2 – 3 years ago. Think magazine display ads: If the magazine articles suck, nobody’s reading the magazine. In email marketing, you’re writing both the articles and the advertorials.

    Do good headlines work for both the articles and the advertorials? Yes. If you had a magazine that was only display ads, would it work? Yes… but only for the very limited audience that would actually read it (though I suppose if you did a good job it’s a magalog… but in those cases the advertorials have to provide really useful content too)

    In the Social Media realm, the general principle is still true. If you have your own audience that subscribes to your feed, you can treat your blog like a digital archive of email — a mix of content and good copy.

    But blogging offers an interesting opportunity to go beyond just using it as email replacement. It’s a medium to influence the influencers — high profile bloggers, mainstream reporters.

    In those cases, the call to action is NOT buy this, buy now. It’s send me traffic, quote me, feature me. So the principle of a good copy still holds, but with blogging you have the option to use as a communication channel to reach your house list or a communication channel to reach influencers.

    As you might imagine, different audiences, means different objectives, means different headlines and different calls to action.

    In blogging, the call to action to reporters and other bloggers is essentially “reprint my blog post”.

    The call to action is the trackback url at the bottom of most blogs (admittedly not a great one, but amongst regular bloggers it’s well understood).

    The offer is free content that’s unusually good that his/her readers will value in exchange for a referral and an implied or explicit endorsements.

    All the elements of good direct response are there (except a deadline), but it’s applied to a different audience, with different objectives… an audience that pays with a different currency.

    Incidentally, I just wrote a post of Blogging for Leads a few hours ago. It covers in great depth my perspective on this topic and is very much related to this conversation.

  17. Apryl Parcher said:

    I don’t believe that “old school Direct Response” has lost touch with the new world–it’s the other way around.

    As Victor points out, “Direct Response is salesmanship in print”–and New Social Media is just another vehicle for delivering it.

    When television came along, it was to be the death of radio. It wasn’t. When tapes and DVDs came along, it was to be the death of theater. It wasn’t. When the internet age came, we were told books and mail would go the way of the dodo. They didn’t. Direct Mail isn’t going to disappear any time soon. Every new method of communication has somehow enhanced or complemented those that have come before–not eliminated them. And those who use Direct Response in every medium available to them have success. People are still people. Just because they have a computer screen in front of them doesn’t mean they’ve suddenly grown two heads. They still have the same needs, desires, and emotions, and respond best to sales messages designed to speak directly to those needs, desires and emotions.

    Savvy marketers learn to use the new tools available to them to stay ahead of the competition–but chucking the old school one-on-one marketing techniques is a costly mistake, and one I see being made EVERYWHERE on line, but especially by “New Media Gurus.”

  18. Robert Rosenthal said:

    I sorta grew up among the direct marketing orthodoxy. As an undergraduate marketing major, I worked for a direct marketing firm in Los Angeles. I’ve been in the industry ever since.

    I learned a ton from the champs of old-school direct marketing, but the education came at a steep price. An example: I was at the DMA show in LA when they ran the David Ogilvy speech from India that’s now on YouTube (“We Sell or Else”).

    After that event — and after inhaling every word of “Ogilvy on Advertising” — I began resenting so-called general advertising people.

    Years later I learned that by uniting the two disciplines we could actually break direct marketing records.

    These days some people see me as a teacher. I think it’s my job to keep eyes and ears open to the amazing new stuff.

    The last thing I want to do is defend the status quo. In January my direct marketing shop, Mothers of Invention, will complete its 20th year. If I’ve learned anything it’s this: Evolve or die.

    Bob Bly remains relevant because many of his lessons are timeless and he’s obviously hip to aspects of the newer media. But it’s important for direct marketing students to collect a range of perspectives and not simply listen to experts representing one school of thought.

  19. Internet Marketing Archives» Blog Archive » 'Old School Direct Marketing On The Internet' by Bob Bly said:

    […] Old School Direct Marketing On The Internet… […]

  20. Elizabeth Adams said:

    Hello, Bob …

    The thing is, the globalization of markets is causing a tsunami of change in everything, including but not limited to marketing and advertising.

    The basic AIDA formula — Attention, Interest, Desire, Action — is valid enough as far as it goes, but the problem is that it doesn’t go far enough to encompass the changes that are occurring.

    The last three parts — Interest, Desire, Action — will probably pay the bills for you and Denny and Clayton and others for a nice long time yet, because you already have the attention of people who trust you, but the “Attention” part is undergoing seismic shifts and, on top of that, it appears that there’s actually a fifth part now in the mix … Trust.

    So it’s now TAIDA …


    And there’s more …

    A new global *culture* is developing. And the *ethics* of our forebears are arising out of the past like a phoenix into the international light of day.

    Stephen Covey (the elder) in his new book, “The 8th Habit,” tells of the “talking stick” of the Iriquois Indians … about how it was passed around the campfire … how each one who held it got to talk until he felt he was understood … not just *heard* — *understood* …

    Covey introduced this concept to a summit of Arabs, Jews and Americans gathered together for the purpose of discovering a path to greater peace in the Middle East. The results, as the “talking stick” was passed around the table, were mindboggling … completely above and beyond any preconceived expectations of the summit.

    He tells also of paradigm shifts in subjects like “crime” and how it has been reduced by 80% in the test areas with only 5% recidivism. The “War on Crime” approach isn’t working — anybody with half a brain can see that — but this new paradigm shift where “it’s cool to be good” *is* working.

    The “lowliest” assembly line worker in the Toyota plant in Japan has the power to “blow the whistle” if he or she thinks that there is something about the process that can be improved … and Toyota invests a fortune in educating *all* its workers with a view to enabling them to participate in the operation of the company in this way because it understands something that Detroit doesn’t get yet:

    It’s not about “the boss” anymore. It’s not about “leadership by position.” It’s about leadership by *moral* authority.

    Accountants record a piece of machinery as an asset and an employee as an expense, but if you’re a business owner and you think of your employees in that way today, then you’re headed for trouble in this new global economy that is emerging.

    It’s not about *you* anymore. It’s about *them*.

    The fields of marketing and advertising are not immune from what is happening, either, although I do get the impression that rather a large number of marketers and advertisers believe they are.

    But then, a belief is something we make, isn’t it? We believe it *because* we made it. And that is why we can believe something that no one else thinks is true.

    Once upon a time, people believed that the world was flat … and there are some people who still do! And then some clever cove figured out that it was round. And then the Catholic Church announced that anybody who went around saying that the earth was round would be burned at the stake … and many were! And human discovery was thereby very effectively halted for twelve *hundred* years!

    Industries tend to become sort of incestuous. That is, if you’re plumber, you subscribe to plumbers’ magazines and attend plumbers’ conventions. If you’re a dentist, you subscribe to dentists’ magazines and attend dentists’ conventions. But if you were to attend a *plumbers’* convention, you might hear about a marketing technique plumbers are using that would do a great job of helping you increase the number of your patients.

    But unless you’re connected in some way to a marketing consultant who’s able to get up in a helicopter and look at the whole marketing landscape, you’re unlikely ever to be exposed to that excellent marketing technique that plumbers are using that would help you so much in your business.

    It doesn’t mean you won’t still make money in your dental business. It just means that you won’t capture that particular share of your market that you might otherwise capture if you employed that particular plumbers’ marketing technique.

    And that’s basically what’s going on in the fields of marketing and advertising today, but there’s only a few observers who really understand what’s happening and how the globalization of markets and the development of worldwide cultures is destined to affect our future.

    As to whether you and Denny are dinosaurs … well, that’s a rather pejorative characterization, don’t you think? I mean, couldn’t you be just what you are, marketers with a great deal of experience in helping qualified prospects become happily involved in your product or service?

    You’ve come this far … you’ve achieved your own particular pinnacles of success … couldn’t you apply some of your hard-won wisdom to the question of how marketers today might more successfully approach the new *cultures* that are emerging in the marketplace today?

    Victor is so right about how the conversion rates of “offer-offer-offer” email marketers have dropped like a rock in the last couple of years. It’s not about *them* anymore. It’s about *us* … the Regular People of this world who are shifting their allegiances and seeking out new friendships as they become more and more aware that the marketers in their inbox don’t care about them at all.

    The *real* power today is the *moral* authority of Regular People, and they are beginning not only to realize it but to exercise it. Marketers, advertisers, company presidents and politicians must adapt or die.

    If you’re not a trusted source, then you’re not going to get their attention. And if you don’t get their attention, you’re not going to be able to develop their interest. And if you can’t develop their interest, how do you expect to be able to fan it into a white-hot heat of desire? And if you can’t do that, then how do expect to be able to get them to “buy now”?

    What I mean is, yes, human nature is human nature. And yes, as a master marketer, you and others like you will probably always be able to arouse its emotions and play upon its frailties and persuade it to do your bidding … *if* you can find your way into the cultures within which it is rapidly cocooning itself in order to protect itself from just such as you!

    Warmest Regards …


    P.S. No offense meant, incidentally,
    and I hope none is taken.


  21. Conrad Hall said:

    Hello Bob,

    Apparently the new paradigm says online marketing is all about “conversation, free content, social networking, and making a connection.”

    Is there anyone willing to suggest that a DM piece should not be conversational? That a reader should not get free information? Or that DM does not work to make a connection with the reader?

    There are a lot of DM pieces – and web sites – that do not do these things. They’re the ones that don’t produce a lot of conversions (sales).

    Whether you are selling in person, by DM or through the Net, you must be conversational, informative and friendly in your approach. There’s no such thing as old school, new school or out of school when you’re talking about the basics.

    Conrad Hall

  22. Elizabeth Adams said:

    Hello, Bob …

    Here’s something I just found by Seth Godin …

    The Web Doesn’t Care

    When I first started talking about Permission Marketing ten years ago, marketers asked, “sure, but how does this help us?”

    A decade later, marketers look at Wikipedia or social media or the long tail or whatever trend is finally hitting them in the face and ask the same question.

    Here’s the essential truth:

    This is the first mass marketing medium ever that isn’t supported by ads.

    If a newspaper, a radio station or a TV station doesn’t please advertisers, it disappears. It exists to make you (the marketer) happy.

    That’s the reason the medium (and its rules) exist. To please the advertisers.

    But the Net is different.

    It wasn’t invented by business people, and it doesn’t exist to help your company make money.

    It’s entirely possible it could be used that way, but it doesn’t owe you anything. The question to ask isn’t, “but how does this help me?” as if you have some sort of say in the matter. You don’t get a vote on whether Google succeeds or whether your customers erect spam filters.

    The question to ask is, “how are people (the people I need to reach, interact with and tell stories to) going to use this new power and how can I help them achieve their goals?”

    Warmest Regards …



  23. Ted Grigg said:

    Apryl Parcher hit upon the response to your original question when by saying:

    “I don?t believe that ‘old school Direct Response’ has lost touch with the new world?it?s the other way around.”

    What impact will our ideas about how to leverage social media, twitter or even spam weary email environments do when the people who cut their teeth on new media don’t even have a command of the basics?

    We?ve seen terms like Web2, Web 3 and will probably read about Web 285 soon. Then we also hear terms like ?squeeze pages? that traditional marketers know how to do better than inexperienced marketers.

    A ?squeeze page? is nothing more than a way to filter out hot prospects from the mass of visitors to qualify them for the next commitment step.

    Direct marketers know this well as lead generation with various offers or requests for information to qualify the lead.

    Some people would have us believe that this is something new! Give me a break.

    These new terms work great for suppliers trying to differentiate themselves as something new. Some of these suppliers would say their particular brand or ideas will revolutionize the world.

    Yet underneath it all, I see nothing more than another trend.

    This is not to say that the Internet has not written a new chapter in direct marketing.

    I see it, however, as an extension of capability rather than a replacement to the rich body of pertinent knowledge that already exists. New marketers need to study direct marketing principles now if they want to do great things with new media.

    Successful direct marketing strategies essentially leverage a tested body of knowledge about what people respond to.

    In my opinion, the environment changes continually, but people have not changed for thousands of years. What held true in 3000 BC does so in 2008. People’s need for security, hope, fairness and the need to be treated as someone special always remain.

    Great offers will always drive response. And so long as we understand this by testing offers and learning more about our target audiences, then we will continue to make money for our companies and clients.

    Getting too wrapped up in the technology is a big part of what happened in the bust. The technologist ran the show rather than experienced marketers. (There were some additional things at play to cause this.)

    But note how even today, web site designers build web sites that look good to the client and those few visitors that manage to find it without any thought about how the search engines “read” and rank sites.

    (I have prospective clients who come to me AFTER the site is published before asked for SEO help. As you know, the time to deal with SEO strategies occurs before and during the web site development.)

    Strong direct marketers do not fear the Internet age, they thrive on it. Our challenge has always been the wide held belief that the Internet changed people’s behaviors so much that past testing and experiences bear no value.

    The truth is that people created the Internet for themselves. This new medium in Nirvana for direct marketers. Interactivity and CRM can now attain it’s full potential.

    As knowledgeable direct marketers, we view the Internet as yet another medium that adds a “new” tool to our portfolio. It compliments traditional media rather than replacing it.


  24. mark allen roberts said:

    I must say , my original comment about traditional direct mail , having sold it to clients like MSN.Com and others in the past, and used it in the companies I served, would have been “there will always be a place for it in an integrated marketing. “

    I have experienced the impact a well executed direct campaign can have for customers….but that was eight years ago.

    I do not want to be argumentative or emotional. I had a mentor teach me a long time ago when faced with emotion, work with facts.

    The proponents of direct marketing make their living selling it, and I hope they have better statistics than what I found as I really want to learn more.

    We used to sell clients “our creative and data base tools create an interruption for the right buyer at the right time” and we had case studies to prove it. (just the ones that worked)

    Today I would like to ask company doing direct marketing a single question;

    “how’s that working for you?”

    I don’t mean the creative, or the customer service you receive from your direct mail partners, or the number of leads, but what impact is your investment in direct marketing having on your bottom line? Do you know?

    I was having a conversation about traditional verse new rules of marketing with the guy who wrote the New Rules of Marketing and PR book, David Meerman Scott and he very quickly helped me understand the new rules and their implications with some very quick questions;

    “When was the last time I received a piece of direct mail in the last 90 days that identified a perfect solution to a problem I have, and I acted on it?”

    “When was the last time, in the last year I went to a trade show searching for a solution to a problem I have?”

    “Have I seen a print ad in the last month that was a perfect solution for a problem and I acted on it?”

    Then he asked me the following;

    “Have I used a search engine in the last week to find a solution to a problem I have?” …and he sold me.

    I think every CEO needs to be asked these questions from their investors. What I found was I did not know what I did not know.

    It bothered me so much I did some surface research. I found an ROI report and benchmark Guide by NCM very informative. They studied brands in 2005 through 2007 and here is what I gathered from their report;

    • For every $1 dollar spent in direct mail we should experience a return of approximately $11.49

    • For every dollar spent on other forms of traditional marketing we should expect to see a return of $2.24 to $1.93

    • For every $1 spent in social media we should expect to realize $63.07 return, and if I continue over a number of years as some of the brands studied I will see a return of $112.

    • 94.94 % of consumers surveyed are very satisfied or satisfied with social media

    • 97% of consumers said there is a good chance or better they will refer a great social site to a friend or family member.

    So how’s that working for you?

    Are you receiving a strong return on your investment? Keep up the good work! However if you are like the small and large business owners asking us what should they do different in such difficult economic times I have to recommend social media as an important tool.Measure your results, and adapt.

    Mark Allen Roberts

  25. Grant A. Johnson said:

    Bad copy is bad copy; great copy is great copy. What’s the secret? Relevance. Regardless of old or new media, if the copy, offer and messaging resonate with the intended segment(s), success will be yours.

    What’s the key to relevancy? Usually it’s the offers/messaging you make/use.

    My experience in not either/or, it’s using the right channel with the right message and usually involves adjusting such to each segment based on THEIR channel preference, not mine as a marketer.

    Both old and new need to apply correct testing — sadly that’s still done infrequently.

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  27. Bob Bly said:

    Mark Allen: With all due respect to you and David Scott — are you kidding? Look at the companies making huge profits direct response: Day Timer, Omaha Steaks, Franklin Covey, Boardroom, Agora Publishing, Weiss Research, Lombardi, Franklin Mint. Now, a thought experiment: cut out all their online and print direct response campaigns. Replace with your social media strategies. Do you seriously think you could match their current level of revenues? Come on!

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  29. Heather Lloyd-Martin said:

    Hi, Bob-

    Thanks for touching upon a HUGE pet peeve of mine!

    I don’t know how many “SEO copywriters” I’ve talked with who believe that it’s all about shoving keyphrases into copy. They don’t know how to write a compelling headline. They don’t think in terms of “benefit statements.” Heck, many folks don’t even know what direct response writing *is.* Instead, these writers are repeating the same words over and over to gain (or game) keyphrase relevancy.

    What’s worse is that clients are paying top dollar for this content thinking that SEO copywriting is supposed to sound like a laundry list of keyphrases.

    It drives me nuts.

    Thanks for your email earlier today and letting me post my own rant…


  30. joe sixpak said:

    real marketing is like manufacturing
    it helps to create wealth by producing things and selling them

    the internet approach of giving it all away and then somehow sometime making some money later on is like flipping burgers after shipping the manufacturing jobs somewhere else

    you can make a little money for a while with the free internet model, but when all the folks whose manufacturing jobs got shipped to india are broke then the burger flippers wont be needed either

    love of money is the root of all evil but there is nothing evil about producing and selling products that help society. how people are treated and how the money is made can be evil but total rebellion against making money at all is silly.

  31. Bob Bly said:

    Joe: I disagree that giving away product as a marketing strategy is ineffective. Go to the food court in the mall. The most crowded food vendor is usually the one with an employee standing in the aisle, holding a tray of free samples of their chicken nuggets. People eat the free sample and then stop to buy a box or two. Barnes & Noble finds the longer people stay in the store reading books for free, the more books they buy when they leave.

  32. LShep said:

    Actually, the problem is more with the clients than the copywriters. Most SEO copywriters breathe a sigh of relief when they get that rare client who doesn’t just want a piece of copy full of their key phrase.

    Unfortunately, that’s what the majority of them are looking for right now. They give you a phrase or two, though I’ve had as many as 40 for one article, and the keyword density and that’s all they’re interested in. I do have clients who care about more than that, and those are the ones worth sticking in the game for. I have some that want both keywords and substance and even a few that don’t care about keywords. But, those are extremely hard to find online.

  33. David Johnson said:

    I’m 28 years old and while I love new technology I think it lacks a direct response edge.

    We could learn a lot from you “dinosaurs”, in fact I have and continue to do so and I owe a lot of what I learned about copy writing from reading Mr. Bly’s books.

    I do understand the importance of keywords for search engines but I also understand that it’s just as important for the copy to actually convert. If the spiders love it the human that’s directed to it must love it as well. How many times have you went to a search engine and found a site that had plenty of keyword density but the copy just didn’t speak to you? Too many times I’m sure.

    To answer your question, “Is Direct Response Dead?” I would have to say NO WAY!

    Look around, most people settle for a 2% conversion rate and say it’s okay because it’s average. I don’t want average, I want my copy to speak to the reader whether it’s a squeeze page, online video or a direct mail piece.

    Direct response will never become extinct as long as people want to convert more.

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