It's About DM Fundamentals, Doy
By Ken Magill
I often get a kick out of it when my son discovers something he thinks is new when, in fact, it’s not new at all.
His latest discovery was the word “doy,” as in: Well, no kidding.
Over the weekend, I overheard my son and his best friend discussing the term and claiming their schoolmate Megan had invented it.
“Megan didn’t invent doy!” I chimed in. “That word has been around since 20 or 30 years before you two were born, doy!”
Predictably, they refused to believe me. And just as predictably, I used the word doy whenever possible when talking to my son and his best friend for the rest of the day.
My son is an only child. As a result I have to perform double duty as dad and annoying older brother. I am told I play the latter role quite well.
What does this have to do with email marketing? A lot, actually.
Over the years I have seen countless examples of online marketers “discovering” concepts that have been around for decades.
Take, for example, the following excerpt from an article on BloombergBusinessWeek about the success of President Obama’s email fundraising efforts:
“We were so bad at predicting what would win that it only reinforced the need to constantly keep testing,” said Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics for the Obama campaign. “Every time something really ugly won, it would shock me: giant-size fonts for links, plain-text links vs. pretty ‘Donate’ buttons. Eventually we got to thinking, ‘How could we make things even less attractive?’ That’s how we arrived at the ugly yellow highlighting on the sections we wanted to draw people’s eye to.”
Of course ugly works in direct marketing. That’s why designers hate it so much. Their whispering, cleanly balanced creative doesn’t pull as well as the ugly stuff that shouts.
And the Obama camp had to discover this concept, even though it sits on some very well worn ground.
The commercial Internet is a direct response medium. As a result, DM fundamentals discovered even before the Internet was invented will apply.
Likewise, online marketers who don’t school themselves on direct marketing fundamentals are doing themselves and their companies a grave disservice.
My fifth-edition copy of Bob Stone’s classic Successful Direct Marketing Methods published in 1996 opens with “The 30 Timeless Direct Marketing Principles.”
Some of them are printed-mail specific and don’t apply, but check out some others:
1. All customers are not created equal. Give or take a few percentage points, 80 percent of repeat business for goods and services will come from 20 percent of your customer base
2. The most important order you ever get from a customer is the second order. Why? Because a two-time buyer is at least twice as likely to buy again as a one-time buyer.
3. Maximizing direct mail success depends first upon the lists you use, second upon the offers you make, and third upon the copy and graphics you create.
9. “Yes/No” offers consistently produce more orders than offers that don’t request “no” responses.
13. Time-limit offers, particularly those which give a specific date, outpull offers with no time limit practically every time.
14: Free-gift offers, particularly where the gift appeals to self-interest, outpull discount offers consistently.
15. Sweepstakes, particularly in conjunction with impulse purchases, will increase order volume by 35 percent or more.
16. You will collect far more money in a fundraising effort if you ask for a specific amount from a purchaser. Likewise, you will collect more money if the appeal is tied to a specific project.
17. People buy benefits, not features.
18. The longer you can keep someone reading your copy, the better your chances of success.
19. The timing and frequency of renewal letters is vital. But I can report nothing but failure over a period of 40 years in attempts to hype renewals with “improved copy.” I’ve concluded that the product–the magazine, for example—is the factor in making renewal decisions
22. It is easier to increase the average dollar amount of an order than it is to increase percent of response.
Think any of that might apply to email? Well, doy.
Stone died in 2007 at 88.
Am I saying there’s nothing new under the marketing sun? Of course not. But there is so much wisdom already out there that only a fool would ignore.
Author’s note: I reached out to direct-marketing copywriter extraordinaire Bob Bly and asked him which direct marketing books he would recommend. In response, he sent this link. If any readers have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments.