Friday, July 27, 2007

Red-Hot Temperatures and Red-Hot Copy!

It's summertime in Colorado, where the weather and my schedule have been heating up!

Was an usher in a friend of mine's wedding last week... had a great time, the itinerary was hectic: Bachelor party Thursday nite, rehearsal and dinner Friday, ceremony on Saturday, then a potluck and gift-opening Sunday. Really happy for Mike and Christine, best wishes to them for many years of health and happiness.

Weather has been hotter than normal, too. Highs have been in the mid-90s to low-100s; that, plus my schedule has taken a lot out of me. Came down with a sinus infection that sapped my energy and hasn't let me sleep very much (or well). I decided to take an extended vacation to see family and friends in Kansas. Went with my dad to see a local MD today, confirmed it was a sinus infection, and got some Amoxicillin to take care of the problem. That, plus home-cooking and some extended rest have gotten my batteries partially re-charged.

The other part of the 'Red-Hot' theme of this post has been Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero. I met her at a marketing seminar in 2005 in Denver. Really enjoyed talking with her, and she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to copywriting. I subscribed to her list and traded periodic emails with 'Lo.' When I got an opportunity to be in a mentorship program she opened up in June, I jumped at it... and fortunately, got accepted!

It's been a great experience after only a month or so, and I HIGHLY recommend Lorrie's coaching and info products to anyone who's serious about improving their copywriting and/or marketing. I don't recommend anyone unless they can 'deliver the goods' and know their business well. And Lorrie most definitely does.

She has talked about opening up more spots in her Gold Mentorship program later this year or in early 2008. If you're serious about copywriting, and want a great opportunity to be coached by a true professional in every sense of the word, go to Red Hot Copy and sign up for her e-zine if you're not already a subscriber.

It's a summer Friday nite, and I'm ready to spend time with friends and enjoy a cool beverage or two. Have a great weekend, remember to take time to relax and enjoy your summer!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Direct-Response Marketing vs. Branding

As a copywriter and marketer, I know that direct-response marketing (if done correctly) can produce positive results for almost every kind of business. You can measure, monitor, adjust and control your marketing campaign for optimum results.

Then I look at companies and ad agencies who use the 'branding' approach to marketing, which says: If you just get your 'brand' or logo out there often enough (and 'build your brand'), you'll eventually get sales and your business will live happily ever after. After hearing this for several years, I still don't have a clear definition of what "branding" actually is... and I'm not convinced that this marketing approach is better than good old fashioned direct-response.

I think some folks also mistake the branding approach as a substitute for good business and marketing fundamentals. If a company isn't competent at its core business, all the fancy logos and brands in the world won't be able to make up for this. Even if a company is competent (or preferably good at what they do), and doesn't market effectively to customers and prospects (sending the right message to the right market... through the right media), its still probably going to struggle.

Companies that don't stay current with business and marketing trends will also have a tough road to hoe. Good direct-response marketing should explain to a current or potential customer what a business does, how it can benefit her, and how it's better and different than what the competition does.

Branding doesn't quite do that.

It seems to be based on cheesy slogans, fancy logos, and/or fancy Flash videos on a company website. Now, I'll admit you should have a professional-looking website, and quality marketing materials; and project an appealing, professional image to your target market.

If you don't have the right image, potential customers may not take you or your business seriously. And it's important to have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that makes you stand out in the marketplace.

But a business owner's main focus should be:

1) To know and do her business well,
2) To communicate what the business does through effective marketing, and tell someone how it will benefit them,
3) To follow up and make sure the business is geniunely meeting customers' needs.

For me, it's the business basics and fundamentals that matter. Not how unique or flashy their 'brand' is. The brand can provide some short-term flash, PR or 'buzz,' but it's the solid business and marketing fundamentals (which I just mentioned above) that give a business long-term survival and profitability.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Marketing Like You Were Talking to a Kid

This is the best way I can describe how you should approach a sales letter or marketing piece. You never want to assume that the target audience you're talking to can read your mind and know what you're thinking.

People today are bombarded with information overload, and it may take them awhile to focus (or re-focus) on your message and understand how it can benefit them. As you're doing this, break your message down step by step, so there's no misunderstanding or guesswork on the reader's part.

Here's the rule of thumb that I use: If I think my message is easy enough for a teenager to understand, then I've made it easy enough to understand. Here's another hint when you're writing...

Use smaller, shorter, easier-to-understand words. Remember, your goal is trying to sell a product or service to the reader - not impress her with your knowledge and grasp of the English language. That was fine in Mrs. Johnson's Advanced Composition course, but not so helpful when marketing and selling in print.

It's 5PM on a summer Friday afternoon, I'm ready to call it a day behind the PC. Hope your summer's going well, have a happy, safe and fun 4th of July!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tell 'Em Quick, and Tell 'Em True

This is the biggest pet peeve I have with ads and marketing today. It doesn't matter if it's the headline and sub-head of a print ad, or the first 10-15 seconds of a TV or radio spot.

Nothing irritates me more because it wasted that much of my time. What is it?

It's the beginning of an ad that doesn't quickly and clearly tell me who they are, what their product or service is, and most importantly - "How Can It Help ME?"

Being a typical 30-something single guy, I'll make an exception to look at an attractive woman on a TV or online ad. A great example of this is the ads. The model they hired for these ads is great-looking, and definitely got my attention the first few times I saw them.

But the ads didn't give a clear call to action, or explain how Go Daddy is better or different than other domain registration sites.

There's a great old saying about advertising (not sure exactly who said it and when), and it definitely applies today with regards to marketing and your ads:

"Tell me quick and tell me true, otherwise sir, the hell with you."

American are being bombarded by hundreds (and probably thousands) of ads every day through TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and online. If you don't cut to the point quickly and give a clear, specific benefit for your target audience, your viewer, listener or reader will probably tune you out and forget about your ad.

Information overload is a big reason why American's attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

If you have a good existing relationship with your customers or list, they'll be more willing to allow you more time to explain what you're talking about. Even so, you want to respect people's time. It's probably the most important commodity for most folks in our ultra-busy, fast-paced lives.

Another exception is telling a good story that 'hooks' the reader's attention, and holds it through the body of the sales letter all the way to your offer.

But when you're marketing or speaking to a new audience that doesn't know you from Adam or Eve, it's important to get to the point as quick as you can.

Telling your story 'quick and true' is the best way to get someone's attention, and maintain your credibility.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Do They Know What You Know?

A common marketing mistake is to assume that your reader knows what you're writing about. Especially with new websites or online communities, such as LinkedIn.

An even bigger marketing mistake is to assume your reader understands the benefits of your subject. I thought about this after reading an e-mail from another company. They promote workshops that show people how to get started with and utilize LinkedIn effectively.

Through my experience and looking at other marketing materials, I've learned that you won't market yourself, products or services effectively if you assume your reader has a magical ability to read your mind and know what you mean.

As a rule of thumb, always assume that you're writing to a kid in middle school. If what you've written is clear enough for her to understand, you've probably done a good job of communicating your message.

The easier your message is to understand, the easier your job will be to sell more of your product or service.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Super Bowl Ads - How Not to Advertise Effectively

After watching these overrated, overhyped ads during Sunday's game, I kept shaking my head and asking this question out loud: These companies paid $2.6 million per ad for this?!

Most of the ads were trying to be funny, cute or clever, but really didn't tell why their product or service was great, or give the viewer a call to action. There was one exception: King Pharmaceuticals, who gave viewers a website to view to determine what their risk of heart-related illnesses are. Obviously, King Pharmaceuticals' goal is to make people aware of an actual (or possible) heart-related problem they may have, and buy one or more of their products to solve these problems.

It was still a little too cheesy for my taste, and didn't give the website address often enough. But given the competition it was up against, it was still better direct-response advertising than most of these idiotic ads.

Fortune 500 companies like Anheuser-Busch, Ford and others have hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for advertising each year. Unless they want their budgets cut, these marketing departments have to spend every dime they're allocated. Most of the time, it doesn't matter if they're effective or not - ad agencies keep telling them they need to 'build their brand' by repeating these usually worthless ads over and over.

As a small or medium-sized business owner, you don't have that luxury of spending money on advertising that doesn't bring in qualified, targeted prospects who can buy your product or service today. That's why measurable direct-response advertising is the best way to market your business, and get the best return on your marketing dollar.