As I’m hoping you noticed, I sent out an e-mail yesterday announcing the reopening of my one year marketing program.
It was a relatively brief message which linked to the page describing the program in detail.
A few hours after the message went out, I got an e-mail from a reader named Tom. Now I don’t know Tom, but apparently he’s got a background in direct response marketing (of which, yesterday’s message was an example).
Tom gently – but firmly – suggested that by including humor in the e-mail (something I did not once, but 6 or 7 times), and by not pointing readers more directly to “the offer,” I was dampening response.
First of all, thank you Tom. Nobody wants a damp response and when the people to whom you’re selling try and help you do a better job of it, I take that as a good thing.
Second, I have no doubt that he’s correct. Go ahead and Google “humor and direct response e-mail,” for example, and you’re going to find plenty of people advising against it.
That said, and with all due respect to my new friend Tom, I did it all consciously and, given the chance, I’d do it again. Here’s why:
- I’m in it for the long term
I spent 12 years working for a company in which my specific role, at least 50% of the time, was sending direct mail (the other 50% involved drinking coffee and looking for leftover birthday cake in the office kitchen).
And it worked. We dropped hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail a month and each time we did it the phone rang. “Success” was easy to measure: cost per lead and cost per sale.
The one thing we never considered, I later realized, was the damage we were doing to our list – and to our reputation – by continually pounding people with offers.
Sure, some people bought. But as in any direct response campaign, most people didn’t.
Think about it. In the short time since I sent yesterday’s e-mail, 1,500 people have opened it. But there’s only room for 12 in the program – less than 1%.
So sure, I want the sales. But even if I’m successful in selling out the program, over 99% of the people who got the e-mail are not going to be buying.
It seems to me that if I plan to be in business for more than one day, I need to pay attention to how today’s non-buyers view my marketing.
- One strike and I’m out
I can rent a list of every person in your town and send all the direct mail to your house that I want. You may not like it, but you can’t stop it (easily).
And if you don’t buy today, I can just give it another try with a different offer, next week or next month or whenever I feel like it.
Same with the newspaper, TV, billboards, sponsorships, and most interruption-based advertising. Nobody cancels their newspaper subscription because they don’t like an ad or takes a different route to work to avoid a billboard.
But e-mail doesn’t work that way. The end-user owns their inbox and as a result, holds all the cards. If you unsubscribe – for whatever reason – you’re gone from my list. Forever.
Here again, that means I need to be careful about what I send, what I say, and how often I mail. It’s not possible to satisfy everyone – every e-mail leads to unsubscribes – but it’s not something you want to take lightly either.
- Everything is marketing
As a subscriber to this newsletter, you’ve come to expect a certain voice, a certain point of view, a certain, dare I say, panache. There’s tremendous marketing traction in consistency and I try to maintain that across everything I do, from my web site, to my voicemail message, to the way I speak to a live audience.
If, however, I put on my “time to sell” hat (you can buy one on Amazon) and follow “direct response best practices,” even if they are more immediately effective, I’m going to water down my brand.
In my case, if I send you an e-mail that’s hard sell and not at least somewhat funny, I’m pulling in the wrong direction.
Likewise, you’ve got your own branded approach. So make sure your sales strategy and sales materials line up with it.
Here’s the bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with selling and there’s nothing wrong with learning how to do it well.
That said, you don’t “get a pass” because today’s the day you’re promoting your new program. Your readers aggregate everything you say and do into an overall impression of you and your company.
The smart marketer knows that today’s “maybe’s” are tomorrow’s buyers and takes great pains to keep them coming back.