Mega Watt Marketing Blog

Doug Dickson, Chief Energizing Officer of Seminar Direct, shares his marketing insights gained from 20+ years of experience using a multi-channel approach integrating direct mail, e-mail and internet SEO (Search Engine Optimization).


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Increasing Post Card Response Rates

Are your results less than satisfactory even though you have carefully followed design, printing, and mailing tips from a respected expert? If so, you may need to rethink the layout of your postcard or other elements of its design. What works for one company may not work for yours. Successful marketing requires careful testing, so don’t despair if it takes time before you see the results everyone is bragging about. Here are some ideas for redesigning your postcard to maximize results:

Focus on the Back Side of the Card
A large number of mail carriers tend to deliver the mail with the address-side-up. If the back of your postcard contains only the address information, large numbers of your cards will be trashed before a single headline has a chance to be read.  Try testing different layouts with the headline and offer on the back side of the postcard.  Save the front of the card for additional information.

Limit Information
Avoid packing every little detail onto the postcard as this can result in a littered layout and, therefore, hidden message. Cut down the amount of words to include only the most important information. You merely need to cause clients to take the next step, not know every step of the offer.

Make a Unique Offer
If yours is the same as every other business offer, prospects will see no reason use your company above another. Without a tempting offer, an advertising campaign is useless.  The offer is what compels readers to take action. So give clients what they want – the newest, biggest, and best product or service at an irresistible price.

Although printed postcards are one of the cheapest marketing tools, without high results they are not worth any cost, no matter how small. Therefore, test and test again until your direct mail postcards have become the optimum marketing tool that you have read so much about.

What you may not know is that you can often improve your postcard marketing results just by making minor adjustments to your approach. Here are seven such adjustments.

1. A Free Consultation is No Offer
Many agents, advisors and sales professionals like to rely on a “free consultation” offer to motivate their prospects to call.  This approach usually fails because so many have a similar offer and prospects view a consultation as a normal part of the project, not as a free bonus or motivating factor.

Instead of offering a “free consultation”, offer something else the prospect may perceive as valuable.  Offer something that is loosely related to your product or service that provides information, saves them money or simplifies their life in some way.  Guidebooks, white papers and coupon books are perennial favorites.

2. KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)
Think of your postcard as a mini billboard, something that attracts the reader’s attention while they’re busy looking at something else.  Top advertising agencies understand that the most effective billboards usually contain less than 7 words.  Likewise, postcards should be short and direct. There’s an old saying in advertising, “confuse ’em and you’ll lose ’em.”

According to a study commissioned by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), postcards have the highest read rate of all types of direct mail.  Higher read rates lead to higher response rates and greater returns on investment.

To maximize your postcard’s effectiveness, limit your focus to one main idea and keep the language focused. KISS doesn’t mean you should ever talk down to your reader, but must speak clearly so that your reader understands your message upon first glance.

3. Qualify and Segment Your Audience
For top results, use a list that is segmented to be more specific and relevant with your message.  Find logical points to divide it, like businesses and consumers, male and female, old and young, income ranges and other demographics.

By creating narrow market niches within your data, you can be much more specific in your offer, copy and imagery. This produces a much greater connection with the reader which correlates with higher response rates.  That’s just one of many ways to segment your list. You can also break it up by age, neighborhood, buyer vs. seller, prospect vs. customer, home value, etc. Sure, it takes more effort on your part. But in this age of information overload, you have to make your message specific and relevant in order to make a connection.

3. Analyze Your List
Your list connects you with your audience, and your audience determines your direct mail success. So give your list the attention it deserves. Ask all the hard questions: Is my list up to date? Is this the best possible list for me to be using, given my objectives? Is my list too general? Should I segment it into groups?

Optimize your list(s) every chance you get. And make sure you protect it by saving it in various places – on your computer, on a disc, on the Internet somewhere. Can you imagine how devastating it would be to lose a list of past clients?

5. Clarify Your Call-to-action
First, ensure that you have a strong call-to-action. Without this critical element, your postcard is just another piece of paper in a mailbox that doesn’t give anyone a reason to do anything. So, make sure to include a call-to-action on your postcard. Just as important, make your call-to-action clearly visible. Put it in a colored box where it’s just impossible to miss.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll soon find that your response rates are back on track and that your business is buidling once again.

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Bing, Bing, Bing it’s Microsoft’s New Search Engine

Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, opened up for business today and Matt Cutts of Google has already taken his first shot.  Does it surprise anyone that Google, the world’s largest search engine, would feel a little threatened by a little competition?  Mr. Cutts talking about Bing is about as credible as a French winemaker giving his opinion on Napa Valley’s finest new release.

Bing is technically still in its preview state, but if you hold any Microsoft stock, you have to feel good about being ahead of schedule.  Especially in an Internet world where things move at a Google per second.  Before I get tons of hate mail, I really do know that 10 to the power of 1o0 is correctly spelled googol, but that  isn’t quite as fun now is it?

Before I digress again, what about Bing?

Bing was supposed to go live on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009, but our research shows that everything is lit up and live as of June 1st.  When you visit, what you’re searching for determines what Bing displays on the left side window.  If I search for Seminar Direct,  the left window displays related searches about financial seminars and then another section that shows my search history.  In the main window, it shows Seminar Direct above an indexed authority type listing with 9 related links including free seminar calendars, FINRA seminars, lead generation mailers, mailing lists, newsletters and company.

When I search for financial seminars,  related searches provides an interesting list of relevant searches and another list of items in my search history.  Kind of kool actually and very intuitive.  While the results are very similar to those of Google, the layout seems to somehow instantly make more sense.  Going back to Google gave me that sort of “not so fresh feeling.”  Those of you that have followed me over the years know that I am a big Google guy.  That hearkens me back to the day I had breakfast with some of the key Google people who told me they “worked for Google” and I silly enough to ask, “What’s a Google?”  Oh how I wish I would have stayed a little longer at that bed and breakfast and paid some more attention to the geeky Google couple staying there with us.  My apologies for another digression…

Instead of blogging on and on about Bing, get out there and try it for yourself.  Search your name, your company’s name, Seminar Direct, financial seminars, your favorite restaurant, your favorite band or my friend Stephenie Meyer (scary author of everything Twilight).  Congratulations Stephenie on your complete and total domination of the MTV world via the MTV movie awards last night.  Who knew that shiny vampires that can “ball” would be so huge?  Twilight is now so big that you probably won’t talk or want to see me again.  Keep the faith sister.

Bing’s natural results get divided up according to the links and window on the left side.  In some ways, this is very similar to the approach that Google added recently with their new “search options” feature.  It allows the users to control the results in a very similar way, but their approach is really unique and different.  They have basically taken some of the recent advance in Google and simply improved them, elevating the total search experience.

Standby because we’ve only had one day to play and Google isn’t going to just sit back and play nice, there will certainly be a counter-punch coming soon.  When it lands, I’ll be the first one to say, “Ouch, that’s gonna leave a mark.”


Improving Direct Mail

Keys to Successful Direct Mail
Small business owners have more challenges with direct mail than with any other part of the marketing process. Unfortunately, it is also a key to their success.

“The success of your seminar begins with a successful mailing.”
– Doug Dickson, The Art of Seminar Marketing

The reason that so many struggle is that they simply don’t have the background, experience and skill set to create effective direct campaigns.  In general, they are unbelievably talented, well educated on their products, but simply don’t know the secrets of writing great copy, how the eye tracks through a mailing piece and what will get prospects to pick up the phone and respond.

At the same time, they are competing in the mailbox against New York advertising firms with full time professionals who mail every day and are the very best in the world at soliciting a response.
To compensate for a lack of experience, many will “copy” the look, feel and layout of a competitor or colleague. This seldom produces an effective mailer because it ends up looking and reading like every other tired mailing piece. It also creates a huge liability with copyright, trademark and trade dress liabilities. Individuals do get sued and pay damages for stealing other’s work. It just isn’t worth the risk. For these reasons, we suggest working with a professional. It will save you time, money and allow you to focus on your own area of expertise.

Regardless of your choice to use a professional seminar marketing services or not, we want you to be successful. An understanding of the elements of a successful direct mail campaign is important.

1.  Use a Quality Mailing List
Your mailing results can only be as good as the mailing list used to solicit attendees.  We have found that poor quality mailing lists are the number one factor contributing to poor performance.  You can have the best copy, the best offer and the perfect look, but if you mailing don’t get to the right people at the right address your results will be a miserable failure.  We provide the highest quality mailing lists with a guaranteed deliverability rate of 98% or above.

Questions you MUST be able to answer about your mailing list:

How current is the mailing list?
How often is the list updated?
Who compiled the list (actually put it together)?
What guarantee of deliver-ability is provided?
How do know the individuals on the list meet your criteria?
Can the list be edited to remove our clients?
Does the list provide key information such as age, income and net worth?
Does the list also provide telephone numbers scrubbed for “Do Not Call?”
Will an electronic version of the list be provided to you upon request?
Do you have permission to use the list in the future for other mailings?

2.  Have Great Copy and Design:
The wording of the mailer and its layout are absolutely critical.  If you know your mailing list is solid, this is the area to focus upon next.

As your potential prospect reads the mail piece they are seeking the answer to two basic questions: 

Who sent this to me?
What is all about?
You have milliseconds to capture their interest while they scan your invitation for these answers.

Hit the reasons that prospects respond:
1.  Fear.
2.  Greed.
3.  To gain control.
2.  Personal achievement.
3.  Fun and novelty.
4.  To learn something new.
5.  To solve a specific problem.

Secrets to Direct Mail Success:
Have a headline that hits them hard and sparks their interest
A secondary or subtitle should be used to reinforce the headline
Bulleted items should list factors that are compelling to the reader
A brief description of the speaker and his qualifications is mandatory
A pleasing layout that looks “easy” to read works best
Avoid long sentences with flowery descriptions, use text that sounds like you are speaking. Make the text easy to read and flow from paragraph to paragraph.
Limit your fonts to two, three at the most on the page.
Use action words that inspire the reader
Use present tense whenever possible.
Speak to their interests, fears and concerns

If you feel you are not able to write great copy, enlist the services of a professional copywriter or use a seminar marketing company like Seminar Direct.

Maintain a narrow and direct focus. Never forget, with direct mail a 98 percent to 99 percent rejection rate equals success. You need only a few responses out of 100 to be successful. Here’s how to stay focused:

Ask your readers to do only one thing (e.g., ask for information or fill out a survey — not both), so they don’t get confused, which can negatively affect response.

Focus the message on the target audience’s pain-points, not everything you know about the product or service. That means benefits, not features.

Don’t try to handle objections in the mail package.

Avoid the smorgasbord approach to direct marketing — don’t create packages that have something for everyone.

Avoid self-mailers. A letter package will out-perform a self-mailer by about 100 percent. Packages work better because important mail tends to come in envelopes. Envelopes get opened because it’s hard to distinguish the purpose of the communication without going inside and looking through the contents.

Be unique. You know that old saying, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!” Well, this holds true for direct mail. At the end of last year, we reviewed 20 packages: our 10 best and our 10 worst. The one thing that stood out was this: The best performing packages contained elements that looked very different from one another. They all used different-sized packages, a variety of shapes, paper colors and typefaces. Conversely, the worst performing packages all had very similar looking components. Also, most of the poor performers were packages that closely followed brand guidelines, where a consistent look and feel is highly valued.

Longer letters generally produce higher response rates. When the goal of the longer letter isn’t to provide more information, but to create higher perceived value, you’ll increase the chances that the recipient reads parts of it. Most direct marketing letters tend to be one page or (at the very most) two pages.

The belief is that nobody has time to read a long letter — they’re too busy. This is true, but if you can use the letter to create higher perceived value, you increase your odds of getting the reader to say, “Wow, they’re sending me a four-page letter, so they must have important information to communicate.” Remember, you need only two or three out of 100 individuals thinking this way to be successful. Just this last year, we tested a four-page letter against a two-page letter and got about a 20 percent lift in response with the four-pager.

Repeat your offer throughout all the package elements. If you can count the number of times you mention the offer and call-to-action in your package on one hand, you need to go back and add more. Don’t assume that recipients will work hard to find the offer or call-to-action. Don’t assume that recipients read your mail package front to back. Make it obvious by repeating it throughout all elements — the letter, the brochure, the reply form, even the business reply envelope. We had a client that felt repeating the offer was offensive to the readers’ intelligence, so we tested it. One version repeated the offer twice. The other version repeated the offer seven times. The version that showcased the offer seven times had a 24 percent lift in response.

Provide multiple response options. To lift response, you have to make it convenient to respond to your mail packages by providing multiple options: mail, phone, online and fax.

Testing increases response rates. Testing in-market is the only way to really determine what people will do. Most marketers do not test enough. The excuses are plentiful. Maybe they don’t test because the target universe is limited and mail quantities are small. Others believe that their personal opinion is enough to create a successful approach. The truth is that even with a small mailing you can test. For example, with a 1,000-piece mailing, you have the opportunity to test two to three variables. Your results may not be statistically valid, but they’ll provide directional information, which is better than learning nothing because you failed to test.

Use relevant messaging. When mailing to seniors, telling them that “seniors face multiple challenges” buys you nothing. Your reader already knows it. Instead, tell them something relevant. Express how you understand precisely the challenges that they face, and show them how you can help them overcome those specific challenges.

Mail again to previous responders. Responders from previous campaigns can be low-hanging fruit.
3. Get the Envelope Opened:
There are many strategies to get it done, but getting the envelope opened is the number one goal of every marketing piece.

Wedding style mailers – having an envelope that appears to be an invitation to a party or wedding is an effective technique.

Creative copy – teaser copy on the outside can be unbelievably effective. It must be written well or no increase in opening rates will be seen.

Colored envelopes – colored envelopes are opened more than white.

Handwritten fonts – fonts that appear to be hand written are more effective than computer looking fonts. They work because they feel more personal.
Stamps – using stamps beats indicia imprints or metering. Once again, because it looks the mailer looks more personal. 

Avoid standard #10 envelopes – the standard envelope that all your bills come in is called a #10 envelope. If you want to be noticed you need to be different, use something like a full window envelope, . Don’t use a standard #10 envelope for this reason.

Colored inks – people respond more to colors than they do to black ink. The colors that gain the highest response rates are constantly changing. This happens because colors tend to change like fashion and whatever is different will pull a slightly higher response rate.

Avoid looking like “junk mail”- prospects are experts at sensing whether a letter is direct mail or not. Avoid these tell-tale signs:

4.  Avoid Looking Like Junk Mail

When looking through the mail, prospects generally sort it into an “A” ad “B” pile. One pile is for bills, important mail and things that interest the reader; the other pile is heading for the round file (trash can).  There are a number of factors that readers use to determine if something is “junk mail” or not including:

Carrier Route Codes
Meter Marks
Postmark Cancellations
Black Ink
Computer Fonts
Return Address
Additional Items on Envelope

Review these items carefully so you can avoid appearing as a solicitation and you’ll dramatically improve your results.


How to Market Your Seminar

If no one attends your event, it isn’t a seminar, it’s an expensive lesson.  When seminars fail, the cost if far more than just the expenses relating to the event itself; generally the most expensive part is the loss of the revenues that should have been received.  Fortunately, with good marketing your event can be consistently filled with well qualified prospects.

There are many different mediums for marketing seminars. We have listed them for you in order of their effectiveness:

Direct mail
Newspaper advertising
Telephone soliciting
Newspaper inserts
Public relations (PR)

As you can see, direct mail is by far the most effective advertising vehicle from a cost and time perspective. The main advantage it provides is the ability to target your prospects.


Why Use Direct Mail?

A recent study confirms that direct mail is still the most effective form of marketing available today. The study, created by Fournaise Marketing Group, evaluated and compiled the marketing campaigns of over 3,000 marketing professionals from businesses of all sizes and concluded that direct mail constitutes 35% of all marketing spending worldwide.   According to Jerome Fontaine, CEO of Fournaise, “If you listen to the industry hype, it’s all about online advertising and emerging mobile advertising. If you check where marketing budgets are mostly spent, it’s still all about traditional media such as TV and newspapers.  But when it comes down to effectiveness, while it may not be the most glamorous and talked-about medium, marketers are telling us DM is still the best platform for delivering results.”  Direct mail marketing was rated as the most effective means of marketing in both the business to business and in the business to consumer marketing sectors.

What is it about direct mail the makes it so effective?  There are 8 powerful characterstics that are key to its success:

1. Direct Mail is Personal
Unlike an advertisement in the newspaper or other media that can be read by anyone, your sales letter arrives as a piece of personal communication addressed specifically to a well qualified prospect. Unlike other mediums, direct mail can be personalized (Dear Mr. Jones) and customized to each reader (“As a retired investor, you know that… “), showing your prospect that you know them by name and are somewhat familiar with them.
2. Cost Effective
Advertising by its very nature is expensive. To reach a lot of people, you need to spend a lot of money. Direct mail, on the other hand, only targets the prospects you want to reach. Instead of pitching your product to a huge audience of potential buyers, you aim your sales message only at prospects most likely to buy.

3. Breaks Through the Marketing Mess
Your ad can easily get lost among all of the competing ads in the newspaper, phone book or internet. Likewise, your message can be easily forgotten on radio or television unless you repeat it many times, which is incredibly expensive and out of reach for most companies.  With a simple letter, addressed to your prospect by name your message cuts through the media clutter and has an opportunity to get their attention.

4. Measurable Results
Direct mail is one of the best mediums for measuring the financial return on your marketing dollar. Simply find a method for uniquely identifying the response and you’ll quickly be able to determine your cost per lead and net results.  This can be done using a unique phone number, business reply cards or even by using a code name like “Sam” who prospects are instructed to ask for when responding.

5. Predictable
One advantage of knowing the success rates of your past mailings is that you can predict the success of future mailing. If you mail the same package with the same offer to a similar group of prospects, you can acurately predict how many responses you will receive and how those will translate into sales.

6. Improves with Testing
Because you can measure your direct mail results, you can also test the variables used within your mailings. Test one version of copy against another, one list against another, one offer against another and you’ll discover what works and what doesn’t. This allows you immediately improve your results and to spend your marketing dollars where they are most effective without relying on guess work or hunches.

7. Immediate Results
General advertising, sometimes called “branding”, builds product or company awareness. There is no direct action that is requested in branding, only presenting the product to potential prospects, hoping that it will result in long term familiarity.  This is an effective approach, but it can take months, even years to produce results.  Direct mail asks for action now and explains the advantages of responding today.

8. Secret
If your tired of having your competition steal many of your good marketing ideas, direct mail can help keep them more private.  While it is still possible for a competitor to see your direct mail, it makes it much more difficult than an ad in the newspaper of similar mass media approach.

These 8 factors come together synergistically in direct mail, creating an incredibly effective form of marketing.  To further enhance the effects of direct mail, try incorporating it into a multi-channel approach also using the internet, e-mail or PURLS.


Seminar Location Checklist

Our clients have found this form to be an effective tool for evaluating seminar locations.

Location Checklist:  _________________________________________________________________________________________ (location)
Inspection completed on _________________ at _____________   am  /  pm
____  ____ Was the location easy to find?
____  ____ Was it near any major crossroads?  ___________________________________________________
____  ____ Does the curb-side image give an a good first impression?
____  ____ Will the parking be a problem?
____  ____ Will a person with physical challenges find this location difficult?
____  ____ Are the lobby area and other areas clean and neatly organized?
____  ____ Were you greeted as you walked in?
____  ____ Is the interior lighting sufficient?
____  ____ Are the personnel courteous and helpful?
____  ____ How is the temperature of the restaurant?
____  ____ Are their sufficient electrical outlets available for your equipment?
____  ____ Are the chairs and table comfortable?
____  ____ How will the room layout?
____  ____ What shape will you place the tables into? ____________________________________
____  ____ Is the meeting room soundproofed or sufficiently quiet?
____  ____ What type of menu is available for your seminar?
____  ____ Are salads, bread, beverage and dessert included?
____  ____ What is the cost of food, drink, tax and tip?  Get detailed estimate.
____  ____ Can they provide a sample meal representative of what they’ll use for the seminar?

General Impressions and Notes:


The 3 Step Approach to Seminar Marketing

Seminar marketing should be approached as a three-step process, understanding that each element must accomplish its objective to maximum results.  A breakdown in any one of these steps will negatively affect those remaining and may seriously compromise the results of your seminar. Many don’t understand this concept and try to accomplish too much, too soon.  Prospects react negatively to this approach and it can decimate the results of your seminar.

Each of the three steps listed has a specific function, which is to achieve its objective and move your prospects to the next step. We have also provided benchmarks that can be used to evaluate your own performance for each of the stages. This approach allows you to focus on the specific parts of your seminar marketing that may need to be improved and judge the effectiveness of any changes you make to your program over time.

The Invitation:  Excite and Invite

The purpose of the invitation is to excite and invite.  It is not an autobiography, nor a name recognition builder.  It is a tool to entice prospective clients to attend your meeting – not next year, but next month!  Stand out, differentiate yourself and give the prospect a reason to attend by hitting their “hot buttons.” Your response rate will vary over time, but on average you should achieve a minimum response rate of 1%. 

The Seminar:  an Appointment Setting Opportunity

The seminar provides an opportunity for you to establish a relationship with your attendees.  They are attending to “kick the tires” on you, deciding if they can like and trust you.  The seminar setting lowers the prospect’s defensive barriers and allows you to communicate your solutions directly to them.  While relationship building is key, the goal of the seminar is to get appointments.  If you can’t get an appointment today, what will change tomorrow?  Your attendance rate should be over 90% of the people that RSVP and you should set appointments with a minimum of 50% of the buying units at your event.

The Appointment:  Time to Get Paid

The appointment step is critical as it provides an opportunity to close clients and ring up real commissions. This is where you get paid! Your appointment attendance rate should be above 85% of those who book appointments with you. You should close 90% of the clients who attend.

This three step approach to seminar marketing works and has built an incredible amount of wealth for our clients.  The goals associated with each step are realistic and should be used as the minimum benchmarks for your success.  Our clients meet and exceed all of these numbers on a regular basis. If you are not reaching these levels of success, you need to change your approach or refine your skills until you do.


The Top 10 Worst Locations for Financial Seminars

Financial Seminar Locations

The three most important factors for holding a successful financial seminar are location, location, and location.  While that may seem repetitive, it carries the message of just how important your venue is and how this choice can affect your results. 

Your location is your magnet and truly one of the most critical factors for your event.  While we have found that the best location for a financial seminar is a well-known, medium priced restaurant, many of our clients choose to hold their events at other locations.  Here are a list of locations we have found that statistically produce poor results.   

The Worst 10 Seminar Locations:

     1. The Elks Club, VFW or other lodges

     2. Recreation or conference centers

     3. Golf country clubs

     4. Restaurants that serve ethnic foods (except Italian) or with odd names (anything medieval)

     5. College campuses

     6. Churches

     7. Bars

     8. Hotels

     9. Libraries

And the WORST location to hold a seminar:

     10.  Your office


The Advantages of Seminar Marketing

Seminar marketing is an incredibly effective tool that should be used by every marketing professional.  Here are the key advantages of using seminars:

Cost-effective approach that returns many times the investment
Non-intrusive method of marketing
Extremely time efficient
Captivates the audience for a longer period of time than a typical sales call
Reaches a large numbers of people in a very short time period
Allows you to see many more clients than a face-to-face meeting
Brands you as an expert, where your concepts are instantly more acceptable
Gathers an audience of prospects you probably cannot otherwise reach
Effective technique for covering a large geographic area
Creates a memorable experience that will be on the prospect’s mind for some time
Creates the framework clients will use to analyze the market and competition
Allows you to work with prospects who are truly interested, wanting your input
Differentiates yourself from the competition
Establishes relationships
Markets to clients on their terms at their choosing


I Did Not Have Sexual Relations with that Woman!

Few things Bill Clinton ever said will be remembered as clearly as his finger wagging statement about Monica Lewinsky.  Yes, those 9 words changed a presidency, tarnished a legacy and cost the American taxpayers over seven million dollars.  At more than three-quarters of a million dollars per word, it’s a textbook example of how truly valuable (or costly) words can be.

Words are important because of the values and emotions we assign to them.  They are little symbols of our hopes, fears and ideas that enable us to share our thoughts with others.  Because they are often highly charged with emotion, it’s critical we choose our words wisely.  In many situations, every word counts.

Bill Clinton’s poor choice led to his impeachment and we should pay attention or possibly face a similar fate in our own life.  No, chances are few readers will be in a position to be impeached; however, using the wrong words might cause us to be figuratively removed from the offices of our clients and prospects!  This won’t happen with the fanfare of Ken Star and the Associated Press, but occurs silently as prospects favor other proposals or existing clients begin working with the competition.

How can we make better word choices and avoid sales suicide?

It’s important that we examine our words to insure that they clearly communicate our message and avoid fear inducing words, especially as we approach the “red zone” of the closing.  Here is a simplified example to illustrate the concept:

“Kryptonite” Kathy: “Mr. Smith, to complete this sale, I will need you to sign this contract.”

Peter Prospect: “Sorry, Krypto, but I’m not signing anything.  I’m not an attorney, I hate legal mumbo jumbo and if you don’t want my business, I’ll just go down the street to ABC Motors. ”

Result: Peter was intimidated by the fear inducing words and his fight or flight reaction showed it.  He suspects that Kathy will either give in or that he can find someone else who won’t require him to sign a written contract.  What should have been a fat commission check has now turned into a psychological showdown and test of wills.

Let’s try an approach without the fear inducing words.

“Superman” Sammy:  “Peter, you seem eager to enjoy one of the finest automobiles ever made.  If you will simply authorize the paperwork, allowing our delivery team to get everything exactly how you want it, we’ll have this beautiful car in your driveway tonight.”

Peter Prospect: Sam, I appreciate your attention to detail.  What time will the car be delivered?

Result: Happy customer and a large commission.

While these two approaches had the same goal, the approach is dramatically different.   Kryptonite Kathy’s closing was very formal, using the prospect’s last name and contained the fear inducing words “sign” and “contract.”  Like a hammer coming down heavy on a steel anvil, there was nothing to soften the blow.

Superman Sammy’s example was a softer approach, what I call the “iron fist in a velvet glove.”  The prospect’s first name is used to make it friendly and positive words like “eager”, “enjoy”, “finest”, “authorize”, “exactly” and “personally” are liberally sprinkled throughout.  The word “paperwork” is used instead of “contract” to minimize fear and make it sound customary and expected.  A reference to the purpose of the paperwork is also given, explaining that its goal is to get everything exactly how the new customer would like it.  Most importantly, the psychology of the transaction is completely changed from signing a contract to one of authority, enabling the team to please the prospect.

There is little doubt which of these two examples would produce more customers over time.  Here is a list of fear inducing words to avoid and better choices that may be used instead.

Fear Inducing Words  


Difficult or hard


Price or fee

Monthly cost










To tell you the truth

Trust me

We’ll try


I’m really not sure

Better Choices

Paperwork or agreement

Easy and simple

Invest, own, claim or reserve

Investment, initial investment or value

Monthly investment



Economical, thrifty or best value

Eliminate altogether




Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

We will


I’ll find out

By clearly communicating and choosing words wisely, we can remove much of the anxiety prospects feel and foster a relationship of trust and friendship.  These factors are critical for long term success and form the basis for all of our successful  partnerships in life.

© Copyright 2009 Doug Dickson, All rights reserved.


10 Insider Secrets to Successful E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is one of fastest, most effective, and low cost methods you can use to grow your business.  Here are ten insider secrets I use everyday that insiders don’t want you to know:  

Insider secrets to successful e-mail marketing: 

  • Focus on the Subject Line. The subject line of your e-mail is the most critical element of your e-mail.  It is the teaser copy on the outside of your “envelope”.  Get it right and your open rates will soar, miss the mark and your results will suffer.
  • Size Matters! Keep your subject line short and to the point.  Use a rule of 9 words or less to maximize your impact.
  • Watch Your Language.  Avoid using words like “Free”, “Limited Time” or “Buy Now” that will activate spam filters and get you banished to the junk mail folder.  Include the word “you” to give it a more personal feel and varieties such as “your” as well. 
  • Never Send Spam.  Use opt in lists and other techniques to gather permission based e-mail address.  Never send out spam e-mails and follow the CAN-Spam legislation rules exactly.
  • Don’t forget the “from” line. Readers open your e-mail to answer two questions:  who is this from and what is it about?  Studies show that over 50% of e-mail recipients use the “from” address alone to decide whether or not to open an e-mail.  Keep your “from” line to 16 characters or less and use one of these creative approaches to stand out:

          A. Illustrating the purpose of your e-mail:

          B. Personalized with your name:

          C. Anonymous:

          D. Special deal:

  • The Magic Number 3.  For most, it is difficult, if not impossible, to sell directly from a single e-mail page.  To improve conversion rates, include at least three links the reader can click or paste into their browser’s window to gain more information or make a purchase.  One of your links should appear within the very first paragraph.
  • Short and Sweet. Most e-mails should be short, containing 200 – 500 words for letters and about 500 – 1,500 words in newsletter type mailings.
  • Salute your reader.  If you want your letter to look more personal and feel less like an ad, use a salutation.  Simply incorporating the word “Dear” followed by the recipient’s name can dramatically increase response rates.  When you only have the recipient’s e-mail addresses, use a more generic salutation like Dear Homeowner, Dear Friend or Dear Concerned Citizen.   You can further personalize your e-mail with other familiar items using such as names, locations and familiar  
  • Fast and Easy. Get to your point fast and make it an easy jump from the subject line to your first line.  Example:  Your subject line, “Save almost $1,000 on a complete financial review” could be your followed by a first line stating, “Call today and get a $990 analysis free!”
  • Test, test and test. You should constantly test and analyze your e-mails to discover what is working and what is not.  Test open rates, spam complaints and conversions as they relate to changes in your subject lines, number of words, offer, personalization, plain text vs. HTML, even the pages that are linked from your e-mail.

These insider secrets truly work; I know because I use them daily in the e-mail marketing our firm produces on behalf of our clients.  By following these 10 insider secrets you’ll see dramatic increases in all of your e-mail benchmarks and, most importantly, your bank account.

Copyright © 2009 Doug Dickson. All Rights Reserved.

The Top 10 SEO Mistakes

Search engine optimization (SEO) begins with eliminating anything that might negatively affect your search engine rankings and then focusing on the items that will improve them.  Here are the top 10 most common SEO mistakes we find:

Choosing the Wrong Keywords

Keyword selection is one of the most important aspects of optimizing your website.  Pick the right keywords and your website traffic will soar; choose the wrong words and you won’t even crack the top ten pages of Google.  Select descriptive words that your prospect will use while searching for your products or services and then focus on those that will bring the most traffic.

Empty Title Tags

Some will say that title and meta tags aren’t worth the effort, but my experience shows they can be extremely valuable, especially in controlling descriptions on the search engine results pages.  The fact that Google tracks them as part of their Webmaster Tools indicates that we should pay attention as well.  Take the time to write proper title, description, content and keyword tags.

Flash Without an HTML Alternative

If you find a flash script you simply can’t live without, just make sure you provide an HTML alternative that your readers and spiders can follow.  While Google has announced it can read “textual content” embedded in Flash and extract link information, I’m not ready to drink the Koolaid just yet.  Better safe than sorry, especially when millions of dollars in sales are riding on it.

Focusing Too Much on Meta

Many of our new clients come from a world that’s about 5 years behind the SEO power curve.  These companies rely on outdated techniques like keyword stuffing, meta tag stuffing and even invisible text in an effort to boost their rankings.  Google has developed an answer for each of these manipulations and imposes penalties in the form of poor rankings or banning them altogether. As previously mentioned, it is important to create good meta tags, just don’t get carried away with it and forget to implement much more effective techniques.

Using Images for Headings

Many designers like using graphics rather than text for headings and menus because it gives them more control of the look and feel of the site.  Unfortunately, search engines can’t read text in images, at least not yet, and this negatively affects your rankings. Use H1, H2 and H3 tags in conjunction with CSS to improve the look and feel of your website.

Poor URLs

One of the key factors for website ranking is the site’s name or URL.  While it is possible to get ranked very high without it, it’s much easier to achieve top placement if the keyword is as part of the URL itself.  Avoid dynamic pages that can’t be indexed and strategically place your keywords within the URL.

Link Spamming

As the focus of SEO moves from on page, to off page factors, some search engine marketers feel that more links is always better.  All things being equal, they’re right; but all things are never equal are they?  Don’t be tempted to spam search engines, using link farms, groups and forums in an effort to artificially gather links.  The Big G can see these patterns and will penalize you appropriately.

No Keywords in the Content

If you take my sound advice and include words in the title, keyword and other meta tags, make sure those very same words are found within the content of your page as well.  Items listed in the “head” area of your website are used to communicate information to the search engine spiders.  If that information is not also included in the areas that a human can read, it’s not congruent and your site may be penalized accordingly.

Poor Grammar and Spelling

It’s surprising the amount of time our clients spend finding the perfect word, only to place it into a sentence that’s either not grammatically correct or contains misspelled words.  Spelling and grammar do count, not only with Google, but with prospects as well.  Spend the extra time it takes to get it right and have all the work proofed by at least two people.”Click Here” Link Anchor Text

“Click Here” Links

We’ve all seen the “click here” text used as the clickable text in a hyperlink.  These words, called anchor text, provide a description of the link for Google.  Anchor text like financial seminars actually add to the credibility of the website referenced; while for more information about financial seminars, “click here” gives no added relevancy to the linked page, since it is very generic in nature.

These top 10 search engine mistakes are examples of the most common errors we see from our new clients.  While eliminating these problems can dramatically improve your ranking in the search engines, there are still over 500 other factors that need to be considered, evaluated and optimized.

You can insure you don’t miss a single one of those SEO Secrets by:

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List of Power Words

“Words matter because they have consequences and create outcomes”.
– Doug Dickson, Seminar Direct

Power words paint a colorful picture and leave an indelible impression on our minds. This happens because of the feelings or actions that we associate with them. Neutral words such as “paper”, “beige” or “average” are not power words because they have little or no emotion attached to them. Words like “amazing”, “incredible” and “free” pack a powerful punch and are excellent examples of power words.

When deadlines are pressing, the phone ringing and the hours of sleep low, it can be difficult to summon your creative genius on demand. I’ve found that systems really help, but the key to success is developing great lists to spark the imagination. Here’s one I’ve used for years and refer to anytime I just can’t get the right word.

List of Power Words:

Benefit From
Buyer’s Guide
Common sense


High Tech
High Yield
Just In Time
Last Minute
Limited Time Offer
Next Frontier

Profit From

Starter Kit
Test Drive
Time Sensitive
Up Scale


Are You Writing Copy or Content?

The secret to writing great copy begins with understand what copy is, and how it differs from content.

Content informs, it states the facts. 

Copy invites, it lures the reader in.


The true test of copy vs. content can be determined by looking for a call to action.  What do you ask the reader to do once they are finished reading?  If your words only invite the reader to close the book or website, it’s definitely just content.  If there is something specific you’ve asked them to do now, it’s probably copy.

Examples of a Strong Call to Action:

Learn how to…

Get this…



Check out…



Free video shows you how…

See the internet’s most shocking…

Check out our…

Order today…

Make your reservation…

When you start to write, understand what you want to happen next and keep that goal firmly planted in your mind.  Construct the entire text around that goal and the effectiveness of your writing will increase dramatically.  So will your sales!

One last bit of advice.  Don’t ever leave your readers hanging; make it as easy as possible for them to respond.  Prominently feature your phone number, your address or your website address so they can take immediate action.  Or, better yet, simply follow this link for the world’s best financial marketing.




Why You Must Be In Google Local Search

Google Local Search

Recent studies show that almost 80% of buyers are doing research on the internet before purchasing financial products and services. And that number isn’t just limited to Generation X. Those between the ages of 60 and 80 are just as likely to have used the internet as younger generations.

With 80% of your prospects researching on-line, it’s time to ask yourself some important questions:

  1. Do you have an internet marketing strategy? Can you print it out right now?

  2. When was the last time your search engine rankings and directory listings were analyzed?

  3. Do you dominate your local internet market or does your competition?

  4. How much traffic does your website receive and where does it come from?

  5. What is the most popular word people use to find your company?

If you’ve never considered these questions before, you’re not alone. The majority of my clients understand that most marketing has moved to the internet; they just haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity because they’re unsure where to begin.

A great place to start is with Google Local Search.

When you search for anything using Google, their algorithm displays a list of relevant results, along with a local map containing 10 business listings. Google produces these maps for the more popular searches and identifies your location by reading your internet IP Address (that’s geek for “Internet Protocol” – kind of a local street address for your website). Google emphasizes these local results because their goal is to provide internet users with the most relevant search answers.

Getting Listed on Local Search

To get listed in the local search, you will first need to have an account set up with Google Local Search.

Google will ask for your business information including street address, telephone number, website URL and a brief description. It is critical that you carefully consider every word used in this listing and place your top keywords in it. Even the very order of the words is important.

Once entered, Google has a process for verifying the information by calling or mailing a postcard out with a verification number. Typically users will select phone verification because it is quick and easy. If you choose to have your listing phone verified, insure that you will be available to answer the phone and that no one else picks up the call. If an answering machine or someone else answers without the verification code, Google will fail the verification and send out the postcard instead. While it isn’t the end of the world, it delays the process several weeks and creates one more item on your “To Do List.”

How Local Search Can Benefit Your Business

Google Local Search is important because Google is the dominant search engine and local results are the most relevant. It will provide you with free advertising and lead to new sales. I have seen a growing trend in Google’s algorithm that places more weight on local results and I’m sure this will become even more important in the future.

Important Tips for Local Businesses

Google isn’t the only search engine with local search and it’s important that you get listed in all of the top sources. Here are a few more that are critical, in order of importance:

Yahoo Local Search

MSN Live Search

Aol Local Search

AskCity Search

While local search is important now, especially as it applies to SEO, it will become even more critical in the future. Take the time now to establish your presence and insure that you are not missing out on these opportunities for free advertising and new business.


10 Things You Should Never Say

10 Phrases You Should Never Use

Words matter because they have meaning, consequences and create outcomes. As agents and advisors we should do our best to avoid these trite phrases that distract our audience and dilute the impact of our message.

Oxford’s Top-Ten Most Irritating Expressions:

1. At the end of the day

This over used cliché usually works its way into the conversation just before the speaker makes their most important point. It noses out “basically”, which didn’t make this year’s top 10 list.

2. Fairly unique

You don’t have to speak the King’s English to understand that something is either unique or it is not. Something can’t be “fairly unique” any more than one can be “fairly pregnant.”

3. I personally

When speaking, we assume that you are representing yourself and not channeling Harry Houdini. Like another classic “to tell you the truth,” we should be able to believe what you say rather than rely on you to delineate which parts are truthful.

4. At this moment in time

If you happen to be speaking to us from any other time period, your name is probably Einstein and we should all dust off our books on quantum mechanics and time relativity.

5. With all due respect

Not only trite, but can be especially irritating when used to set up a diatribe against the last speaker. It also provides a clue that the speaker has no respect for opposing viewpoints.

6. Absolutely

Alone it can’t be considered a phrase, but this adverb is certainly worth including on the list. Typically used to ad emphasis or denote complete agreement; however, unless you’re starring in one of the vodka maker’s ultra-hip commercials, leave this one for the teenage Val-gals.

7. It’s a nightmare

Yes, for those of us listening it certainly is.

8. Shouldn’t of

This grammatically incorrect expression underscores the speaker’s lack of education. Proper usage would be “shouldn’t have.” By the way, bread is done and people are finished.

9. 24/7

An abbreviation indicating something is always available, 24 hours each day, seven days a week. While it was handy and efficient at first, we should all agree to let this tired acronym retire and take its place in the Cliché Hall of Fame.

10. It’s not rocket science

Wow, and so many of us thought you were a cosmonaut. First cousin to “it doesn’t take a brain surgeon,” this cliché is almost as insulting as it is irritating.

Avoid these distracting clichés and you’ll see improved results – it’s like “money in the bank.” For more great marketing tips, visit our website at


Google Profiles – What Does Google Say About You?

When your prospects, clients and associates “Google” your name, what does the search engine say about you?  Instead of a list of randomly collected results, would you like Google to present a well written, free ad describing all the reasons to work with you and your firm?  If so, read on…

In a very short period of time, Google has created an industry and established itself as the top-of-mind authority in internet search.  As a true “category killer” their numbers are absolutely amazing, ending 2008 with a market share of almost 64%, up from 58% just 12 months earlier. Of the almost 140 billion U.S. searches performed in 2008, 85 billion of them were done with Google. Perhaps equally impressive is that nearly 90% of all new search volume was also captured by Google.

With such influence, any new Google products have the potential to dramatically affect the market and should be seriously evaluated as part of a comprehensive internet marketing strategy. One such product is Google’s newest service called Google Profiles.

About Google Profiles

A Google profile is really just a small website about you. See an example of one by visiting my Google Profile.

Such profiles allow you to better control how you appear on Google and provide a bit more of your qualifications. With a Google profile, you can easily share your web content all in one central location. You can include, for example, links to your blog, online photos, and other profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You have control over what others see and your profile won’t display any private information unless you’ve explicitly allowed it to do so.

If you’ve been writing reviews on Google Maps, creating articles on Google Knol, sharing Google Reader items, or adding books to your Google Book Search library, you may already have a profile. See and customize your profile.

With internet search reaching all new highs in popularity, it’s time you use this incredible tool to build your brand and control what’s being said on-line about you.  Create you own Google Profile today!

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