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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Copywriting 101

31
May

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
Indicia
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.

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21
May

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  

Contract

Difficult or hard

Buy

Price or fee

Monthly cost

Deal

Pitch

Cheaper

Obviously

Learn

Tell

Stuff

Honestly

Frankly

To tell you the truth

Trust me

We’ll try

Irregardless

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

Opportunity

Presentation

Economical, thrifty or best value

Eliminate altogether

Discover

Reveal

Secrets

Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

We will

Regardless

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.

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20
May

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: financialupdate@ml.com

          B. Personalized with your name: doug.dickson@seminardirect.com

          C. Anonymous: 4453@msli.com

          D. Special deal: specialsavings@ml.com

  • 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.
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06
May

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:


Ability
Absolutely
Accelerate
Accomplish
Accurate
Achieve
Acquired
Active
Affect
Affordable
Aggressive
Alert
Allure
Alluring
Alternative
Amazing
Analyze
Announcing
Approved
Attain
Attitude
Attractive
Authentic
Avoiding
Awesome
Bargain
Beautiful
Beauty
Benefit From
Better
Big
Blast
Blockbuster
Bonanza
Bonus
Boom
Boost
Breakthrough
Burst
Buyer’s Guide
Capable
Careful
Challenge
Challenging
Colorful
Colossal
Common sense
Compare
Competitive
Complete
Comprehensive
Compromise
Conceive
Concept
Conduct
Confidence
Confidential
Conscientious
Control
Crammed
Crucial
Customized
Daring
Dazzling
Delicious
Delivered
Dependable
Destiny
Develop
Diplomatic
Direct
Discipline
Discount


Discover
Distinguished
Drive
Dynamic
Dynamics
Dynamite
Earn
Easily
Easy
Effective
Efficiency
Electrifying
Eliminate
Emerging
Empower
Endorsed
Endurance
Energetic
Energizing
Energy
Enjoy
Enormous
Enterprising
Enthusiastic
Envision
Establish
Evaluate
Excel
Excellence
Excellent
Excitement
Exciting
Exclusive
Exercising
Expand
Expedite
Expert
Explode
Explosive
Facilitate
Facts
Famous
Fascinating
Fear
Find
Fired
Floodgates
Flourish
Focus
Foothold
Forecast
Formula
Fortune
Free
Freedom
Fueling
Full
Fun
Fundamentals
Garner
Generate
Genuine
Get
Gift
Gigantic
Grace
Grasp
Greatest
Growth
Guaranteed
Guide
Guided
Harvest


Health
Helpful
High Tech
High Yield
Highest
Honest
Hot
How
Huge
Hurry
Ignited
Imagination
Imagine
Immediately
Implement
Important
Improve
Improved
Incisive
Increase
Increased
Incredible
Informative
Initiate
Innovate
Innovative
Insatiable
Inspirational
Inspire
Instantly
Instructive
Interesting
Introducing
Investigative
Just In Time
Largest
Last Minute
Late-Breaking
Latest
Lavishly
Lead
Liberated
Lifetime
Limited
Limited Time Offer
Listen
Lively
Look
Love
Lowest
Luxury
Magic
Mainstream
Mammoth
Masterpiece
Memory
Merit
Mind-Blowing
Miracle
Money
Money-Back
Monitor
Monumental
Motivate
Motivated
Mouth-Watering
New
Next Frontier
Noted
Novel
Now
Obsession
Obtain


Odd
Only
Opportunities
Outstanding
Own
Participate
Peace
Perform
Personalized
Perspective
Persuade
Persuaded
Philosophy
Pioneering
Plus
Popular
Portfolio
Potent
Potential
Power
Powerful
Practical
Precise
Pride
Produce
Professional
Proficiency
Profit From
Profitable
Profits
Promising
Protect
Proven
Provide
Provocative
Purchased
Quality
Quick
Quickly
Rare
Reap
Recommend
Recommended
Reduced
Refundable
Reliable
Remarkable
Responsible
Results
Revealing
Reveals
Revolutionary
Rewards
Safely
Sale
Save
Savvy
Scarce
Scorecard
Secrets
Secure
Security
Seductive
Selected
Sensational
Sex
Shocking
Simplified
Simplify
Simplistic
Sizable
Sizzling
Skill


Soar
Sold
Solution
Solve
Special
Specialized
Spotlight
Starter Kit
Startling
Stop
Strange
Streamline
Strength
Strengthen
Strong
Stunning
Sturdy
Success
Successful
Suddenly
Superior
Sure-Fire
Surging
Surprise
Surprising
Survival
Systematic
Tactful
Technology
Terrific
Test Drive
Tested
Thorough
Thrilling
Time Sensitive
Timely
Train
Trained
Tremendous
Trim
Trusted
Truth
Ultimate
Unconditional
Uncover
Under-Priced
Unique
Unleash
Unlimited
Unlock
Unparalleled
Unsurpassed
Unusual
Up Scale
Urgency
Urgent
Useful
Valuable
Vital
Vitality
Vivid
Want
Wanted
Warning
Wealth
Willpower
Win
Winning
Won
Wonderful
Yes
You
You’re


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06
May

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…

Download…

Save…

Check out…

Solve…

Visit…

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.

 

 

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03
May

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 www.seminardirect.com.

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