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.”


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.


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 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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