The 3 Most Important Elements Of A Direct-Marketing Campaign

““Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”” –  George Orwell 

The rule in direct marketing is this: Media first. Offer second. Creative third.

This means that:

1. The selection of media – what newspapers you advertise in/what mailing lists you rent/what time slots you run your commercials in – is the most important consideration, because it can mean the difference between 100,000 responses and none at all.

2. Next in importance is the offer – what your prospect gets for how much money and according to what terms. If your offer is wrong, you can also kill response rates, though perhaps not as totally as you can by marketing in the wrong media.

3. Finally, in third place, is your creative. What you say to sell your product/service is critically important – but it has less potential effect on response rates than media or offer.

Then why is it said that “copy is king?” Because in the normal course of doing business, the selection of what media you go to and what offer you use is easier to do and so is usually done reasonably well.

What happens is that after an initial period of testing the obvious media and offers, you come to know which work best and pretty much stick to them. The offer stays the same (usually), simply because it’s too much trouble to keep switching it. The media stay pretty much the same, because they are the media that work for you.

But creative – even the best creative – lasts only a limited time. And when it stops working, you can’t revive it by exposing it to new media or changing the offer. The answer is to find new copy that will work like new to (mostly) the same old media with the same old offer.

And that’s why good copywriters often make considerably more money than their equally bright and equally hard-working marketing colleagues.

When your marketing campaign is foundering, there is usually little you can do in terms of offers or media. If you’re worth your salt, you’ve already tried most everything already. But what you haven’t tried is the next new creative effort. And so finding that becomes the No.1 priority of any good marketer.

That said, I’d like to suggest that while you are hard at work finding new copy, you continue to search for new media and continue to experiment (in some reasonable way) with your offer.

The market is a living thing and, like all living things, it changes. If you haven’t taken a serious look at your offer lately – if you haven’t tried some new medium – then get into the habit. You may be surprised to learn that what didn’t work six months ago can work very well right now, because of changes in the market you weren’t even aware of.

So make yourself a promise to do more media testing and more experimenting with your offer than you are doing now. Maybe a lot more. And to make sure each test is as strong as possible, ask yourself the following questions:

* Is this offer simply irresistible?

* Is it appropriately guaranteed?

* Is it specific?

* Is it unique?

* How important is this offer likely to be to my prospect?

* Is this offer easy to understand?

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]