Effective Marketing: Driven by Math and Creativity

Ah, yes. The old left brain versus right brain argument when it comes to effective marketing. The question of what truly drives effective marketing attempts to pit actuaries against Mad Men. Madison Avenue against Number Crunchers. Artists versus Scientists. It is an interesting debate, and one that I have seen probably since the very first day I entered the business world. So which one rules: creativity or math, design or analytics?

I, for one, am tired of this debate. I think it is an outdated and irrelevant conversation, quite frankly. If there has been one thing that the digital age has taught us is that marketers need both skill sets. They don’t just need a passing interest in both, they actually need to LIVE in both areas. I believe the days of being a really good direct marketer, or numbers person, OR a high-flying studio executive at a major ad agency are gone. Marketers, and especially good Chief Marketers, need to own both personalities and skill sets.

The reason I believe this so strongly is that digital marketing, done via the internet, mobile devices or social media, presents an amazing opportunity to create marketing that is supremely visually appealing and impactful, yet steeped in analytics and measurement. I’m not simply referring to impressions, clicks or sales. The ability to measure how people interact with your advertisement, what they really think of it and what happens after they interact with it exists like never before, and as technology evolves even more, math, science and creativity will intersect on a much greater scale.

Think about it this way: twenty years ago, advertisers could run billboards in Times Square or place a great ad on top of a taxi. The advertiser (or agency) really had no way of knowing how people view the ad, much less how they interacted with it. Sure, there have always been vague (at best) techniques for measuring advertising done outdoors, on TV, or on radio. But largely, advertisers were left in the dark when it comes to really knowing without a shred of doubt what the real impact was on the millions of dollars they were spending. Professionally, this was me for many years.

On the flip side, you had direct marketers, direct mailers and direct response infomercial marketers who were less concerned with aesthetics of their ads but almost wholly consumed with numbers and metrics. Anything that moved, they measured. A few creative tweaks here and there were necessary for most marketing campaigns, but largely those tweaks were made in order to measure the impact of the changes and how those related to direct sales. Professionally, this was also me for many years.

Enter the age we’re in today which is far more digitally-based, and I believe we are on the verge of a marketing utopia. One indisputable fact is that a lot more investment from marketers and advertisers is getting put into interactive channels (online, mobile, etc). This is because it is where consumers ARE these days. They are online. They are on Facebook. They are blogging. They spend most of their time in front of a computer screen, and good marketers always want to be where their audience is.

It is a burgeoning marketing utopia because marketers that were on either side of the two scenarios I painted above are being forced to merge together and intersect. And why not? Creative folks most consumed with a compelling design and execution now actually have some more data at their fingertips to stoke their creative fires even more. I fail to see how that is a bad thing, in fact it should be embraced. Number crunchers have the benefit of technology at their backs, which allows them a lot more creative license to become more, well, creative rather than spending a majority of time or energy plowing through spreadsheets or figuring out how to slice and dice their list or database differently. Automation is a great thing for the direct response types because it provides speed and ease; think of all the time they can now spend on creativity and messaging.

The truth is that if you’re a marketer who wants to have a long career in your profession, you need to be masters of both domains. You need to be more creative than the next marketing professional. You need to have a deep grasp of numbers, analytics and all the metrics available to you. As people’s lives become more and more digital, possessing one set of skills but not the other will leave you behind the competition. My advice? Embrace the right and left brains and understand that they intersect now, and will forever, for truly effective marketers.

Designing And Writing Direct Mail Packages – It’s Absolutely Not Something Just Anyone Can Do

The very first thing you need to know about writing and designing effective direct mail packages is that “you” probably should not. Effective copy writing and design is very difficult for the average person, and those that are good at it have done a lot of studying and have tested a multitude of approaches and styles depending on their understanding of the nature of their audiences. Don’t expect a copywriter that is successful with “non-profit” solicitations to be equally as adept at writing copy for “for-profit” offerings. Both Picasso and DaVinci were masterful artists, “in their own right,” with distinct styles, preferences, abilities and “audiences.” Copywriters are like artists. People who are successful at creative are, in fact, practicing an art form.

The best way to find good, professional copy writers and graphic designers that can relate to your specific set of needs is to contact a direct marketing association office (i.e., DWAW is the Direct Marketing Association of Washington). There is one in every major city across the country. The people who work there are very familiar with the range of resources available to you. They can save you a lot of time in your quest to identify people who have a background of success in your interest area. This is not something that demands close physical proximity and you have a vast array of alternatives available to you. Finally, you definitely want to make “a previous record of success in your arena” a prime consideration in the process of identifying your “creative partner.”

On the other hand, maybe you are a small business with limited funding and you want to give it a shot on your own without risking a lot of money. The best way to begin on your own is to look at the creative used by other entities like yours and essentially copy those things that (1) appeal to you and (2) you see on a repetitive basis. It is being repeated because it works! I don’t mean you should copy other material word for word, but by format and general content. You can also find lots of copy writing resources on the Internet (type the words “copy writing” into your browser and you’ll be amazed at how many resources you’ll find).

What you will quickly come to learn about creative is that testing is the name of the game when it comes to direct mail, and I would strongly suggest (in fact, insist!) it be done constantly to determine what creative will work best for a given offer or solicitation. If you are not testing alternative copy (among other things) in every one of your mailings, you are not taking advantage of the single biggest advantage that direct mail offers over other kinds of less targeted marketing types — “measurability!” All of your mailings should be predicated on past results.

Finally, those creative people that work closely with their production manager or printer in the early stages of creating a package are more likely to be able to accomplish their objectives most cost effectively and in the time frames they require by avoiding package designs that result in production hurdles and challenges (wasted money).

Whether you use a professional resource (highly recommended!) or give it your own best shot, I wish you many profitable mailings.

Marketing Got You Stumped?

It’s not unusual for entrepreneurs to find the whole idea of marketing
intimidating. Even seasoned business owners often feel their marketing
efforts aren’t working.

Don’t let marketing intimidate you. At its core, it’s really not much more
than common sense – the key elements that form your plan. Add some
creativity. This is what you’ll use to implement your plan and make it
work. That’s the basis of marketing. Pretty simple once you break it
down.

Let’s do a quick overview. There are a few key questions you need to
answer upfront.

1. Is there a market for your product/service?

If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board. Start over. Because
no matter how great you think your product is, if no one needs it/wants it/buys it, you don’t have a business.

2. Can you make a profit?

Have you done the number crunching to ensure profitability? If not, go
back and work your numbers. Figure out what you need to charge to
make your profit on each item or service you sell. See what the
competition is charging. Be in line but don’t necessarily be the
cheapest. Your products may command higher fees (better ingredients,
exciting packaging, snob appeal). Or you may choose to be the low
price leader – but you’ll need more volume than you would at the high
end. In any event, do your homework.

3. Can you survive?

Do you have the resources to see you through until your business starts
to show a profit? If not, you may need to keep your day job and do this
on a part-time basis initially.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to proceed.

The Plan

You’ve determined that you’ve got a product or service that is
marketable. Now you need a plan.

Depending on your budget and/or level of expertise, it can be as simple
as a Guerilla Marketing Plan – or a more detailed plan prepared by
someone who specializes in this area.

Basically, your plan will cover the following:

o Stating your goal or objectives

o Defining your target market

o An overview of the competition

o Defining your niche or what differentiates you from the competition

o Developing a strategy to achieve your objectives

o Evaluating the various marketing tools and deciding what you will use/
when

o Preparing a time line with goals written in

o Reviewing your budget

A detailed list, elaborating on the above items, can be found at the end
of this article. You’ll see that most of these questions are really based
on common sense, nothing more.

Action

I was going to call this section “The Execution” but decided it had a
negative ring to it.

Actually, here’s where creativity comes into play. And this is where you
may want to call upon an outside resource (or two) to help.

You can’t start a business without business cards and stationery (well
you can, but don’t). If your marketing plan calls for a logo and identity
development – and you’re not a creative – find yourself a designer.
Interview some freelance designers to see if their style fits what you
want for your identity – and also if their rates fit your budget. Or you may
want to find a design or marketing firm that specializes in working with
smaller companies.

A marketing firm will be able to help you with all of your marketing, not
just logo design and development, so that may make more sense.
Whichever route you decide to take, make sure you’re comfortable with
the people who will be handling your business. If it doesn’t feel right, it
isn’t. Keep looking. There are lots of firms and freelancers around.
Don’t settle.

Make sure your logo and business cards really reflect your company’s
unique identity. The goal is not to look like everyone else.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Networking is probably the entrepreneur’s most important marketing
tool. So get out there and network. Take your business cards (always!).
Join a networking group – or two or three. Join chambers of commerce.
Attend events. Look into associations relevant to your industry. Make a
list of everywhere your target market might be – and go there.

Where’s Your Web Site?

Today, most businesses have web sites (mine is coming….). A web site
can serve as an online brochure — a sorry fact for printing companies –
a plus for small businesses with limited budgets. It also gives you an
unlimited geographic reach and the ability to update 24/7.

If you opt for a web site, make sure it presents the image you want for
your company. Unless you’re skilled at web design, get yourself a
professional to handle this. Nothing will send potential customers
running as quickly as a bad web site. Think about what you do when
you’re on the internet.

Your web site should be:

o Well designed

o Clean and uncluttered (ie. easy on the flash if you must include it)

o User friendly — easy to navigate, fast to download (not everyone has a dsl line)

o Well written (written for the web, not for print — and no typos)

o Informative and/or newsworthy

You want visitors to bookmark your site and come back often

o Optimized for search engines

Most of your visitors will come from either search engines or links –
your pages need to be planned for search engines to find them.

It may help to put together a list of sites you’ve visited that you really like.
Use these as a blueprint for your own web site, and don’t get side-
tracked by a lot of irrelevant glitz. In fact, you may want to also compile a
list of sites you dislike. Show these to your web developer so she totally
understands what you want.

What About Traditional Marketing Material?

Brochures

Ideally, it’s great to have both printed marketing material and a web site.
Your printed brochure is used as a “leave behind” or mailer. Take it when
you make sales calls or attend events. Mail it out with cover letters to
prospective clients. Ask colleagues to distribute them along with their
marketing material.

But if you can only do one, opt for the web site. Whatever you do, make
sure that everything with your company name on it is well designed and
well written.

Direct Mail

Along with networking, direct mail is one of the most effective, affordable
marketing tools in the small business marketing toolbox. Not only is it
highly targeted, but it’s affordable enough to allow for ongoing
promotion.

Use direct mail for:

o Introducing new products or services

o Special offers

o Sale announcements

o Drawing traffic to your web site

In addition to traditional direct mail, look into direct e-mailing. Recent
studies show that it’s about to overtake direct for most U.S. businesses.
Newsletters or sales letters, particularly created in html, can be an
extremely effective way to keep in touch with existing and/or potential
customers. Just be sure to include that “opt out” on the bottom for
people who do not want to be on your e-mailing list.

Other Marketing Tools

For reasons of time and brevity, let’s just list some other marketing tools
you may want to consider as you plan your assault:

o advertising

o public relations

o speaking engagements

o trade shows

o newsletters

o flyers

o premiums

o door hangers

Depending on your product or service, the list is pretty extensive.
Fortunately, it’s just a buffet from which you can pick and choose.

Evaluate everything and decide what will work best within your budget.
Test and test some more. If one tool doesn’t work, try something else.
And don’t expect to get a hit the very first time. You may – you may not.

Like all good things, building (or growing) a business is a process. The
dotcom bust should have taught all of us that overnight successes aren’t
necessarily lasting ones. The goal is to reach your key audience as
efficiently and effectively as possible. And to grow a successful (ie.
profitable) business.

Copyright © 2002 Rickey Gold & Associates