“Now what I’m going to say may sound indelicate…”
— Alexander Hamilton, from the song Non-Stop, in the Hamilton musical
How do I put this in a way that:
— Is useful to you, and…
— Doesn’t totally offend the roomful of people I just had lunch with?
The back story…
I just left a special luncheon that was a meeting between academics and marketers in the private sector…
And I’ll note: I was the only person in the room who explicitly identified myself as a direct marketer or direct response marketer.
Mostly, there were a bunch of agency people there. And academics teaching marketing.
I LOVED the intention of this luncheon. It was meant to bring the “real world” marketers together with the academics, to make sure students were actually getting practical instruction in marketing.
But in practice, I spent a ton of time biting my tongue (and not because I was having trouble eating).
This goes back to the eternal battle between BRANDING and DIRECT RESPONSE.
Fundamentally, brand marketing is about making yourself look good. And often, making the agency that created it look good or smart or creative (sometimes at the expense of the business who paid for it all). But there’s very little emphasis placed on, you know, actually selling anything.
Direct response, on the other hand, focuses on sales above all. It goes back to the fundamental definition of advertising from Claude Hopkins’s book Scientific Advertising, “Advertising is salesmanship in print.” Or, for the modern audience, “Sales multiplied by media.”
And most agencies practice brand or image marketing.
“Print can’t be tracked,” they tell you. “And neither can TV.”
But then they run into the little problem of the internet. Where everything can be tracked. And tends to be, by default.
And let’s just say that today’s clients (read, businesses who make their money outside of selling advertising to clients) are, shall we say, spoiled.
You see, with the advent of the internet, more and more businesses and marketers are developing a direct response mentality…
The advertising must pay!
And when this is addressed in a room full of brand marketers, I hear resent for this fact.
Me? I embrace it. Because that’s what we direct marketers put our blood, sweat, and tears into. It’s what we chase. It’s what gets us high on endorphins. Figuring out how to make advertising pay — to create profits. And once we’ve done that, we go to work to make our next attempt pay MORE!
So a whole bunch of questions came up…
In particular, a whole bunch of questions around what kind of skills a marketing person needs today.
And about 80% of what I heard just felt like buzzwords. It felt meaningless. It felt like… Branding!
While I understand that if you want a job with a traditional advertising agency, you have to speak the buzzwords and bulls*** with the rest of them…
That’s NOT what really works in measurable, accountable marketing.
Being the only dyed-in-the-wool direct marketer in the room, I made sure to throw in a few core principles. But while I was biting my tongue and not interrupting the others, I had quite a few more thoughts…
Here’s what really works in marketing…
If you want to be a good marketer, here’s what you need to know…
— How to create marketing that generates at least $1 in margin for every $1 spent. Meaning, marketing that creates measurable profits.
— Behavioral psychology. Not just how people behave, but how to do the actual research on how people behave, through testing.
— Marketing statistics. How to measure spending and ROI. How to compare the results of campaigns. How to test, and determine which ad worked better, and if that’s a repeatable result.
— Understanding markets. Demographics, psychographics, and behavioral targeting. Especially finding a group of people that share a single problem that can be solved by an offer.
— Offer creation. Creating a product or service at a price that will sell, and that’s profitable in the sale and delivery of that product.
— Media buying and traffic. Understanding how to invest in getting your message in front of a targeted market.
— Messaging and copywriting. Sharing your story and making offers in a clear, compelling way.
— Conversion. Understanding the process of turning a viewer or visitor into a lead or prospect, then into a buyer.
— Acquisition. Getting customers in the door for their first transaction.
— Relationship or lifetime marketing. How to continue to market to past customers for ongoing business and maximizing lifetime value.
— Funnels and cart value. This is more advanced and focused on online, but it’s where things are going. Stacking offers to maximize revenue in the initial customer interaction.
— Multi-part marketing systems. Understanding how to use traffic channels as feeders for your core marketing systems or funnels, and how to structure a sophisticated, multi-touch marketing system. (This is especially important selling to businesses, in bigger or more complex sales, and in longer buying cycles.)
I’m sure there’s more, but so much of it is mere window-dressing to this foundation…
For example, social media…
Yes, most companies should probably have some kind of social media presence. But it’s absolute BS to be there for the sake of being there. (And that’s what branding-based social media does.)
If you’re going to do social media, it has to be part of a bigger integrated approach, designed to drive sales.
So, for example, you create a post on your Facebook Page. It provides valuable, social-friendly content that people want to engage with.
But it also points back to a landing page on your website. And that landing page either makes an offer, or gives a qualified prospect a reason to leave their information for follow-up by marketing, sales, or both.
And then, you actually pay Facebook to make that post show up in front of qualified, targeted prospects.
And you track the results from that. Perhaps even running split tests, to determine which landing page or ad creative works best.
And you make sure that funnel is optimized so that you can keep spending more money on promoting that post.
… And on, and on, and on.
Branding people are often befuddled by this…
And they argue that it doesn’t have to make money now to influence future buying behavior. They argue that impression and image is what matters.
Meanwhile, the business owner with their own money on the line says, “Yeah, but where’s my ROI?”
And they’re losing clients to consultants who are actually willing to come in and say, “Let’s look at how we can create a repeatable, scalable marketing system that turns every $1 into $2.”
And it’s about more than a pretty webpage.
And it’s about more than an ad that gets smiles in the conference room.
And it’s about more than a brand.
I regret to inform you that Claude Hopkins was wrong…
Nearly 100 years ago, Hopkins concluded Scientific Advertising with this…
Only one hour ago an old advertising man said to the writer, “The day for our type is done. Bunk has lost its power. Sophistry is being displaced by actuality. And I tremble at the trend.”
So do hundreds tremble. Enormous advertising is being done along scientific lines. Its success is common knowledge. Advertisers along other lines will not much longer be content.
We who can meet the test welcome these changed conditions. Advertisers will multiply when they see that advertising can be safe and sure. Small expenditures made on a guess will grow to big ones on a certainty. Our line of business will be finer, cleaner, when the gamble is removed. And we shall be prouder of it when we are judged on merit.
Unfortunately, marketing and advertising that does nothing has survived well beyond the days of Hopkins.
But the tide may actually be turning today. With the internet making EVERYTHING trackable and measurable, the hue and cry from business people everywhere is that marketing must actually be practiced under the definition of “selling, multiplied by media.”
Hopkins is having his heyday, 100 years later.
And here you are, on the front lines…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: No, seriously, you can get a 100% free copy of Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, in both PDF and MP3 format. I recorded the audiobook for myself, but now you can have it free. Click here to get Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins for free.