As direct marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about getting a response. Applying direct marketing to the internet, our new preferred lexicon is conversion.
Same thing. Either way we got the prospect to take action as a result of the marketing message we put in front of them.
At the most basic level, the ideal conversion most websites try to get from a first-time visitor is to get the email address.
And this is absolutely crucial to the growth of most online businesses — INCLUDING, I should add, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
I’m building an email list in order to communicate with you on a regular basis — in my case, daily. And in those communications, I occasionally make an offer for a specific product or service.
This is all well and good.
In fact, most direct marketers online would argue that the most important thing you can get a new website visitor to do would be to leave their email address as permission to follow up with them later.
It’s hard to argue against.
After all, that simple act of giving permission to follow up by email later represents the first milestone in the business-client relationship.
No longer is it a one-and-done experience of what the business has to offer.
Rather, it could be the beginning of days, weeks, months, or even years of nurturing that lead, building the relationship, delivering value…
With the eventual outcome of that lead becoming a customer — giving money in exchange for products or services.
And you can largely judge a direct marketing business by the value of their list.
– How many people do they have permission from to send email communications to on a regular basis?
– And what is the quality of the relationship with the list — at what volume do folks respond to calls to action made in communications to the list?
A large, responsive email list IS a successful online direct response business.
(As long as you don’t do something stupid to screw it up!)
And this — today, as I write this — is the dogma of the “Internet Marketing” crowd. Both big companies and little ones alike.
But is it the best we can do?
Is getting that email address the most valuable action we can compel our website visitor to take?
I’d argue not.
And I’d find myself in good company with some of the sharpest direct response marketers on the planet.
Before I reveal what is the most valuable action, a little history lesson in the last 25 years of direct response.
Before the internet came around and was a major force in direct response marketing, there was the mail order world.
Like today’s internet marketers, the mail order world thrived on lists.
But instead of email lists, it was postal addresses.
And instead of essentially being able to reach every name on that list of a minuscule cost, direct marketers had to pay printing and postage each time they wanted to communicate with the folks on their list.
Let’s hold off on value judgments of better or worse for now — but it was certainly more expensive.
Then came internet marketing, and this miracle communication tool called email.
Ken McCarthy famously has called the internet “direct mail on glass.” Or “the world’s largest printing press, hooked up to the world’s fastest and cheapest postal service.” Either one is a pretty good descriptor, as far as direct marketers are concerned.
And so these direct marketers started applying the principles of direct mail to the internet.
They started to build email lists, and send out sales letters either via email or links in emails to sales letters on web pages.
By and large, through the early 2000s (due in no small part to a number of other factors including the Anthrax threat leading to diminished use of direct mail), the direct mail marketers moved almost exclusively online.
What used to be giant direct mail operations were able to simplify and go all-digital.
Marketing, product, and the entire communication experience could be moved online.
This has led to our old inboxes (the one at the curb) going largely empty, and our email inboxes growing unbearably full.
The result of this is that as consumers, we’ve continued to increase our filters. We’ve grown somewhat jaded to marketing presented to us online.
It’s a survival mechanism.
We can’t afford to give conscious consideration to the dozens of banners on every web page. We can’t even be bothered to open the majority of commercial email — and this can often include email newsletters (like this one) that we signed up to.
Sure, we have our favorites that we try to get to every day — and to all my regular readers who my analytics say open up every issue within an hour of getting it, thank you!
However, the online communication space has become one of extreme clutter.
And even getting that email address today — and permission to send emails into the future — is limited in its usefulness.
Because if your average prospect would rather delete a commercial message than read it… If they’d rather ignore online advertising than respond to it…
The permission you just got may be worth squat.
Which leads me to a concept being championed to Brian Kurtz of Boardroom (and Titans of Direct Response!), among others.
It’s what Brian calls O-to-O-to-O…
You can call it online-to-offline-to-online…
Either way will do.
The idea is that direct marketers — as a group — moved largely from offline to online in the last 25 years, to leverage certain advantages (not the least being cost) that the internet offered.
However today many direct marketers are finding the most profitable inbox to mail to is the one they were hitting 25 years ago — that one at the curb.
Your relationship is no longer limited to a single inbox.
Rather, a lead can first be flagged offline — through, for example, magazine ads or postcards. The call to action of that offline ad may send them to a website to download information. But in exchange for that download, you get their mailing address as well, in order to send more information in printed form.
Alternately, you may first attract leads online through AdWords or Facebook advertising. When they hit your site, the offer may be for a free book, that they have to pay to have shipped to them. And when they get that, there’s an additional call to action to send them back to your website to view a content-packed video online, that both delivers on that content and presents your next offer.
Engaging with your prospects through both offline and online media immediately differentiates your business against all-online, all-the-time businesses. Plus it allows you to leverage many of the advantages of the web — while also tapping into the high-value, highly-responsive nature of online marketing (many businesses are finding that offline responders are far more valuable than online-only responders).
It’s certainly the way you’ll see Breakthrough Marketing Secrets going into the future.
And I guess, the recent past. After all, I did get feedback from one of the attendees of my recent workshop, who I had emailed previously, and done some coaching with over the phone. She told me after the workshop that she felt that our relationship was entirely different now, having met in person. Those are extremes on the spectrum, but the lesson is the same.
So, what’s the most valuable thing you can get a website visitor to do?
Simple: give you their postal address, which you can use to send real, physical, tangible offline marketing and content to.
There are a ton of ways to do this. The “free book with shipping” offer I mentioned seems to be doing wonders right now, in just about any industry it’s being tried in. There are many, many more opportunities that extend well beyond that.
The joke about it is that you don’t hear anybody calling themselves a bus bench marketer, do you? Well then why would you similarly limit yourself to a single media by calling yourself an internet marketer?
Within a decade, I promise you we will have seen a transition to this far more sophisticated, multi-medium, O-to-O-to-O approach among all the top marketers. And you will have either ridden the front of the wave, or be struggling to catch up.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets