Julie Guest Direct Response Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, Best Selling Author

direct response marketing

The Marketing Secret Of How To Sell A $19 Shirt for $89

Picture this. You’re thumbing through the pages of a slim, elegant, catalog that arrived via mail earlier in the day.

The pages feel crisp to the touch, and you notice how vibrant the illustrations are. Captivating even. You glance over and something catches your eye.

A European-styled, heirloom leather satchel. Its mellow leather beckons to you. Brass fittings glinting in the sun harkening back to a by-gone era. It’s the kind of satchel that would have been casually tossed into the back of your father’s 1932 Auburn V-12 Boattail Speedster; perhaps an unread Hemingway novel inside.

“Hmmm, possibly…” you murmur quietly to yourself.

You thumb slowly to the next page.

Your eyes transfix upon a gently sketched blue shirt, its sleeves half rolled up, the hemline gently blowing in the cool spring air.

You read the description:

A Montana Shirt

He rode to Great Falls in the autumn of 1880, another rich kid from the big city. The locals harrumphed, “Montana ain’t St Louis. Once the shine wears off, he’ll be gone quick as a duck on a Junebug.”

The “shine” wore off.

He stayed.

He tried raising sheep; lost every sheep in the herd. Tried hunting; similar success. He lived a while with the Blood Indians. Taught himself how to paint.

He didn’t wrestle with the existential questions; didn’t know there were any. He painted what was around him. Grizzlies, buffalo, rustlers. life.

In his own words: “I am an illustrator. There are lots better ones, but some worse. Any man that can make a living doing what he likes is lucky, and I am that.”

Men like him don’t travel in herds. You find them one at a time.

A Montana Shirt (No. 3682). “I made it with yarn dyed pure linen, and upon close observation, a very small checked pattern, because it was a feeling I had. Buttons are Trocas shell. Flat felled seams. Two-button adjustable mitered cuffs with top stitching. Shirttail hem with gussets at side.“

Men’s sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL Colors: Open Range Blue Price $89

And that, Dear Reader, is how you sell a shirt that would ordinarily sell for a mere fraction of the price, at top dollar. Sight unseen. Gladly paid.

The strength of your sales copy is everything.

What an African Lion & Restoration Hardware Can Teach You About How NOT To Run Your Business

A couple weeks ago I ordered a new desk chair from a Restoration Hardware catalog. Here’s the sales copy that sold me:

1950s French Metal Wire 26" - 32" Stool

Dating to the mid-20th-century, our French metal chair hails from the offices of a Paris museum – a work of modern art in its own right. With a nod to iconic design forms, it has a scooped seat and curved back made from heavy gauge wire grids padded with optional leather-clad cushions, sold separately. Adjustable seat height and lumbar support adapt to each individual. Six ball casters make it as agile as it is comfortable.

Sounds pretty cool right? I thought so – so much so that I even ordered the 1940s French Factory Work Table (writing desk) to go with it. And that’s when the problems started.

Now I happen to love Restoration Hardware – I think the quality of its furniture and sense of design is pretty hard to beat. But its customer experience sure leaves a LOT to be desired.

Here’s what happened next. After placing my order I received a cryptic response email that made me have to pick up the phone and speak to a warm body to make sure my order went through. It apparently had but, unfortunately, both the chair and the leather cushion I had ordered were no longer available (even though their website said they were).

I then got passed around like a hot potato from one rep to the next.

After 45 minutes on the phone I was ready to abandon ship, cancel my order and forget I ever laid eyes on the furniture. I was not a happy camper. However at the last minute my order went through and I was relieved to have survived the ordering ordeal.

That was until the scheduled delivery time for my order. Neither my desk nor my chair showed up. Exasperated I called back. “Sorry but those items should have been delivered. We have a record of them leaving our warehouse.” Well, fat lot of good that does me. Some truck driver somewhere is writing his award winning screen play, likely with his muffin top spilling over his tight blue jeans, plonked on my wire chair.

I was told, “Sorry Ma’am we don’t have any more in stock. They’re on back order and should arrive in about sixty to ninety days.” Sixty to ninety days? Really? I’m guessing someone had to walk back to China or India or wherever the chairs are made for that kind of delay.

I received barely an apology and no offer of free anything – no “Here’s a gift certificate for your troubles,” or “We’ll refund your shipping fee.” None of that.

Now one thing you need to know about Restoration Hardware is how it positions itself in the marketplace.

Here’s the sales copy taken straight from the website: “We operate as a curator of the finest historical design the world has to offer. Our collections of timeless, updated classics and reproductions are presented consistently across our sales channels in sophisticated and unique lifestyle settings that we believe are on par with world-class interior designers.”

It’s no doubt a luxury brand but frankly I’ve had better customer service from a grumpy pre-menopausal counter clerk at the Post Office.

Restoration Hardware has great marketing, and uses powerfully persuasive copywriting coupled with gorgeous imagery. It offers top quality products.

But that’s about where the wheels start coming off. It couldn’t have made it more difficult for me to give them my money. And their customer service stinks.

This business reminds me precisely of the “Situational Awareness” photo from my cousin.

It’s so eager to find the next big opportunity in its business, it has lost sight of the thing that could take the company down: lousy customer experience.

Restoration Hardware isn’t the only business that does this. Most do to varying degrees.

The lesson is this: always looking for bigger, better opportunities to grow your business is great, but never lose sight of what made your business great in the first place.

Are You Using Emotionally Charged Marketing to Get More Clients? A Case Study About Chinese Women and Their Body Hair Issues

The other day I was reading through one of the business magazines I subscribe to. It was an early Sunday morning and, with a cup of coffee in hand, I was just casually thumbing through the pages. At the bottom of the page my eye caught a little article about Chinese women and their “body hair issues.” Intrigued, I read on. Turns out Chinese women don’t have body hair issues; at least they didn’t until the company behind Veet hair removal cream decided to launch their product in China in 2005. Unfortunately for the company, sales were sluggish. The product was considered too pricey and the product size too big. The biggest problem though? Most Chinese women have very little body hair and those who do didn’t worry about it.

So the company changed its marketing strategy. It started rolling out ads equating hair-free skin with beauty, health, confidence and “shining glory.” In the process the company has made every Chinese woman more conscious of every stray follicle.

By “educating” its customers and encouraging “fuzz phobia,” Veet is now the fastest growing brand in China for its parent company Reckitt Benckiser. Hair remover sales in Asia are rising 20% annually, almost double the rate of women’s razor blades.

This marketing strategy of getting women to focus on their perceived flaws is not a new one. Actually it’s about as old as the hills, but here’s the reason it’s so effective (not just on women – but on everyone).

We all base our buying decisions on how an ad, promotion or product makes us feel. Not on what it will do for us.

As human beings we are all hard wired to want the same things. We can’t help it – it’s in our DNA. We want things like better health, more money, great popularity, improved appearance, praise from others, more comfort, more leisure time, a happy life. If your marketing can whip people into a lather by appealing to one of these deep desires – you’ve got gold.

It makes no logical sense for Chinese women (who are possibly the least follicly challenged among us), to become the fastest growing users of hair removal cream. Chinese women are not buying based on whether this makes logical sense. They’re buying because of their desire for an improved appearance and happy life. They want to feel beautiful by buying the product.

This isn’t just a woman thing either.

Men buy the same way. Think about your neighbor down the street who goes out and buys himself a new Chevy Silverado truck, fully loaded. He tells himself that it’s because the truck has extremely good towing capacity and a long truck bed and it will be a safe ride for the family. But his real decision to buy is an emotional one – he loves the way this big new truck makes him feel. Tough. Strong. Powerful. He likes getting the approval of his friends and neighbors who nod admiringly as he drives past. He loves the excitement on his kids’ faces as they climb into the cab and ogle at all the shiny new buttons and heated leather seats.

The take-away for your business is this: To really create powerful marketing, you need to supercharge your sales copy with emotion – not logic. At the end of the day, as human beings, we all want the same things: To feel good about ourselves and to be happy.

So if people aren’t getting excited about buying your product or service, it’s likely not because of anything other than that you’re marketing to them the wrong way. Emotionally charged marketing is the fastest way to “manifest” desire. That’s the real trigger that gets people to buy.

As Mark Twain said, “There’s two reasons a man buys anything. The reason he’ll give you… and the real reason.”

The 5 Biggest Copywriting Mistakes (And How To Fix ‘Em’)

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.”-Philip Dusenberry

There are a lot of definitions about what copywriting is and isn’t. Salesmanship in print. Writing to sell. Salesmanship multiplied. Or my personal favorite, persuasion writing.

Advertising would well and truly be extinct if each of us could talk to our prospects face-to-face. But as we can’t, our advertisements have to do the job and get the word out for us.

That’s why good copywriting is the oxygen of your business. Get it right, and the sky‘s the limit. But get it wrong, and your business is banished to the ranks of the mediocre, the forgotten, and the ignored.

Here are the 5 biggest copywriting mistakes, and how to fix them:

1. “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” Howard Gossage

One of the worst things you can do is write copy that’s boring to read. If an honest reading of your website or new client brochure makes your eyeballs dry up, or triggers an urgent need to go to the bathroom – then just image how your poor prospect must feel. Remember, you can only interest a person into buying your product, you can’t bore them.

2. Build the relationship first, ask for the sale second. As a direct response copywriter, I see many examples of bad marketing that rush the entire sales process. In this new economy, all buying power has returned to the consumer. And they know it. You can’t just expect to trundle out a cart full of your wares and have people flocking to buy them. That may have been how it worked in the boom days of the early 2000s, but certainly not today. Today, marketing is all about building relationships first. Your copy has to carefully do the same, not rush straight to the close.

3. Don’t ever try and make your copy apply to everyone. You have to niche your message along with your market. One of the biggest mistakes I see is using ad copy that is worded so generically, it doesn’t apply to anyone in particular at all. This is very bad. At first blush you might think the more people you can fit into your marketing message, the better. Wrong. Quite the opposite. The more you tightly target your marketing message to resonate with a niche, the higher the response rate. This goes back to the first point. People will only read what interests them. If you’re a retired dentist with $2 million in investable assets, 3 grandchildren and a condo in Florida, you’re far more likely to read ad copy that specifically “talks to you.”

4. Make your advertising valuable. Few people understand this extremely important point, which is why most advertising falls on deaf ears. Nothing screams out “I want to sell you sell you something” more than an advertisement that looks and sounds like an advert. That’s why writing copy that sounds like an editorial piece, using white papers, or creating a helpful animated video will typically attract a much higher level of viewership.

5. Incorporate unquestionable copy into your proof. Most copy is seriously devoid of all proof but full of empty, hollow sounding promises like “we’re the leading experts” or “your trusted provider”, etc. We’re so used to reading these claims they wash over us like tiny ocean ripples swirling around our ankles. Unnoticed. One of the strongest elements of proof is, of course, proof in your product itself. A bold guarantee to back up your promises. Legions of testimonials to say what you can’t say yourself. A product demonstration even. Proof is usually the most often overlooked aspect of any copy. If you can find a way to add it in a compelling way, it can transform even the most meager of ads into the mighty.

How To (And Why You Should) Use Toilet Paper In Your Direct Response Marketing

Many small businesses in America right now are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Not because they don’t have great products or services to sell (most do). But because they don’t have the slightest clue how to market themselves.

I hear from people all the time that “there’s no money” in their industry. I ask them just one simple question: “is there anyone in your industry making a LOT of money right now?" (The answer’s always yes).

So my reply is “Well, it's not your industry that’s the problem…  it's your marketing. And frankly that problem is going to follow you around no matter what industry you work in.”

Ouch.

Harsh but oh-so-true.

Ever hear that old saying “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door?”

Total garbage.

That statement was most likely made by a someone very well versed in marketing theory but with not a scrap of experience working in the trenches, never having owned a successful business in their life.

Here’s the REAL truth.

It's not the best product that wins. It’s the best marketing. And the best kind of marketing is direct response marketing.

The problem is that very, very few people know what real marketing is. I’m talking about marketing that actually works, not what should work. Real marketing based on proven “in the trenches” scientific testing, successfully used in the top 5% of small businesses in America right now.

It's time for you to get in on the action.

So I’m going to share with you two of my secret marketing strategies that are dead simple to implement and you can get started on today.

Direct Response Marketing Strategy #1 – Forget doing any more brand advertising. You've likely heard me beat this drum before but it bears repeating again. And again. Because it runs completely contradictory to what everyone else does (and tells you to do). It’s a giant waste of money, you don’t know if it's even working, it takes a MEGA multi-million dollar budget to make any kind of splash in a market, and it will grow your business at snail’s pace, (if it doesn’t bankrupt you first). Instead, embrace direct response marketing like the life raft it is on the titantic. Direct response marketing rocks. It is supremely powerful. It's changed my life and it will change yours.

And that brings me squarely to tactic numero dos...

Direct Response Marketing Strategy #2 – Start learning how to do REAL marketing to your prospects (REAL stands for Rewarding, Easy, Authentic and Loved). This is the kind of marketing that people actually look forward to receiving. Tell me, when was the last time a direct mail piece of yours was eagerly ripped open?

BUT. This means you have to have the backbone to swim against the current. It means doing things that other people might think is crazy, out of the box, even outrageous. Not long ago I created a multi media marketing sequence for a law firm that included a toy car, a roll of toilet paper and a video of a Scottish guy singing while wearing a wooly hat and a pair of boxer shorts.

One of the partners outright refused to send it.

Fortunately the other partner had a lot more sense and sent it anyway.

And....

The campaign is pulling like gangbusters.

It’s their single most successful ad campaign they’ve ever run. It’s got people talking, laughing, and most importantly calling to make appointments.

(Side note: When was the last time you ever heard the words "laughter" and "law firm marketing" in the same sentence?)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get REAL with your marketing.

Your business depends on it.

PS The original unhappy partner of the law firm is now one of my biggest fans. I've even got him reading David Ogilvy and Dan Kennedy and learning all about direct response marketing.

The 5 Helpful Marketing Tips to Write Better Ad Copy

Tucker the American Bulldog (my other partner in crime) has been hurling his guts out for the last couple of days.  Must have eaten something iffy.  So I have to make this week’s article short – I’ve got one eye on him now to make sure he doesn’t chuck up on Bella, (my favorite bean bag) while I’m talking to you. Short n’ Sweet, here it is: 5 Copywriting Tips to Write Better Sales Copy.

  1. Fall in love with your product or service.  If you don’t love it, you can’t sell it.  Ask my Mom about that one (she refuses to work with any client who doesn’t wholeheartedly believe in what they’re selling).
  2. Know your target market.  Study ‘em, sniff ‘em, scout ‘em out.  If you don’t really understand them you can’t sell to them
  3. Don’t ever be boring.  If your first paragraph doesn’t get you all hot and heavy and lathered up into a frenzy, then don’t expect your prospects to feel any differently.
  4. Don’t try and impress with big fancy words. Using big words don’t make you look like a Top Dawg, they make you look like a douche.  Talk so people can understand you.
  5. Be very clear what action you want someone to take.  Should they go fetch a stick?  Bark at the neighbor’s dog next door?  You decide what that is, but whatever it is, spell-it-out.  People aren’t as smart as you think.

That’s it from me!  Adios-ruff!

Bear

What To Do When People Aren’t Buying

The huge sea change of marketing a business is well and truly upon us.  What used to make people buy in a frenzy, today has people yawning, reaching for the delete button, “unfriending,” and changing channels. Simply put, people aren’t buying the same way they used to.  I’ve noticed a big difference in even the last few years, which is just another reason it’s essential you stay on top of your marketing with fresh ad copy, fresh offers, fresh content.  There’s no such thing as set and forget!

Today’s emerging new economy consumer is far pickier, far more suspicious and far more nervous to part with their hard earned cash. Understandably so.  We’re in the trust damaged and post recession world.

If you’re struggling with getting more clients, then here are 5 valuable marketing tips to help you get things cranking again.

  1. Is your message getting lost in translation?  You might be surprised to discover that a large number of your prospects are simply not buying from you because they don’t fully understand what you do or, most importantly, how it benefits them.  A rewrite of your value proposition and companies core messaging (to answer questions like “Why should I do business with you versus any and every other business out there?”) – will do wonders for your business.  Clarity is everything.  But a clear message worded in such a way that deeply resonates with your target market is magnetic.  If your business hasn’t got your messaging perfected then it doesn’t matter what media you use and what market you choose – people aren’t going to buy like they should.
  2.  Are you following up?  C’mon now, really? Out of all the hundreds of companies I’ve written copy for, coached or consulted with, I can count on four fingers the number of businesses that had a robust follow up process for those people who said no.  Remember that old adage that people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care?  Couldn’t be more true in the new economy.  The more steps, and the more media your follow up encompasses, the more effective it’ll be.
  3. Make ‘em an offer they can’t refuse.  Most times people decide NOT to buy not because something is too expensive, but because they’re scared they’ll be stuck with a lemon. One of the secrets to getting people to buy is to make it easier for them to say yes than no.
  4. Hold a focus group of your top clients and find out if what you think is important to them really still is.  Get your finger on the pulse of the people you’re marketing to.  Dive into the trenches with them.  Go hang out at their offices for a day.  Read what they read.  Join the groups they join.When writing copy or marketing a business, I spend at least 50% of my time digging around the target market, researching it in depth and getting my thinking in line with theirs.
  5. Write a great sales letter.  If people aren’t buying, maybe it’s because your sales pitch hasn’t hit the right note, or maybe your message isn’t reaching enough people.  The great, late copywriter Gary Halbert said that there’s no problem that can’t be fixed by a great sales letter.  It’s very true.  A well-written sales letter has been the tipping point for many businesses (just ask the Wall St Journal who used the same sales letter for 28 years and earned more than a billion dollars with it).

The bottom line is ­– if your prospects aren’t buying, it’s your marketing that needs work.  Sometimes just a fine tune is all that’s needed.  Other times it’s a complete overhaul.  Remember – your prospects are going to buy from someone so make sure it’s you!

Direct Response Success!

Today’s Direct Response Copywriting Tip comes to you from under the desk (not the couch).  This is where my writing inspiration runs the highest (plus I get first option on any lunch scraps that happen to fall from the heavens). Today I want to tell you a short story that illustrates the importance of testing and tweaking in your marketing.

My Mom has been working with one of our private clients over the last 5 months developing a brand new niche for them (they’re pediatricians looking to move into the branded health food supplement market).

We developed a great little marketing system for them that included this very cool sales letter wrapped inside a miniature plastic trash can (my suggestion for the record, was to wrap the letter inside a rawhide bag but  that didn’t fly).

Anyhow, this one little sales letter was pulling about a 4% response rate (not too shabby when the industry average for direct mail is less than 0.5%.

But here’s the kicker.

By tweaking just one tiny thing in our letter (and I mean tiny) we got an additional 2% in response rate.  Two percent!!!

That’s like a lifetime supply of Milk Bones!

When you hear what we tweaked you’ll be stunned.

It really was tiny.

Ready to hear what it was?

On the outside of the envelope (remember this was a bulky mail item with the little trashcan inside), we used a big red stamp that had just 4 words written on it – FOR YOUR EYES ONLY!

Amazing, huh?

So there are the big lessons in all this for you:

1)    Always track your marketing so you know what’s working and what isn’t

2)    Always be testing to try and improve your marketing results

3)    When it comes to writing copy, little things really can make a BIG difference

4)    You humans are a weird unpredictable bunch – who would have known that one silly red stamp would get so many more of you to raise your hands!  No wonder copywriting can be so complex!

The BIGGEST Pulling Sales Letter Of All Time

This sales letter, written by one of the greatest yet least known copywriters of all time (Martin Conroy), was first launched for the Wall Street Journal in 1974. It's known in insider expert copywriter circles as the "Two Young Men" letter and still today is the single largest pulling sales letter of all time (it's raked in more than 1 billion in subscription revenues for the WSJ).

This sales letter has been successfully used as WSJ's control piece for the last 18 years, combining a compelling offer, a reverse risk guarantee,  and very well crafted sales copy that tells a story.  This sales letter can be mailed just about anytime to a qualified list and it's a sure winner to pull in response profitably year after year.