“If you want to dramatically increase your response [to your marketing campaigns], dramatically improve your offer.”
That was just one of the maxims of marketing genius Axel Andersson, a Swedish entrepreneur who ran a hugely successful home-study school in Hamburg, Germany, before coming to live in the U.S. Axel hired one of his successful students and put the student’s office right next to his so he had to walk past his office every day. He did this because he “wanted to actually see one of my customers every day.” He also hired a professor from a local university as a consultant. Axel wrote:
“Before I would test a new ad, I would run it by my former student and also give it to the professor for her reaction. If the student liked it, I would go with it. If the professor liked it, I would change it.”
So often, I hear about new clients taking a marketing campaign from one of our programs, and, instead of just running it, they first give it to their techs or their spouse for an opinion before sending it out. Big mistake. Second to that is giving it to a client for their opinion. Yes, Axel did this, but that was a client-turned-employee who was motivated to find a winning ad and who was selected, trained, and mentored by Axel on direct response advertising, giving him the ability to provide a qualified opinion, which is the point I want to drive home.
Only Trust The Opinion Of People Who Are Qualified To Give It
If you wouldn’t pay an individual for their advice and if they are not a seasoned, qualified professional in marketing, advertising, and sales advice, then why would you care what they think about a campaign?
Keep in mind that you, your techs, and your spouse are not your customer. You have an entirely different understanding of what you sell and a biased appreciation for it. You have different motives for investing in technology than your average customer. If you write ads that appeal to you, that your techs like, and that your spouse thinks are “nice,” it’s very likely they will miss the mark with your prospects.
Another key point in deciding what good marketing is to test it.
True marketing pros never guess; we test. We might spend weeks developing a campaign, an offer, or a message. We might run it by our seasoned marketing colleagues. But ultimately, we know the only way to truly know if a marketing campaign, copy, and offer will work is to roll them out to a bunch of prospects — not focus groups or current clients — and see if they’ll buy.
Human beings are largely unable to accurately see their real motives and habits. When snack companies run polls and ask their customers what type of chips they want, they will repeatedly say they want less greasy, less salty chips. But in a blind taste test, the greasiest, saltiest chips win over and over again. That’s the danger of focus groups: They only tell you what people want to believe about themselves, not what they actually believe.
I’m occasionally confronted by a new client who adamantly believes the marketing I’m practicing “won’t work.” They’ll tell me it’s too hokey, too old-fashioned, and that “nobody would read all of that copy.” They say the graphics are all wrong. I will then gently point out that the same marketing got them to buy, as well as over 10,000 other CEOs of IT services firms. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Back to Axel: He was the one who persuaded Denny Hatch, author of “Million Dollar Mailings,” to give awards each year for “grand control” marketing campaigns — specifically, campaigns that consistently produced the highest and best cost per inquiry, cost per order, and cost per sale over a long period of time (years), which is how the “Axel Andersson Award” came into being and, consequently, the book. One comment worth noting by Denny:
“[T]he only judge in the Axel Andersson Award mailing is the marketplace. Many of these mailings are not pretty. If entered in an awards contest, one or two of them might send the judges running from the room clutching their throats and gagging. But they have PROVED themselves successful for years. They are responsible for millions of customers and tens of millions of dollars in revenue.”
This is why so many marketing firms and so-called marketing pros miss. Their need for the ad, the letter, the email, or the campaign to look good trumps the need to get a response. One of my first consulting gigs was with an IT services company that wanted to launch managed services 12 years ago, back before it was commonplace. I created an entire online and offline campaign that secured their annual sales goal in three months. However, the owner’s son, who was being groomed to take over the business, could not stand the campaign and promptly fired me to invest the money into PR. His decision was driven by the emotional need to see his company featured in the news over what was actually getting the job done and achieving actual results. Don’t be that fool.