A Few Christmas Thoughts On Marketing

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Would you trust a Christian?

How about a Puritan?

A Quaker then?

On cold winter mornings before I head out, I love a bowl of hot steaming porridge oats, with a dash of maple syrup.

With this in my belly, I am ready for anything the day may throw at me…well, at least until the mid-morning coffee break.

Look at the image of the Quaker man on the box. He’s adorable, trustworthy, decent, a law-abiding citizen. His smile is certainly reassuring. Admiring his rosy cheeks? Well, he could be Santa Claus.

His face says it all. Buy my products and you’ll feel as good as I look!

a pic of quaker%20oats%20man

I was in my local supermarket recently, when my keen eye spotted a bargain. I saw an offer on the shelves that was just too good to miss. A double-size box of my favourite porridge oats, with twice the usual contents, for a knock-down, give-away price of 30% below normal cost. My hand flashed out quicker than lightning. The big box was in my cart. The next day, ready for breakfast, I broke into my double-sized box of….what? I was shocked, then embarrassed at being so gullible. I trusted the Quaker man to deliver on his promise. What I got was, yes, a double-sized box, but inside it was 60% air! The actual contents came up to the level (take a look at the first picture) of the top of the wooden post.

As we head towards to the Christmas season when billions of dollars change hands, maybe we should all take a step back and reflect upon the potential of marketing and its ability to persuade us to buy products that patently don’t live up to the advertising.

Just for the sheer sake of it, I did a trawl through Bible Gateway to check if the following words and phrases ever appeared in the Bible.

Marketing, Selling, Sales Strategy, Search Engine,

Keywords, Customer Centric, Optimization.

You guessed it. None of them have a place in the Good Book. As writers, of course, we need marketing to get our message out there and reach communities, whether they be local or global. But we need to be discerning and careful to avoid the trap of believing and buying into the same secular trickery that sells anything to everyone. We should not be inveigled by the World, the Flesh and the Devil. Not be seduced to sell our sacred message by secular means.

I have often pondered this: What would I say, if God said these words to me?

”Fred, your book is great, but it will only sell one copy. The person who reads it will be changed and will become my servant and take the Gospel to millions of people all around the world, and all because he read your book. Alternatively, I can have your book sell millions of copies, you will be rich beyond your dreams, but only a few will be saved. My son, it’s your free choice.”

What do we ultimately want from writing books? Fame and fortune? Or to be walking in God’s will?

Of course, the Lord has a strategy to communicate his message to the world. Undeniably, he uses the power of the Word to get the message across to the greatest number in the most effective way. And he uses great orators to reach the lost, but persuasion is not their business. Their business is communicating the truth about the Son. The way God markets his message turns human wisdom and cleverness on its head.

When God wanted to free the Israelites from Pharaoh’s tyranny he sent a guilt-ridden, reticent, stuttering, fearful man called Moses to get the job done.

When God wanted to proclaim the coming of Jesus Christ he used an eccentric wild man, dressed in animal skins, eating locusts and honey in the desert.

When God wanted to save the world, he sent his all-powerful and eternal Son to be born naked in a stable for animals. As a human child he was vulnerable, weak, dependent and unable to live without his mother and father’s protection and care.

When God wanted to reconcile us to him, he allowed his Son be crucified, killed on a cross of wood, dying as a common criminal rejected and alone.

I wonder what the top marketing gurus and the best advertising companies would have come up with, if God had asked them to create a package to ‘sell salvation to sinners?’

They might have come up with a great sales strategy and a winning message to achieve customer optimization, perhaps throwing in an unforgettable slogan, an amusing jingle too… yet somehow, like the Quaker box of porridge oats I bought, I think it would fallen short, been so much air and less substance. I think their sales plan would have missed the target, somehow betrayed the truth, don’t you?

Direct Mail – Cool As Ever

Have you ever sent a letter to prospective customers asking them to buy one of your books? If so, you have participated in direct mail marketing — one of the most efficient and effective selling techniques. If you think it’s too old school for you, then consider this: 55% of Americans read the news, 95% have telephones, 98% have television sets. However, 100% of Americans have a mailbox. Therefore, it is your only 100% opportunity to hone in on your targeted audience.

There are four components to a successful direct mail campaign: the Creative, the List, the Offer and the Results.

1) Creative: Of course you want your direct mail piece to be eye-catching and informative. How you present your offer to your list has to be done professionally so that all of the emotional hot buttons are triggered while also maintaining interest and going for the sale. Some of the best copywriters are paid thousands of dollars to write a single sales pitch letter, simply because the creative aspect of your campaign is that important. If your budget allows it, consider using variable data printing, which personalizes each letter to its recipient using demographics such as male/female, geographic region, etc. Even just a first name is effective in grabbing attention.

2) List:  Although your current customer base is incredibly valuable, it will be necessary to continuously seek out new customers as well. Your current customers will only buy so much. Aside from that, you will lose customers every year for various reasons. A good way to replace your eroding customers is by acquiring targeted mailing lists. It’s great to have a fantastic book but unless you can get it in front of the correct audience, it’s all for naught. The best list for you may be expensive, and you can expect to pay per name. The more targeted the list of prospects, the better. If you are selling a book on, say, surfing, you want to find a list of people who surf AND who buy books on surfing. If you get a list that is cheap or free, that doesn’t mean it’s a good one. In fact, you want to be absolutely sure you have a solid list before you start sending out direct mail offers and accruing postage fees. Acxiom® and Dun & Bradstreet® are examples of companies that sell lists. You can also work with a direct mail advertising company who can walk you through the entire campaign, such as Modern Postcard.

3) Offer: What you offer in the direct mail campaign needs to be exclusive to the group, while also being priced to make a profit for you. Make an offer that will get the recipient to act quickly, such as directing them to your website to see a sample chapter, free gift or autographed copy if they respond by a certain date. The options are unlimited, so you can test lots of different ideas to see which offers produce the best outcomes.

  • Keep the offer simple: One or two QUICK benefits: “Save time and money with our services!” or “Stay warm this winter!”
  • Give a reason to continue reading: “See the other side for big savings!”
  • Make a big promise and be sure you can fulfill it: “Order now and enjoy a full head of hair in three weeks!”
  • Include an expiration date… create a sense of urgency or exclusivity. The most compelling direct mail pieces have a call to action.

4) Results: A direct mail campaign which produces more than a 2% response is considered successful. Lower than a 1% response is typical. You then need to take into account the conversion rate (the conversion of responses into sales), assuming the campaign is designed to produce responses or inquiries and not just actual sales.

Do not engage in a 100,000-piece nationwide mailing your first time out of the gate. Try 500 or so at first and see how it goes. This way you can tweak the results, eliminate certain demographics and introduce others. Think of this kind of marketing as a long play that takes some honing. Aside from sales, some additional metrics to consider are the number of orders, how many offers were redeemed, how many responses by phone / email you received and the estimated future value of your new customers. Track your responses carefully. Enter them into a CRM system like ACT!®, Goldmine®, Salesforce®, etc., put them into an Excel® spreadsheet, put them in a box or record them in a notebook. Track them and make sure they are updated regularly, if possible.  A mail house can assist you by checking your list against their national change of address software, and provide you with any move updates so you can follow your customer base.

Not all books can be sold successfully through direct mail. The topic must be of interest to the targeted audience and the price must be sufficiently low to encourage people to respond with an order. Tell them why the information in your book will be of interest to them. In closing, you might find it interesting to know that direct mail came back in a big way in 2011, increasing by $10 Billion and gaining another 5% in terms of total ad spend share. Each dollar spent on direct marketing yields, on average, a return on investment of $12.05. By comparison, each dollar spent on non-direct mail advertising yields an ROI of $5.29. (Source: DMA ‘s Power of Direct Marketing; 2011 Edition).