If you had a one day business trip that included a four hour delay on the way there (for an hour and half flight) and a 6 hour delay coming home (including a re-route and an extra stopover due to a cancelled flight), I’m sure you would ask, “Was that really worth it?”
That’s what happened to me during my round trip to Cleveland from New York City last year.
And I’m here to tell you that this trip was worth it despite the hassles and delays.
That’s because I got to spend the day with Dan Kennedy.
I just got back from Growth Summit last week (formerly GKIC’s Info Summit) to speak about my new book…and the most glaring thing at the conference was that Dan wasn’t there.
As you may or may not know, the most significant marketing mind in our business over the past 50 years, Dan Kennedy, has been ill and had home hospice come in over the summer.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that he kicked hospice out of his house a few weeks ago and is now slowly rehabbing and we are looking for a miraculous comeback.
At Growth Summit, there were tributes to Dan throughout…and before my presentation, I read from “Ruining the stampede” which talked about why this man is so significant to me (and thousands of others). Please read it if you have not read it and have the time.
Today I want to add additional lessons I learned in Cleveland on that visit over a year ago (when I wasn’t in airline delays).
My day with Dan
I understand that Dan can be an acquired taste for some…which is fine with him.
But no one can argue that if you had to pick one person in direct response marketing who more people trace their initial (and ongoing) education in this wonderful business, it’s Dan Kennedy.
The idea that he is “old school” and not up on what is happening in the marketing world today is a story only told by those who have never spent time with him or followed his work.
It’s true that he does not suffer fools gladly and he expects a lot from his clients.
And it’s also true that he doesn’t have a cell phone, he doesn’t do email and the only way to communicate with him is via fax.
Spoon-feeding is not his specialty but he always plays full out when he’s with you and his expensive consulting fees are only costly if you are not listening to what he is telling you.
He sees so many “offline opportunities in an online world” (which was his theme when he presented to Titans Master Class in April of 2018).
However, that doesn’t mean he dismisses the online marketing world either (i.e. don’t think for a minute he’s not on top of what is working right now, whether it’s online or offline).
He simply sees more flaws than most when it comes to advertising on Facebook, for example, (especially if you are too dependent on it or any single medium for that matter…more on that below).
I loved the time we spent, for example, talking about Amazon as a “search engine” where miraculously, people often buy stuff (imagine that) rather than simply look for free stuff (e.g. Google).
And just because you can only communicate with Dan via fax doesn’t mean he exists in any kind of time warp or that his world view and experience should ever be ignored; in fact, I think he is as sharp as ever.
During our day together, we explored dozens of marketing universals–and I want to share a few of those with you today.
Ignore these at your peril—and even if you have heard them before (and hopefully you have and live by many of them too), I will wager that at least one of them will get you thinking a little differently or more deeply about something you are currently working on.
Marketing by walking around
Those of us who run businesses and manage people have probably heard about the benefits of “management by walking around.”
It’s the opposite of sitting in an office all day, ivory tower or not–and it’s about getting out and being with the people who are working with you and for you—which leads to more synchronicity, team building and cooperation.
You just get more done, more efficiently, by communicating regularly (and in person) with your staff.
And the same principle holds true in marketing.
In this case, it’s not your employees who you need to be interacting with and observing constantly…it’s your customers and potential customers.
In Overdeliver, I have an entire chapter discussing “customer service and fulfillment as marketing functions”—and in it, I talk about the things you can only really learn, for example, by assigning “secret shoppers” inside your business, listening in on customer service calls and of course, doing both qualitative and quantitative research.
I shared some of that at Growth Summit as well.
It astounds me how many marketers today talk about how much they know about their audience (their “avatar”) yet they never spend time with them in real life situations.
You will find out more about your customers and potential customers by hanging out where they hang out (which could be online in a chat room or inside Amazon book reviews–or even offline at the local Wal-Mart).
Pro tip: If you can find out (or make intelligent guesses) what they are reading, go to Amazon and read the one star and five star reviews and you will see how they interact and talk to each other…and you will get more than just hints for the copy you should use when you talk to them.
Look for over representation in your audience by occupation, interests and region
One of the key takeaways from “marketing by walking around” is that you inevitably engage in what I call “Intuitive list segmentation”–without a computer or a statistician.
You will observe things, some obvious and some not so obvious, by walking around and interacting with your customers, learning more about what they really want from you and how they want you to communicate with them.
And then you can add on to that knowledge using available outside data, doing overlays of your existing customers, to find out if they over-represent in a particular line of work or reside in particular regions or neighborhoods.
All of this will inevitably lead to future list selections and advertising opportunities no media buyer will ever be able to find for you.
Not to mention ideas for messaging and copy.
Different audience targets demand different promotions
After you spend more time walking around on the outside and also finding out where your audience is showing up in bigger numbers than average, it’s time to cash in on all of this knowledge.
Marketers cannot live by one control alone…and this has never been more apparent today. Online marketing gives you cheaper and more efficient ways to customize your messages than ever before.
Anyone who is practicing “one size fits all creative” to a diverse list universe in any medium is not just lazy…they are also leaving a lot of money on the table.
Not taking advantage of every piece of data you know about the prospects you are talking to—addressing them with as much personalization as possible based on all you know about them—is a marketing crime of the highest order.
I talk about how we did this in direct mail in Overdeliver (“Why paying postage made me a better marketer”)…and multiple controls and multiple copy platforms are a whole lot easier and less expensive to execute with email and other online media.
The power of 5’s and 10’s
Once you have your messaging to specific list segments dialed in, doing as much aggressive price testing is one of the most important things you can do.
Don’t let anyone tell you how overpriced or under priced your product or service is…direct response marketing gives us the ability to never guess and therefore we should always be testing.
And follow the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the thousands of price tests that have come before.
I lived most of my entire marketing life in the world of business-to-consumer marketing where you would never charge $30 when you could charge $29.97.
“Supermarket pricing” almost always trumped “flat pricing.”
In addition, I would always test as many ways as possible to get to that final price, with the biggest breakthroughs coming from using installments.
Probably a “duh” for most of you…but read on.
Different ways to use installment billing
A great example from my past was using 3 installments at $9.99 instead of one payment of $29.97 which almost always increased the response rate and also total revenue.
As part of the brainstorming process, we would always come up with new and creative ways to express the total price in installments.
And now add to this the rule of 5’s and 10’s which Kennedy reminded me of…i.e $4.99 is a better expression than $5 and $9.99 is way better than $10; or $499 is better than $500 and $999 is better than $1,000. I’m sure you also know this already but I just want to make sure.
(But here’s a side note about installment billing you might not know: Don’t be scared—marketers have been doing this forever with lots of data about how many people still pay in full at the outset; and also that over 90% of the people will pay installments two and three once they pay installment one)
In addition, setting up installments that also follow these rules can lead to a total price that is much higher than what you may currently be charging.
For example, something that costs approximately $1000 (where you are probably charging $995 or $999) could be represented as three installments of $499…if you think the product or service is worth a lot more but you need a way to make it easier for the prospect to afford it over time.
This example is only illustrative of the kinds of tests you can brainstorm using the rule of 5’s and 10’s and also adding installment billing to the mix.
And the tests are different for B to B where “flat pricing” can be more effective…a subject for another day.
The most dangerous number in business is “1”
I’ll end with this classic Kennedy…and it’s never been truer than in today’s world of infinite marketing opportunities, so many of which have a very low cost of entry.
Facebook being less expensive than other online media (and probably most offline media) doesn’t mean you should ever use it exclusively.
Or use any other medium exclusively for that matter.
I’ve quoted Bill Bernbach, the great advertising “mad man” many times in the past:
“Adapt your techniques to an idea, not your idea to your techniques.”
Just because a particular audience is big…or cheap…or both…is not the reason to use it.
And of course this Kennedy notion of “1” being the most dangerous number in business goes way beyond “one medium”…you don’t want one of anything in your business.
You want backups and Plan B’s everywhere.
My biggest takeaway from my most recent visit with Dan?
Continue to learn from the best no matter how smart you think you are.
Sitting with Kennedy for a day made me realize how much I don’t know…and also how much I have forgotten.
But it also makes me realize how smart I am for sitting with Kennedy for a day as well.
P.S. I will be speaking this weekend at Genius Network and next weekend at LaunchCon on “creative and copy”–I guess I can’t call myself a “wannabe” anymore!
While I know that there are many others who can talk about copywriting much better than I can, I know I am an avid student and I can share my experiences working with the best writers who have ever lived such as Gene Schwartz and Gary Bencivenga.
And Jim Rutz.
If you haven’t picked up your copy of Read This or Die: The Lost Files of Jim Rutz you can buy it here.
If you don’t know who Jim Rutz is, read this to get a full picture of one of the greatest copyywriters of all time. I think you will enjoy reading about him whether you buy the product or not.