Improve Your Response Newsletter
Issue # 54: March 2008 Edition
1. 10 Sins of Travel Writing
2. People Don't Like Marketing
3. Two Love Letters
4. Vouching for Vouchers
5. Andi Emerson
6. Peephole Marketing
7. Response is a by-Product
I just came back from the Educational Travel Conference In Baltimore, which was one of the most stimulating that I've attended in years.
Hundreds of companies participated, that sell tours to every place you could possibly imagine - from Antarctica to Botswana to Tibet.
And I thought - what an amazing world we live in.
In 24 hours or less, you can leave your modern office building and be in a hut or canoe just about anyplace on the globe.
I did a couple of presentations, participated in a panel, and came back with some information I'd like to share with you.
All the best, Alan
10 Sins of Travel Writing
During the panel, while other participants waxed eloquently about "the poetry of travel writing," I took a different tack and talked about all the mistakes you can make.
After my talk, Tom Swick, Travel Editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel came up to me and said, "I want to tell you how much I appreciate your comments. I believe the best travel writing is like your idea of the best marketing: personal, original, and focused on people.
Tom gave me his "10 Sins of Travel Writing" which I am happy to share with you. I think they are brilliant - and most of them apply to all forms of direct marketing writing.
1. All travel stories sound the same.
To stand out, your story must have a personal voice and a point of view. Remember that almost any place you write about has been written about before; your challenge is to find something new to say about it, preferably in an original way. And, since every person is unique, the best way to do this is to examine your own individual reactions to a place.
Keep in mind, however, that your presence in a travel story should tell the reader more about the place than it does about you.
2. They are riddled with clichés.
Avoid the "land of contrasts" school of travel writing - "best-kept secrets" that are "pulsing with life." Again, find a more creative way of saying things.
3. They tell instead of show.
Don't tell readers the people are friendly; show them this through an anecdote. Likewise, don't say that a city (harbor, landscape) is beautiful; describe it in such a way - with well-observed details - that readers see that it is.
4. They try to cover too much.
Don't try to squeeze every aspect of a city or a country into your story. Often a well-chosen, and well- described, vignette conveys a better feel for a place than a broad overview.
5. They gush.
Bad writers pick up on all the predictable things and, in hopes of elevating them to a grander status, write noisily about them. Good writers notice the unexpected things and present them calmly, without fuss.
6. They ignore the people.
Museums and landmarks tell you about the past; people tell you what's happening now. They also allow you to introduce dialogue (conversation, not quotes) into your story. And, if you're lucky, they give you an emotional connection. A human element, Paul Theroux once wrote, is "the essence of good travel writing."
7. They are humorless.
Travel - the displacement from the familiar to the foreign - is rich in comedy, but rarely do I get a story that makes me laugh. The best humor not only amuses, it reveals something important about the place.
8. They lack continuity.
A good travel story is more than just a collection of random impressions; it has a definite theme. Decide at the beginning what point you want to get across about the place and then work your impressions around it.
9. They are superficial.
Most travel stories just scratch the surface. Now that almost every place on earth has been photographed, the best travel writing is going beyond the descriptive into the analytical.
10. They fail to inspire.
So few travel stories convey any sense of the beauty of travel. They are dry compilations of information relieved, so their authors think, by "cute" leads of unbearable triteness. Yet a travel story, in the right hands, can have the narrative flow of a short story, the substance of a history lesson, the discursiveness of an essay, and the elegance of poetry.
Tom is the author of "A Way to See the World: From Texas to Transylvania with a Maverick Traveler" which I just ordered at Amazon.com.
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People Don't Like Marketing
And they used to love us...
According to the Direct Marketing Association, people receive over 5,000 marketing messages a day. They appear in their mailbox, inbox, TV, cell phones, movie theatres, radios, public bathrooms, airports - the list goes on and on.
It's like Visa; except it's everywhere you don't want it to be.
This dislike of marketing is relatively new, but it has spawned new products and even new technologies such as TIVO, Satellite Radio, spam filters, and more. That will only increase in the future.
Before I talk about what you can do about it, let me share a letter that I came across recently. I can't vouch for it's authenticity, but it rings true to me.
The letter was from an 86-year old woman to her local bank manager:
I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month.
By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.
I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years.
You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.
I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, --- when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity, which your bank has become.
From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.
Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contract, which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.
I will issue your employee with a PIN number, which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:
IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH
#1. To make an appointment to see me
#2. To query a missing payment.
#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
#4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping
#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.
#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.
#10. This is a second reminder to press* for English. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?
Your Humble Client
What can you do to make people not resent your marketing?
There's really only one answer, and that's to add value to every communication.
* Give them information they can use.
* Treat them with intelligence and respect.
* Show them you value their time as much as they do.
* Focus on them, and not on you.
I gave what I thought was a good example of that last point at a recent speech, which I'll describe below:
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Two Love Letters
At the Educational Travel Conference, a woman asked me to give an example of focusing on the person - and not the product. Here was my answer:
If I sent you a love letter, it could sound something like this:
"My heart soars whenever I think about you. I have never felt such love for any other woman. I walk around with a constant smile on my face just thinking of you."
You might be moved - but what if I sent you a different love letter that sounded more like this?
"You are the most amazing person I have ever met. Your smile is so beautiful. You make everyone around you feel glad to be alive..."
I think it might have a stronger impact on you. Because the first love letter is all about me, and my feelings.
The second letter is all about you.
And as I've said before, one of the great secrets of advertising and direct marketing is to focus on the person - not the product.
Side note: I thought it was a good demonstration of the principle, but my wife was sitting in the audience!
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Vouching for Vouchers
You've seen them used for virtually every publication. Including The Wall Street Journal.
You may have started seeing them for other kinds of industries - such as associations, credit cards, even in business-to-business.
Vouchers are simple one-page lists of the benefits associated with a specific product or service. For example, I just received one from Inc. magazine, which simply lists everything you get with your subscription.
FULL YEAR OF INC
THE INC 500 ISSUE
ENTREPRENUERS WE LOVE
100% MONEYBCK GUARANTEE
Why are they being used so often? They are low cost and they work.
A recent study by the Ballantine Corporation indicated that we are going to start seeing even more voucher packages in 2008.
If you haven't tested one for your company - it's absolutely worth a shot. And if you'd like our help, please contact me at ARosenspan@aol.com.
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Andi Emerson passed away on Wednesday February 13th at the age of 82. The founder and mainstay of the Caples Awards, Andi was beloved by all who knew her, including me.
"Andi Emerson has done more to raise the level of creativity in direct response advertising - on a global level - than anyone else in the direct marketing field," wrote Sid Liebenson, of Draft, in a DMA Hall of Fame nomination he submitted a few years ago.
"Thousands of working creatives in all parts of the globe take inspiration from the Caples Winners. What's more, she's traveled the world, presenting speeches and seminars on direct response creativity as illustrated by Caples Award winning entries."
Andi was a woman who was far ahead of her time, fiercely independent, and a groundbreaking industry leader. To read her remarkable life story, please go to Direct magazine at http://directmag.com/news/andi_emerson_0214
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My speech, "Creativity for the Rest of the Rest of Us", was ranked the #1 presentation at the DMA Annual Conference last November.
Because of this - I have been invited to do it again at the next DMA conference in Las Vegas. And that's where I need your help:
If you have any examples of really creative marketing - I would love to see them or hear about them. And if they are yours, I will be happy to give you full credit in my speech.
Here are two recent examples I came across:
1. Papa John's Pizza designed a little card that they taped to people's front doors, right over their peephole. When you looked through the peephole, you saw a photograph of a delivery guy holding a Papa Johns Pizza (as if he was right at your door!)
It won a Golden Lion Award at the Cannes Advertising festival.
2. Gold's Gym placed trash barrels on all the beaches in Los Angeles.
The message on them read: "Keep our Beaches Beautiful."
And in smaller type, it read: "and pick up the trash too!"
Nice choice of media that gets a lot of attention, and also helps clean up the beach.
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Response is a By-Product
I just read a brilliant book by Dennis Prager, a radio show host who focuses on important spiritual issues. The book is called Happiness is a Serious Problem and I recommend it highly.
One chapter begins with, "Ask parents today what they most want for their children and the vast majority of them will tell you that they want their children to be happy.
"As well intentioned as this is, by making happiness the greatest value in their children's lives, these parents are unfortunately, making it far harder for their children to be happy adults.
"Happiness is only achievable when it is the by-product of something else, and you must hold that something to be more important than happiness."
Prager then offers six values that he believes to be more important than happiness - which if you practice, result in much more happiness.
* Passionate and Meaningful Pursuits
* Clarity - Understanding Yourself and Life
* Pursuit of the Transcendent
As I read through these, my limited mind began to apply these to direct marketing - and I think many of them apply.
Passionate and Meaningful Pursuits - if you are not passionate about direct marketing; and truly care about what you do, you will never be successful.
Depth - you need to read in your field, study what works and what doesn't, and gain a deeper understanding of the product and service you are trying to sell.
Wisdom - knowing the rules is not enough; having the wisdom to break them when it's appropriate is also important.
Clarity - one of the basic lessons in direct marketing. Clarity always trumps clever. Or as David Ogilvy wrote. "What you have to say is more important than how you say it."
Goodness - don't try to fool people. Try to appeal to their higher or even noble instincts.
If you can do all these things in your direct marketing programs, or use them as guidelines, you will not only be happier with your work, you might even improve response.
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