Advertising is “selling in print.”
Advertising and marketing are selling in print. There should be no fundamental difference between the message in your ads, brochures, website, newsletters, press releases and white papers, and what you tell your customers face to face. If there is a difference, it’s usually because marketing lives in an ivory tower, the ads are written by some agency in LA, and sales has to ignore everyone else in order to get their job done. And oh, by the way, the disconnect between marketing and sales is also a symptom of a bunch of departments who have no collective agreement on what the company’s message really is. But more about that later.
If you’re going to successfully sell in print, you need to study the people who make their living by doing just that. And that’s why my discovery of response-based marketing was so crucial. There is an entire industry called response-accountable direct marketing, which I have spent years of my life intensely studying. No person in marketing can afford to not understand the direct marketing industry, but 95% of marketing people have no clue.
Who Really Knows How to Sell in Print?
A direct marketing company, by definition, is a company that sells without sales people. Direct marketing companies are the best kind of companies to study, because they’re the only companies who can prove what they got for those dollars. Most companies cannot prove that their marketing works at all, and if you copy them, you’re just following people who are following people who are lost.
Response-accountable direct marketing is used to successfully sell almost every conceivable kind of product, from industrial control systems and medical equipment to electronic components to diet plans and magazine subscriptions and the high tech gadgets in those airline catalogs.
Now when I say "direct marketing" I’m not talking about how the product is physically delivered to the customer. They can buy it at Wal-Mart for all I care. Direct Marketing simply means: Communicating to the customer in a personal way and asking them to do something. It’s always measurable, and real practitioners always measure it. Therefore it’s really the only kind of marketing that’s rigorous and scientific. It truly separates the men from the boys.
True response-based marketing is much more formulaic than creative!
Most people think that advertising people have some esoteric formula for hypnotizing people as they flip through the pages of a magazine or channel-surf on TV. You may imagine that they have some magical, profound wisdom about human psychology that is beyond the realm of mere mortals. People just assume that most advertising must somehow, magically, make people buy stuff. There’s very little truth in this.
The Ad Agency Racket
I’m going to talk about ad agencies for a minute, and some of this may offend you. And while there are certainly some good agencies out there, most deliberately avoid doing anything that allows their work to be measured. Many ad agency people are really misplaced creative types that should be selling pottery and paintings in craft shows and coffee shops. They have no business selling your product or company to your customers. The fundamental reason for this is that most of them have never, ever had to sell for a living, and in fact most of them think they’re above it. They’ve never been in a situation where if they don’t get the purchase order this month or sell the lady the vacuum cleaner or cookware, they’ll be buying their groceries on Visa next week.
So when you see an ad or billboard with some bizarre picture mated with an obtuse slogan and a short, vague message about how xyz company will make you cool, don’t be fooled into thinking it works, because it may not work at all.
The Lie About Advertising That 95% Buy Into
Then the agency tells the client The Great Lie: "Advertising cannot be measured. You can’t quantify this or count how many leads come in, that would be very misleading. You just have to get your name out there so people have heard of you when you call them." And the customer doesn’t have a clue whether the ad really works or if it’s just wasted money.
At this point you might be thinking, "Well the advertising guy at least has to sell his advertising services." No, it’s his salesman that sells the advertising, which further illustrates the problem. Have you ever noticed that ad agencies don’t advertise? Here’s a little experiment: Grab your Yellow Pages book and look up "advertising agencies." How many ads for ad agencies do you see?
Here in Chicago, the number is ZERO. Zip. Nada. They all hire telemarketers and sales people who dial for dollars and pound pavement. They literally knock on doors. So why would you want to buy advertising from a guy who knocks on doors?
Fundamentally what the ad agency appeals to is your ego. As long you don’t rigorously hold his advertisements accountable for black-and-white, bottom-line, dollars and cents results, then all he has to do is create pretty ads that make your company "look good", whatever that means.
Sucking up to the Client
He creates stuff that tells everyone how fantastic your company is and strokes your ego and the ego of the VIP’s, who all think it’s great. You can all play golf and congratulate each other on how beautiful the new ad campaign is. But your prospects and customers couldn’t care less. It’s all puffery and meaningless chest beating. And that’s how some artsy ad guy, who couldn’t sell a loaf of bread in a concentration camp, manages to bill big corporations for hundreds of thousands of dollars and keep them happy, despite the fact that those ads may not actually sell anything.
Advertising a Mass Market Commodity vs. Technical Specialty
Am I saying that Nike and The Gap and Budweiser are all run by a bunch of yo-yos who are pouring their ad money down the drain? No, I’m not. But these companies sell very simple commodity products that must compete in a broad consumer market, and image is king in that world. You do not live in that world. You are in a technical specialty.
So while advertising promotes your brand, it can and should do far more than that. It should educate your customers and position you as an expert at a known Return On Investment.
Why Ad Agencies Don’t Advertise
If you want to learn more about this, you’ll enjoy one of the tapes in my system. It’s called "Why advertising agencies don’t advertise" and it’s an intriguing expose of the shell games and sleight of hand that’s used in one of the world’s most wasteful and deceptive industries.
But truly effective advertising is not done that way. Effective advertising nearly always follows time-tested formulas that work again and again and again. It’s very systematic and easily learned by people who have technical and business backgrounds. Creating a marketing message that is well understood, and getting that message to cut through the clutter and noise of the marketplace is a lot less mystical than you may think. Once you understand the formulas, most of which have been used by very successful companies for a century or more, and once you understand why those formulas continue to work, you will have mastered the most difficult elements of the sales process.
How a Technical Guy Learned How to Write Great Ads & Give Great Presentations
That’s exactly how I learned the organic nuances of selling. I learned them from the old masters of response-based advertising and direct marketing. I learned some of my most valuable methods from books that have been out of print for thirty or forty years! These old masters explained to me the things that my friend, the #1 salesman at the company could not – by breaking them down into formulas that could be put into an ad, press release, sales letter, brochure or web site.
You can use well-proven methods to design a marketing system that works for you by making sure that your sales process works the same way in print as it would work live in person. Your website, sales letter, or brochure has to interact with the customer’s emotional hot buttons and inner motivations and persuade him or her to take action.
Technical and business people relate to logical systems and processes, and that’s exactly how a good marketing system really works. It is NOT some wild creative voodoo that’s only understood by people who practice Feng Shui and meditative chants. It is not fundamentally about "image" or "branding." It is about telling your own unique sales story in a way that matches the wants, needs, loves, hates and fears of YOUR customers.