What’s the one thing most internet marketers are ignoring? You only have to read a few emails to spot it

A couple of months back I had the pleasure of following in Clayton Makepeace’s footsteps, being given a lifetime achievement award at a marketers’ get-together in Florida.

I had mixed feelings about this, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, compared to me Clayton is a mere youth. That’s an exaggeration, but I am certainly a good few years older than him. So I guess he has overtaken me, achievement-wise. Groan!

Second, if your only achievement in life is to have written a bit of copy that made money, that’s not exactly on a par with starting a charity.

But enough quibbles. As you’d expect I had to sing for my supper, and say something intelligent, or at least keep people amused enough to stick around while I spoke for a couple of hours.

Well, what the heck can you say about marketing that hasn’t been said already?

Oddly enough, quite a lot, because most people are so busy rushing to meet the future that they forget the past.

This is particularly true of those who daily read of the billions being made on the internet, and are persuaded – often by rogues – that it could happen to them, too.

The truth is that if you get in on something on the ground floor you can indeed clean up. But - to mix my metaphors - that particular gravy train left the station quite a while back.

To give you an example, when I was speaking at a Cisco convention about 12 years ago, a delegate told me how he was getting 10% response and more to his emails. Happy days!

Advice from an idiot: back to basics

A great deal of the marketing advice you get is from very clever people and deals with fairly sophisticated stuff.

My secret of success is stupidity. I am not that clever. It takes me a long time to understand things – especially complicated things - so once I understand them I can usually explain them to other people as thick as me. Happily, this included a great many customers.

So here is some advice from an idiot.

If there are no easy wins in the immediate vicinity I always suggest you go back to the basics of marketing.

And looking at what people are doing on the internet I am struck by something which reaches to the very heart of success.

To explain what I mean let’s look at the absolute basics of marketing – what matters, in what order.

In my view there are five things you have to keep an eye on.

What you need to succeed

Marketers (but nobody else who is sane) often think good marketing will work miracles.

But of course it all starts with having something to sell that people want. A good product or service can do pretty well even with abysmal marketing.

Take the computer or cellphone industries. Their growth is driven by innovation. With the exception of Apple most of their marketing has been abysmal.

To take a favourite example, any half-bright marketer knows that the easiest possible sales (and profits) come from existing customers. So when did the firm that made your personal computer, or for that matter the people you bought it from, write to you, as a customer, suggesting you buy a newer one?

I thought so.

Anyhow, the hierarchy of importance in marketing, as I suggested 28 years ago in the first edition of what is now an excellent book called Commonsense Direct and Interactive Marketing by Drayton Bird goes like this.

  1. Product and positioning. (You can’t divorce the positioning from the product – it’s like a person’s character).

  2. Research and testing. (They tell you if you’re doing the right thing or not).

  3. Targeting. (Because a well-aimed dull message will beat a brilliant one that’s badly aimed).

  4. Incentives. (Because what I give you will generally beat anything I promise).

  5. Creative. (It doesn’t cost much more and often nothing more to get it right and it can make a huge difference – but the other four factors usually matter more).

What’s missing?

It is fearfully hard to improve a product or service. Very often when you start working on the marketing they are fixed and you may not be in a position to do much to improve them.

But the other half of that first point in the list I just gave you is one where you can often do quite a lot. You can make sure you have a positioning - a personality.

Yet when you look at the stuff you see on the internet – especially the e-mails – what do you think?

Don’t you think it all reads and sounds much the same? Either it’s full of hype from the get-rich-quick crew. Or it’s the written equivalent of sleeping pills from the corporate people.

Try to find your own voice. Your prospects are always asking, “Why should I choose you?” And the subtext to that is, “Do I like you?”

Try to stop ramming stuff down people’s throats. They’ll like you for it. More importantly, they’ll buy more.

On the matter of age

Actually, I’m so damn old some people think I no longer exist.

I only know this because a Danish friend, Michael Leander, told me.

There is a big event in Scandinavia every year called Dialogkonferansen. When Michael asked Arild Horsberg who runs it why he had never asked me to speak, he replied, “I thought he was dead.”

So there you are.

If you’re in Norway next August you can come and check if I’m still alive.

And if you’re not you can go now to www.draytonbirdcommonsense .com and start getting my helpful marketing ideas while I’m still here. They are as simple as me.


-Drayton Bird


Copyright (c) 2011 NoMax Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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