John E. Fike Copywriting Services; Copy, Content & Custom Publications for Companies Who Make Life Worth Living

Direct Mail/E-mail Secret #2: Research That Identifies the Desires and Fears and Uncovers A Fresh Marketing Approach for Your Campaign—Part II

Yesterday I explained that good sales copy in direct mail and email campaigns requires research to be successful, because it provides details that your prospects need in order to make a purchasing decision and it reveals fresh, unique marketing angles.

Today let’s talk about what kind of research you should be doing and what you should be looking for in order to achieve these objectives and motivate more customers to buy.

Features & Benefits
One of the first kinds of research I do in preparing for a direct mail or email campaign is uncovering all the features and benefits of the product or service that I’m selling. Features and benefits help the prospect understand what your product or service does and how his or her life will be improved by it.

Features include all the technical details of a product or service, including shape, color, functions, purposes, who made or provides it, how it is made or provided, how it does its job, how or why it was invented, etc. Benefits are all the ways these things make life better, easier, simpler, or more exciting than it is right now.

Uncover the features and benefits of your product or service by looking at the product or service itself and experiencing it with your hands, eyes and ears (and any other sensory organs that may apply). You can find additional features and benefits by sifting through customer feedback, examining how it is made or provided and why it is made or provided that way.

If you sell computer software, for example, your features are all the things the software does and the experience that it provides. I’ll use Achieve Planner by Effexis Software for an illustration. Two of Achieve Planner’s features are that it allows time mapping and automatic product scheduling (based on the estimated time it takes to complete the project). The benefit of these features is that the user can organize and take control of his schedule by designating certain times of the day for certain kinds of activity, such as client work or marketing efforts. Then the user can easily see how long it will take to complete a project based on how much time is available for the type of activity that the project falls into. It cuts down on scheduling confusion and reduces estimation errors so the user experiences fewer headaches.

That’s sort of an obvious example of features and benefits. A less obvious example is how Achieve Planner is delivered to the customer. The feature is that Achieve Planner software is downloaded off the Internet immediately after purchase. The experience-based benefit is that the customer doesn’t have to wait for a CD-ROM to arrive in the mail and can immediately begin experiencing the product’s benefits, like reduced scheduling stress and fewer headache-causing errors.

Don’t ignore features and benefits that are shared by competitors. Copywriter Claude Hopkins took Schlitz beer from the fifth best selling beer to the first by being the first copywriter to describe why Schlitz beer was pure. All the other brands claimed to be pure and made their beer pretty much the same way. But Hopkins’ Schlitz ad was the first to explain it all. By providing proof that it was pure, Hopkins gave Schlitz the competitive advantage.

Use the features and benefits of your product or service to prove the claims and promises that you make about it.

Identify new marketing angles
I’ve already covered this a bit in the Schlitz example above. In researching your product or service, you can uncover new ways of thinking about it that will increase your prospect’s interest. Hopkins’ ad got beer drinkers to think of Schlitz as The Pure Beer because Schlitz can prove its purity.

Going back to the Achieve Planner example, most of Achieve Planner’s features are available in other software-based planners. But those planner systems typically sell for $250 to $300, while Achieve Planner sells for only $89 (at the time of the posting). So Achieve Planner is positioning itself as the planner system that delivers $300 of value for less than $90.

So far we’ve talked about research involving the product or service and how it is produced and/or delivered. Another way to uncover new marketing angles is to research your prospects and their needs and desires. This assumes you have good information on who your prospect is. As mentioned in a previous post, you probably aren’t going to sell Omaha steaks to a vegetarian.

Let’s assume that you do sell steaks (not necessarily Omaha steaks). What do your customers want out of a steak? They probably don’t care that the steak is delivered to their door by truck. In fact, that feature may seem a little weird—wouldn’t it be easier to just drive to the market rather than wait for a truck to arrive? Wouldn’t the meat be fresher that way, the customer thinks.

But your customers probably do care that their steak is thick and juicy and so tasty that it practically melts in their mouth. Perhaps you found a survey or series of customer testimonials that support this idea. So you’ll play up the thick, juicy and tasty aspects of your product. You could also use this desire of your customers to eliminate the weirdness of having steaks delivered by truck by explaining that the only way to get a steak so fresh tasting and mouth-watering is to deliver it directly from the farm to the customer’s door.

Lastly, do research outside of your product/service and market as well. Keep abreast of headlines and surf the Internet using key words about your product/service. While this is harder to systematize, many times an unrelated topic can give your product or service a fresh marketing angle that none of your competitors had thought of previously.

Just yesterday I read a sales letter for a wealth-generating information product that compared Houdini’s failure to escape from an unlocked safe to the close-mindedness people often have in regards to wealth-building schemes. I won’t say that this is the best example, because it didn’t get me to buy the product. The letter also had some other issues that prevented it from being successful. But you can see how tying in an apparently unrelated topic can put a fresh spin on your marketing.

So, research is absolutely critical in developing fresh, unique marketing angles that get your prospects’ attention and proving to your prospects that your product or service actually lives up to the promises and claims that you make about it. Without the research, all you have is hype.

All right. Next time we’ll move on to Secret #3 in the Secrets to Generating Huge Response and Outstanding Profits in Direct Mail and E-mail Campaign series. Secret #3 is An Outstanding Offer that is Difficult to Reject.

Talk to you then.

John E. Fike

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posted by John E Fike @ 5:21 AM, ,

Direct Mail/E-mail Secret #2: Research That Identifies the Desires and Fears and Uncovers A Fresh Marketing Approach for Your Campaign--Part I

We’ve been talking about the 5 Secrets to Generating Huge Response and Outstanding Profits in your direct mail and e-mail campaigns. Today I want to address secret #2—which really ought to be secret #1, because this is the thing that is lacking from 99% of all unsuccessful direct-response campaigns: RESEARCH.

There is a lot of copy out there that relies on an over-abundance of emotional superlatives and shock-factor headlines to sell products and services. Emotional superlatives are words like Awesome, Great, Fantastic, Out of This World, Dynamic, etc. They are supposed to make the prospect feel that the product or service is so wonderful that they absolutely must buy. Unfortunately, it rarely works. Audiences are becoming immune—no, they’re becoming annoyed by these marketing tactics and choose not to buy.

While shocking headlines and superlatives have their place in their copy, they cannot be relied upon to make the sale. Without facts, figures, details, and other ingredients that prove you can deliver on your promise, all you have is hype. Once upon a time, hype was fairly successful at making sales. Today, however, your audience demands to know why you think your product or service is so great.

Research does two things for your copy that will dramatically improve the response you get from your campaign:

Research provides the information your prospects need to understand why your product or service is exactly what they need and why yours is better than better than any competing products or services.
Research helps you identify a fresh, unique marketing angle that eliminates the need for hype and shock and hard-sell tactics.

Ok, that’s all I have time for today. Next time I’ll get into more about what I mean by “research” and what kind of research you should be doing for every marketing campaign. After that, I’ll get into how to use that research to develop a fresh marketing angle.

So long for now.

John E. Fike

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posted by John E Fike @ 7:11 AM, ,