I’m a direct response marketing fanatic based on both experience and conviction, and I believe results should drive your marketing (and every other aspect of your business) unless you have a specific reason for making an exception. Yet, many business owners base their decisions on others’ opinions, not actual results. Worse, sometimes those opinions are from people who are completely unqualified. It’s your choice, but you need to realise that opinions aren’t the same as buying decisions.
Tim Ferris and the 4-Hour Workweek: An Example
You’ve probably heard of Ferriss’ bestselling book, and you may know that it wasn’t his favourite title… or even the most catchy title out there. He found 6 titles that he and his team thought might be appropriate including: Broadband and White Sand, The 4-Hour Workweek, and Millionaire Chameleon and then he tested the response to each via Google Adwords. He didn’t ask for people’s opinions, he discovered what they actually did! He went through a similar process when choosing the book cover: he got people to respond and picked the one they responsed to most positively.
This is very important, because these days focus groups are the most popular way of deciding on book titles, book covers, report content, products and more, and focus groups are notoriously unreliable.
The Focus Group Got it Wrong: A Real-World Product Test
A couple of years ago an electronics giant was trying to decide what colour and finish would be most popular for their home automation device so they could manufacture quantities accordingly. Focus groups and surveys overwhelmingly indicated that the black glossy finish would be most popular so they produced the first run in accordance with this prediction. Unfortunately, it turned out that all those people who liked black glossy devices actually bought ones with a white matte finish. Oops!
They ended up with a huge stock of black glossy ones that they then had to sell at a discount.
Can You Afford to Make the Same Mistake?
A lot of business owners do this all the time. I work with a lot of authors, speakers and coaches between the ghostwriting and marketing sides of my business and it still shocks me when someone decides to follow the advice of friends, relatives, and other members of their author group (who aren’t necessarily their target market, and who have no skin in the game) rather than the results.
Honestly, I have to tell you that your Facebook friends, your fellow-members and colleagues are not the best judges of what will work. In fact, nor am I… my gut instincts are pretty well-trained and are often very accurate. Clients who choose not to test are usually pretty happy with the results when they follow my advice. Sometimes, they listen to others, and, although I’m willing to allow that something may work despite my gut feeling I’m usually right. Actually, when I offer a book title or a headline, I’ve usually already done some objective response-based testing in their target market.
That said, a client is a client and I respect their right to choose. I have had clients who chose a different strategy to the one recommended and done my best to achieve the outcome they were looking for. Sometimes, I need to be really direct and tell them truths they’d rather not hear as part of my professional duty, but I’d rather do that an lose a client than allow them to continue on a path that I feel sure is damaging.
So, If You Won’t Test, Then at Least Rely on Expert Opinions
I know how tight cash flow can be for small businesses, and speed to market can be more important than investing time and money testing ideas, projects, and headlines… However, given that reality, why would you go against professional advice and invest yet more money in a project that may flop? No person in direct response marketing gives solidly negative feedback lightly. We’d rather say, “It may work.” because that happens to be true (even though experience suggests otherwise). So when your copywriter or marketing strategist says, “I don’t recommend this.” Always more questions to find out why. If I need to give negative feedback I’ll usually try to discover how committed you are to your copy, design, book, or strategy before I tell you what I think.
Occasionally this happens midway through a project, mostly because a client was talking to Sam, Joe, or Uncle Jimmy at a BBQ and wants to follow their advice. This is tricky, because I know from experience that when a client is 100% committed to a course of action emotionally and mentally, there is very little I can do to change their mind. Sometimes it happens at the outset… when a client comes to me seeking my help implementing. At that point, if the client is asking for a project that will not deliver value then I usually decline and politely explain why I don’t think it is an effective investment and we either discuss options or part ways.
My minimum level of testing is a circle of my professional copywriting peers. We all have our own different strengths and styles and we all acknowledge that we would individually write something different, but we also have an objective peer review process that enables us to critique each other’s work ruthlessly yet fairly, to enable each other to submit effective high-powered copy to our clients. Most of these items go on to beat ‘controls’ (a direct-mail term used to describe the highest earning mailing package for a business), some of them are beating controls they’ve written themselves, but the process is based on principles, not opinions and, at the end of the day no one is so arrogant as to change another writer’s script completely… unless it is to submit as an alternative version.
Showing Respect For Your Prospects and Clients
Every time you email, message, advertise or sell, you are asking the viewer for a non-renewable resource: time. This is why you should always offer them opportunity, value, or entertainment, even in emails (which many people mistakenly consider to be free). When it comes to landing pages, videos, events, products, messages, and books, you have even more to prove… unless you are so unmemorable that they can’t even remember your name, business, face, or message. In the interest of serving your audience and giving them value in return for their time and money you need to find out what people really respond to, not what you and your circle of friends ‘like’.
At the end of the day, every business owner makes their own decision about who to trust and what they feel comfortable doing. That’s the way is should be, because after all, it is your business. However, having chosen an advisor to trust you should respect their opinion. When I ask my accountant to prepare my taxes I may ask for an explanation of my tax return, but I don’t go to ten friends and say, “Do you like this tax return?” and any reputable accountant will probably respond to a request to review by asking for every piece of information that you provided originally before they suggest alternative numbers.
As a business owner, you should always keep in mind that your marketing reflects the value you believe your product or service delivers (which should mean that you sell it aggressively to people whom it can help), and your respect for your prospects and clients.
If you’re interested in testing response rather than opinions in your marketing so that you can focus on getting people to buy your services, programs, and products, then Contact Me for more information about direct response marketing for your business.