Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak

By: Dan Kennedy on: November 2nd, 2009 14 Comments

Direct response advertising and direct marketing requires Great Courage to be successful for several important reasons.

First of all, you have, maybe, 5 seconds to grab attention, another 10, 20, 30 seconds at most to convince the person to read further, you have to suck ‘em in like a carnival barker promising a naked three-breasted woman snake charmer just inside the tent. Direct response advertising is not the time or place to be subtle or gentle or “professional” (whatever that is).

You have to risk the scorn and anger of your peers, the disgust of your own family or staff, the derision of those who will certainly be offended by your brash approach, you have to “all in”. There’s an incredibly cluttered advertising environment.

Several years ago…only two weeks after the Super Bowl, I offered a $100.00 bill to three different people who watched the game, if they could correctly name an advertiser and describe their commercial. They could recall only three commercials, but couldn’t match them with their advertisers.

One guy described two commercials: Burt and bear, and woman at Senate hearing with tight top coming off, but could not identify the advertiser behind either one.

So, you’ve got to reach out and grab them by throat or testicles and get in their face and shove your small business marketing message in their face.

Halbert talks about the necessary willingness to commit “image suicide” to get maximum response. Of course, there are times you might not want maximum response.

You may be willing to consciously trade away response for other objectives. Key word: consciously.

Second, direct-response is not interactive. The prospect can’t talk back, ask questions, raise objections, so you need the courage to do these things for him. For example, in sales letters selling high-priced boot camps for my clients in niche industries, I actually bring up the possibility that the reader may still have the kit he bought wrapped in plastic, gathering dust on a closet shelf.

Or may have tried doing something in the kit and gotten disappointing results. It takes COURAGE to bring up Bad Things in a letter asking them to make another, bigger purchase.

Third, direct-response is all about SELLING. That takes a lot more COURAGE than does brand-building or image advertising, because all that other stuff is nearly impossible to measure and hold accountable.

It’s a great place for incompetents and charlatans to hide out. It takes COURAGE to create a sales funnel, directly ask for action, and present a deadline.

Share your courageous stories in the comments below!

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

    14 Responses

    1. Courageos ad #1
      These were placed above the urinals of businesses (mostly restaurants) all around West Michigan http://seifpro.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/johnnyadmen.pdf

    2. Charles says:

      yes, Dan it takes much courage
      It takes COURAGE to create a sales funnel, directly ask for action, and present a deadline.
      First of all, you have, maybe, 5 seconds to grab attention, another 10, 20, 30 seconds at most to convince the person to read further
      Second, direct-response is not interactive. The prospect can’t talk back, ask questions, raise objections, so you need the courage to do these things for him.
      Third, direct-response is all about SELLING
      thank you much, for your insight

    3. Rob Anspach says:

      yes it does take courage…
      and some rather thick skin… because some people (other advertisers) might feel you have something and try to block its content…

      I designed a piece a few years ago that was to be placed in a local coupon magazine – but there where already 7 competing like companies in the magazine – well my ad ran and pull the competition away … I got a call from the magazine asking me to not advertise in the mag with that ad for fear he would lose the other competing ads.

    4. Dave Meir says:

      I just mailed a piece today – with photos of our studio/family dog asking for help from our clients so she could get her Christmas treats. (swiped and deployed from last month’s CD – the salon guy from CA)
      I actually say (well Lucy our dog actually says) “My Dad says I won’t get nothin’ for Christmas if our business doesn’t pick up.”
      My wife asked if I was sure I wanted to tell people that business sucked right now. I said I don’t give a crap what they think if the card entices them to call.
      I’ll let you know what kind of response we get.

    5. Rob Anspach says:

      yes, we all want people to know we are busy and making lots of money… but sometimes we can use the slow down in our business as a way to attract business…

      a great headline and a story can entice people to pick up the phone and call you

    6. When I worked as a rep for a yellow pages publisher, I would often have to take the time to sit right next to the artists while they created my ads — because otherwise they were often completely clueless and I’d have to waste my and my advertisers’ time with multiple revisions and mind-numbingly precise instructions.

      I remember when one of them said to me “I hate your ads.”

      When I asked her why, she explained that they “weren’t pretty” and “violated all the rules” of what she was taught would work in the yellow pages.

      I never got a better compliment from a yellow pages graphic artist.

    7. I remember the first ad I ever placed to start my first “real” business after graduating school.

      Since I had to pay for 3 weeks up front, all I could afford was a tiny 2″ classified ad in the back of an obscure sports magazine.

      All the companies in the industry (fantasy sports game providers) were offering hats and t-shirts to their league champs. So, I placed my ad with the headline “Win A Trip To The World Series,” and explained that my Grand Champion would receive an all-expenses-paid weekend trip for two to the World Series.

      When my mother asked me what I would do if I didn’t get enough people to join my service, I told her I’d have to run the business part time and get a full-time job. Then, I’d have six months to save up enough money to pay for the winner’s trip.

      My risk paid off: Those three tiny 2″ ads brought in over $20,000 in business in a little over a month, and less than three years later mine was the largest company in the industry and was worth over $3.5 million.

      Another payoff: I had to buy a block of tickets to World Series Games 1 & 2, and 6 & 7. I awarded the tickets to Games 1 & 2 to my Grand Champion, but got to use the others myself. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series is still to this day rated one of the best games of all time, and I also got to witness my beloved Mets winning it all in Game 7.

      Not a bad reward for placing a courageous little ad…

    8. pligg.com says:

      Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

      Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

    9. coldjung.com says:

      Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

      Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

    10. newswala.net says:

      Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

      Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

    11. Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

      Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak…

    12. Just came across this old priceless post..

      Thank you for the terrific advice!

      Steve- that story is very inspiring… thank you!

      Keep it up!

    13. Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak | Small Business Marketing Blog | Glazer-Kennedy Insiders Circle I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You’re wonderful! Thanks! your article about Direct Response Advertising Isn’t for the Weak | Small Business Marketing Blog | Glazer-Kennedy Insiders CircleBest Regards Lawrence

    14. Jacob says:

      Thanks, Dan. Yes, I agree with you that direct response advertising and direct marketing requires great courage to be successful. It requires patience.

      Once one has run a direct marketing campaign and know the conversion rates involved, one can work on refining and improving success rates.

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