A "control" is your best-performing direct mail package, e-mail or print ad. It pulls the most response, or the best cost-per-response.
We've beaten the control for over 20 different companies, large and small.
Our most recent example was for Life Line Screening; a terrific company that has tested over 6 million people for vascular problems, and saved over 62,000 lives.
We have found there are five distinct steps to beating a control.
1. We carefully review your existing work
It's almost impossible to be objective about your work. You know your company and your products backwards and forwards.
You will read volumes into every line and see things that may not be there. That's perfectly understandable.
But having an outside person review your work will give you an entirely different perspective. Especially an expert who has reviewed thousands of direct mail packages and can identify areas that need to be improved.
2. We'll help you identify the main benefit of the product
There are usually a dozen benefits of every product and service – but you need to figure out which is the single most important one. Otherwise, it may get lost among all the others.
Then you need to make that benefit come to life and dramatize it in a compelling way.
3. We usually sell the offer, not the product
In many packages we have reviewed, the offer is either (A) weak (B) not featured strongly enough, or worse, (C) both.
For Scotts Lawn Service, we took their existing offer of a Free Lawn Analysis and made that the hero of the package. It's been unbeaten for five years.
In general, we will help you develop three different kinds of offers:
Offer something money can't buy. It could be information. It could be a premium – but it should be something your prospects can't (easily) get anywhere else.
Offer something that accelerates the sale. You can offer everyone an I-phone and you'll probably get a great response. But you might not create many sales. People may respond just to get that I-phone.
Offer something specific. More information a free brochure just doesn't cut it. Instead, offer a free 32-page brochure that includes 10 mistakes to avoid, 7 ways to choose, etc.
4. Apply "Best Practice" direct marketing techniques
This is the area where an experienced company can make the most difference.
As David Ogilvy said, "The difference between a good surgeon and a great surgeon has nothing to do with their hands. A great surgeon knows more than a good surgeon."
Many companies, and even agencies, create direct marketing without knowing what's been proven to work, and what doesn't.
By applying "Best Practices" which we've learned from working with dozens of the most successful companies, we can almost always improve response. Here are three examples:
An envelope package outpulls a self-mailer. If you're using self-mailers, you should test this as soon as possible.
People have little time these days. Pulling your benefits out to the left-hand margin of the letter allows people to scan them quickly and always improves readership and response.
The back of the letter is usually wasted. Why not use it for customer testimonials, a Q&A, or a summary of your benefits?
These are all proven techniques which have worked over and over again – and there are dozens like them.
5. We go one step further
These days, it's not enough to simply get the basics right. You need a creative spark – a big idea – a great letter – to stand out and make a difference.
Our control for The Wine of the Month Club does just that. Every wine mailing looks and sounds the same, "We choose only the best grapes, from the most exclusive vineyards, at the perfect time..."
My letter took the opposite approach. It featured a provocative quote from Cellar master Paul Kalemkiarian:
"Why I reject nearly 9 out of every 10 wines"
...and why you should do the same.
It hasn't been beaten in two years.
Finally, this isn't part of my 5-Step Solution, but it is dramatically important in every direct marketing communication. And that's to ask the person to respond.
Sounds self evident? Many packages fail to do enough of this – they just assume people will understand.
So ask for the response. Ask more than once. Ask in a prominent place. If I've learned anything in life and direct marketing, it's you can't get what you want unless you ask.
Hopefully, these steps will help you beat your control. And of course, we would be delighted to help. Our costs are very competitive; we're easy to work with; and we can usually significantly improve response.
Alan Rosenspan & Associates has established new controls for a number of our clients. These include the following companies:
© Alan Rosenspan & Associates