14 Key Points to Profitable Direct Response (Part 1)

By Lee Collins •  Updated: 09/20/09 •  4 min read
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As a Direct Response Marketing consultant, there’s one sentence that really bugs me. (Honestly there are many, but we’ll talk about just this one today).

Here it is: “I’ll run an ad and see if direct response mail order really pays!”

Why do I hate that sentence? Because these words are spoken only by a total beginner or someone completely lacking in the most basic business experience.

Being in the business of selling by direct response mail is a continuous, ongoing activity. NOT a one shot “see if it works”. Day in and day out we do something to improve our results.

Here are 14 key points that you should consider EVERY TIME with your direct response advertising to ensure you get the results you desire.

I’ll cover the first 7 points today, and will continue the discussion with the final 7 points within the next few days.

Here we go:

#1. Purpose?

Before you place that ad you MUST ask yourself: “what is the purpose of this advertisement?” The answer will probably fall into one of two categories:

1) to generate a lead
2) to generate a sale

If you’re charging less than $10 you may be able to get some orders directly from a 1″ or a classified ad. Asking for $10 and up? Then you better go for a 1/3 page or more or just try to generate leads!

#2 Expectation!

It seems many new direct response advertisers have unreal expectations. They believe they can get a 1% return from a publication by using a small classified ad.

I have used full page ads and get less than 1/3 of 1% and we were happy with it. It’s always better to be more realistic with your expectations to avoid the perception of disappointment.
And know your numbers!

#3 Where to advertise?

You can use direct mail or ads in publications that are geared to the group you are trying got reach. Direct mail can be great if you are able to rent “hot” names that are recent buyers of items similar to yours.

Carefully search out the publications best for your offer. Your local library or bookstore (take a look at the magazine racks) can be your best source of such publications.

#4 Who buys by mail?

Believe it or not, even in today’s Internet age, an estimated 71% of the public has purchased by mail in response to a direct response advertisement.

Just use publications that already have a lot of mail order ads. Choose your publications carefully – the daily newspaper is NOT a good way to reach mail order buyers.

#5 Test, test, test!

You need to code your ads – every ad – in some way so you know the results you are getting from each publication. Some inquiries may cost you 50cents and from another publication they may cost you $1.75! You MUST figure out the value of each inquiry based on eventual orders received, so you can discontinue ads that are not showing a good return on investment.

Most people don’t even track their ads, so coding your ads will put you in the top 1% of other direct response marketers in your industry.

#6 Run ads in the best performing publications on a steady basis

Month in and month out keep your ads running in the publications that pay off. many people don’t respond the first time they see your offer. Familiarity and repetition build trust.

And keep in mind some months you will get more responses than others, but keep the ads running in every publication where it is profitable to do so.

and our final point for today…

#7 Ad Copy

A good direct response ad should have a headline that appeals to the people you are trying to reach. Period.

Do not use the word “Free” in a headline unless you want a whole bunch of inquiries from people who may not be seriously interested in your offer. (It’s better to get 10 people who are seriously interested in your offer than 100 tire-kickers “just checking things out”!).

Headlines should catch the attention of your potential BUYER… the body copy should give them enough information to make them act on your offer. Remember, “what’s in it for them?”.

Alright that should be enough to get you started with profitable Direct Response advertising. I will share the final 7 key points of my “14 Key Points to Profitable Direct Response” with you in a couple of days!

Lee Collins

Lee Collins is a former Air Force Network Systems Engineer and Fortune 500 Corporate VP - who is best known as an early pioneer of Direct Response Marketing on the Internet. He has over 24+ years experience running operations for multiple multi-million dollar marketing, software, SEO, financial, and business coaching companies. When Lee isn't helping his private clients solve big (and small) marketing and operations problems, Lee is most likely heading up into the mountains in his fully-equipped Jeep Gladiator. Or just gone fishing.