Direct Response Marketing: a comprehensive plan to increase your sales by 25% in 12 months or less

Planning and launching a profitable Direct Response Marketing campaign can be a challenging and stressful job. Many details require close attention, and here is the undeniable truth:

In today’s incredibly cluttered and competitive environment, you need a truly great marketing message more than ever before. However, it should truthfully represent what follows behind it: the prospective and actual customers’ experience.

Here is a different expression of this idea in this anonymous poem for advertisers:

A lion met a tiger;
as they drank by the pool,
the tiger said, “tell me why
you’re roaring like a fool.”

“That’s not foolish,” said the lion
with a twinkle in his eyes.
“They all call me king of all
beasts because I advise!

A rabbit heard them talking 
and ran home like a streak. 
He thought he’d try the lion’s plan,
but his roar was just a squeak.

A fox came to investigate and 
had a free luncheon in the woods

Moral: when you advertise, my friends,
be sure you’ve got the goods!

Direct Response Marketing does NOT begin with Search Engine Optimization or Pay-Per-Click; it starts with putting together the best, most promotable message possible that truly represents “the goods” you’ve got.


In fact, many believe that “SEO is all it takes.” While Search Engine Optimization could potentially offer several benefits, we need to keep in mind that it cannot be a stand-alone strategy, because it rarely carries the self-sufficient horsepower that direct response marketing can.

When it comes to digital marketing budgets, most local businesses spend it on SEO, Reputation, Web Design, Mobile, PPC and whatever else is currently flourishing.

That’s all great – except in most cases, there is no proper planning. Everyone, even their mother, is doing it too (yet very few local business owners are implementing the marketing systems I will share with you in this post).

To make it worse, local business owners get hounded by “the digital marketing hype” day in, day out. Two of my personal favorites: Yellow Pages and Yelp…their reps are relentless! They will pester you with phone calls and emails, with no mercy whatsoever (and that’s what I call the buy or die approach).

Then we have the good ole “SEO Guys” who make it sound like they are doing you a favor, calling on behalf of Google, and promising impossibly low prices with glowing results. Even the power phrases have lost their edge, like: ‘Guaranteed Page One Rankings’, ‘Guaranteed Results’ and ‘Impending Doom’ stats.

These powerful phrases don’t even make them flinch anymore! So, my first advice to local businesses is… ‘Take a step back, block all that noise and think for a moment.’

The Sooner You Understand Direct Response Marketing, The Easier Your SEO and Local Marketing Will Be

From a local owner’s perspective, we don’t like crossing our fingers; we just want to invest money in marketing to get more in return. The internet, while incredibly useful, cool and promising…. unfortunately, won’t always feed you what you need locally.

Especially nowadays, SEO is an ever-changing beast. NO ONE can Guarantee Organic Rankings, and if someone does, you need to grab your things and run the opposite way!

If the Answer is Not Just SEO for Local Businesses, What Exactly Do You Need to Become “The Go-To Guy or Gal” in Your Community?

Don’t tell me you haven’t dreamt of being ‘the one to call’ when someone needs a service or product like yours…The short answer is that you need several things besides SEO. In order to build a strong foundation, it’s best to look at these by priority, and honestly, there is no way to sugar-coat it… so here goes:

You Need A Marketing/Communication Strategy: that’s in line with your business’s long, mid and short-term goals. Here is an example of an outline with the essential points you’d need to cover to start drafting a marketing plan:

Basic Marketing and Communication Strategy Outline

After gathering the information for all the items mentioned above (or maybe more depending on your business), it will be easier to manage and delegate your needs in order of priority. In my experience, it helps clients to condense all that research in a simple-to-understand visual aid.

I am sure there may be different ways to illustrate this, but here is an example of a simple core strategy flowchart I used for one of my clients last year, and it worked very well:

direct response Marketing-Strategy

Strategies like that vary from business to business: they take time and cost thousands of dollars to develop. (By the way, I will be giving a FREE webinar for students and clients about marketing strategies and action plans and will most likely share some of the notes from the webinar on my blog on a weekly basis, so make sure to check back.)

As you can imagine, it truly pays off to do all the tedious work upfront and stay organized. However, sometimes it’s a little concerning when a new client wants a website up and running in a week or expects SEO to yield results in 30 days; yet, they don’t have a brand identity manual or even the first draft of their marketing plan.

Of course, it’s OK if they don’t, because part of my responsibility is to help them understand that developing a marketing and communication strategy is a process, not an event.

Google and Technology Are Changing Almost Every Day! You Know That Could Affect Your Online Presence And Cost You Thousands Of Dollars In Lost Sales Opportunities If You Don’t Do Something About It Soon. – The Diversification Of Your Marketing Is A Must!

Given all of these foundational blocks we’ve discussed so far — Strategic Marketing Planning, Direct Response Marketing, Online/Offline Promotions, Sales and ROI Tracking, you might be worried that you are going to have to make drastic, revolutionary changes in your business to have the kind of success you desire. No need to panic; chances are you have a lot more of that strategy built than you realize. It’s just about filling in the missing pieces and knowing how to use the strategy once it’s there.

Just remember that your business needs a diversified marketing approach, because it is not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket (AKA Google).To implement diversification successfully, you need to stay organized in order to understand what’s working and what’s not.

Having a Documented Strategy and Action Plan Will Give You More Clarity To Implement The Four Marketing Systems You Absolutely Need To Increase Sales Successfully by 25% or More in 12 Months or Less

In my experience in local business marketing, we have four key marketing systems that we must optimize in order to maximize growth in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. Each one of these marketing systems can easily account for 25% growth in your business.

These systems I am about to present aren’t even new! I learned them a long time ago and to this day, I use them for clients, co-op members and even for my own projects. They’re not hifalutin’ gimmicks that were cooked up as ‘Me Too Marketing Agency Hype’.

These are proven concepts that have been tested, re-tested and tested again. In simpler terms… they just work!

However, let’s be realistic here…these four systems I am about to share are not a “copy and paste to become a millionaire overnight” type of thing. I am sure some of the promotional tactics may have changed by the time you have read this post, but the strategies themselves haven’t and they most likely won’t.

Is that a bold statement? Yes, it is…but I am 100% confident that this will be the case for a long time; and here is why…regardless of much and how quick technology evolves, humans will always be humans. As long as you apply the basic concepts of direct response marketing and these four systems while thinking of your audience’s needs, wants and desires – You Will Always Get Results.

Marketing System #1 – Online Reputation Marketing

As you know, today most people search online before they buy (I know I do). In fact, Nielsen published an article presenting the findings of the “Global Reputation Study: WHEN OR WHEN NOT TO DO BUSINESS WITH A COMPANY” conducted in 2014 with Opinion Elites.

The global survey shows that 58% of US consumers choose “when and when not to do business with a company” based on online feedback—even when it’s feedback from total strangers!

As stated in Nielsen’s article, “According to the study, 54% of Opinion Elites globally said they increasingly hear of what’s going on with companies through social media and an additional 35% said they shared information about a company with others through social media or email in the past year.

Their efforts to influence others span both the real and virtual worlds– 37% said they proactively tried to influence their friends’ and family’s perceptions about a company because of something they learned about how it conducts itself.

According to Nielsen and Opinion Elites, recommendations from personal acquaintances and opinions posted by consumers online are “the most trusted forms of advertising.”

A sample of who’s talking about your business:

  • Customers, clients or patients
  • Prospects
  • Competitors
  • Disgruntled employees
  • Former business partners or investors
  • Trolls (these creatures are permanently aggrieved and in most cases disguised as Yelpers)
  • Ex-spouses (these creatures also tend to be permanently aggrieved and in most cases disguised as Trolls)

This probably isn’t new to you, and there’s a decent chance that, like most business owners I talk to, you are not very pleased about some of the things people have written about your business!This brings up a larger point: whether it is positive or negative in tone, most of the content about your business that is available on review sites is not even being created by you anymore!/strong>Consumers are critics and publishers now. They all carry tiny “printing presses” in their pockets!

Online Reputation Is Now More Important Than Ever

Direct Response Marketing and Online Reputation Marketing
Here is a case in point of how a well-diversified marketing strategy can lose power with a poor reputation.

To be sure, businesses have always relied on their reputation, but the stakes are even higher today because of how easy consumers can find information about local companies before they buy.

What’s more, negative reviews can get lodged in the search results, hanging like an albatross around your neck and dragging down sales.

As a parting thought regarding your online reputation: 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users. What is your reputation communicating to your ideal customers, clients or patients?

Marketing System #2 – Referrals

Since you’re doing such a great job taking care of your customers and keeping them happy, the next best thing you can do is set up systems to maximize the benefit you get from them, right?

Eventually, the goal is for them to be doing all your marketing for you! So, what are you doing right now to create new, organic opportunities from successful relationships, so that you can spend less and make more?

By popular belief, if you just leave it up to people to do referrals for you, very few will—even if they are very happy with you.

You have to make it very easy—almost effortless—for your happy customers to refer your business if you want to maximize the referrals you generate from them.

A study from Lee Resource Inc. found that attracting a new customer can cost four times as much as keeping an existing one. Referrals make great customers because they have all the spending potential of a new customer, but without the associated new customer acquisition costs.

We all want referrals because they help us save money on marketing, right? Well, there’s even more, to gain from referrals than acquisition cost savings. According to a case study noted in the Harvard Business Review, customers that come from referrals are, on average, about 18% more likely than others to stay with a company, and they generate 16% more in profits!

Several case studies reported on by the website TechCrunch proved that friends referred by friends make better customers, because they:

  • Spend more, at around 2x higher estimated lifetime value, than customers from all other channels
  • Convert better, 75% higher conversion
  • Shop faster, making their first purchase after joining, twice as quickly as referrals from other channels

Why are referrals so powerful?

Direct Response Marketing and Referrals
Global averages from Nielsen Global Trust in Advertisement Survey. Q3 2011

This is because they channel the power of social proof. Social proof is a fancy way of saying that ‘we humans are easily influenced by each other’.

We’re pack animals, and when a member of our pack (family) or tribe (social circle) recommends a product or service, we take that recommendation very seriously.

Similarly, when someone in a position of power, prestige or authority recommends something; we are very quick to act on that recommendation.

You see the applied power of social proof everywhere: in TV Ads, when you see a celebrity endorsing a product; on the radio, when the person hosting the pledge drive tells listeners that so-and-so donated $50 to NPR; on the back of a novel you’re reading, when you see testimonials from other notable authors; and on the web, when you visit sites like to read consumer reviews on anything from local restaurants to professional services.

Almost without fail, most businesses I talk to have no clear referral generation system. They mainly think that referrals are something that you simply wait and hope for… but the reality is that referrals don’t just happen; you have to get them.

If you’re going to spend the time collecting them, you need a funnel that effectively channels your efforts into tangible results. With that said, before we move on to the next marketing system, I would like to leave you with this question:

How many formal, written, referral-generating systems do you currently, have with prospects or potential strategic partners?

If the answer is zero, here is what I’m going to say next… “This is a major profit leak that needs your attention immediately!”

All it takes is sending you happy customers through your referral funnel, make it an easy process, and golden referrals will start rolling in.

Marketing System #3 – Reach

What are you doing to ensure that more people know about you today than yesterday?

It’s my experience that a business that wants to grow needs to make sure that more people know about it today than did yesterday. If you’re not meeting new people and telling them about your products and services, you’re not developing a pipeline of potential new customers, and you are going to see fewer sales in the future as a result.

This sounds pretty obvious, I know, but I’m always surprised when I talk to local business owners and ask them about their promotional efforts.

When I look at the pipeline-filling activities of local businesses, I see mostly a scattershot approach. A campaign here and there … with only a vague idea of whether they are getting a positive return on their investment.

No wonder so many businesses become skeptical of marketing…They’re doing it wrong!

Very rarely do I see coordinated, systematic and metrics-driven efforts to reach a wider audience and drive more prospects (i.e. people who are interested in what you’re selling) through the front door.

However, this kind of focused, ongoing and intentional approach is exactly what’s necessary to reach more qualified prospects in a cost-effective—not to mention satisfying—manner.

A once-in-awhile, ad hoc marketing strategy is not going to get the results you need to achieve consistent business growth.

Now the question here is…Do you have a method to build a continually growing prospect/client email list?

Marketing System #4 – Resell

What are you doing to upsell, cross-sell and repeat sell to maximize the lifetime value of your customer base?

Once you’ve done all of the hard and often costly work of getting a customer, you need to make sure to maximize the lifetime value, or LTV, of that customer.

Whatever metaphor you want to use… mining your backyard … picking the low hanging fruit… the point is the same:

It makes more sense (both financially and from an efficiency standpoint) to fully capitalize on your existing customer base than constantly hunting new customers.

The more value you can generate from each customer, the less you have to spend on marketing. That means you can increase your profit margins and reinvest the savings into your products and services—while making your business even more attractive to your customers!

In practice, this can mean increasing the dollar value of each transaction or increasing the frequency that customers buy, either by offering add-on services, upsells or cross-sells. McDonald’s offers the classic example: ‘Do you want fries with that?’ ‘Do you want to supersize your order? These days there are so many cost effective and traceable ways to bring customers back to your business.

To give you just one example, consider SMS coupon campaigns. With monthly costs lower than $30 to send 1000 text messages and average redemption rates of 20 percent or more, it potentially costs less than 30 cents per customer in your door!

direct response marketing sms
Here is T-Mobile’s last SMS promotion. They are very concise and persistent.

Despite having easy access to new and cool tools, most businesses in your area are still leaving money on the table, because they’re not maximizing the resell potential of each customer.

Do you ethically (but effectively) prepare buyers, from their very first purchasing experience with you, to keep coming back to purchase over and over again?

I hope you find value in this post about direct response marketing. Next post we’re going to talk about how to attract followers who will regularly and gladly give you money. Part of this process is identifying who the people are most likely to become your “Ideal” customer.

This article was originally published at, by author Tony Aveiro.

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