No BS Direct Marketing by Dan Kennedy: Summary and Notes
Here are my notes on this book by Dan Kennedy, an established direct marketing guru who has made an empire out of selling direct marketing consulting, training and books for decades.
These are my own notes, but hopefully you'll find them useful.
Purpose & Audience
This book is aimed at businesses not used to doing direct marketing who should make a switch. Most businesses do advertising and marketing the "old" way, advertising their products and services, but don't make a direct appeal to people.
Primary targets are local businesses, like real estate agents, lawyers, dentists etc. These are businesses that normally advertise their products and services, that should make a switch to direct marketing!
The Rules of Direct Marketing
These are the rules the author expects everyone to adhere to when switching to direct marketing.
- There will always be an offer or offers.
- There will be a reason to respond right now
- You will give clear instructions
- There will be tracking, measurement and accountability
- Only no-cost brand building
- There will be follow-up
- There will be strong copy
- It will look like mail-order advertising
- Results rule. Period.
- You will be a tough-minded disciplinarian and put your business on a strict direct marketing diet
Rule 1: There will always be an offer
You have to make an offer your customer can't refuse. Every communication has to ask somebody to do something.
Most marketing doesn't do this, just talking about something vague but not calling for a response.
You have to ask for action in order to measure and track the performance of every ad.
There are two types of offers. You should always include one, but you can actually include both.
Type 1: Requesting purchase.
Classic offer, like "buy one, get one free" from pizza shops (but never discount!). These are usually married to a hard deadline and are limited.
Disadvantages: They sacrifice price integrity (through discounting) and they can train people to respond only to deals when they're offered. They can also be comparison shopped easily, and they encourage this.
Despite all this they're still useful.
Type 2: Lead generation offer.
This is usually free. It's aimed at building a relationship to avoid waste in advertising.
For example, free information kits with brochures and a DVD. Once someone raises their hand and says "yes, I want that free download!" you know they're interested in your offer.
Make your lead gen offers easy to accept
You want to make your offers "low threshold resistance". This is usually free information sent by mail or online.
High threshold is like a discount on a first session at a chiropractor, or even a free appointment with a financial planner. It only gets people who are already convinced they need that thing.
Low threshold is aimed at people who might need that thing but really want more information.
Try both kinds of offers with multiple reasons to respond
You can say "Look guy, if you need a chiropractor, first visit is $29. But if you're not sure, here's some info that might help. Book us if you want." That's a lead gen offer and direct purchase offer combined.
Rule 2: There will be a reason to respond right now
The author says:
The hidden cost and failure in all advertising and marketing is in the almost-persuaded.
I.e. people who nearly responded or bought, but didn't. The solution is to introduce urgency to act.
Imagine your prospect as a giant sloth, spread out on the couch, loath to move, phone just out of reach. Your offer must force the prospect to move right now.
Contextually create urgency, like with limited supply, limited per region, countdown clocks etc, or a bonus for the first 100 buyers.
You can create a "group dynamic", which encourages a stampede effect. For example, home inspections where everyone comes at the same time. Or an auction, the best example. You can do a mail out saying only 50 are available. Follow up saying 33 were sold and 17 are left. And so on.
The most powerful urgency: having only one. Like an expensive dinner with a celebrity.
In B2B, geographic exclusivity works. Like "only one of these per region" (so as not to promote business competition).
For a local business, try having a special event, like a meet and greet with a celebrity. It'll be super expensive and exclusive. But it'll lead to trickle-on traffic after the event.
Rule 3: You will give clear instructions
Most marketers' failures result from giving confusing directions or no directions at all.
You need to clearly tell people what to do to get the offer.
For example, have a button that says not "Buy now", but "Click here to buy now".
If you have a direct mail-out asking for a reply, write "Put it in the mail. We've paid the postage". Don't just put an envelope in there with standard pre-paid markings.
Use order forms and spend a lot of time making them as easy as possible (see some model ones at www.nobsbook/directmarketingbook).
If you have a complicated product, include easy instructions and a definite "watch/read this first".
Rule 4: There will be tracking, measurement and accountability
Track everything. No advertising without tracking and measurement.
Ignore "new media" metrics like impressions and engagement. You only care about conversions. Use strict ROI on ad spend, i.e. purchases divided by spend.
Offline, attach codes to every single advertisement so you can connect the conversion rates to the specific ad used.
This is much easier to do on the internet, as it's easy to track goal conversions in Google or Facebook.
Rule 5: Only no-cost brand building
Brand building is for patient marketers with deep pockets filled with other people's money.
You don't spend money on "building brand", unless you're trying to please your board of investors. There's no guarantee of success or sustainability with brand recognition.
Nothing is wrong with brand or brand building, but you shouldn't pay for it, particularly if you're a small business. You should buy response, and gratefully accept brand-building as a bonus.
Copying big brand builders like Heinz or huge law firms will bankrupt you.
You can even ignore branding altogether. For example, if you're warning of a market crash and trying to sell information or training about it, attaching your brand to it might reduce the credibility. Sometimes a brand can hurt.
Rule 6: There will be follow-up
You have to have a strategy in place to fully convert marketing investments into the greatest possible gains.
Every prospect that visits your business has to be captured: Get their name, phone number, cookie them etc. You pay for every call, every walk-in, every website visit. So capture them.
Not capturing these is like having holes in your bucket (or your funnel).
You need to follow up on
- Anyone who asks for information from you. You have their details.
- Leads at consumer and trade shows. Email or call every card you get.
- Referrals, like "You should talk to this person". Get their details, and talk to them.
- New customers. Make them habitual purchasers! Recognize them.
- Existing customers. Keep in touch with them at least once a week. Don't lose them because they forget you.
What follow-up should look like
Re-state, re-sell and extend the same offer. Just remind them, acknowledging there are x reasons people don't respond right away, and maybe answer them. Give a new deadline.
Give a "2nd notice" with a deadline. You can do this humorously ("forget something?") or seriously.
Give a "third and final notice". For example, "Look, it's our duty to tell you that if you don't have insurance, you're screwed. But your call."
Change the offer. Maybe they don't want your product. They might want to be fitter, but don't want a personal trainer. How about a diet plan?
Rule 7: There will be strong copy
"Yelling isn't selling." Don't spend more money on an unoptimized campaign.
Loud but irrelevant isn't much better than quiet and relevant. Loud, you can grab attention, but you can't convert it to interest.
But don't be subtle. Sales and subtlety rarely go hand in hand. But in the massive competition for attention and interest, you can't afford to be shy.
Don't send Casper Milktoast; send The Incredible Hulk: a huge, glowing neon green, stomping, yelling salesman.
And keep their attention.
The four chief sales copy rules
Great sales copy is written backwards, from the customer's interests, desires, frustrations, fears, thoughts, feelings and experiences, journeying to revelation of a solution tied to your business.
You probably have to learn to write strong copy yourself. Good copywriters are too expensive. Get "The Ultimate Sales Letter" and the "Magnetic Marketing system" (both by Dan Kennedy) as a starting book.
- Michael Masterson
- Joe Sugarman
- Robert Collier (classics)
- Victor Schwab (classics)
Rule 1: Write to the psyche of the consumer. Don't write to default positions of advertising (product, features, benefits, comparative superiority and price). For example, tell customers that they'll hit a golf ball farther than their friends.
Rule 2: Write emotionally, with enthusiasm and conversationally. Not factually and professionally. Write like you talk. For example "You'll hit the ball better than your friends."
Rule 3: Make huge claims. Be hyperbolic. Don't be timid and bland. For example: you'll hit the ball farther than you ever have in your life. "Timid salesmen have skinny kids."
Rule 4: Avoid shouting louder. Shouting a weak message louder will just ruin your vocal chords.
Bonus graphics lesson: Use line breaks, so each line is a complete idea.
Rule 8: It will look like mail-order advertising
Let your ads look like ads. Doing too much else will complicate your life. Reasons:
- Only mail order ads actually persuade people to buy things and do it immediately and directly.
- Sticking with mail-order ad formats prohibits a lot of mistakes.
Find mail-order advertising (or landing pages or whatever) and make yours look like them.
Ignore everything else; copy nothing from it.
Classic ads include a headline, presentation of the product/proposition, and then the bottom part for clear response instructions and a coupon.
Online, a website should have the same format, with a click to order form. Never pollute it with panels offering other options.
Collect a huge assortment of ads from online sources and keep them in a "swipe" file.
Get ads by:
- Joe Sugarman
- Gerardo Joffee
- E. Joseph Cossman
Get their books, study their ads. (See Resources section)
Rule 9: Results rule. Period.
Opinions don't matter, only results.
A lot of content in this book will seem too bold, too aggressive, too hype-y, to unprofessional, too weird... ignore all that, pay attention only to results.
Tim Ferriss chose the title "The Four-Hour Workweek" by testing many through Google Adwords. That wasn't his preferred choice, but it was the market's choice.
Do split testing. Online, using adwords. Offline, splitting a mailing list in half.
If you can't afford to do this kind of testing, then pay attention to national direct mailers. Subscribe to their mailing list multiple times and figure out which their 'control' is and copy their control.
There are archives of controls in any category in insidedirect-mail.com.
Extract common success factors from other successful campaigns and make your own promotions.
Rule 10: You will be a tough-minded disciplinarian and put your business on a strict direct marketing diet
You need an iron will.
Going on a diet, you need to
- Purce your house of abd food like cookies and replce it with celery
- Decide on an eating plan and stick to it, with simple rules like "no white food"
- Get some tools, like a scale
- Start counting something — calories, carbs, weight — anything
- Step up your exercise
- Be alert to hazards and scams that lead you astray
Similarly in business
- Purge your business of junk, like lame ads, brochures.
- Decide on a new marketing plan. Keep it extremely simple, like "Eat Nothing White". Use Dan's book, The Ultimate Marketing Plan.
- Get good tools. Dan loves Infusionsoft to the point of drooling over it. It powers GKIC and most of the client's businesses. Use the guide in The Ultimate Sales Letter and the tool kit and templates in Magnetic Marketing System.
- Start counting and measuring things. Traffic, sales, etc
- Build your marketing mind muscle. Make sure you have time to think, not just do. Spend an hour every morning reviewing, sharpening your tools.
- Be alert and resistant to fads ang gimmicks. Discard anything that would throw you off your plan, like junk products, seminars, etc.
Basic direct marketing tools list
You need all the following tools to run your business.
- Lead magnets: books, reports, CDs, free courses. They should establish your authority and promote your products.
- Website to capture contact info.
- Main sales letter to sell the core product/service.
- Follow-up system for unconverted leads: online and offline. Infusionsoft.
- In-bound call script: to capture contact info for follow-up.
- Email sequences for each sales purpose, e.g. cross-selling
- Customer newsletter
- Referral campaigns
- Late or lost customer re-activation campagins
- Catalogue of goods and services
Use online media effectively
"If it doesn't pay, not today."
Websites are basically essential, and you can use social media profitably.
Always use direct ROI in managing your business.
Ignore "new metrics", because you can measure new media with old metrics of ROI. People think you need new metrics, but this has been happening since the dawn of advertising.
The author drives online sales over $100m a year with websites, online video, online sales letters, online catalogs and social media, and offline media directing to online sales points. So online is essential, but it stands by the same laws.
Respect the Results Triangle of Market, Message and Media
Three sides of the triangle: message, market and media.
You have to have the right message to the right market via the right media.
Market: Who it's going to.
You need to know exactly who your market is. Most marketing teams are product centric, and the market is broad and generic.
Most businesses can't describe their ideal customer and who they want to respond.
The way you figure it out: analysis. Ignore your intuition. You need to be extremely specific about who your target customers are. Otherwise you will be vulnerable to commoditisation and competition.
Example 1: A business finding international brides for single men. The client thought the market was men from all walks of life. Analysis shoed that half the clients were twice-divorced long haul truck drivers. So that's who they directed marketing towards, using special magazines for truck drivers, with testimonials from divorced truck drivers.
Example 2: Selling a home-based business opportunity. Client thought customers were all kinds of professionals, accountants, lawyers etc. Analysis showed clients were a third accountants, a third mortgage brokers, and a third other. So they marketed to CPAs in special magazines.
Example 3: Client was a chiropractor, and analysis showed the majority of cash patients preferred using AmEx, and subscribed to a particular magazine called Prevention. So they rented the list of subscribers by zip code, as well as Amex card holders by zip code, and found people in his area on both lists. The cost was $700 for 27 people on both lists, but he got a 40% response rate and 80% conversion conversion, for revenue of $17,800.
Message: Speak magnetically to your target market
You need to "match bait to critter". People are buried in boring communication, and are only interested in themselves and their own interests.
A "magnetic message" is just for you. It speaks to you directly.
People especially want fascinating secrets, solutions to problems, prveention from threats, promises of seductive benefits or timely "breaking news".
For example, "how to double tax-free yield on IRA and funds" is good for an older market, better than "how to buy insurance", which is too vague. But advice on avoiding taxes is irrelevant for a younger market.
Media: Deliver a magnetic message to the target market
You need to go to where your audience is. There's no best medium; you have to know it by business.
Don't become lazily dependent on one or two ways of getting customers; you have to know many.
You know all the channels: Gacebook ads, Google ads, magazines, television, radio, LinkedIn, direct mail, doorknocking, SMS, Instagram, Facebook groups... just pick the one that gets you into the heart of the customer, and gets them to trust you.
Legal services: Ben Glass
Old school ads just say "Here I am, I'm a lawyer, and I charge nothing unless you win."
This case study led Ben Glass to create a rich funnel. He identified his perfect client (middle class, has plenty of insurance, respects an authority), as well as excluding bad clients (someone who wants to get rich, has bounced between lawyers, has opinions on the law, etc.).
He created offers for multiple stages of the funnel, with unique websites
- In an accident and have no clue what to do next: get the book at "theaccidentbook.com"
- Want to settle yourself: "getitsettled.com"
- Want to hire a lawyer but don't believe the ads: "thetruthaboutlawyerads.com"
- Want to switch lawyers (to us): "firemyattorney.com"
- Had a case before and maybe think they got the wrong insurance...
- Want to get more answers about the claims process...
Each website was targeted to bringing people in at a different stage of the process.
Also he developed a follow-up system, keeping in contact with every kind of client. Surprisingly, they use Infusionsoft.
We discovered that our best clients hire us anywhere from 3 to 12 months after first entering one of our direct-response marketing funnels. Our perfect client is taking the time to 1) heal from serious injuries and 2) do research before making the decision as to which lawyer to hire, and when they show up in our office they are 3) usually carrying with them the big bundle of stuff we’ve sent them. Importantly, we are making more money and having more fun.
Real estate: Craig Proctor
Craig became top REMAX agent in the world at 29, and opened a bunch of offices.
He created a bunch of innovations to promote and differentiate his business:
- Killer USP to get in front of customers: Initially advertised himself. Just said "I'm #1". But eventually changed the angle with a killer USP that differentiated him from every other RE agent out there: "Your Home Sold in 120 Days or I'll Buy It". This got people calling and say "how does it work?" which would lead him to say "Well, I'll have to see your house to tell you how much I can pay for it..."
- Create generic ads that appeal to what a consumer wants, not what the agents have. Don't advertise the house and its features, advertise the things you can bring to a customer (e.g. nice homes in quiet streets. This way they can't eliminate your ad (and therefore you) . because of features
- Create a follow-up system that isn't about sales, it's about information. People don't want to be sold, they just want help with something.
- Create competition and urgency: He invented the group open house that creates a sense of scarcity. A bunch of interested parties show up to a house and then they all see the interest and begin to compete against each other for it.
- Make a reverse offer. If a client is vaguely interested, but doesn't make an offer, send them an offer with all terms and a contract. Worst case they ignore it, but sometimes they say "well not at that price, but I'd buy it at this price..."
- Do things for goodwill and branding. He created a service to give free long-distance calls for people in his community, and offered information seminars over the phone.