Whether out of necessity or perhaps wisdom, cost conscious mail order direct marketers of past decades did manage to develop and perfect a unique promotional method that, if applied correctly, still cuts a wide swath in today's market.
Using a two-step approach toward market contact, employing small classified advertisements as the vehicle, they learned to validate prospect interest at the front end, increase bottom line profit, and cut cost of sale to the bone by eliminating cold broadcast mailings and other fruitless marketing actions.
To this day, one can scan magazines, tabloids, and even local newpapers to see countless offers that are still being promoted with small two-step ads. Many of those tiny ads have been running without stop for years on end, while the foundation of the entire system lies with the ad itself.
A great two-step ad is carefully worded, with only two reasons to exist:
- to create interest or curiosity in the reader
- to prompt her toward taking an action.
That is the essence of step one in a two-step mail order promotion. The reader was typically promised “further details" or a “free report" in exchange for her postcard or letter sent to a designated postal address.
In his turn, the direct marketer would then exercise step two by returning an appropriate reply, again by postal mail. While it proved immensely profitable, the process was labor intensive and time consuming at its best.
Still today, even with the advent of Internet marketing technology, the underlying concept of two-step marketing has changed little. The singular difference is that the prospect is no longer required to mail a letter, or wait days or weeks to get the information she desires.
Instead, she can acquire that information immediately by sending a simple email to an autoresponder system, by visiting a website, or by calling a toll free telephone number. Her action in step one still qualifies her as a highly targeted prospect, but there is no cooling off period while waiting for the postal mail to arrive. The opportunity for further action on her part (ie. making a purchase) is presented immediately, while her interest is at peak level.
So it goes without saying, this current evolution of the two-step classified ad, coupled with modern methods of instant information delivery, has forged one of the most powerful marketing strategies available to today's direct sellers.
Still, to achieve maximum effectiveness with two-step marketing, there are a few rules to be observed.
Rule 1 - Don't Try to Sell From a Small Ad
Once again, a two-step advertisement has one purpose only - to create interest or curiosity in the reader, and prompt her to take a desired action. That action is, of course, to contact the marketer for further information. Selling is not the issue at this point.
Rule 2 - Advertise Benefits and Solutions
Many experienced two-step marketers say the product or service itself should never be directly mentioned in the text of the ad. Instead, the ad should only convey benefits the reader can gain, or possibly a solution to a defined problem.
Rule 3 - Convenient Contact
Make it as easy as possible for the reader/prospect to get the information she wants. It's best to include at least two contact methods within the ad text (ie. email autoresponder, website URL, toll free telephone number. )
Rule 4 - Follow Up for the Sale
Depending on the statistics one reads, as little as 20% of all sales are made on the first contact. That means as much as 80% of potential profits hang in the balance, depending on multiple follow up contacts to close sales and render a profitable campaign. Email marketing by autoresponder has infinitely streamlined the multiple follow up process, without adding any appreciable amount to cost of sale.
Rule 5 - Test Several Ads and Track the Results
Two-step ads are traditionally small, often comprised of only three to five lines of text. Since each single word should be weighed and measured for effect, it's important to develop several different ads for any promotion, and to track the results from each ad. The pulling power of one ad will frequently outweigh all others by virtue of a few simple word changes.
Rule 6 - Consistent Placement of Ads
Small classified type ads do not carry the immediate credibility of a larger display ad, a webpage, or even an email solo advertisement. A typical reader may need to see the ad more than once in the same venue, before she feels comfortable in making a response. This writer's own campaign tracking has revealed the majority of response from two-step ads often comes after the second or third ad run in any particular venue. On the other hand, one time insertions have, more often that not, proved a financial loss.
The decades old concept of two-step marketing has evolved and meshed perfectly with today's electronic marketing technology. When used properly, it can pre-qualify prospects, generate high value emailing lists, dramatically reduce cost per sale, and improve bottom line profit for small and large direct marketing companies alike.
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