Supercharge your sales with a 50-year-old lesson in direct marketing

Leafing through some old LPs recently I came across a piece of text-book direct response copy from the 1970s. It shows that, while a lot has changed in 50 years of direct marketing, there’s much that hasn’t. If you want to improve your business messaging and get better results from your marketing spend, you can learn a lot from this ad. Apply the lessons to your online communications and you’re on to a winner.

Example advert in newspaper

What makes this advert work – and how you can apply the principles to make your own messaging more effective.

  1. It demonstrates perfect placement. The ad was placed on the inside sleeve of a record – so it’s guaranteed to hit an engaged audience. The reader is probably about to listen to the LP and is therefore likely to have time to read, too.
    Tip: Think about where you could best communicate to your intended audience and you’re off to a good start.
  2. It leads with a strong, specific benefit. The header names the price, tells you it’s a double album (more bang for your buck) and claims to be ‘the best record bargain yet’. One way to strengthen it would be to add urgency (for example, ‘first 500 orders only’).
    Tip: Ensure your headlines are attention grabbing and lead with a strong specific benefit. Add urgency if appropriate.
  3. It sells one big idea. There are lots of artists on the LP – but the writer pulls them together with the concept of a ‘supergroup’. It’s always better to focus on selling one specific benefit in your messaging – even if it can be broken into smaller parts.
    Tip: When you’re marketing a product or service think about the overarching benefit you’re delivering and get that across as quickly as possible.
  4. The subhead pulls out further benefits. Name dropping a few of the artists included on the LP is a quick way to gain and keep attention. This is where you can expand on your big idea before going into more detail.
    Tip: Clearly list all the benefits your product or service will deliver. Using bullet points is a good way to make them stand out.
  5. It draws a picture to bring the main claim to life. After repeating the proposition (always a good thing) the ad puts the classic ‘show don’t tell’ rule into practice. OK, so ‘90 minutes of the best in contemporary music for less than the cost of 4 packs of cigarettes’ might not be appropriate today – but you get the idea. This is followed by more well-known artists’ names to entice the reader – again emphasising the value for money.
    Tip: Don’t lecture your audience – draw them a picture. Use a case study, give an example, or come up with a relatable analogy to bring benefits to life.
  6. The copy predicts and overcomes the readers objections. The writer outlines the reasons behind the non-profit deal, overcoming the reader’s scepticism. It draws a picture again, this time depicting Warner Brothers’ marketing team wrangling with the accounting department. The lesson here is never leave your audience with unanswered questions. They may go elsewhere for answers – and you could lose them.
    Tip: If you were the customer, what questions would you ask? Make a list and include the answers in your copy.
  7. It turns negatives into positives. The copy explains that the artists you haven’t heard of are actually part of the reason for the great deal. What’s more, they could be the next big thing. You’ll get to hear them first, and you’ll be the one in the know.
    Tip: Turning negatives into positives is good practice for any business – as long as its credible.
  1. There’s a strong call to action (CTA). Easily forgotten – and without this, the rest is wasted. Always tell your reader what you want them to do (in this case, cut out and post the coupon).
    Tip: Keep your CTA short and write in the imperative voice. Don’t say: ‘Why not book an appointment today?’. Do say: “Book now”.

Fast forward 50 years …

What really struck me reading this advert was this statement: ‘The miracle of Supergroup could be with you in just weeks.’ To convert a prospect, the writer had to persuade them to cut a chunk out of their new record’s precious inner sleeve, write out a cheque, address an envelope, stamp it and post it – and then wait TWO WEEKS to get the reward. Clearly every word of copy had to count.

Today, people can respond to a CTA much more easily – often with a single click of a mouse. Yet the number of ads that we see online has increased exponentially, and people are more inclined than ever to skim through copy – especially online. It’s getting tougher to stand out from the crowd, and that means the same rules apply. In fact, just as much as in the 1970s every word has to count.

What is new, however, is that you have more ways to engage your audience. You can use modern technology to make responding easier and more enticing. A recent marketing campaign conducted by Ebi, print and fulfilment specialists with expertise in interactive communications, and WND UK, the UK’s Sigfox Network Operator illustrates the point. With their help, a premium automotive manufacturer sent out a direct marketing pack with live response button, powered by the Sigfox IoT network. The recipient could book a test drive simply by pressing a button attached to the pack. The response rate was 48%, compared to the industry average of just 5%. But then, presented with a magic button to press – could you resist?

At Resonates we specialise in helping companies get the right message to the right audience using the right medium. If you’re looking to press the reset button on your marketing and refresh your messaging for today’s digitally savvy audience, get in touch.