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Articles By Mitzi Keen Crall


The success or failure of most businesses can be tied directly to the effectiveness—or ineffectiveness—of their marketing programs. Yet most business owners have little or no understanding of the factors that make or break a marketing campaign. Often perceived as more art than science, collateral material and promotions are often evaluated by such criteria, as “I like this” or “what will it cost?” rather than an objective analysis and what kind of return can be expected.

Business owners and executives like facts and figures. But marketing, well, there are all those pictures and fonts, not to mention the plethora of colors, format possibilities, and the endless stream of sales reps vying for your advertising dollar. It’s easy to get lost in all those options. What in the world is one to do?

Unknown to most business owners there are facts and figures to help guide you through the maze of developing a marketing campaign. The information may not be as definitive as that which comes from your sales records or inventory control, but certainly walking down a path with signs and arrows that offer direction beats wandering around in an uncharted wilderness.

For example, consider the fonts you use. Many people recognize that you never want to use all capital letters for a headline, but did you know that serif-typefaces outperform san-serif type for getting people to read your message? You can get by with using san-serif type in a headline, but you always want to use a serif type in the body copy. We grew up reading serif type. It is what our eyes are accustomed to. The serifs, those little lines that dress up each character, actually help lead the reader’s eye through the copy.

If you are thinking of highlighting your message by putting white type inside a dark box, reconsider. This is called “reversed-out type.” It can be an effective way to draw attention to a word or two of copy, but generally reversed-out type gets read 25 percent less than standard dark type on light paper.

When picturing your product, be sure to include a person in the picture. People are more interested in people than in any other subject you could use. However, if you are planning to invest in a celebrity spokesperson, be aware that your audience will tend to remember the spokesperson rather than your product or service.

Are you sending out your promotions on company letterhead? If so, you could be wasting as much as half of the money you are investing in your campaign. Use a letterhead to announce your message, not your company’s name.

If you use photographs, put captions under them. No matter how long they are, captions attract attention. Any reader of National Geographic can attest to this.

Keep in mind that you cannot “sell people on anything. You can, however, “interest” them in buying. So be interesting. An important criterion for any advertising is that it offers entertainment value to your audience. But you probably don’t want to cross the line into humor. Have you ever thought of what it would be like to be in front of a room full of people performing a comedy act—and no one laughed?”

We live in a society where people are overwhelmed with information and offers. If you are lucky enough to have someone read your promotional piece or ad, they are actually only reading it to find a way to justify saying “no” to your offer. You have less than four seconds to capture your audience’s attention, less than 20 seconds to get your message across to them, yet the longer you can keep a prospect involved with your message the more likely he or she will say “yes.”

Many advertisers use economies of scale to help control costs. This can be a real challenge for a small company with a limited, targeted prospect base. Like most challenges, it is also a wonderful opportunity. Sending out a 3-D package is sure to capture your prospect’s attention, and it is a process that is usually outside the scope of larger mailers. A catering company might send a plate with a cover letter and a menu. A jump rope with a “we’ll jump to serve you” message might sound corny, but would get attention. One promotion we did concerning the environment included mailing a live cactus. The response was over 15 percent, and prospects were still talking about it months later.

One word of caution. Don’t send confetti or anything else that will create a huge mess and/or might possibly offend anyone. That creates a lasting impression as well, but one you don’t want associated with your company.

Whether you are creating a brochure, ad, or direct mail promotion, remember that all copy and graphics have one mission: to lead the reader to the desired response. Benefits sprinkled throughout the copy help lead readers through the entire message. It is especially important to saturate the area around the response device with benefits. Benefits will draw the reader to the response device, and once they are in the area, many readers will continue through with the response action.

Use graphics to get the reader to the response device as well. If your product is a spray bottle, have it emit a steam of spray directly onto the response device or a coupon. A picture of a rope or string can also be placed to end at the response device.

Oh yes, and speaking of coupons: They are still around for one simple reason—they work.

From: 100 Smartest Marketing Ideas Ever, by MITZI KEEN CRALL. Mitzi is a sales and marketing consultant, trainer, and speaker. 100 Smartest Marketing Ideas Ever can be ordered through, bookstores, or directly from Glenbridge Publishing Ltd. by calling 1-800/986-4135
(or E-mail ).