A Great Myth of Direct Marketing Why You Should Not “Go Easy” on Your Customers

One of the most commonly debated topics in direct marketing is how much and how often one should market to a customer or potential customer. The most common answer is: Enough to make sales but not so much as to become annoying.

This is not true. More importantly, it is the wrong question.

Like every other semi-science, direct marketing is awash with “proven facts” that are bogus. One of these is that information publishers should give their customers at least as much non-promotional education as advertising.

You can find studies that support this position, but they are almost always small and specific. And that means they are unreliable.

I was once in love with marketing “rules” and tested every one that appealed to me. What I found out after thousands of tests to millions of customers was that there are very few rules that you can rely on. And even those, you cannot rely on 100%. But one of the rules I believe you can trust is that there is no limit to how often you should market to your customers.

For some, this defies logic. Advertisements are inherently annoying, their thinking goes. So if you want to have good relationships with your customers, go easy.

There is a simple fact that undermines their reasoning: The average American consumer sees more than 500 ads a day. (That number must include billboards and radio and television ads, as well as every internet ad that pops into view.) The number of ads that they actually notice might be 20% of that… but it’s still 100 a day!

Think about that. And let me ask you this: How many of the ads that you see every day do you remember?  READ MORE

I know the answer: very, very few.

And that’s why the fear of annoying your customers with too many ads is largely invalid. Most of them won’t even notice 90% of your ads. And 99% of those who do won’t remember them.

The reason is obvious: Your customers aren’t paying attention to how many ads you’re sending out. They are glancing at them and making decisions based on what is of interest to them.

In the old days, I tested this theory many times by contacting customers just after they’d made a purchase and asking them what they remembered about the promotion they’d responded to. As a rule, less than 20% could recall the ad, and fewer than that could recall the source of the ad.

If that is the case, it is illogical to “protect” your customers from your marketing. Instead, you should work hard to make sure your ads make an impression on them. And that makes this the real question you need to answer: What sort of impression do you want to make?

If you care nothing about the impression and only about the immediate sale, you are going to do anything you can to make that sale. That means you are going to sell with hyperbole and false urgency and even resort to advertising tricks (e.g., bait and switch).

If you do that routinely, you will indeed annoy a big percentage of your prospects. As I said, they don’t really remember the innocuous ads or even the ads they liked and responded to. But they do remember the ads that left them feeling bullied and/or deceived.  So if pummeling your customers with BS is your game, then, yes, too much of it will diminish sales.

But if you provide good products and give good service, you will be able to create advertising campaigns that are strong but also informative and transparent. And when you do that, you will find that your share of your customers’ attention will grow as time goes by. Your business will grow, too, because you will be getting to them more often with advertising propositions that they value.

So don’t worry about how many or how often. Worry about how useful and transparent.