Old (and new) direct response advertising: The story

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direct response advertising
We frequently associate direct response advertising with "junk mail" but the really good direct response material is compelling and builds trust (and of course can include television and electronic advertising.)
We frequently associate direct response advertising with "junk mail" but the really good direct response material is compelling and builds trust (and of course can include television and electronic advertising.)
We frequently associate direct response advertising with “junk mail” but the really good direct response material is compelling and builds trust (and of course can include television and electronic advertising.)

We’ve been hearing a lot about storytelling in marketing recently, but the concept isn’t really that new. Old-style direct response advertising going way back to pre-Internet times, practiced this concept effectively. The object (then as now): Engage the reader, build trust, connect the relationship, and keep the audience engaged as long as necessary to achieve the purchase decision.

You still see these ads in 2015 in newspapers — coin/medallion offers, implying limited availability, written something like a news article — and telling a story that you think just may be true. (It should be “true” of course or it would be illegal, but the impression of scarcity probably far exceeds the reality in these expensively marketed offers.)

The next stage in the storytelling/direct response saga occurred with the advent of broadcast (and then cable) television — and the “infomercial” — the 30 minute or longer “program” designed to sell you on the latest diet aid or exercise machine. Again, these ads work with compelling “real life” actors sharing their experiences and amazing success with the product.

As you read this, you might think┬ástrategy might have value for low-end consumer products, but surely school districts won’t contract with you to design new buildings because of this type of marketing; and (if you are a sub-trade), GCs or consumers won’t choose their drywall installer or electrician because of a “story” or “marketing”.

And you are right, to a point.

I certainly see the storytelling/direct response advertising model still applied (in website and email format) by some of my colleagues/peers in the marketing/consulting space — they use these techniques because they are effective. Which means, I expect, especially in the residential business-to-consumer marketplace, they also could be quite effective for business development.

Then why doesn’t the industry/trades use these models more effectively?

The answer, I think, is that if you are good enough/well established enough to have enough funds for marketing, you probably have another problem — managing the business/staff and scale of operations, based on the conventional business gathering/development models. You have repeat and referral business, plenty of RFP responses to process, and the last thing you need is a surge of new business from unknown “new” clients who you will have to find the right staff to serve.

In other words, I’ll dare say that effective direct response advertising might be too effective for AEC businesses to handle.

Ugh. If that is the case, we are treading down the path of “I don’t need to market my business” or “marketing is a waste of money, so why do it”

But maybe, if you want to live with some creative risk,you’ll give a shot at some really good direct response/sharing/storytelling/testimonial advertising. You may find a little effort goes a very long way — and you will then need to move your advertising budget to recruiting qualified staff.

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