Imagine if you could write one sentence of marketing copy that would generate millions of dollars in sales for your business and catapult you to success that you might never have thought possible. You'd be the envy of just about every entrepreneur out there!
Well, that's exactly what Fred Catona has done. Founder of Bulldozer Direct, Catona and his direct response marketing strategies were instrumental in helping Priceline.com become the fastest company in history to reach $1 billion in sales (it took just 18 months). He's also responsible for the hugely successful marketing campaign behind FreeCreditReport.com.
Here's some of Catona's best advice for getting your message out to ideal prospective customers and getting their attention right away.
1. Know your real enemy. In every great movie, book or play, there's a protagonist and an antagonist whose conflict creates drama -- and we all know that people love drama. If you can be the protagonist with your messaging and market against an enemy, you will get people's attention.
To do that, you've got to identify your enemy -- that is, your true enemy. Most entrepreneurs automatically assume that their biggest competitor is their enemy. Maybe, says Catona, but it's quite possible that there's a deeper and more important enemy you are overlooking.
Catona cites two examples:
- When Nike came up with the "Just Do It" slogan, the idea wasn't to battle Reebok. It was to fight the true enemy preventing Nike from selling more shoes: laziness. "Just Do It" told us to get off the couch and get active (in Nikes, of course).
- Apple's "Think Different" campaign didn't target Microsoft as much as it did a more compelling antagonist: the entire establishment itself. The company's messaging told us that by buying Apple, we would be conquering the established order of things through our independent and free-thinking attitude.
In my own case, I work with financial advisors. Their biggest enemy isn't other advisors -- it's the inertia and costly mistakes that investors make. And that's what advisors' marketing messages should seek to combat.
The upshot: Think about the true enemy in your marketplace that is stopping more customers or clients from buying, and market against that force.
2. Leverage the power of -- believe it or not -- radio. Catona uses all forms of direct marketing media, but he remains an especially big proponent of a channel that many of us mistakenly assume is dying out: radio. According to Nielsen, the average American listens to about 14 hours of radio per week -- more than the total amount of time spent per week streaming video on mobile devices and the Internet, or using the Internet on a traditional computer. "I'm glad that people think that radio is waning because it really opens it up to the entrepreneurs I help," says Catona. "I can get them on the air and pay very little money to create a tremendous amount of impact."
Indeed, says Catona, radio's flexibility allows you to cost effectively test your messaging in the marketplace and adapt quickly by pulling or tweaking your ads based on listener response. "You can't do that as well with TV and print ads. It's too expensive and too time consuming," he says.
3. Find your all-important 10 words. You can fit about 185 words in a 60-second radio ad. Make sure approximately 10 of those words will really stick in listeners' minds and tell them why they should buy what you're selling. Keep in mind the basic ideas of smart copywriting such as making sure that your slogan is actionable (use action verbs like make, improve, earn, discover, create and share) and that it conveys the value you offer.
Catona offers a key piece of advice for identifying those 10 words: Make your message empowering to your audience. For example, the famous slogan for Priceline was "Name Your Own Price," while the slogan for FreeCreditReport.com was "Run a Free Credit Report on Yourself." Both slogans worked for the same reason: They gave listeners the feeling that they now had the power to make great things happen for themselves and take control of their lives in new ways. "Handing the power to the customer is much more effective than hitting them over the head and telling them to buy," says Catona.
4. Bend reality to your goals. Armed with your 10 words and strategy, it's time to, as Catona puts it, bend reality by repeating your message via radio over and over again. "It's all about frequency," notes Catona. "If you tell someone you're the best at something enough times, they might just end up believing you. It's the Muhammad Ali principle -- you have to constantly remind people why you are great."
Of course, there's a smart way to repeat your messaging. Catona recommends running your commercials close together in a tight rotation in the right geographic areas. "We know people listen to radio programs for a certain period of time. During that period of time, we want them to hear our commercials over and over again so they start believing in our brands."
To get Wall Street excited about Priceline, for example, Catona made sure to run lots of ads on radio programs that traders and other professional investors listened to. "It was impossible for them to turn on their radios without hearing one of our commercials."
Likewise, he blasted the metro areas where major airlines were headquartered in order to create buzz that would prompt the companies to give Priceline access to their seats. "The executives thought, 'Where the heck did these guys come from?'," laughs Catona. "They'd never heard of us -- but suddenly we were everywhere."
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