Even in Net Marketing—Tried and True Works Best

By Mordechai (Morty) Schiller

For all you Net-heads who aren’t going to read my whole message before clicking, here it is in a flash:

  • · YES—the Net is different.
  • · NO—people are not different. You still have to appeal to their needs and offer them benefits. Or else they won’t buy....
  • Whew! No wonder they call it “Yahoo!” That’s what Net cowboys must yell when they come clicking out of the chute for their 8-second ride.
  • OK, for those of you still with me, let me explain how it works. I’ll get into some analysis later, but here’s the main point:

    • Yes, technology, media, styles and expressions have changed. But motivations and needs have NOT changed. And appealing to needs is the heart and soul of advertising. The great Maxwell Sackheim called copywriting “practicing psychiatry without a license.” As Claude Hopkins—the granddaddy of advertising copywriters—wrote in 1923: “Human nature is perpetual. In most respects it is the same today as in the time of Caesar. So the principles of psychology are fixed and enduring.”
  • Salesmanship Online
  • When I was a kid, Old Gold cigarette boxes with Betty Grable legs danced across my TV screen.… Speedy Alka Seltzer plopped and fizzed… Harry and Bert Piels ad-libbed… and Tony the Tiger GRRR-R-R-EATED on my ears.

    Did I buy any of those products? Of course not! I was having too much fun watching the commercials!

    Today, many advertisers substitute pyrotechnics for benefits in trying to market their products on the Internet. Flashing banners replace the dancing Old Gold boxes... clever gimmicks and cute buttons replace Harry and Bert... MIDI music files replace Tony’s roar. And what happens to the marketing? It Speedily plops and fizzes out!

    Marketers should repeat a mantra of what Claude Hopkins said: “Advertising is salesmanship in print.” And what’s true in print is true online.

    As direct marketing guru Milt Pierce says, “More people are spending more bucks to discover how to make the Internet make money. What nonsense! Use basic selling techniques. They worked before and they will work forever.” Or as legendary copywriter Bob Gaines puts it, “Blinking messages and tinny music do not a respondent make. Think: What does the web page lack to make me want to respond? That’s it. It’s direct marketing dressed up with a few electronic distractions.”

    Your prospects still only want to know one thing from you: “What can you do for me?” The secret of all successful advertising is still to convince your readers that you offer fulfillment for their desires. Whether in a direct mail package, in a newspaper or on the Internet—you have to focus on their needs and wants. And you have to direct them to the satisfaction offered by your product. To get them to stay with you long enough to buy, it’s not enough to just entertain them. Right on the spot, you have to offer what direct marketing pioneer Victor Schwab called “rewards for reading”:

    ...mental, physical, financial, social, emotional, or spiritual stimulation, satisfaction, well-being, or security.

    Your product has to become the friend and benefactor of the reader of your advertising. Or, conversely, your product has to become the hero in your prospect’s subconscious movie, rescuing her from

    ...risks, worries, losses, mistakes, embarrassment, drudgery...fear of poverty, illness or accident, discomfort, boredom, or the loss of business or social prestige or advancement.

    The best ads are ones that dramatize those rewards in such a way that the reader can almost ‘taste’ it.

    The Medium is the Message...

    But You Still Have to Get the Order

    Some claim the answer to better Internet marketing is HTML e-mail or rich media—delivering higher quality graphics and sound. Of course, HTML mail looks better than plain text. But lots of people still use text-based email programs. The problem with a lot of Internet marketing is that most of the people who develop web sites or HTML e-mail are either programmers who think <B><I>like this</B></I> or designers who think in graphic images.

    You need to learn to think in $$$$$. Improved graphics and sound attract, but they do not motivate. They are the oil that lubricates the engine. You still need the gas to make it go!

    When technology ‘works,’ though. It can make your focused strategic marketing message explode right off the screen. In Claude Hopkins’ day, you had to wait until a prospect mailed in a coupon to get action. Today your prospect can ‘virtually’ be using your product—and reaping the rewards it promises—in seconds! But you’ve got to make her want to try it.

    There are many differences between print and Internet marketing. Just as there are differences between direct mail, newspaper ads and TV commercials. For example, Robert Bly—the guy who ‘wrote the book’—points out a fundamental difference between print direct mail and electronic direct mail: “In general, short is better. This is not the case in classic mail-order selling where as a general principle, ‘the more you tell, the more you sell.’ Email is a unique environment. Readers are quickly sorting through a bunch of messages and aren’t disposed to stick with you for a long time.”

    The very immediacy of the Internet gives it an almost magical quality of interactive marketing never possible before. But it also poses the biggest challenge to holding onto a prospect long enough to make a sale. TV commercials and the Internet have spawned nanosecond attention spans.

    Essentially, most Internet people deal with HOW to say things. And that’s the magic of the medium. But the critical issue is still WHAT you say. And that cuts across all media.

    Marshall McLuhan, the communications theorist who proclaimed that “the medium is the message,” would have loved the Internet. He was the first to declare that electronic communications were tearing down world borders. Television, he said, turned the world into a “Global Village.” You might say he wrote the Declaration of Interdependence. (Isn’t it interesting that McLuhan died the last day of 1980... the year that IBM introduced the PC—and changed the way we work, play, talk, and even think!)

    The Internet seems to be the fulfillment of McLuhan’s vision. In many ways it is his “Global Village.” To a certain extent it also validates his catch phrase ‘‘the medium is the message’’: According to McLuhan, how we get our information affects us more than the information itself. Electronic media affect us not only because of what they show, but because of how they show it. Television-watching, he maintained, is a physical experience that involves a person more deeply than reading a book. How much more so, the interactive experience of the Internet?

    So what does all this mean to us as direct marketers? New media have changed the way we communicate. But the bottom line is that we have to look at every new development as an opportunity. New high-tech weapons have changed warfare. And new high-tech tools have changed “marketing warfare.”

    But the mother of all marketing wars still rings with the battle cry: “Get the order!” And, when properly used, the Internet can give us—like never before—the means to “Get the order NOW!”

    This article appeared in DM News. It was re-published by the National Mail Order Association and will be included in "Marketing Manager's Handbook," by Robert W. Bly, to be published by Prentice Hall.


    © 2001-2008 Mordechai (Morty) Schiller

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