The Direct Marketing “Equation”

Today, I’m going to share a piece of direct response “lore” that very few self-respecting copywriters would openly discuss with their clients – let alone potential clients.

(For reasons that will soon become apparent.)

It’s a success equation, of sorts, for direct mail campaigns.

I can’t remember where, or from whom, I picked this up. But over the last five years, this simple equation has repeatedly proved itself to me – so I use it as a rule of thumb.

Here it is:

When you send out a direct mail package…
– 10% of the result comes from your copy
– 30% of the result comes from your offer
– 60% of the result comes from your list

In other words, you can have the best copy that money can buy, but if your offer is a dud, or worse, if you’re trying to sell to a bad list, you don’t stand a chance.

Conversely, if you have a list of people with plenty of money and a burning unfulfilled need, you can send out amateur copy and you’ll still make bank.

Over the last few years, I’ve come to realise that this simple equation extends well beyond direct mail packages and applies to almost every area of marketing.

It also applies to any type of offering – whether it be a pure product, a pure service, something in between, a person, a movement, or even just an idea.

When you’re trying to sell an offering to somebody…
10% of the result comes from your message (i.e. how you communicate)
30% of the result comes from your value proposition (i.e. what you’re offering)
60% of the result comes from your market (i.e. who you’re speaking to)

Does this mean that good copy isn’t important?

Absolutely not.

However, if your current offer isn’t working with your current list, stunning copy will not turn the situation around. You need to change the offer or the list.

Interestingly, if I look back at every client we’ve ever worked with who made serious money by using my copy, do you know what they all had in common?

They had already figured out their audience and their value proposition.

They were already making money – and I helped them make even more, by getting this last part of the equation right (while taking a LOT of work off their hands as well).

This simple equation is a useful tool for strategic thinking too.

You want to double your revenue this year?

You’re not going to do that by redesigning your website. But if you take your best product to a different market – one that has more expensive needs and more money to fulfil them – you could very well triple or quadruple your top line.

Your Facebook campaign isn’t delivering?

Don’t waste your time tinkering with stock images. The breakthrough you need will come from testing different audiences – assuming, of course, your offer is sound.

Leads won’t respond to your prospecting emails?

Chances are, it’s because either you’re targeting the wrong people or you’re offering something they do not value. Change one, or both, of these factors.

This simple “equation” sounds so obvious.

But if you look beneath the surface, it encapsulates a set of broader principles on human nature that are actually rather profound. I’ll leave you to reflect on that.

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