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A Thing

The Most Brilliant Marketing Column Ever Written

By Sam Neuman and Nancy Drexler

Did the title of this article get your attention? Good. This month, I will talk about ways to grab your target's attention using several different types of marketing. I'll tell you how to write press releases that become front-page news, design ads that make the reader pick up the phone right away, and send direct mail that stays out of the circular file.

The first rule: No matter what message you communicate or how you say it, get right to the point and put the benefits first. With that in mind, let's look at how you can create public relations (PR) campaigns that soar instead of snore, and save your company advertising money in the process.

No News Is Very Bad News

In this industry, effective PR is incredibly important, not only because it has a wide impact or because people believe what they read in newspapers and magazines more than what they see in ads.

And definitely not only because those framed clippings from "The New York Times" match your office d‚cor perfectly.

PR is crucial to financial professionals because it's free. In an industry driven by ROI and the bottom line, PR is a no-brainer. The problem is that many companies send out press releases that are so boring, so formulaic, and so clearly an attempt to get free publicity, that reading every line of your spam e-mail would be more enlightening.

Free PR is no good if no one cares about your stories, and it's even worse if the press see your name and start shooting for the wastebasket.

Browsing financial headlines on "" (a Web site that publishes press releases and news from around the world) for a few hours is a great way to fight bouts of insomnia, but if you're looking for actual news, it can be a little depressing.

Too often you will see headlines such as "Company Announces Earnings" or "Senior Vice President Gets Promoted to Executive Vice President" or "Company Wins Account."

The information is certainly important, but it's often presented so dryly it's likely to get overlooked. Or if it does get published, it will probably be buried on page 194 or in the middle of section G-8.

Spice up your releases with headlines that make people want to read. Did you recently sign a major merchant from an industry that doesn't typically accept credit cards? There's a trend piece in the works.

And that Senior VP, excuse me, Executive VP, there must be something interesting about him, right?

Why not lead with the fact that he's a Gulf War veteran or a nationally ranked Texas Hold'em player? That's a much more certain way to get your piece read.

Here's the key: Write press releases that you would actually want to read, and you'll have a much greater chance of seeing your company make headline news.

Ads That Get Attention and Keep It

People in advertising talk a lot about image advertising vs. direct response advertising. The intent of the former is to reinforce a company or product's name and brand in order to build customer awareness. The latter promotes action, calling for a customer to call a number, fill out a form or buy a product.

A Macy's ad that says it has the best clothes at the best value is an image ad; an ad that tells you women's shoes are 40% off at Macy's this weekend is a direct response ad. (And an ad that will have me running to the nearest Macy's, but that's neither here nor there.)

Whether you work with brand or direct response advertising, advertising is expensive, and thus is expected to produce results. This seems obvious, but sometimes we creative types can get carried away with making ads that are beautiful, innovative, sexy or outrageous. These are all great things, but not necessarily the things that will increase your company's bottom line.

When a potential customer looks at your ad, you don't want their only reaction to be "Wow, what a cool ad," followed by a page turn. You want them to pick up the phone, go to your Web site or send an e-mail right away to learn more about whatever the ad is selling.

Obviously, we want ads that stand out and get noticed, but sometimes we run the risk of paying too much attention to how cool our ads look and completely ignoring the fact that they're not doing their job: selling products and services.

For example, the advertising community gives out Clio Awards once a year to the best ads in print, television, billboards, you name it. The winning ads are inevitably hilarious, touching or innovative. They also don't necessarily sell products.

A study by "Advertising Age," a publication for advertising, marketing and media professionals, found that more than one-third of the agencies that win Clio Awards are fired by their clients within the next 18 months.

The ads that win might be wonderful, but they don't necessarily sell products. They're great for getting people's attention, but not for getting them to actually do anything.

So keep the creative ideas coming. Write and design ads that generate buzz and get people talking. But never lose sight of the ultimate goal of the ad.

A great design or a catchy slogan will get people looking, but then your copy and your images need to keep them looking, and, more importantly, reading. The product has to be the hero, not the copywriter or the art director.

Return to Sender: How to Rethink Your Direct Mail Campaigns

When you're creating a direct mail campaign, you have a major obstacle to overcome. For many people, direct mail is always an unwanted annoyance. To make your message stand out, lead with your strongest selling point.

Put yourself in your target's shoes, and give your direct mail piece a casual glance. What do you see?

A big corporate logo? It's going in the trash. Six paragraphs of 10-point text? Trash it. An offer that's easy to refuse or a promise that's hard to believe? Trash away.

The first thing a prospect should see when he picks up your direct mail is a benefit. Your campaign should offer him, within five seconds of glancing at it, an enticement to read further by promising a solution to a problem that he has. His problem could be that he provides bad customer service, uses malfunctioning equipment or is forced to turn away customers because he doesn't accept every method of payment.

There's also a universal problem that people in every industry have: They're not rich enough. You can solve this problem by showing them how to make money, or how to keep more of it by working with your company instead of the competition.

Distill your benefit into a short, catchy headline and make it the visual emphasis of the piece. Then, add a captivating image that will surely catch the prospect's eye if the headline should fail.

Save your more involved, explanatory text for the back, but be cautioned that less is definitely more. You have less than a minute to make your prospect an offer he can't refuse. If he's intrigued, he'll make the call or visit your Web site to get more information.

Be quick, punchy and concise and you will get his attention. Lead the reader easily through product benefits to a ready solution, and you'll get results.

No matter what marketing channels you use, remember these over-arching rules for getting your audience's attention. Keep it simple, spell it out quickly, and put a benefit or solution right at the top of your marketing piece, and you'll see major results. I hope you paid attention.

Sam Neuman is the Communications Specialist and Nancy Drexler is the Marketing Director for Cynergy Data, a merchant acquirer that provides a wide array of electronic payment processing services while continually striving to develop new solutions that meet the needs of its agents and merchants. In addition to offering all forms of credit, debit, EBT and gift card processing, the company offers its ISOs free training, technology, marketing and guaranteed service levels. Founded in 1995 by Marcelo Paladini and John Martillo, Cynergy Data strives to be a new kind of acquirer with a unique mission: to constantly explore, understand and develop the products its ISOs and merchants need to be successful, and to back it up with honest, reliable and supportive service.

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