Top of Mind Exposure and ROI

Have you ever considered what steps are necessary to cause you to purchase a product or service? Whether a consumer or someone making purchases for your business, it’s probably safe to say you typically don’t buy impulsively … well … beyond that Big Mac billboard that sent you screeching into the McDonald’s parking lot (you’d had enough of your paleo diet). 

With the constant increase in technology in marketing, it’s awesome what we can measure, track and discover. But while we’d like to believe all marketing is 100% measurable with immediate ROI, I find it interesting that many marketers seem to be forgetting one of the most important components in successful advertising – staying top of mind.

I was reminded of this concept just last week when a prospect for one of my advertisers reached out to us. They remembered seeing an ad for church software in our publication 4 years prior! This pastor always knew they wanted the product, they just weren’t in the position to buy at the time. But because my client had stayed continually in front of this prospect, never missing an issue, the pastor was able to provide enough details for us to connect them with my client to make the buy. And this certainly wasn’t a first. 

What a contrast from what I hear all too often: “well, we’re just waiting for it to get better for us”. In the meantime, those companies continuing to present their offerings on a regular basis are making impressions that will lead to purchases. That leaves the organization that was “waiting” now in a state of catch-up for years to come – and that’s being positive!

There’s no doubt it’s amazing to be able to track a prospect’s path from your landing page right down to a purchase. You can learn so much about what’s working and what’s broken in your sales process. But it seems marketers have decided they can also determine with 100% clarity what ad buys created the most ROI from these same steps. So they often stick with the least expensive ad purchase that provides the most data. 

The problem with that line of thinking is we’ve forgotten people aren’t robots like the technology and tools that track them. 

So again, take a moment to think about what makes you buy… was it a one-time Google AdWord that landed you checking out of an online shopping cart? Or was it when you were finally in a position to buy something you knew you needed, you went with the company that you remembered for when that day happened?…

See Also: Print Vs Digital: Both/And, Not Either/Or

Way Overdue

I’d like to take a trip back in time, say, 30 years or so.

I have quite a heritage. My dad, Steve Wike, was a hero in the church market. Back when card decks could produce response like no other medium, his publication Ministry Values for Growing Churches was the leader. To this day I still talk to advertisers who declare, “there was nothing like MVGC”.

But for his company Media Management, MVGC was simply the beginning.

Steve also knew how to grow a business. Over the years I’ve definitely come to learn that entrepreneurs are a dime a dozen – simply idea people. But looking over his career, I see that entrepreneurs who are also gifted leaders are rare. That’s who he is.

My Dad had a vision to share God’s glory to the ends of the earth. At the start of the internet in the mid to late 90’s he started (Global Online Service Helping Evangelize Nations). It wasn’t just the first of it’s kind, was the only of it’s kind – it was the “Google for Believers” you could say. This comprehensive search engine then evolved into a massive online Christian portal. Tools like StudyLight (searchable online Bible), LiveIt (resources/excerpts for living out ones faith), Religion Today (Christian News) just to name a few, grew’s traffic in the millions on a monthly basis.

It would be easy to assume his success was the result of a booming economy, but his journey did not come without its trials. Several economic down turns (including Black Monday) almost prevented MVGC from mailing. Then in the early 90’s when he felt led to start National and Int’l Religion Report, a newsletter sharing the stories of God’s work from around the globe, it seemed as if it would never get it off the ground. At one point the project was ended, but with patience the vision was eventually carried out online with great success at while being aired on the major Christian radio networks.

With hard times, when most would’ve given up, he tightened his belt both personally and corporately.
With good times, when most get comfortable with success, he used that growth to make ideas a reality.

Most importantly, he trusted God.

This post is barely the tip of the iceberg of my dad’s adventures and scares, and joys and risks in business, so…

To a great visionary, leader, and dad… Happy Father’s Day.


Eblast Subject Lines

Ranked among important eblast elements such as responsive design, body content, aesthetics, list size, etc., the subject line landed at the top as the most controllable element towards success. 

I’ve noticing a trend: eblast subject lines getting longer and longer. My initial reaction was to assume it would have a negative effect on opens just from the standpoint of it being truncated (33% of emails are read on mobile devices and therefore cut off at only 25-30 characters). Combine that with the fact that most of our audience (pastors) tends to be older, their text size is probably large – yep, now even less characters.

Throw in B2B vs B2C, offer type, industry, etc., and much of the data is inconclusive. For instance, the chart below will really throw you for a loop: It’s clear a super short subject provides for an amazing open rate (maybe because it looks like it’s from a friend?), but then looking deeper you see those with 50-59 characters performed 2nd best. What?

Survey from

From personal experience, when I see an email subject that doesn’t make it’s point in the first few words, it usually gets deleted before I ever read it. And my experience in writing our own promotional eblast subjects seems to conclude the same – the shortest are the most responsive.

Need some inspiration?
I found this super helpful acrostic to help you make the most of your subject lines. There are examples to fit any industry, occasion or special offer you might have.

Final Thoughts
Being inundated with 100’s of emails daily, and a lot of data that doesn’t seem to point one way or the other, it’s my opinion that common sense will help you write the best eblast subject line.

That said, in your excitement to get your message out, don’t forget to include the most important aspect of the offer in the first few words in case it does in fact get truncated. But then don’t feel you have to limit your characters since apparently it will still help you get the most opens (35% open rate for 50-59 characters).

Encouraging Note from a Pastor

Usually our “feedback” button is used by pastors to ask questions about navigating our website and apps.

However, the pastor below saw it as a way to say thanks and even speak a blessing over us. We were certainly encouraged and thought you might be as well.

These are the kind of pastors we reach, and they’re looking for your products and services:

“Pastor Resources is an excellent tool for growth, evangelism and so much more, not only on a personal level, but the church as a whole. Thank you for your ministry and may God continue to bless you in every endeavor.”

Rev. John W. Wilkins

Print vs Digital — It’s Not One or the Other

“The Internet has gotten so big that you can’t find anything on it.”

That was Trish Hagood, owner of an online marketing firm helping J.C. Penney as they bring back their catalog after a 5-year hiatus.

(Did you notice that? An online marketing firm acknowledging the importance of incorporating print?)

A few years ago we were hearing so many of our clients, and especially prospects, tout the ever popular “print is dead” mantra. We decided it must be time to give everyone what they wanted: so we dropped the print guide and told our audience of pastors to go online for the next issue. (Having an online guide that was producing 40-50% of our advertisers’ lead generation, we assumed we were safe.)

Yep. You guessed it. It was a flop.

But I believe it was also a very necessary part of the process, for us, our clients and our prospects.

So What Does Work?
Let’s get back to the phrase “print is dead”. Since we print 100,000 Pastor Resources Guides, you might be surprised to know that we agree with that statement… but only when referring to print alone. When it’s combined with several mediums––digital and apps––print gives you the ability to cut through the clutter. Once seen, prospects visit your website to continue researching your offering and ultimately make a purchase.

Being Introspective
How often do you see something of interest in a catalog and then go online to purchase it? Your prospects aren’t much different than you! So if your organization skips the initial print exposure, there’s a real good chance it won’t even be seen.

In other words, instead of trying to count strictly on your ability to keep up with the never-ending SEO changes and finding your organization lost in a sea of search results (unless your prospects just so happened to choose the perfect phrase you’ve been spending all of your google adword buys on), print will always set you apart.

As an example, the Pastor Resources Guide (illustrated below) is several components working together producing the kind of results that our advertisers rave about.

 (Our clients don’t purchase these opportunities separately. Rather, they’re
packaged together for the most effective exposure.)

In summary, have you found yourself leaning on stand-alone marketing techniques? Is all of your marketing online? All print? Consider an integrated approach to truly stand out and ultimately find new customers.

When to Include a Free Offer as part of Your Campaign

Considering a free offer in your ad, but unsure of what it should be, or even if you should have one at all?

I can’t think of a time where being generous was a bad idea. On the other hand, if your budget can’t support a giveaway, or worse, your goal can’t be reached using one, don’t feel pressured to incorporate freebies into your campaign.

Note: I would normally refer to this concept as a “giveaway”, but I’ve discovered many are defining giveaways as an opportunity in which one person is randomly chosen to win something… last time I checked, that’s a contest. In any case, what I’m referring to is a free offer where every qualified entry actually receives the promised item.

So how do you determine if a free offer is right for your campaign and ultimately your organization?

1.) Determine what you hope to accomplish:

  • Do you desire more leads?
  • Views of your video?
  • Downloads?
  • Or do you desire less leads with only a handful of highly qualified prospects?

2.) Examine the “why”:

This isn’t just a shot at a good PR move. Free offers help you benefit on several fronts. In some cases they can allow your prospects to get a taste of your product/service. As you can imagine, this creates a comfort level for the potential buyer. For others, capturing a lot of attention with an item that’s very enticing (“free android tablet!”) can certainly generate a huge response.

You guessed it, the latter option and benefit can be a catch 22 — how many of those inquiries simply wanted the gift? So that begs the question…

3.) What should you give away?

One of the best ways to accomplish a high quantity of leads that are also more qualified is by having the free offer coincide directly with your product.

  • Is there a part of the process within your service your prospects can experience?
  • Can you provide one section of a series for them to view?
  • Do you know of a strategic partner that has a related item that could serve as your free offer – they benefit from the exposure/branding while you capture the leads? Example: a nursery paging company that wants to attract more CE Directors, but doesn’t necessarily have anything to give away. So they reach out to a friend in the business that offers activity worksheets for preschoolers who might be willing to give away samples to those who inquire about the paging company. Win-Win. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

For the company that has a low cost item, ROI should most likely determined by the quantity of leads and top of mind exposure the free offer provided. It grows their house list while creating a perfect environment for lead nurturing and, even better, promoting similar products in the future!

For the high ticket item that requires only a handful of sales to produce desirable return, free offers might be more trouble than they’re worth. You could find yourself sifting through thousands of unqualified leads instead of designing the best ad with a powerful CTA to attract the right prospects.

Success Story
One of the most successful campaigns we’ve seen in Pastor Resources that included a free offer was when one of our advertisers allowed our audience the opportunity to choose one of several options (e.g., “Choose one of 5 free books!”) Letting your readers select from several gifts can provide significantly more leads, not just because it’s a more attractive offer, but because it broadens both your demographic and addresses a wider range of needs — ultimately being more inclusive.


More or Less Copy?

The debate is never ending… Should you bank on the “less is more” principle and keep your ad minimalist / image heavy, or make sure you have enough copy to fully explain the benefits of what you have to offer?

In watching our advertisers over the last decade, I don’t believe one size fits all. There are too many variables to assume either of the above approaches is best for you. Your audience, product and particular offer should dictate how you choose to layout your ad.

For instance, if you offer design services, try showcasing your work versus a long list of features your websites contain. Or if you’re a travel agency, consider enticing your readers with just a couple––not 10!––large and high quality photos. Seems obvious, right? Well, you’d be surprised how easy/tempting it is to write a book about your offering and forget what is most likely going to capture attention. Or worse, have a collage of 10-20 pictures that your readers simply flip right over because nothing stood out.

Or let’s say you’re in the service industry. You’ll most likely benefit with a more copy-driven ad to clarify your USP’s to help differentiate you from your competition. And yet how often do we see a super-sized stock photo of a big handshake dominating an ad with hardly any compelling headline or copy as to why the prospect should consider their company over another?

So we’ve addressed a lot of mistakes. Who’s getting it right?

I’ve watched several of our advertisers nail it, and their ad response is proof…

  • GuideOne Insurance shows an example of balance. They do a great job of connecting with our audience graphically, highlighting the need for their service (safety, not simply coverage), and then providing a FREE resource to pastors in order to capture more leads. [Read more about free offers in your ad]
  • Intervasity Press provides a great example of “less is more”. They present their book large enough that the title itself speaks the headline, and then use a testimonial to build trust instead of trying to pick the perfect excerpt from their latest book (which would end up taking up ten times the space).
  • Sharefaith makes sure everyone can see their quality design work – front and center. Plus they manage to graphically highlight a new feature (Sunday School Curriculum) without distracting from their main offer!
  • MOPS uses the power of emotion with a large and touching photo to convey their message.
  • And finally, ReAlign Financial Services used a good bit of copy to differentiate themselves in a very saturated market. It’s a lot, but it’s necessary and done well.

How do you feel about your creative? We don’t want to step on toes, but we also love helping our clients present their organizations in the most effective way possible. Contact us if you’d like our humble opinion of your ad artwork. No cost or obligation, we’ll just be sure to hound you about advertising… come on, you saw it coming.

When is it “Good Enough”

It seems odd that wanting perfection in your business or role can be extremely detrimental. I’ve watched it prevent a sale, stop product development, and ultimately kill company morale (all my doing!).

Perfectionism is deeply rooted in my personality (whether learned or innate; probably both), so if you struggle with it like I do, you’ve got a friend in the industry!

But don’t put up with it.

There are several resources that address the topic particularly in how it relates to your business. The approach in Getting Real by 37Signals is fantastic. Instead of just stating principles and ideas, it actually provides practical steps to creating great products, but done incrementally through *good* releases.

The JCA website is a perfect example of me getting over myself (yep, let’s call it what it is!). The site wasn’t exactly how I wanted it… yet. There were incomplete sections, copy I wanted to adjust, supporting art that could be better, and features I wanted to highlight.

Thank goodness Guerra Strategy encouraged me to proceed as is.

Fact is, the rest will come. And it will come faster when you know it’s live. If you stop before that, you’ll waste years settling on an outdated product/website/blog for fear it’s not “just right”.

Moving Forward

Like most personality faults, perfectionism doesn’t simply go away. You have to choose with each decision that you will be good with good. As a matter of fact, “perfect” can be translated  “complete.” (Somehow the meaning has evolved to “flawless”, which is a lot like saying ASAP means “RIGHT NOW!”.)

So in order for something to be “complete” versus flawless, you need to define steps. That way when you reach the first milestone, you can press GO. Is it the best it could possibly be ever? No. But it’s the best it needs to be right now.

Perfectionism and Marketing

Are you afraid your marketing plan or ad buy isn’t flawless? Well, you’re right that it’s not perfect, but your wrong to be afraid. That debilitating fear is what can stifle your creativity and imagination, and worse, it can prevent you from taking calculated risk. As you know, creativity and risk-taking are both necessary traits for someone in your role.

So start today by defining the next step, taking the plunge, and resting in your decision. It’s good.