4variables-e1374032971722No matter how complex your campaign, it’s important to remember that there really are only four general variables that really matter when it comes to creating a response-generating campaign.

Audience,  Offer, Timing & Creative.

Why Audience Trumps Everything Else.

Many professionals tend to focus more of their attention, proportionally, on the creative side of a marketing campaign.  And that’s expected — It’s fun, exciting and the tangible part of marketing.

But consider that it is very hard to talk to someone when their head is turned away.  Similarly, you can have the best looking creative with a super offer, but if you are not targeting the right audience, your effort is wasted.

Cheeseburger with lettuce tomato and onionTry this exercise:  close your eyes – wait – don’t close your eyes, keep reading.  So squint your eyes as you picture a yummy cheeseburger.  It’s the biggest, most luscious, bacon, onion and saucy cheeseburger…with juice dripping down the side, the cheese teasing out from over the patty.  The crisp lettuce and fragrant and flavorful tomatoes offer the perfect crisp and fresh balance on a super fresh bun.

Enticing, right?  How can you go wrong with such an amazingly appetizing product and photography that is almost as good as smell-o-vision.  So, if you saw this ad would you be hungry?  Maybe.

Now imagine you’re a vegetarian and go through the same exercise. Makes it a very different experience.  Audience matters the most.


Goldilocks — the first market intelligence professional.

When you know and understand your audience, you’ll be able to develop an offer strategy that hits home and becomes stronger over time.  But how do you hit the right spot between what is affordable for the business and yet a value to the customer?  Too hot and it might get high response but lower profit.  Too cold and the offer may be profitable but not popular…. you’ve got to get this one “just right.”


To begin with, be very very careful with your offers.  Nurture them and treat them like children, ie, don’t let them out the door without extra security.  What I mean by this is that too often, businesses become offer-happy.  Offers are wonderful tools when used well. But be careful to run the numbers and be careful you are not training your customer to expect a deal all the time.

“The response rate is triple what we expected – it’s a hugely successful campaign!”

A long time ago in a marketing agency far far away… I had a client who had a HOT offer in the market that was driving traffic through the door at an astounding rate. A hugely successful offer that blew the doors off of their projections.  Yet they couldn’t figure out why their revenue was actually decreasing.

As it turned out, because of the way the offer was structured, they were losing money on each and every one that was redeemed.  So while the traffic was way up – revenue was negative for each offer walking in the door.  Successful?  Only if you are looking at response rate!



When you are reaching your customer is as important as who they are.  Consider a recent experience.  I signed up for a demo of a particular software tool from three companies who had similar products.  After reviewing the online demos from two of them, I chose one and set it up within 24 hours.  Two days later I received a response from the third company.  Completely acceptable turnaround in many cases perhaps…but in this case I had already purchased, installed and was using the software by the time the other company responded.  [Do not be afraid!  This does not mean you must sit at your computer 24/7.  There are ways to automate customer engagement via email and other channels.]

But timing has more to do with being relevant than simply responsive.  When will your offer be the most relevant to your audience.  (Once again, Audience leads.)  For example, say you have a product like Chili. Chili is great year-round, but the sales are higher in the winter.  So when should you send your message about how great your Chili is – do you send it during your down times to encourage people to eat hot Chili in the blazing heat of summer?  Or in the deep of winter to get as much of the Chili pie as possible?  This is another topic altogether, but trying to encourage your customers to change their behavior is extremely difficult.  [I’ll post about customer behavior separately.]  So you want to ride the wave and get to them when the getting’s good!


Last…but not least…Creative.

In many ways, the creative can be the most important part of your campaign because it is the experience of how all of the above come together.  If you know your audience, have a balanced offer and know when the best time to send it is, the creative needs to pull it all together and deliver it in a way that is understandable within seven tenths of a second.  That’s all.  Simple, right?

The key to strong creative is simplicity.  Stay on your primary message and deliver it succinctly with a strong call to action.

The examples below are not response – based ads and so do not have a call to action.  However, they are good examples of how ads can

A/ hit the mark dead on with instant recognition of message,

B/ be an “ok” ad but be mistargeted (the soft drink ad below is in a women’s magazine.  And, how sweet, has puppies so it must be targeted to women, right? Frankly I’m not sure this was very thoughtfully done and it could be taken as insulting), or

C/ have a decent message but have a layout that really doesn’t deliver.

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While this is only a brief touch on these topics, I hope this has helped to get you started thinking about the basic variables in your marketing campaign executions.