Direct response marketing isn’t what it used to be, and marketing expert Emma Rainville can attest to that.
“Three years ago, direct response was so easy. Trial offers would pop up for eight or nine months, make a couple million bucks, disappear, then the same advertiser would come back months later with a new campaign,” Rainville said, explaining that increased oversight from federal organizations and financial institutions make that “wash, rinse, repeat” tactic more challenging.
As the co-managing partner of Shockwave Solutions, a business consulting firm that specializes in direct marketing campaigns, Rainville has a deep understanding of how this fast-paced digital marketing segment has changed over the past few years and she has learned to avoid these common mistakes that can ultimately tank businesses.
A merchant account broker helps ecommerce merchants get up and running in a variety of ways. One of their main responsibilities is to manage and submit applications for merchant accounts, which is a critical step for transacting payments and earning revenue.
Rainville recommends merchants reach out to these brokers before starting. Why? Because the best brokers help you see and create a vision for the next three years. Aligning your merchant accounts with your goals for the next 36 months will ensure the broker connects you with the right type of merchant accounts for your current and future business goals.
For example, a good broker will need to know if you plan on selling through subscriptions or offering free trials down the line because some merchant accounts will only accept straight sales or one-time sales, while others will accept merchants offering subscriptions or free trials in addition to straight sales.
It is critical to use a broker from Day 1 because they can also:
· Help you decide which order management platform best suits your business needs
· Connect you with other professionals, such as an attorney to create a legally sound private policy and terms and conditions
· Outline tools and processes to help you minimize fraud and chargebacks
· Create a budget and forecast financial benchmarks to prepare you to scale
Rainville said many direct response marketers fail to plan enough time for manufacturing, fulfillment and shipping — an issue only compounded during the pandemic.
“They don’t think about where these ingredients, parts or raw materials are sourced,” Rainville explained. “You have to think about what’s going on in the countries where you are sourcing the materials.”
She gave an example of a product launch hitting roadblocks when Chinese New Year halted the manufacturing on one small part of an overall product. The actual product was not assembled in China, but the whole process hit a snag without that one piece.
Before the pandemic, Rainville’s rule of thumb for direct response marketers was to tack on an additional two weeks to whatever timeline provided for the manufacturing, fulfillment and shipping to allow extra time in case of a snag. During the pandemic, she recommended six to eight weeks. Even after the pandemic, Rainville predicts the new standard should be close to four weeks.
It is essential for any business to have a well-trained, responsive customer service team. But the stakes are even higher in direct response marketing because so many of the advertised products fall into the nutraceutical, supplement, wellness and beauty categories — industries with increasingly strict procedures and compliance mandates.
Rainville noted that many direct response marketers focus on legal claims within the advertisement copy, but fail to properly train support teams on FDA, FTC and PCI compliance. “If a customer calls in asking for a refund because a supplement gave them a stomachache, the customer service representative can’t just issue a refund and call it day,” Rainville said. “You have to ask the customer certain questions, document the responses, then save the documentation for three years.”
She went on to explain how customer service representatives need to know the trigger points that require a business to elevate an issue or complaint to a federal organization, such as the FDA.
No direct response marketing campaign has a one-size-fits-all approach to driving revenue, and Rainville warns to be weary of anyone who says otherwise. But there are universal truths to direct marketing success: plan ahead and connect with knowledgeable experts. 2020 taught us nothing is predictable, but you have a better chance of running a smooth campaign and building a sustainable operation if you can anticipate your next several moves instead of just reacting to what is in front of you.
A special thanks to our partner Shockwave Solutions and its co-managing founder Emma Rainville for sharing her insights. Shockwave Solutions is experienced in working with clients’ direct marketing campaigns to design and implement strategies, solutions and systems that increase revenue and maximize profitability.