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The “Old School” Success Of Amazon

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I recently wrote about Contractor Media Integration to help dispel the myth that online and offline are somehow separate. They’re not. The web is merely a means of message delivery, like any media. However…

There is one element of web marketing that remains profoundly different from other media. (It’s also “conveniently” left out of most every web media salesperson’s pitch.)

Not knowing it can be crippling to contractors. It even posed a lethal limitation to web-based sales giants like Amazon, eBay, Pro-Active, and J. Crew. Yet, they quietly “discovered” a very old school way of exploding their profit that you’ve already known for years, but have probably been told to avoid.

As a Direct Response marketer (meaning, focused on sales and leads, not on “soft” advertising results), promotions have one of two goals:

  1. Direct Sales – Asking for the order in the promotion.
  2. Lead Generation – Getting a warm lead, prospect.

Now, if you want to tilt the response heavily in your favor, you will use the leads from Item 2 to make the offer of Item 1. (This is one way we can guarantee to outperform any previous marketing campaign or you get a refund. Yes, it’s that simple but most miss the simple stuff in pursuit of the complicated.)

Profit Point 1: The target is the most important factor. (My most alluring promotion for generators will fail if wagged in front of people who’ve never lost power.) Having more contacts on this list is the bedrock to meteoric and consistent business growth.

Profit Point 2: You would do well to constantly build your “target list” through any means available, all year, to constantly “prime the pump” and never ignore a previous warm lead or customer. Identifiable targets are gold.

Profit Point 3: The “profoundly different” element in web marketing is that you have no definable target. Don’t gloss over this point, as it ties the lesson together.

All former media – mail, TV, Yellow Pages, radio, billboards, you name it – were all “pushed” to a known audience. (Direct Mail was and continues to be the absolute king of reliable, controllable Push Marketing.) We pushed to some hopeful group, expecting a little interest and eyeball, then waited for the phone to ring. We chose the market.

With web marketing, they choose you. They choose the search terms, based on their needs, their whims, their desires, instead of just staring at television or opening the mail. You don’t have a target without knowing their thoughts or having their permission.

That’s why the most successful online marketers must rely on Pull Marketing.

Profit Point 4: You must master “Pull” marketing to build your list. This means becoming magnetic through the following methods, in order of importance:

a)      Your local listing

b)      Your own site’s “attractor factor” (SEO)

c)      Your Pay-Per-Click campaigns

d)     Your social “interactivity” to drive leads

Ordinarily, I’d stop here. The above is enough to rouse any contractor who’s sick of seeing his web-based lead generation remain as flat as Snooki’s brain activity during Scrabble. (Or doing anything for that matter.)

If you only pursued the 4 Profit Points, you’d soar above your competition, as we have seen many contractor clients do. Yet there’s a twist to the story.

What if you were primarily web-based and had already built a business using those principles? How would you grow the coveted list?

Amazon spent 8 out of 11 years losing money. Then they correctly figured out that they’re not in the “online retailing” business, they’re in the list-building business.  Now they “retail” to that list. A lot. And they have burst through the logjam into fortunes previously unknown.

eBay spent 9 years parasiting its own list of auction junkies without much target growth and a dead stock price to show for it. Then they figured out they’re not in the auction business, but are in the list-building business for buyers and sellers. (Profit Points 1 and 2 restated.)

Profit Point 5: To build your leads and sales, integrate offline and online.

The key to their success AND YOURS is realizing they had to grow their lists. They couldn’t rely on the glacial pace of “normal” growth of recession-weary consumers. They couldn’t keep pounding their well-worn house lists. (Sound familiar, Mr. and Mrs. Contractor?)

They had to come up with a new way of lead generation to drive traffic to them. And this new method?

Profit Point 6: Direct Mail is back in a big way.

Yes, dust off the pony, load up the saddle bags and start licking some stamps. These online giants (and a parade of others) have rediscovered Direct Mail as a “gateway” to their sites, to build their list and to boost sales. New school, meet old school, and multiply. How?

  • A postcard gives a QR code for an offer, video or “to read more” online.
  • A letter invites the reader to visit online or call, and gives the discount code in the letter. (Thus heightening the value of the letter.)
  • A newsletter offers a discount for a service they read about, different recipes or archived articles online (which should include an “info capture” device for email addresses).

The look of the cards/letters matches the landing pages. The online language references the mail piece. It is truly integrated and it is truly successful.

The “new” success of direct mail is being copied by such large mailers that – no matter what “mail death” news you’re hearing – commercial mailings are up 3%, direct investment in advertising mail is up 5.8% ( marketers don’t spend $48 Billion in a media that’s not returning dividends.


If media integration works for them, it can work for you. Please quit thinking of online and offline as separate entities. Integrate them. Don’t think of “our email list and our snail mail list.” Let online and offline offers be the same and offered simultaneously.

Retailers are adding tens of thousands to their email lists by using direct mail. Don’t believe the “word on the street” about other media. (How many sales have YOU made using Twitter?)

Focus on being in the list-building business for contractor services. Do it through all your marketing in a cohesive whole, consistently strong across the media. As you’ve always known, success starts with a solid foundation.

Adams Hudson

Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings, Sales & Marketing

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