Wednesday, August 11, 2010

CFI: It's Time for Science and Reason

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The God of the Gaps (by Neil deGrasse Tyson)

Neil deGrasse Tyson on "Intelligent Design" at Beyond Belief

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Database Power in Direct Mail and VDP - market testing

If there is a chapter in this book you want to learn by heart, which has everything to do with your success, it will be this one. All other chapters deal with things we do for you. This chapter deals with a minimum of technical knowledge required for you to make intelligent marketing decisions. If you studied statistics in school, this chapter will be a breeze. I am a firm believer that anyone can learn anything. So if you find it arcane at first, just memorize it, and it will sink in over time.







In the Direct Marketing world, we have many self-proclaimed experts who claim to have a "secret" that will deliver wonders. As a marketer, you go through "cycles of disbelief" as I call them. You listen to someone whose proposition appears to make sense. You try it out and see no results. You withdraw for a while. Then you run across another "guru", your need to believe kicks in and the cycle repeats. Obviously something is missing. If you could only articulate it. It's on the tip of your tongue. Here it is:






If we are armed with the knowledge to TEST the market and interpret the results of those tests, then we don't need expensive books and costly methods written by "gurus". The market itself is telling us what works by the response it provides back to us.






So testing is the discipline that helps you uncover what works. Once you master the techniques of running tests, your market tells you what works, and you no longer have to listen on faith to any "experts" and their advice. It is always delectable to read articles and be informed as to what others have to say. But now you are also an expert, with enough knowledge to decide whether you agree or not with the claims of any other expert. At that point you will discover that some of the people enjoying a big spotlight are at times flat-out wrong.






Let us start by identifying the two major schools of thought dealing with market testing:






A/B Split method: A/B testing, or split testing, is a method of advertising testing by which a baseline control sample is compared to a variety of single-variable test samples in order to improve response rates. A classic direct mail tactic, this method has been recently adopted within the interactive space to test tactics such as banner ads, emails and landing pages.






Significant improvements can be seen through testing elements like copy text, layouts, images and colors. However, not all elements produce the same improvements, and by looking at the results from different tests, it is possible to identify those elements that consistently tend to produce the greatest improvements.


Employers of this A/B testing method will distribute multiple samples of a test, including the control, to see which single variable is most effective in increasing a response rate or other desired outcome. The test, in order to be effective, must reach an audience of a sufficient size that there is a reasonable chance of detecting a meaningful difference between the control and other tactics.






Multivariate method: Multivariate statistics or multivariate analysis in statistics describes a collection of procedures which involve observation and analysis of more than one statistical variable at a time. The word multivariate is defined as: "having or involving a number of independent mathematical or statistical variables". Sometimes a distinction is made between bivariate and multivariate statistics.






There are many different models of proposed multivariate solutions, each with its own type of analysis:


Clustering systems


Hotelling's T-square


Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) methods


Discriminant function


Regression analysis


Principal components analysis


Redundancy analysis


Correspondence analysis


Linear discriminant analysis


Logistic regression


Artificial neural networks


Multidimensional scaling


Canonical correlation analysis


Recursive partitioning










The Multivariate methods, while interesting, are much like stock market performance predictor software. Their advocates show a religious zeal, and it is admirable. The purpose of most methods is to find patterns and extrapolate what might happen based on these results. Unfortunately, guessing is much like prayer. It requires a dose of faith.






Neuroscience tells us that we have a primal human need to see patterns in the unknown. Patterns make us feel comfortable, because now the unknown makes a little more sense to us. Things that don't conform to our need to "create a definition, to catalogue", will puzzle and unnerve us. We need to label things, we are simply wired that way in our mind. To cater to that all-important human urge to label the world, there are dozens of pseudo-scientists willing to sell you a magic cure that will make you feel safe again in a little world where things make sense again. We invite you to use a true scientific method. Then the data you use for your decisions comes straight from the marketplace, not from extrapolation.






Multivariate testing is a very interesting discipline for you to study on your own, since it may eventually become quite useful as both technology and man's insight of his own understanding take leaps forward in the near future. In my opinion, until then, it adresses our need for comfort quite well; however I have yet to see results backed-up by numbers (with a few exceptions, in which the methods can't really be called multivariate). I am sure there may be applications where certain complex forecasting or extrapolating models are useful indeed. I am not questioning the ability of a multivariate method to show results eventually; I am simply doubting whether you can afford the technology and the sheer astronomical size of the lists required to derive multivariate conclusions. In the end, smart marketing is all about profitability and scalability.






We have also once built a neural web offer system that presented multiple versions and combinations of a page and an offer to entice people in. Based on which combinations turned into actual orders, the system eventually started displaying the "producing" combination of elements more often. A very interesting concept, and at first look the "multivariate" approach was sound indeed. However, such an approach starts from a flawed assumption. It dares to assume there is a certain "holy grail" combination of the right title, the ideal copy, images, discount, order form, etc - that when combined just right will actually hypnotize many people into buying your product. That is a very flawed assumption, and it takes incredibly high numbers to prove for or against. If explaining it takes so long, imagine tracking it. It is your choice if the change in your bottom line is worth playing with these concepts.






There are companies out there selling 5 and 6 figure systems that will track and analyze every step of an order or campaign, abd companies that go bankrupt under the weight of these leechers. There are cheaper ways to do the same thing. Just ask.






Assuming for a moment that the way to arrive at the best solutions is by rolling the dice - that is not really a science, it is only "wishful thinking". Furthermore, the minimum sampling size required would be exponentially larger than in linear testing. In other words, even if the "throw of the dice" random trial model did work, a test to prove that it does so beyond doubt would be outside the scope or budget of any small business. It is only the lazy people looking for a shortcut (or to avoid learning) that readily believe in the logic of a "fluke", just like the old lady ahead of you in line at the grocery who religiously buys her lottery tickets, turning your coffee buying experience into a 1/2 hour nightmare, because she doesn't understand how statistics are stacked-up against her.






What makes a campaign good has less to do with "magic combinations" and more to do with (a) being well informed, (b) knowing how to apply that knowledge economically and (c) deriving conclusions through a correct interpretation of the results. With that in mind, A/B Split is our preferred discipline of testing, and the accepted norm used by science in general to test and to prove the validity of any hypotesis. Double-blind medical studies use a variable and a control group (split test).






A/B SPLIT TESTING METHOD






In this chapter, we will concern ourselves with this particular methodology proven to work by millions of dollars in testing, the A/B Split method of testing. Some of the techniques you will learn here will become an integral part of all your future marketing efforts. Knowing A/B Split will also pave the way for you to be able to play with some multivariate concepts in a smart fashion. Everything you learn here will help you make better and lean marketing decisions based on facts, information and proper interpretation.






Preliminary rule: "don't be an expert"


Don't presume to know your market. Test instead.






In order to know what to test for, you must start with an issue you would like to resolve.


All split-tests start with the question WHICH.


There is a way to get to that question, as you can see below.






The progression of the questions leading to "which" is as follows:


(a) Why


(b) What


(c) Which






Example:


(a) Why is my shopping cart losing customers in the middle of the checkout process?


After you find a likely answer to your question you move on to WHAT.


Answer: It appears we ask them to sign-up and create a membership after they decide to pay for items in the cart, and SIGNUP is a long and cumbersome multi-form process. Our tracking system indicates that all lost orders happen during the completion of that sign-up.


(b) What can we do to make this an easier and more pleasant interaction?


Answer: We will try what we think are some improved versions of this form versus the original form. We will send an equal number of orders through each of the improved versions. One form will reduce the data collected. One will improve esthetics. One will have pop-up help for each field. One will feature LIVE CHAT. We will then analyze the results side by side against the control version (our original). We expect the results to show which element has the most impact in retaining orders. Then we can combine the best elements.






AND OUR ALL IMPORTANT TEST QUESTION:


(c) Which of the elements tested helped the shopping cart to retain the most customers?






VARIABLES


The VARIABLE was the SIGNUP FORM.


The values of our test variable were the different and separately measured improvements we tested it for.






Your variable may be a smaller page element: the headline, the image displayed online, the call to action on the outside of an envelope. An element which you test is called a variable. The changes you make to that variable (and track) become the values of the variable tested.






In the example above, a better test for those of us on a limited budget would be to incorporate ALL the form improvements in one test (make signup more pleasing, reduce the amount of data collected, add pop-up help buttons, add live chat), and in another test eliminate the signup form all together to see if that signup form is indeed your bottleneck. These two versions of our control variable will provide sufficient insight to draw meaningful conclusions.






Control Group: this is the group of people receiving your "unchanged" offer at the same time with a similar group (or groups) who receives your improved offer(s). Using a control group at the same time to a similar group of people eliminates possible distorsion effects. For example it eliminates the possibility that a mailing may have failed because it was sent at a time when people were gloomy about the economy. Or it prevents the assumption that the success of another test had to do more with external factors than with the improvement you applied to it.






Best test channels:






Email


If you have an email list, some of the best testing is done by sending your control message and altered versions to smaller batches of the same email group. The success of an email campaign is greatly dependant on the Landing Page.






Pay Per Click


In lack of an existing email list, the next best venue for a great market test with quick results is placing side by side Pay Per Click ads to test a call to action, a landing page, a message, an incentive offere versus another and so on. The success of a PPC ad is greatly dependant on the Landing Page as well, even more so - since in an email you know who they are, whereas in PPC you are trying to determine who they are.






TEST VALIDITY


Sample size sufficiency:


You're watching CNN and the results of a public poll are announced:


"60% of the American public believe in God".






Then in small letters, it says: we have interviewed 300 people, the poll results are based on their answers. As a marketer, some of the questions that come to mind may be:






- who are these 300 people, what profession, what gender, do they really represent the rest of us accurately?


- what happens if we move the test to the Bible belt, and then back to a large city?






and a more important question:


- is a test of 300 large enough to accurately represent what the nation as a whole feels on the subject?






Fortunately, there is a way to determine sample size sufficiency. Determining sample size is a very important issue because samples that are too large may waste time, resources and money, while samples that are too small will provide inaccurate results.






The minimum number of observations needed for a test to be accurate is called "n".


It is said that when that number is higher, even if the experiment is repeated, the results should be fairly similar (higher accuracy).


When the number is smaller, the results will have lower accuracy.






Another question may be:


How many times shall I toss a coin to reach a point where it fell to the ground of both sides about equally?


Is 100 tosses enough? What about 1000? When is the number sufficient, so I can stop?






Statistical Inference - combining probability and statistics


















Result interpretation:






This free publication ends here, and our free consultation can show you examples of how others use our services.


For help in building SMART and USEFUL campaigns and web-based applications on a sensible budget, contact us:






Option Quest, LLC

888-590-0666 x1

option@optionquest.com





Free consultation!






You owe it to your bottom line to graduate from plain web sites and fruitless mailings.










There is much more to learn on this subject. It is becoming apparent as I write, that this chapter alone can be a book in itself. So I will end this exciting introduction to market testing here, and wish your work in Direct Marketing is as successful as it can be. Add our infrastructure to your great campaign ideas, and your rates off response will change dramatically.

Database Power in Direct Mail and VDP - DNC federal compliance

If you will make outgoing calls, it is in your own best interest to be in compliance with the Federal Law regarding marketing calls. Numbers on that list cannot be called. The way it works is you obtain an account by signing up. You are provided up to 5 area codes for free, and additional ones for a fee. You get to download the list of people who DO NOT WANT to receive calls.







For example in Connecticut, we have 2 area codes. As of now, the total of numbers in the CT Do Not Call list is 2.5 million.






You obtain a list you will use. You need to purge this list against the respective DO NOT CALL list within 30 days of any campaign you will run. Whether you call people manually, automatically, with a dialer or with an offshore call center, you must run your list for people who have registered themselves to be excluded, or you may run into problems if too many complaints accumulate against you.






As you can see, one implication of the Federal Law is that you have to run your campaigns regionally, to the area codes you choose to start with, and then to the additional ones you purchase.






As our client, if you FTP to us a pair of lists (do not call list and marketing list from same area codes), we will clean your marketing list against the dnc list, do any additional processing you may need and send you back the "usable" marketing list promptly with a report of what was done. We offer this service for a nominal small fee, or at no charge when it is part of a VIPER campaign.

Database Power in Direct Mail and VDP - data manipulation

Now that you have your list, our logical mind kicks in and we start asking some questions. Based on the answers we now determine how the data should be manipulated.







Owning a good list is only as good as your ability to manipulate it.






Always assume your competition has access to similar lists. So it does come down to "what can you do with it?". Having a good list and not working it to its' maximum potential, or even worse, killing your chances by rushing, or by taking bad advice, are some of the things you want to avoid. In the interest of sound and economic decision-making, you should not do any sort of elaborate campaign preparation on a known bad list, one where your response rate expectations are quite low to begin with.






So the data you work with is important, but it is less important than your ability to manipulate the data. For that reason, the process of data manipulation will be a pervasive theme across this entire book. From preparing a campaign all the way to fulfillment (working with the leads and orders received as a result of a successful campaign), the ability to massage data to your requirements and to the requirements of third-party service providers is a must, and when you work with us, data manipulation is included.






For example, from the same list you may want to do a Direct Mail


(print house requires data in a certain layout to feed it into their machines)






The mail piece gives recipients a web page to log into


(the site owner may require the data formatted to a certain layout also)






You want to follow-up 5 days later with an Outbound Voice Campaign


(the system you use for outbound voice needs the list formatted a certain way; if you want a number to be spoken out or a name to be spelled out at the press of a key, spaces must be inserted between numbers or letters, etc).






You want to do a large fax campaign, and the fax provider wants a separate fax field like so:


212-555-1212@interfax.com


but with no dashes in the number, and with a "1" in front of the area code.


This is usually added as a separate field.






Question Set 1:


Will I be contacting this list via


Email? __Yes __No


SMS? __Yes __No


Fax? __Yes __No


Direct mail? __Yes __No


Telephone Sales Staff? __Yes __No


Automated Voice Broadcast follow-up? __Yes __No






Question Set 2:


What is the incentive to take action? This is usually a free redeemable item.


What is the motivator we will use? This should be a time or quantity limitation (the act now imperative).






Question Set 3:


Will we add more names (additional names) to this campaign in the future? We need to know this fact before issuing Unique IDs.


Will we need to export the orders / sign-up data to a fulfillment when campaign ends? Do they use a mainframe?


If yes, do we know their desired data layout? Is it SDF? (space delimited file)


Do I know my campaign start date, duration and the end date?


Have I allowed enough time for development, preliminary approvals, testing and sign-off before commencing?






With these questions answered, we are ready to begin preparing your data list. The process itself dictates in what way we manipulate your data; so a mailing, a call or a fax campaign will require different data formatting procedures. We take care of all of it for you. If you use our services for print and mail, you just sign-off on the proofs. If you only use our data and landing page support, we work with your other providers' database people by instructing them how to do it.






Example - determining data formatting requirements:


Here we will assume that every month we send a fax to 2000 recipients as part of our ongoing marketing & sales efforts.


Our provider is OneBox.com where we have 2000 bonus fax pages which we can send every month as part of our subscription.


We know that it is cumbersome to send a fax, their system was not designed for "mass faxing".


The cover page costs me a credit, so I want to batch send faxes without cover pages.


It is possible but it takes a little programming:






So we take notice of the syntax used in the delivery field, and we decide to BCC 60 people per batch (the provider's comfort zone).


If we send out 500 faxes every Tuesday, we will be at around 2000 a month. The OneBox syntax for removing the coverpage is:


nocoversheet.Company Name Inc..@8885551213;


So we need to create a new data field which contains a combination of text, characters, company name, symbols and fax number taken from existing fields and combined to match the required syntax.






We do the data work for you and send you the list back.


After we do this preparation work anyone in your company can be instructed how to log in and paste 60 records at a time in the mass fax program.






Likewise in Direct Mail hybrid campaigns which may have been explained to you at one of our seminars, the introduction of a unique non-sequential LOGIN ID as a separate printable field creates a number of marketing advantages across the board when properly integrated into a smart campaign.










This was a simple example of the power you can wield by adding data manipulation to your campaigns.


Database Power in Direct Mail and VDP - list sources

A good list is one of the most important elements of a proper campaign. In your activity you will need both quality lists and also affordable lists. Of course, your most valuable list is your own in-house list of customers and prospects.







We will begin with a two-fold list classification: Quality Lists and Free Lists. Quality lists are those where you can select recipients by ample criteria and where you also have the current name and job title of the individuals you are contacting via your efforts.






Examples of Quality List Sources:


ZapData.com /D&B


Salesgenie.com


InfoUSA.com






An affordable way to obtain a mailing and calling list on a shoestring budget is to own a tool that grabs lists from one or more online Yellow Pages / White Pages web sites, and stores them in a delimited format in your computer for further manipulation.






Example of Free List Grabbing Software:


XShan.com - Yellow Pages Grabber


Import as many lists as you want to CSV from certain Online Yellow Pages, or it can be customized to work with sites of your choice for an extra fee. The software program and updates will cost you a license fee; however, all the lists you need to extract will cost you absolutely nothing thereafter.






With this type of tool you will be able to collect:


- name of business


- complete mailing address


- telephone number


- occasional fax, email or web address if available






No contact name is available in Yellow Page list aggregators as of this writing. Mailing or calling a list without a contact name is a compromise many of us are not willing to make. However, considering you pay nothing for obtaining these lists, there may be certain uses for them. Also, remember that this is not an endorsement; I am not even sure if using such a tool is legal or it infringes upon the rights of the respective Yellow Pages web site owners. I am simply sharing this information with you, because I feel a chapter on List Sources would be incomplete without mentioning the existence of such tools.

Database Power in Direct mail and VDP - basic concepts

Overall VIPER2 concept:







The VIPER2 concept is revolutionary, and it breaks the barrier between "traditional" and "online" marketing by blending the best of both in a seamless personalized user experience. It was designed by us, the pioneers of landing page personalization, with a portfolio of dozens of Fortune 500 clients who have used what we now call the VIPER2 system successfully, time and time again.






Much has been proposed, written and sold since my team and I came up with the initial release of this method in 1999. The lip service paid to "personalization" and "landing pages" in recent years can take up an encyclopedia. Rest assured that none of the more expensive systems even come close to the level of advancement and sophistication of the VIPER2 system.






Here are the core principles of our approach - and why no other system even compares to VIPER2:






a) We prepare your list for advanced hybrid personalization: A data list, in order to allow cross-platform (hybrid) personalization, requires unique identifiers for each record. In other words, you want to give your mail recipients a login page to visit, in addition to any other response mechanism (business reply card, 800 number, etc). Such an ID has multiple applications: it identifies the campaign batch, the offer, identifies the recipient, and it allows the recipient to log in to your online offers.






These individual IDs cannot be duplicates (since that would cause recipients to access each other's records) and they cannot be sequential or incremental (such as Autonumber in MS Access), since that would make it easy for any one recipient to guess someone else's ID and access other people's records. For obvious privacy reasons we cannot use a phone number or Social Security number. So we create these Unique IDs for our VIPER2 clients. Remember, VIPER2 is available as a service, so work on your part is minimal. You just run your campaign, for the most part, the way that you normally would.






b) Give something away, and tell them how to get it - never sell anything in an introduction: You must come up with a powerful incentive to get recipients to act (we can help you with over 10 years of experience here). We are www.incentiveserver.com and you owe it to yourself to pick our brain before you decide what to give away. Instant downloads work best, especially when there is intrinsic perceived vaule in them. We can tap into years of research, because truth be told, what worked 4 years ago may be obsolete now.






c) Motivate them to act now: There should always be a strong motivator to act now (such as limited time, pending expiration date, first 25 get a powerful additional bonus, or a combination of motivators which together compound the "urgency imperative" of your message). You MUST make good on your threats: your campaign form should stop taking submissions after the advertised campaign closing date. This way you educate slackers that you are serious, and they will respect you for it. Altough, an alternate means to contact you is displayed to those who miss your deadline, but not the respective bonus for answering on time.






d) Provide the easiest possible way to respond: The mail piece, email, fax or SMS going out to your list provides each recipient with both an easy web address (URL) and a Unique Login ID for them to log in and claim the campaign incentive(s). This gives them instant gratification, and (in the back end) it gives you instant leads each time they log in to "check out" your offer. This allows you immense targeting power in follow-ups. You just call the people who took the time to log in at least. Instead of calling the whole list, you start with the "warm" prospects!






e) The principal rule of landing pages: The landing page should never be "mixed" into your regular web site. Preferably a campaign is hosted at a separate "campaign" web address. We provide affordable campaign hosting on an advanced server which supports data-driven campaign traffic and is engineered from the ground up to work with VIPER2 . A landing page must always stay "focused" on getting the user to do the ONE THING they came to do: log in and claim the offer they came there for, promised in your ad, message or mail piece. That means no menus or any other clickable distractions, such as "visit our main web site!






f) End-to-end personalization: In addition to mail-merging (which I hope you are familiar with) or the VDP that you'd normally do, our method implies also offering an option to claim an instant incentive online via clicking (if email) or logging in (if direct mail). All our testing for a decade shows it is critically important that this follow-up online interaction ALSO be personalized, just like your letter. That is the main purpose of the unique identifiers we spoke about earlier.






The login process quickly retrieves their record from the database and displays their information. So the next page (usually a form you want them to complete) says "Hello Jane!" instead of a generic greeting. All the incentives you promised in your letter should be displayed on this landing page so they don't need any other clicks to access their goods. You already know who they are, so you can deliver after login without asking them to do anything else. If you want them to complete a form, it should be pre-populated with the details we already have (this simple courtesy reduces friction, increasing the percentage of response significantly).






g) Reduced friction: If you are presenting a form to complete (order, subscription), make sure form is pre-populated with everything our data list knows about them (name, address, phone, checkboxes, information based on past purchases, etc). If you are familiar with VDP, you have some idea of the possibilities. Truth be told, online you can do a lot more than with a VDP printer, since dynamic data and dynamic media make for very creative possibilities.






Recipient Viewpoint: so you have a personalized mailer, a unique ID, easy login (leads come in from here), personalized greeting, personalized form which is already completed (clients come in from here), the incentives are in their face, and the motivator to act now is clear. Do you see what a powerful compound effect such a process has?






Best of all, you don't need an MIS director, a web designer, a database programmer, and then a Direct Marketing savant to get them all to devise a platform, and then to create rules for them to work together efficiently. We do it all for you.






h) Instant lead delivery: I am sure you will appreciate this enormously... when John Doe opens your envelope, sees the login option, the desirability of your incentive, the urgency of the motivator, and the fact that you possess such technology, he will enter the easy web address and type in his login, even if only out of curiosity. The moment Jack logs in, your phone will alert you with a text message such as:






Subject: (212) 555-1234


March 20, 2009 4:20PM


Jack Smith has logged in.


Login ID: Z8320982A


123-89 79th Place


Ridgewood, NY 11385






On newer touch-screen PDA phones (MDA, Sidekick, iPhone, etc), you just click on the phone number in the subject line and it instantly gets dialed for you.






Nothing will blow John Doe's socks off faster than getting a courtesy or thank you call 5 minutes after he logged in to get his freebies or downloadable materials from you.






And remember, all of this happens before John even decided whether to work with you. John is an important category of person to you. He was interested enough to log in and look at your offer.






At this point you can call John:


For example you can call to say... "Hi John, my name is XY and you have probably heard of my name or reputation.


I am the owner of XYZ.com and I called to see if you need any help completing the online application form.


I would be happy to answer any questions you may have."






Or you may not want to reveal the awesome power you have, and instead you say:


"I've sent you a letter a few days ago and. I am sure that once you've read it, you probably have thought of some questions you wanted to ask me". Then let them say "what a coincidence, I was just looking at your web site now".


Then you say "well, everything happens for a reason"... and so on.






How is that for POWER and CONTROL in a direct marketing campaign? I was halfway through my MBA when I discovered how this works, and I dropped out of school to dedicate myself to improving it. Then I've spent the next ten years making it better. If you are half as excited to learn it as I am to show it to you, your business has changed forever this very day!


Database power in Direct Mail and VDP - introduction

A manual for taking your marketing efforts to the highest peaks of professional achievement. This is intended for the astute small business owner who understands the importance of top-notch marketing efforts. Likewise, it is also intended for the marketing manager under pressure to release complex deployments, and is being held directly responsible for the success (or disaster) of his / her campaigns.







Hello, my name is Dan Banici and I am the owner of Option Quest, a business brokerage company. We help business owners present and sell their healthy, profitable businesses. In this profession I have been privileged to see and analyze the inner mechanics of hundreds of companies from dozens of industries. It became transparently obvious to me that most Direct Marketing efforts are under the expectations of those who run them, when measured strictly by results. Likewise, only a handful of companies seemed to be immune to the "direct marketing misfortune", and these successful efforts have certain elements in common, which will be analyzed here.






You will be introduced to a method I have helped to coin back in 1999, when working as an MIS Director for a New York firm with Fortune 500 clients. As a matter of course back then we would sit with the best marketing minds of these companies to find ways in which technology and automation could give our efforts an edge in the marketplace. Later on, I have adopted and improved many of these same principles, and found an affordable way to offer these essential success elements to any company, so that any serious marketer can benefit from them. The system is called by its' acronym, V.I.P.E.R.2 It means:






Virtual Incentive Personalized End-to-End Response-booster






The scientific methodology of the VIPER2 system has helped companies large and small run better campaigns with significantly higher response rates than any other method known, used, tried or tested. That is why similar methods are consistently used by the strongest players in the Direct Marketing game. It is a multidisciplinary process, and for that reason we offer it as a complete service. You should know your business well. We don't expect you to learn this in order to be able to use it; however, if you'd like to and are so inclined, we could teach it to you.






This is a manual and step-by-step guide for taking your marketing efforts to the highest peaks of professional achievement. "Good enough" is no longer acceptable; the common availability of mail merge and VDP software make even your most ambitious direct marketing efforts, even when you put a lot of work into them, seem "unspectacular" because your audience has come to expect similar high standards. What you need is to differentiate yourself through something exceptional. Just like a 10th of one second is the factor responsible for Olympic Gold, so the very best in direct marketing are those who show that extra edge, which no one else can touch, and as a result they harvest the rewards of champions in the form of higher response rates.






That factor of excellence must be more than just your mailpiece or your web design. Consoling ourselves with statements such as "I don't care how many respond, I am doing it only for exposure and brand recognition" is just another way of saying "I have no clue how to make this work". The Incentive Server VIPER2 platform will give you the extra edge you seek. However, you cannot settle for mediocrity in the other aspects of your campaign just because you decided to use the VIPER2 system. VIPER2 is not a magic pill. It simply helps hard working, disciplined marketers increase their response. If you gain 10% higher response using our system, but then lose it because you select a cheaper paper, an ordinary envelope, a less attractive incentive, then you haven't really gained anything, have you?






What separates the top performing campaigns from the huge mass of failures - today just as it was 50 years ago, is innovation used as the backbone for appeal. Some improvements have a fleeting impact, others have a more permanent one. It is the more permanent kind we will discuss here. The VIPER2 method creates and delivers incredible impact by its' very nature. It is like a solid skeletal framework on which you can build amazing campaigns using your own creative genius, time and time again!






What it does:


It grabs the attention of the recipient with end-to-end personalization.


It establishes you as a solid authority to be trusted, not a mediocre shop.


It maintains their attention with the promise of instant delivery of promised incentive.


It delivers a "more than expected" experience with Online Personalization.


It reduces friction with form pre-population or complete form elimination (just ask us how).






It then delivers warm leads instantly to you, so your best sales people can close a sale before they even decide whether to accept your offer or not.






Testing is primordial in Direct Marketing. We can help you perform Split or Multivariate testing, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Testing for those factors that may affect response rates is very important prior to a large campaign.






However, it is better to run no test at all, than to test for the wrong factors.






Think for a moment: if you knew ahead of time of a system that could DRAMATICALLY INCREASE the response rate to your mailings, every time you run a campaign, would you not want to use it? To find out what works you need to run tests, and tests cost a little money. But they cost much less than running unprepared campaigns with no results, and remaining without a clue as to why they fail so badly. The market response data you collect from testing becomes your most valuable company asset, to be guarded under lock and key: knowledge that puts money in your pocket every time you use it. Some companies use surveys to test a market, or at least to get their opinion on a subject. Testing whether a person would buy is not the same thing as testing whether a person says that they would buy.






The VIPER2 method is the ideal platform for testing the various factors which can influence audience response to your offer. It is also incredibly affordable when compared to any method that claims to give you similar advantages. To date we know of no other method that has all these features, since at least one key element of our program is not implemented by any other program we know of. Furthermore, those programs that deliver a small portion of what we do under the Incentive Server VIPER2 program will cost you expensive servers and people who know how to operate them. Because we have the machines and the people, your cost to simply choose to do it is minimal, affordable, and can be negotiated with other services. It costs you much more (in lost responses) every time you don't use it.






This book is intended for the astute small business owner who understands the importance of top-notch marketing efforts. Likewise, it is also intended for the marketing manager under pressure to release complex deployments fast, and is being held directly responsible for the success (or disaster) of his / her campaigns. Welcome, fellow marketer, to the best hands-on marketing course you have ever read, and an experiment that you will actually perform for yourself, step by step, and not just read about.






By now you're probably wondering what VIPER2 stands for. It is an abbreviation for the first half of our proven procedural formula, Virtual Incentive-based Personalized End-to-end Response-booster, and on our blackboards, where it is permanently printed, it looks like this:






R=2m+3p+2(v-a)+2(i-f)


where






R= response


M= motivation to act now


P= end-to-end personalization


V= clarity of your value offering


A= anxiety to take action


I= incentives and bonuses used in your campaign


F= frictional elements of campaign






What you will learn here is not difficult, and for knowing it you will become that exceptional marketer with the ability to reach across many disciplines and deliver campaigns like the big companies, time and time again. For less than the cost of a cheesy Flash website, you can have a top-notch campaign infrastructure that establishes you as an authority in your industry and delivers great results from your direct marketing efforts. Sometimes, taking time or procrastinating comes at a much higher cost, especially when trying to run a business. Certainly, sending a large mailing knowing completely well that the response will be poor, is a perfect waste of money. Yet so many of our friends do it, because they don't know any better.






When you find it convenient, just call us to prepare a VIPER2 campaign for you; we welcome your projects, and we deliver our work fast. Some of our clients want the whole thing done by us (printing, mailing, landing pages, collecting and delivering leads), while others just need their data prepared and sent to their mail or fulfillment house. Others still use us for our state of the art campaign forms and lead management system. We are flexible, and one 1/2 hour free presentation can help you decide which of our enhancement services would serve you well and complement those aspects that you already do well by yourself.






No matter what platform you currently use to keep track of your clients & prospects, or to generate your letters / emails and send them out, the VIPER2 system you will learn here can (and will) help you where it really matters: getting a higher rate of response out of your campaigns.






This book is intended to break some of the barriers which are currently holding you captive into less than ideal performance; with some ingenuity on your part, you can take the framework we give you, and based on it you can then build truly exceptional campaigns of your own. So the next time you get that "Capital One(tm) Credit Card Offer" in the mail, take the time to look carefully at its' complexity of design and function. Know that it has cost them a fortune to design, and another fortune to develop and keep such integrated systems running. Then breathe easy, for you will be able to do the same thing and better, with just the knowledge you will gain out of this book.






Once again, welcome to the marketing course that will transform your business; the direct marketing solution you have always searched for and never quite found is actually here. We have made a great effort to write this technical book in such a way so that anyone can understand it. Volumes of theory and arcane coding procedures were dropped in favor of simplicity, so you can get started "as you are". That is why we offer it as an affordable service. You need not learn anything new to benefit from it!






As a business owner myself, I know that I would rather throw a few bucks at a problem than spend days on end trying to find ways to do it myself. Sometimes you have to ask: "what is my time worth?". If your employees just sit in front of a computer on a slow day, and you have them help to stuff envelopes, that is smart. If you need to go from Manhattan to Queens and drive around through Brooklyn and take one of the bridges (45 minutes detour) to avoid a tunnel toll, please add the gas and your time, and you will realize how the tunnel is cheaper.






So it follows, you should ask "how much is an hour of my time" and you will see how that together with the success of your campaigns, makes our fees not only affordable, but as some of our clients call them, "indispensable". If your time is important to you, we can "walk the talk" and prepare affordable VIPER2 direct marketing campaigns for you, so you can concentrate on running your business instead.






This manual has a lean and easy to follow process.


And when you get stuck, as we all do at times, we are just a call away.


Hopefully you run into a problem we've encountered and you will get an easy answer.


Or you run into a new one and we'll resolve it together.






As you progress, try to take our suggestions on software, campaign hosting, etc. It will save you countless headaches, that you may otherwise have to face and resolve if you take the "intentional stance". We suggest systems that we are familiar with, and if you use them, you can indeed count on our support. We may not be able to help you if you use platforms we are not familiar with.






It is required that you focus, devote attention, and that you stick to what we give you, and follow the steps correctly. You will then see incredible campaign results almost immediately, which you can then easily replicate to other campaigns or expand.






Even better, by the time you go through all the chapters hands-on, you yourself will also be a coveted expert, with knowledge to spare. You see, the secret to direct marketing success is not in any "magic formula" or "number of steps". Our revelation of success happened when we spared no expense and put together the best minds and tools in programming, marketing, statistics, name list management and project management. It all then became clear: the secret to getting better results is just making it abundently clear to the campaign recipient that you are better than the next guy. Not by telling it, but by demonstrating it. People don't rationalize how easy it was to buy from you. They just feel it subconsciously. That ease and comfort is not something you can point to, it is rather the absence of friction and anxiety, and it will bring them back the next time. You on the other hand, need to understand how it works to be able to replicate it into future campaigns.






OK, so the next secret is this: let the marketplace see you are superior, don't tell them, do not boast. When you narrate a lot, you are on your way to writing a really bad novel. When readers draw conclusions out of the captivating action, they will love you, and curse you for not being able to put the book down and go to sleep. Never boast - SHOW, don't "tell" is the golden rule. When you use VIPER2, your level of professionalism is implied and explicit in a very modest fashion, making your offer that much more desirable. People see how advanced your infrastructure is, and how gracefully you handle every interaction with them. Most experts agree that excellence coupled with modesty is an offer most people "cannot refuse".






By slashing the normal implementation costs of such an advanced direct marketing system, any serious small business owner or manager can now afford exceptional campaigns, especially in light of these benefits.






Enjoy the increased response rates, whether the response you seek is a sale or a lead to grow your mailing list. Just think VIPER2. If you run direct marketing (mail, email, fax, SMS, even PPC) without VIPER2, you are actually throwing your money away.