The 40/40/20 Marketing Rule

Sep 10th 2012
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By Jack LaRue

So, you've decided that you want to do a marketing communication, direct mail, or e-mail. The normal tendency is to immediately start thinking about a clever message. Or perhaps you're visualizing an impactful graphic image or presentation. Uh oh - you're already in trouble. You don't understand the 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing.

The 40/40/20 rule says that 40 percent of the success of your campaign will depend on your list selection, 40 percent on your offer, and only 20 percent of your success will be attributed to your creative execution. Guess where most marketers spend 80 percent or more of their time? Yep - on the creative - because that's the fun part. But that's not where your success will be determined.

Your List (Audience) Is King

As stated above, 40 percent of your success will be determined by the list that you mail or e-mail to. If you're communicating with current customers or prospects that already know you, then you have an excellent list. But if you're trying to grow your practice beyond those audiences, you need to ensure that you're talking to good prospects who are likely to be interested in your services.

So how do you do that? A good way to start is to look for a current list of potential clients that have something in common. It could be a type of business you specialize in (vertical market), or perhaps a list of newer businesses that have opened in your area or new homeowners. Once you've determined a profile, you can put together (or often purchase) a list of new prospects that fit that profile. This enables you to craft a message that's designed specifically for that audience, which can help maximize the success of your campaign.

It's All About the Offer

What's in it for me? That's what your audience will be asking themselves. A marketing communication that speaks only about your firm might make you feel good, but it will likely fail to deliver the results you're seeking.

Offering a discount is certainly an option, but it isn't the only one, and it may not be the most effective. What else can you offer a prospect as a reward for taking the next step? It could be a free half-hour consultation, or a white paper dealing with a tax or financial issue that could be impacting your audience. What, specifically, do you want the prospect to do? And what reward will they receive for doing it?

Now You Can Start the Creative

Only after you've determined your audience and your offer should you start working on the creative. The understanding you gained during the first two steps will help you and/or your marketing folks craft a much more effective communication. At this point, you're executing a plan. You know who you're talking to and what you want them to do. That knowledge will make it much easier for you to craft a message that drives to the specific action you're seeking. And that will ultimately improve the effectiveness of your campaign.

Designing a marketing communication around a clever idea or presentation can be fun. But remember the 40/40/20 rule. Give careful thought to who your audience is and what you would like them to do, then give them a compelling reason to take the action you want. This will maximize the effectiveness of your campaign and the return on your marketing investment. 

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About the author:

Jack LaRue is the senior vice president, myPay Solutions, at Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.


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