A Contemporary Set of Ten Commandments

Database and Creative are fraternal twins, not identical twins.

Ah, but yes, they are twins. Each contributes to the ultimate goal sought by every serious and professional marketer: response.

Data collection (just as product features) runs on a track not quite parallel to the creative track. And data procedures are facets of marketing different from the creative process.

So, to bring our abstruse twins into the sunlight, here is a compendium of what to do and what to don’t – the Ten Commandments of Database Use.

The First Commandment: Personalization is less effective than relevance.

Persuasion requires the application of sales psychology, matched to a recognizable target-prospect. Personalization does nothing to prove the validity of the database, nor is personalizing a message as effective a selling weapon as relating what we’re selling to our targets.

The Second Commandment: Basing your message on an overly pinpointed database increases the possibility of parallel appeals by competitors.

Our best targets are those who also are the best targets of any marketer who recognizes their value and validity, just as we do.

The Third Commandment: The danger of absolute targeting parallels the danger of a police SWAT team smashing into the wrong home – if you’re wrong, the message is ludicrous.

Two hazards of absolute targeting: 1) Individuals with identical demographics have different buying patterns; and 2) People seldom make a buying decision based on a single motivator.

The Fourth Commandment: Don’t assume that your prospective buyer has a personal information-base beyond the lowest level of sophistication.

A venerable rule adapted from the creative side applies, in full force – write within the experiential background of the reader, not yourself. If the reader feels inadequate, he or she will not respond.

The Fifth Commandment: Saying “I know who you are” is dangerous unless you assure the reader you’re one too.

You certainly know how to implement this Commandment. It’s as basic as replacing “Dear Collector” with “Dear Fellow Collector” or “You probably know … ” with “If you’re like I am, you know … ”

The Sixth Commandment: Each list-sort adds selectivity, but it also adds cost.

This Commandment is the cousin of the Third Commandment. In an era in which email lists are costing $200 to $350 per thousand, the astute negotiator recognizes the relationship between cost and bottom line.

The Seventh Commandment: Temper data with imagination to prevent the gray sameness of “inbred” copy.

Data is “feeder,” not a crutch that causes your keyboard to excrete similar appeals time after time. Ever hear of The Incredible Shrinking Universe Rule? Just in case, here it is: Testing expands the universe of buyers.

Inflexible repeats shrink the universe of buyers.

The Eighth Commandment: Knowing who buys = knowing who doesn’t buy.

No marketer ever scores one hundred percent. Being able not only to appeal to those who should have responded but didn’t, and to penetrate peripheral markets, are major keys to expansion of market share.

The Ninth Commandment: Don’t lapse into “in-talk.”

This is an application of the Fourth Commandment (Don’t assume that your prospective buyer has a personal information-base beyond the lowest level of sophistication.) We constantly see copy written for those in the writer’s office, using terminology foreign to too many outsiders.

The Tenth Commandment: Avoid the pursuit of useless data.

Gather data designed to give you current marketing strategy, not history. Gather data to enable you to custom-tailor your message to each target-group. “One size fits all” is amateur marketing.

Got it?

“Oh,” you say, “this is just a pile of rhetoric. I know what I’m doing. I know my product inside out, and that’s my ammunition.”

Good for you. Please be my competitor.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: August 18, 2008

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