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The Danger Of Subjective Opinion by Bob Bly

Posted May 28th, 2013 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Uncategorized

“What’s hot in B2B marketing?” I recently asked my colleague JD.

“Video,” JD replied without hesitation.

I smiled, because I have been writing video scripts for over 30 years ever since I worked in marketing communications for a large defense contractor in the late 70s.

Back then, people had more time and greater attention spans than they do today, so many of our videos ran 10 to 12 minutes.

A few were longer. We had an introductory video to educate new employees and others about the company that was 23 minutes long.

TS, my boss, told me he had wanted Burgess Meredith to narrate it.

But Meredith was anti-war and would not work with a defense company.

Back in the day, production standards for marketing videos were higher than they are today.

All our videos were shot by professional crews using professional equipment.

Because of this, TS had a rule: the videos we did had to be of a production quality that matched or came close to what the prospect saw on TV.

Today anyone with a cell phone thinks he can shoot an acceptable video.

Because of that and YouTube, today’s prospects are much more forgiving of middling quality in marketing videos posted on the web. Some marketers even say videos that look home-made actually pull better than those that are “slick”.

Many of my corporate clients tell me, as if it were an indisputable fact, that no one on Earth will watch a video longer than 3 minutes today.

Yet many of my direct marketing clients in financial and health care routinely ask me to write video salesletters that are 20 to 25 minutes, and these videos generate higher conversion rates than static landing pages. So much for “indisputable” facts.

You see, when someone tells you a “fact” about marketing like “no one reads copy anymore”, they are almost always basing it on their subjective opinion and personal preferences, yet they proclaim it as the gospel truth. Their mistake.

Copywriter PB once told me: “Never let personal preference get in the way.”

For example: I strongly dislike sweepstakes direct mail packages. And I throw them away the instant I get them.

But does my throwing them away have any bearing on whether they work? Of course not.

If you are a direct marketer—someone whose marketing generates a measurable response—as so many online marketers are these days, it’s easy enough to test and know for a fact what works. You don’t have to leave it to opinion.

One client, the marketing director of a software company, had a rule for the direct mail packages we produced. She said, “Always have a picture of a bearded programmer on page one of the letter.”

This, however, was not her subjective opinion. They tested this multiple times, and adding the photo always lifted response. Why? Well, their target market was programmers, so perhaps this helped them relate to the letter writer.

This brings up a broader principle: People buy from people they like, and they like people who are like them. Therefore, it makes sense to have the copy written in the voice of and signed by someone who is a member of your target audience. For instance, if you are sending an e-mail to nurses, have the e-mail coming from a nurse.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

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3 Responses so far

  1. Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you

  2. I can definitely see your expertise in the article you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

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