Direct Marketing, Mail Order, and E-commerce News from the National Mail Order Association


The 16 Biggest Myths in Marketing, by Jeffrey Dobkin


Magazine Myths

Myth # 1 “Sure you’ll get lots of direct orders - you have no

competition, you’ll be the only mail-order ad in the magazine.”

Fact: If you’re marketing with a direct-selling mail order ad, there

should be lots of other mail order merchants in the magazine - the

synergy will help your ad get better response.  Readers will be shopping

that section with a pen and checkbook in hand.  If there are no other

mail order ads, there’s a reason: they don’t work.


Myth #2 “You can sell anything from this publication, all our ads work.”

TRUTH: You can tell in advance what works, those ads keep repeating

month after month. You can tell if your ad in a magazine will be

successful to a good degree by studying the last year of issues:

competitors’ ads appear in it monthly; so do ads for similar products.

This is the only way to tell, everything else is a crap shoot. So is

this, but at least the dice are weighted slightly in your favor.


MYTH # 3:  The 3 Ad Exposure MYTH

When you ask magazine publishers for an discount on your ad (you do

always ask, don’t you?), most usually respond with “Sure you can get a

discount. Run your ad 3 times and get the 3 time multi-insertion ad rate.” 

Unenlightened advertisers then mistakenly place three ads in three

succeeding months, and… oops! Magazine production time is 3 months,

so when the first ad appears on the newsstand, if it’s not successful it’s

already too late to cancel ads 2 and 3. You just lost 3 times the amount

you should have. Oh boy, how many times have I heard this story.

Here’s the MYTH: “Your ad needs three exposures for the best draw!”

Hogwash. I don’t think so. If your first ad sinks like a stone, your

other 2 will follow it right down to the bottom.  So will your money.

Recommendation:  If you want the 3 ad discount, by all means, take out

a 3 ad insertion order.  BUT…what the ad salesperson probably forgot to

tell you: in the vast majority of the cases, you have a FULL YEAR to

fulfill the 3 insertion contract - so place the first ad, and enjoy the discount. 

Place the second ad to run in the magazine 3 or 4 months later - so you’ll

have plenty of time to cancel it if the first ad doesn’t draw well.  Then, if

your first ad - your test ad - doesn’t work, cancel: because it's HIGHLY likely

that the rest of your ads won’t work either. You’ll get either orders, or

experience with your 1ST ad. (Experience is what you get when you don’t

get any orders). You don’t want to get more experience with ads 2 and 3.


untested magazine - unless you have really deep pockets can take the hit.

If you cancel your remaining ads, you may have to pay the “short rate”

(the difference between a single insertion rate and the 3x ad rate), and

that’s a fair charge, but it will be a hell of a lot cheaper than

running the ad a second and third time.  If your first ad works, you’ll

have the rest of your life to place additional ads.  You’ll thank me for

this if your first ad doesn’t test well. Send a nice bottle of Champaign

with that “thank you” letter, will you?

EDITORS NOTE: If you're buying ads, make sure you register and use the ad buying service. It's free to register and use, and

when you mention you're a mail order or direct marketing company at registration

you'll get a nice report on creating successful advertisements.


MYTH # 4 The Magazine Readership MYTH

“We have 300,000 readers. Our circulation figures are audited to prove

it.”  Audit bureau figures may show 300,000 copies of the magazine were

really mailed, but…don’t confuse circulation figures with readership

figures.  Is everyone who gets the magazine actually reading it every

month?  Nah. Actual readership varies: it goes down from that

circulation figure.

FACT: The circulation figure doesn't tell you how many people actually

read the magazine.  For example, a magazine with a circulation of

300,000 may well mail 300,000.  But in any given month do you think all

those are actually read by each and every subscriber?  Not likely.

Readership is dependent on lots of different elements, from quality of

the editorial to the weather.  Let’s suppose 20% of the recipients don’t

read any particular given issue.  Suddenly readership is at 240,000.

And I’ll guarantee summer readership is less than half that.  See Myth #

7 for the details.


MYTH # 5 This is our best issue, you need to be in this issue. 

BUT: Is this true for every issue?  I’ve never heard a magazine advertising

sales person say, “This issue isn’t too good, wait for a couple of

months before you place that ad.”  Magazines - like streetcars - come

along with tremendous regularity.  Don’t rush into any issue.  So what

if this is the “Special Show Distribution” issue; or the “Big Buyers”

issue or “The Giant Christmas” issue” or the…


MYTH # 6 Our Readership is actually 2.5 times our circulation rate.

TRUTH: What a bunch of crap.  Often called pass-along readership, thought-up

by an overzealous ad man in the late 70’s who needed to increase his

readership figures overnight, this unsubstantiated figure is now spoken

of like it’s real. Sure, some magazines have pass-along readership, but

who’s counting? I remember when this “pass along readership” figure

came out, and it suddenly doubled publishers’ figures.  All the publishers

jumped on the bandwagon - and then everyone’s figures suddenly exploded. 

So did the truth.  Pass-along readership figures are pretty unreliable.

Granted, some magazines have better quality editorial, and they get

passed around a bit.  But there is no credible way to verify this

readership figure.  Do the magazines sent to physicians’ offices have a

pass along rate of 200 people each issue?

Worst: some association publishers send their house-organ magazine to

all their association members, then boast high circulation figures.

While circulation figures look good, some of these magazines are so

poorly written that readership is nil.  I receive 125 magazines each

month.  I glance at them all, scan most, read a few articles in some,

and read only 3 or 4 cover to cover. I leave them in the bathroom to

make sure they get read.


MYTH # 7 Every issue is good for advertising. Readership is consistent

year round!

Fact: Circulation figures stay constant, but readership goes way down in the

summer.  In fairness, seasonal merchandise finds some issues better,

but generally the Best Months to advertise are: Jan, Feb, March. 

Reason: The country is cold, people stay in more, and read more. 

The worst months to advertise: June, July, August. Summer readership,

ugh. Would you rather be on the beach sipping a mint julep, or inside,

reading a magazine?


MARKETING MYTH # 8 My product is so good, I won’t need to market it.

FACT: Word of mouth works, but it’s slow.  If you have to pay for overhead,

staff or inventory, you need to have a better plan than “word will get

around!” You’ll also need some kind of budget for marketing.  It doesn’t

need to be a lot, but it has to be budgeted in terms of man-hours (if

you’re going to do it yourself) or dollars.  Even the business practice

of the finest architect in the world can fail if he doesn’t market

correctly, and fails to bring in new business, regularly.  Poor

marketing will result in no new business coming in the front door.  An

absence of sales can be sustained, but unless you have really deep

funding, not for long.  No sales, nobody eats!


CATALOG MYTH # 9 It’s easy to make money with a catalog.

TRUTH: Sure, gather a few products together, have a few thousand catalogs

printed up, buy a list, and you’re on your way to make millions.  Don’t

bet the ranch quite yet.  I owned a catalog company once, and it was

tough.  Our P & L was on the line with every single mailing we did.  I

got stuck with products that didn’t sell well, and weren’t profitable

enough to put back in - yet I still had them in inventory (my friends

and relatives loved me that year!)  Pricing was always a big question

mark: should we be discount, or high end - or somewhere in between?*

And I’ve had about every trick imaginable pulled on me by list vendors.

It’s a tough road to make a lot of money with a catalog, my hat’s off to

the ones that do.  It can be done, but it ain’t easy.

*I settled my pricing: We were below market price on items easily

shopped and that invited price comparison shopping, and higher on unique

and hard to find goods.


INVENTOR’S MYTH # 10 I’ll just get this one out into the marketplace,

and I’ll make money on the next one.

TRUTH: How many inventors have said this to me?  Most of them, I think.

Without money and profits, there won’t be a next one.  At least, I’ve

never seen a ‘next one’ under this circumstance.  By the time it’s all

said and done, it’s too much work and too many hours to bring a product

to market and not be profitable.  Then to say you’re going to do it all

again, ugh, you’ve got to be nuts.  The myth?  Without profits, you

won’t be doing it again.  You need to make a profit, and it’s reasonable

to expect to do so for your investment of time and effort. You need two

essentials for any business: sales and profits. Anything else can wait.


CUSTOMER’S MYTH # 11 I’ll call back.

TRUTH: This is the big customer myth. If you didn’t handle it right the first

time, don’t hold your breath. They won’t.


SALES MYTH # 12 It’s easy to sell this product - everyone will buy it.

TRUTH: That’s easy to say until you try to sell it. Sure, you can sell anything, but it

may cost you $20 to sell a $10 product.  Take out an ad for $500, and

you can sell 50 ten-dollar items to generate enough cash flow to pay for

the ad.  But if it costs you $5 to fill each order, you suddenly need to sell

100 units just to pay for the ad.  Do the math up front, if it doesn’t look

 like it’s going to work, you’re probably right.


FRIEND’S MYTH # 13 Everyone will buy it - when I showed them the

sample they loved it!

BUT: After you’ve asked your friends who said “Sure, we’ll take one!” to

actually write you a check, how many actually did!  This is the

“checkbook test” - let me know how you make out!  Showing a sample to a

friend and having a stranger actually give money to you for your product

are quite different.  Try this: when asking friends about your product,

don’t tell them it’s your invention - just show it to them, tell them

you have an extra one you’d like to sell, and ask if they’ll buy it.

Then ask for the money, as proof.


CATALOG MYTH # 14 Every catalog house will carry it, right?

TRUTH: Perhaps.  Everyone likes new products, but no one likes to take a

chance, especially catalogers.  Catalog houses present a mixed bag -

they like to see a proven hot sales record, yet always want a first-time

exclusive.  Go figure. That all comes into play IF you can get the buyer

on the phone.  Take heart: there are over 10,000 catalog houses. 

See Catalogs- Directory of Mail Order Catalogs


PRODUCT SUBMISSION MYTH # 15 Just send it in, attention “Buyer”,

it’ll get looked at and we’ll make a decision.

TRUTH:  Virtually nothing that comes in over the transom this way is

selected by a catalog house, marketing agency, or mass merchandiser.

This presentation is the kiss of death.  If you can’t get a name of

someone to send it to, forget it.  When you reach this dead-end

conversation over the phone with someone, it’s best to hang-up politely,

and call back later. Without a name, what are you going to do for

follow-up?  Call and say, “Well yup, I sent it in a few weeks ago, don’t

know to whom, though, or where it’s at right now, but can you tell me

how it’s doing”?  I’ve never had a successful product submission without

sending the item to a specific name, and I’m pretty picky about sending

it to the right person, too.


ENTREPRENEUR’S MYTH # 16 I’m finished with my work.

TRUTH: Who are you kidding?  As an entrepreneur you’re never finished with

your work.  And it’s because -- your work is never done.  Being an

entrepreneur means you know what you’ll be doing - and have your work

laid out for you - for the next 6 months…and up.  What you actually

need to do is to prioritize what you need to do, so you can do it in the

right order.


Jeffrey Dobkin is the author of the incredible 400-page marketing manual,

"How To Market A Product for Under $500" and "Uncommon Marketing

Techniques"  Both books are available in the NMOA bookstore.

Product Marketing- How to Market a Product for Under $500

 These books are completely filled with tips and techniques to make your

marketing faster, cheaper, more effective - and fun. You never learned this

stuff in college! Mr. Dobkin cuts right through the theoretical crap and

demonstrates a wealth of practical how-to direct marketing techniques.


Useful Direct Marketing and Mail Order Links.

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Advertising- How to Create Great Small Business Advertising


Call Centers- Telephone Order Taking Services


Catalogs- Catalog and E-commerce Benchmarks

Catalogs- Directory of Mail Order Catalogs

Catalogs- Directory of Business to Business Catalogs


Classified Advertising- How to Market using Classified Ads


Direct Mail- Copywriters and Creative Services Guide

Direct Mail- Directory of Major Direct Mailers

Direct Mail- Inside Direct Mail Newsletter


Direct Marketing- Direct Marketing Seminars and Events

Direct Marketing- Direct Marketing Statistics

Direct Marketing- Direct Marketing Response Rates


Fulfillment- Warehouse and Order Fulfillment Centers


Mailing Lists- Direct Mail and E-mail Lists


Product Marketing- Promote your Product to Catalog and Direct Marketing Companies.

Product Marketing- Joe Cossman's Course for Marketing a Product

Product Marketing- How to Market a Product for Under $500


Wholesale and Drop Shipping- Professional Wholesale Resource Guide


Direct Marketing Bookstore

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