Marketing Case Studies

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Case Study from Our Files
From 19th to 1st place in 18 months!
by Joe Gracia

Note: The names of the people and businesses in our case studies have been changed to ensure the privacy of the people involved, but the details, recommendations and results are based on actual events from our files.

Tracy owned a small, midwest travel agency providing escorted motor coach vacation packages to senior travelers.

She was spending a great deal of money on her marketing--a variety of small space ads in a number of local newspapers, radio spots, flyers, direct mail, etc. She was even paying to have her company name and logo on a local bowling alley's score sheets.

Lots of marketing activity and expense, but very little results. She was only getting about 10 prospects calling her each week, and many of those were already clients who just had some questions about the travel packages they had seen in her ads.

About 1 out of 10 callers actually signed up for a tour--not enough to pay for all of her monthly marketing costs.

You must know what is producing results and what isn't
The first recommendation we always make to our new clients is to have them add a tracking code to all of their marketing pieces, so they can determine which pieces are producing results and which ones are not.

By doing this, Tracy found that her very best marketing vehicle was the local Sunday newspaper travel section. We weren't surprised. One of the best places to advertise your product or service is exactly where people are looking for that type of product or service. Travel in the travel section, autos in the auto section, etc.

May sound obvious, but we frequently see business owners placing their ads in odd places thinking that all eyes are equal. They aren't.

Tracy was receiving absolutely nothing from her ad on the local bowling alley score sheets. Not surprising, since bowlers are focused on bowling and having a good time with their friends, not on travel packages.

Since there are quite a few travel agencies that offer motor coach tours in Tracy's market, the Sunday paper's travel section has a special area set aside specifically for motor coach tours. This meant that Tracy's ad was surrounded by her competitors. She was lost among them.

We recommended that Tracy stop spending money on her other ads, since they weren't producing anything for her, and invest that money in a bigger ad for the travel section. This helped Tracy stand out from her competitors.

We Improved Tracy's Marketing Strategy
Next we looked at Tracy's marketing strategy. It was weak.

Tracy was using the common, One-Step strategy. She was running ads with the name of her business as the headline along with the names, descriptions and prices of two or three of her motor coach travel packages.

At the bottom of her ad was her address and her phone number. The Call to Action at the bottom said, "Call for more information."

We explained to Tracy why she was getting so little response to her ads. When people are considering buying a travel package--or most any product or service--they want information.

What kind of information do they want? Information about what kinds of tours are available. What are the itineraries? What's included? How much will it cost? When is it available? And they also want to know about the company behind the travel packages. Are they reliable, honest, ethical? Is there some sort of guarantee?

Other than a name and a price for each tour, none of Tracy's ads, or her competitors' ads, answered any of these questions. They all expected their prospects to "Call for more information," to find this out. Most people won't do that. They just turn the page or just toss the marketing piece away. It's just not worth the time and effort.

We gave Tracy's ad a magnetic and compelling offer
"But, how can I possibly fit all of that information into my small ad?" Tracy asked.

"You can't," we told her, "but, you can fit an enormous amount of information into an envelope and mail it to them."

"I don't understand," Tracy said, "if hardly anyone is calling now from my ad, who am I going to send all of this information to?"

I flipped the question back to Tracy, "Who would you like to send all of your information to?"

"I'd love to send it just to seniors who are currently looking for information about motor coach travel vacations. Those are my target prospects."

"Excellent." I replied. "That's exactly who you're going to send your information to."

"How will I get their names and addresses?" Tracy asked.

"By attracting just those people to your ad with a powerful magnetic headline that will compel them to contact you and give you their names and addresses." I explained.

"Right now your headline says, 'TRACY'S TRAVEL TOURS!' That's not going to attract anyone. Your name is not important to your prospects. It's only important to you.

"If you want your prospects to contact you, you must offer them something they are looking for. It must be relevant to your product or service and it must be enticing. It should be an offer they can't refuse."

Tracy was beginning to get very interested. "Like what?" she asked.

I then explained to Tracy how to turn her ad into a powerful magnet that would get just the right prospects calling her instead of her competitors.

"This is what I suggest for your new ad headline. 'CALL FOR YOUR FREE BOOKLET: 101 TRAVEL TIPS FOR SENIORS.'

"You'll then add what's called a subhead under your headline in a smaller size font. It will say, 'ESPECIALLY WRITTEN FOR SENIORS WHO LOVE TO TRAVEL.'

"In the middle of the ad you'll include a bulleted list that will tell them a little about what they'll receive in their free booklet. For instance . . .
-- 5 ways to save money on your vacation
-- 6 things you must do before you leave on your vacation
-- 8 tips for protecting your valuables while on vacation, etc.

"At the bottom of your ad, you will tell them that they will also receive your latest catalog of motor coach tours. You'll let them know that it's a four dollar value, but they will get it . . . for free, if they call today.

"And you will also tell them exactly what they have to do to receive their free booklet and free catalog. 'Call Today. Ask for Our Free Booklet, 101 Travel Tips for Seniors.'

"Don't forget to put your tracking code next to your phone number so you can ask them for the code when they call. Lay it out like this, '555-5555 Ask for Extension 10.' This is not a real extension number, just a fictitious code so you can tell which ad your callers are responding to.

"Most people will ask for Extension 10 when they call. If they don't, you will just ask them for the Extension code next to the phone number. I can't stress how important it will be to your success to know exactly how many calls are coming in from each of your marketing pieces."

Tracy looked puzzled. "I don't get it? You didn't leave any room in my ad for a description of my tours. Don't I get to promote my tours in my advertising?"

"Trying to sell your products or services in your advertising is one of the biggest mistakes most small business owners make.

"There is never enough room to do that effectively in a small ad, but more importantly, the people who see your ads don't know, like and trust you or your company enough to make a buying decision at this point. They have too many questions.

"They need more information from you about you and your tours. They also need time to absorb it, and they need to be contacted up to seven times before most of them will feel comfortable enough with you to buy.

"You advertising should be used exclusively to attract prospects to your business. Those prospects will provide you with their names and addresses--or e-mail addresses-- so you can send them helpful information, as well as information about your tours.

"The people out in your marketplace who are looking at your ads are not all prospects. Most of them are strangers who have no interest in what you are selling. You can't sell to strangers, but you can sell to prospects.

"Once these prospects contact you for your free booklet and catalog, you now have unlimited opportunities to convert them into lifetime customers by simply following up with them from time to time with more information and special offers on your vacation packages.

Tracy was a little uneasy with our recommendations. She had never heard of running ads that didn't try to sell your products before, but she agreed to give it a shot.

The results of Tracy's strategy make-over
The next Sunday she replaced her ineffective, One-Step ad, with the magnetic ad we suggested. She put in all of the elements that we recommended.

We also had Tracy set a goal for her new ad. If you recall, Tracy was getting about 10 calls per week from her expensive, One-Step ad. She said she would be happy if she could double her calls to 20 per week. So that was her goal.

The day after her ad ran, we received a phone call from a very excited client.

"We can't believe it! The phone has been ringing off the hook, non-stop all day," she said.

"We've already received 157 calls for our free booklet and catalog," she told us, "and it's only 2 o'clock!"

"By giving something of value to our prospects when they call, instead of trying to sell them a tour, it really changes the entire tone of the call. All of our callers today have been so nice and so gracious. I guess all of the sales pressure has been removed. I feel like I am giving gifts away. I love it." said Tracy.

Tracy was right. We call this approach the Give to Get Marketing approach. It's about being generous to your prospects and customers and giving them what they want. Since so few businesses do this, it really makes your business stand out.

Over the next few weeks, about 40% of those prospects converted into customers. Since her tours sold for $500 - $1,000, and most of her new customers were couples, Tracy was thrilled with her results.

We were excited for Tracy and what this meant for the future of her business. Her sales exploded overnight, and she became the number one motor coach tour operation in her market within 18 months.



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Case Study Review

Marketing Problem #1
Using the One-Step Marketing Approach:

Tracy was trying to sell her expensive vacation packages in her ads. That's the way all of her competitors try to market and it was the only strategy she knew.

Few people respond to the One-Step approach because prospects need to get to know, like and trust the companies they do business with. You can't gain trust and credibility in small ads. You would need huge ads and million dollar budgets, like Disney, Apple, or Nike.

Marketing Solution #1
Stop selling in your ads and start offering helpful information:

Stop selling and start helping is our mantra. It's nearly impossible to sell to strangers in your general marketplace, but it is relatively easy to sell to prospects who you have helped. Prospects are looking for helpful information concerning the products and services they are looking to buy.

Use all of your advertising to attract dozens, hundreds, even thousands of prospects to your business by offering them what they want--free information about your product or service, or a tips booklet, report, etc. related to your product or service.

Tracy offered her prospects a booklet with 101 travel tips in it, specially written for seniors, plus a copy of her motor coach tours catalog.

Her prospects couldn't resist such an offer. It was exactly what they wanted. By getting her prospects names and addresses, Tracy was able to build a solid list of people who had a genuine interest in the types of tours that she sold.

She followed up with her list every few months with special offers and invitations to her travel shows. Because of this direct and consistent follow-up, her prospects became very familiar with Tracy's Travel Tours, and more importantly, they began to trust her and her company.

When it came time for her prospects to book a motor coach tour, only one company stood out above all the rest--Tracy's Travel Tours. You can apply the same strategy to your business.

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