Managing direct response marketer expectations

Impatience is a lousy reason to pull a campaign.

It’s heart-breaking to see advertisers cancel performance-based marketing programs that just haven’t been given a chance to work. Lack of managed expectations is to blame; which is a completely preventable cause.

Both agency and advertiser walk away in disgust. Clients feel they wasted time, effort and money. With proper planning about timelines and budget, a client can make an educated decision about committing to a campaign. When agencies don’t manage expectations by communicating in detail, advertisers get anxious. A proper statement of work lays out critical details for an appropriate discussion and client approval.

I tell clients that the first day of a campaign launch is probably the worst you’ll ever do. Results go up and down with seasonality, competition and tired creative. But a well-managed campaign will continue to be tweaked and improved, from both creative and media standpoints. As winning placements get rebooked and new, riskier, testing hits a plateau, results should get better and better while cost-per-orders should edge lower.

Direct response broadcast advertising example

Once you’ve created direct response radio or television (DRTV) commercials, which can take weeks, you will know overnight if you have a winner. Telemarketers provide reports of calls made to toll-free numbers by the next day. Clicks to websites are calculated instantly for 24/7 reporting. Chances are you will determine whether a project is successful based on results of initial sales and estimated expenditures.

The delay comes when confirming spots that did not air. Some radio and TV stations will release air times before the monthly invoice goes out, but many won’t. So final, discreet, resolution might take weeks.

Even in second and fourth quarters, when broadcast and network commercial time costs about 20% more, experienced buyers will pare their media schedules to their best projected performing slots to continue to meet cost-per-order goals.

When advertisers listen to the professional vendors they hire, they get better results. Volvo marketers initially dipped their corporate toe into infomercial waters without a call-to-action in the commercial, but quickly decided to revamp creative with a greater, measurable purpose other than pure branding.

Paid search marketing example

Advertisers jumping into pay-per-click (PPC) search marketing need to be prepared for the requisite test, tweak, retest, repeat steps. It takes approximately four months to carefully test various ad groups and hundreds of keywords. Constant refinement yields steady improvement of the cost-per-lead or order.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen clients get impatient after thirty days. An agency can’t determine if a keyword phrase is working when a small budget only shows one click to a keyword. A campaign needs more budget and more time to get enough data to trim losers, keep winners and test new words.

Affiliate marketing example

Lack of patience with affiliate marketing programs makes the least sense to me of all because there is absolutely no risk; media payouts are a strict percentage of the sale. Advertiser impatience is understandable when they don’t understand the process.

These programs do take some set-up time to create and upload a variety of assets. The affiliates, website publishers, must then be romanced to sign up for the offers, then nagged to choose and post ads. In all, it may easily take three months from the creation of a program until the first ad goes live.

Considering initial and ongoing costs to buy or subscribe to affiliate management software, create 30 or more ads and pay staff or an affiliate manager, it might take four to six months to recover the investment. The 80% of advertisers who continue affiliate programs enjoy 10-15% of sales in this channel, realizing the long-term revenues at their fixed cost-per-order payout. They then explore new ways, such as building relationships with influencers, to expand reviews and sales.

When contemplating PPC, DRTV, affiliate marketing, direct response radio, remnant print or any other type of performance-based activities, smart marketers plan out the time, effort and money it will take to break even so there are no surprises. Agencies guiding activities know the historical performance of similar clients. At the end of the day, impatience is a lousy excuse.


See bio at or