What is most odd about this advice is the fact that it needs to be mentioned at all. As direct marketing professionals, we have all made a conscious choice to enter an industry more results-driven than most. We plan. We create. We run split tests. We revise, revamp, and test again all in an effort to improve whatever campaign has our attention at the moment.
But when it comes to selling ourselves, the rigor and discipline that makes us successful as direct marketers is largely abandoned. Strangely, this isn't a function of age, experience, or job role. I have screened thousands of direct marketing résumés but can count on one hand the number of people who even came close to quantifying their accomplishments or telling their story in a compelling way. Worse yet, I can't recall a single candidate who applied split-testing or any other direct marketing strategies to their own job search campaign.
Employers should be able to read your résumé, introductory letter, or any other part of your communication strategy and think: "Wow, if this person can do that for them, think what he or she could do for us!" No one expects you to have saved the world or conceptualized an award-winning campaign upon graduation. However, we would like to see evidence that you are passionate about using the principles. How have you used your understanding of direct response to help yourself or someone else?
My favorite example of this comes not from an industry professional, but from a college senior named Dan (not his real name) whose goal was to be a direct response copywriter. Buried on the bottom of his résumé was the following bullet:
- Raised $10,000 for the Chicago-Minneapolis Aids Ride
As stated, this accomplishment is not effective because it does little to inspire confidence or curiosity. The reader doesn't know what Dan did to achieve the result, how many donors were involved, the timeframe or anything else the might elevate this to interesting. Camouflaged behind this less-than-effective presentation, however, was compelling evidence that supported Dan's potential.
To raise the money, Dan created a holiday-themed letter and mailed it to 100 people he knew who had established careers. Not wanting to put relatives on the spot for another one of his fundraising efforts, Dan purposely didn't contact his extended family. Despite this self-imposed constraint, 25 of the 100 people responded with donations. Not satisfied, Dan tested a St. Patrick's Day mailing a few weeks before the event. The second letter went to the 75 people who didn't respond the first time. This time, 25 more people made donations.
To put this in direct marketing terms, Dan achieved a 25% response rate from his first mailing and a 33% response from his subsequent effort. Across two mailings, 50 of the 100 people on his list responded with almost $10,000 in donations for a cumulative response rate of 50% and an average donation of $200 per person. This is incredibly powerful evidence that Dan can inspire action with his words—especially considering that a great response rate for direct is a lot less than 50%.
Dan's story is not only inspiring for its results, but also as evidence that we don't need full-time work experience to demonstrate our potential. As soon-to-be graduates, look for examples in your personal life. Use your direct marketing interest to help a friend increase web traffic. Help a new business attract customers. Raise money for a nonprofit. Do something to demonstrate your passion and initiative. Then, highlight these efforts in the direct response campaign that is your job search. Above all, continue to test—and track—different approaches. The success of your campaign depends on it.
- Written by Rob Sullivan. Rob Sullivan, a professional speaker and former direct marketing headhunter, is the author of Getting Your Foot in the Door When You Don’t Have a Leg To Stand On (McGraw-Hill). www.careercraftsman.com