About Grant Johnson

Grant Johnson
A prominent marketing strategist and nationally recognized thought leader, Grant is President and CEO of Johnson Direct. He is a sought-after public speaker, direct marketing trainer, copywriter, award-winning author and the creator of Direct Branding™, Johnson Direct’s multichannel and measurable strategic process.

Ensure Email Campaign Success Through Email Marketing Planning and Checklists

Email is one of the most effective measurable marketing tools for customer communication and retention as well as for creating correspondence quickly. It is, when done correctly, a list of people who have opted-in to hear what you have to say. These folks expect what you are saying to be relevant to them and their needs. When it is, they read your words…and respond.

But, how do you create email communications that are on-point and resonate with your target audiences?


If you plan on email being a part of your ongoing marketing, it is smart to have a plan dedicated to it. This will save you time, prevent you (or your associates) from being too reactive and will deliver a roadmap that will help you achieve your stated goals.

The plan helps to put you and your email subscribers on the same page. They will understand what they are going to get from you and what they aren’t.  Having an email marketing plan from the beginning allows you to set expectations to your subscribers and what they are signing up for (i.e. “Sign up to receive industry news and updates,” or “Sign up to get the latest exclusive offers and product reviews”). This is imperative as people don’t like to get emails that they aren’t expecting. If they sign up thinking they are going to receive industry news and instead get promotional messages about your latest products, there will be a disconnect and they will opt-out as a subscriber.

To help you get your plan started, here are four simple steps to help you create a plan that will resonate with your email subscriber base:

Step 1: Identify Your Readers

You need to understand who your readers are, what they are looking for and make sure that your email is segmented by attributes that reflect what each target audience is seeking. A survey here to each subscriber is a great way to collect meaningful data that will help you deliver exactly what they are looking for.

Step 2: Identify Your Purpose and Goals

Once you know who you’re talking to, you can outline the overarching purpose of your email marketing and the goals you want to achieve, keeping in mind that you may have several goals.

Your purpose is the reason you’re send­ing people email communication at all and your goal is what you hope to achieve, whether it be number of subscribers, click-throughs and/or sales attributed to each campaign.

Ask the following questions:

1. Why does this audience want to hear from me?

2. What useful information can I provide to this audience?

3. What do I want to accomplish with my email marketing?

Step 3: Determine Your Email FrequencyIdeally you do not want to force frequency on your subscribers. It’s better to allow them to tell you how often they would like to hear from you – bi-monthly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually.

Finding your frequency sweet spot is essential to your on-going email success. You don’t want to communicate infrequently, but if you send too often your subscribers will feel overloaded with your emails and may unsubscribe or, worse, report you as a spammer. Keep in mind that over emailing is much more common than under emailing.

Step 4: Establish a Timeline

As the saying goes, plan your work and work your plan. Establish detailed steps, day-by-day, and make your daily tasks manageable so you can hit your deadlines. Create a monthly content calendar for the next 12 months and establish end goals for each week prior to distribution.

Your timeline and steps will vary depending on your industry, type of content and calendar.

Email has emerged as a critical measurable marketing tactic. Therein lays many of the issues that email faces. It is not viewed or treated as a strategic discipline and, more often than not, it should be.

Robust campaign analytics are critical to your email success. Testing, of course, plays a vital role in your ongoing success, so make sure you incorporate subject line, from line, headline and copy tests, along with messaging and creative tests in your campaigns. To help you plan and monitor the progress of your email campaigns & newsletters, use the email marketing planner and production checklist provided below.

Hey, (Your Name Here)!

In the ongoing search to find the next big idea to take our marketing performance to new heights, we can be forgiven for occasionally going overboard. This is especially true at a time when CMOs are among the most expendable members of the C-suite.

A study by executive search firm Spencer Stuart reported that CMOs’ tenure has averaged 22.9 months, compared with 53.8 months for CEOs. And just 14% of top-brand CMOs have been with their present company more than three years, vs. 50% who’ve been on the job for less than a year.

Clearly the CMO position is under intense scrutiny and is a volatile post at best. So in that headlong rush to find “the” way to keep business growing, our clawing fingernails may tend to hang on to whatever looks like the best chance to keep the bottom line on the upswing.

Is this the case with the trend to “personalize” everything? Clearly, personalization has shown significant value in a variety of marketing vehicles. But like everything else, it eventually has a saturation point.

Does simply slapping my name on a direct mail piece and referring me to a personalized URL guarantee success? Of course not. Just as with e-mail, which has clearly reached nearly laughable status in terms of over-personalization (“Grant Johnson, Now Get a Full Head of Hair!”), we’re beginning to see the same kind of overuse emerging across the marketing spectrum.

We need to remember that it’s customers — not us — who define what’s relevant and decide the channels through which they want to receive our brilliant marketing messages.

Is the short-term success of personalization sustainable, or are we better off using traditional direct marketing techniques such as face-to-face contacts and telephone calls?

I vote for the latter. Marketers need to use traditional DM methods in prospecting rather than just relying on personalized e-mails to do that essential task in an attempt to shortcut testing.

It can be annoying for consumers to receive mailings from a company or organization they don’t know that acts like it’s known them for years. It’s one thing to buy or rent a list with my name on it, but I’d rather you wait to be my buddy until I’ve purchased something from you, or requested information and defined the relationship parameters. Otherwise it’s just another version of that anonymous person calling on the phone and greeting you with “Grant, how are you doing today?” long before getting around to saying who he or she is, and what they want from me.

Let the target audience define how it wants to be marketed to and via what channels, then test various offers and messaging platforms based on that data to gauge results.

Want examples of marketers that know this to be true, and are the leaders in their respective segments? Look no further than:

•Starbucks : How I want my coffee is different from the way you want yours.

•Harley-Davidson: How I customize my bike is different from the way you do it.

•Apple: The music on my iPod is different from yours.

What makes these three brands the best? Personal relevance. They each seem to understand that their products are that much better because each user can make them their very own.

It might help to recall valuable, hard-earned lessons from marketing’s past whenever we consider using personalization: telemarketing (do-not-call legislation); e-mail (overuse and spam that’s negatively affected response and its use in prospecting); and misguided direct mail that inundates our mailboxes (think quality, not quantity, please!).

Is personalization a bad thing? No. But we need to let our customers and prospects tell us how to proceed.

They may say they love personalization; they might show us that there can be too much of a good thing; or they could decide that the answer is somewhere in between. The important thing is to pay attention and look at customers and prospects as the drivers of our continuing efforts.

Remember “The customer is always right?” It’s never been more true than it is today as we move into the world of new media. Keep testing and keep listening to your customers. Your reward will be long-term success, not just short-term spikes in response.

User Experience is Critical in B-to-B Website Design

As seen in Chief Business Marketer on Dec 15, 2010 2:52 PM, By Grant A. Johnson

The growing importance of websites in marketing communications has made savvy B-to-B marketers take notice of just how powerful a tool a great site can be for customer communication, prospect conversion and establishing a leadership position within an industry.

As websites have evolved from static pages to content-rich destinations to personal user experience portals, their role in marketing plans has become more important. The key elements of design trends tie directly into direct marketing testing and data to enhance the user experience, along with new software options.

When used correctly, these tools, along with a solid SEO/SEM strategy, help make the visit a productive and easy one that also reaps rewards for the company via more conversions, sales and customer interactions that are resolved more quickly. Here are some ways to improve your site’s usability.

Johnson Direct offers User Experience audits to help our clients move the needle. Reach out to us if you’re looking to improve your visitors’ experience.

Grant A. Johnson
Johnson Direct

StorySelling as an Effective Sales Closing Technique (Part 2)

The first article in this series about using the effective sales technique of StorySelling defined what StoryTelling actually is and what makes StorySelling more effective in your customer and prospect marketing communications. This article will deal with why StorySelling is such a critical driver in closing sales today and why you should be testing it sooner rather than later.

According to author and researcher George Bane, “Two decades ago, the average child under 18 spent about 15 to 20 hours per week digesting media content. Today, it has nearly tripled to almost 60 hours per week of unduplicated time. They now devote more time to media than to anything other than sleep.”

And, it’s not much better for those older. When I was growing up in the 1960’s and early 1970’s as a child, we had 3 TV stations and PBS. I can still recall when our first UHF station was added. Wow, was I ecstatic that I had another choice. Today, we have hundreds of TV channels, radio stations, satellite radio stations, newspapers and of course the internet. That’s added as much content and options we can digest, including YouTube, Twitter, Hulu, and on and on…

With increased media exposure and an inundation of advertised media messages, it’s getting harder and harder to “cut through the clutter” and make your marketing message(s) meaningful, even if they are relevant. While the number of impressions we are exposed to daily is cause for debate, it’s safe to say that the number is off the chart compared to only five or ten years ago. Therein lies the dilemma.

Through StoryTelling techniques companies can effectively distinguish themselves from competitors, and provide reasons to the prospect as to why their product or service is superior and why they should try it. The problem with most StoryTelling is that it does not nudge the recipient to a call-to-action. It should. Then, it becomes StorySelling.

Author Mary van de Wiel explains the power of StoryTelling in your communication efforts and how you and your company can benefit from it. She asks Why is storytelling so important to your business? Because:

  • An authentic brand story makes you memorable.
  • It differentiates you as desirable.
  • It brings your brand to life.
  • It gives you a distinct competitive advantage.
  • Your target market becomes hugely responsive.
  • It positions you as a visionary in your field.

Testimonials, when done right help your StroySelling efforts as they add credibility to your messaging. StorySelling makes you more successful because people remember it. In this fast-paced, uber-fragmented world we live in, it helps make an emotional connection to your brand and helps lodge your product or service in the recipient’s memory bank a little bit longer and gets them to WANT to take action sooner rather than later or never.

You need to be testing different StorySelling messages in your marketing and sales communications because they will help set you apart, make you more memorable and get your prospects to do what great advertising and marketing is intended to do – take action and do so now.

The amount of media exposure and advertising messages we are exposed to is not decreasing anytime soon. Thus, test this method to jump start your marketing efforts. As we become over exposed to all things media, we CRAVE simplicity. StorySelling does exactly that. It plays off of simplicity and makes your message more prominent and effective.

Once upon a time there was this marketer who wrote a few articles on StorySelling. He wrote about what it is and why it is needed. Then, in the final article, he described how it is being done profitably in this day and age. The “how to” article will be the last in his series on how StorySelling is an effective sales closing technique. Please look for it. In the meantime, visit www.johnsondirect.com to discover even more timely marketing tips and stories.


Grant Johnson
Founder, Johnson Direct

Note: This is part two in a three-part series on the art of StorySelling, a moder, effective sales technique in conversational marketing. For the first part in the series, read about how Grant defines StorySelling.

Protecting Your Brand: 13 Rules Your Brand ID Guide Should Be Enforcing

Are you aware that your brand is under constant assault… from forces within? Countless employees on your payroll use and abuse company brand identity, key messages, and taglines. It’s not because they want to do harm- often times it’s that they just don’t know how to use them. Luckily, there’s a simple solution: a brand identity guide.

In the current issue of Chief Marketer, our eMarketing Direct Denise Hearden discusses 13 rules that should be included in your brand identity guide. Read it here.