Direct Response Marketing: The Best Option for Small Businesses

by Nick Loise, GKIC President

In this episode Nick Loise, GKIC President, answers questions about Sales and Marketing and discuss why Direct Response Marketing is the best option for small businesses.

Nick Loise, President of GKIC

Nick Loise became President of GKIC after being a successful entrepreneur, marketing and sales executive, info-marketer and lifelong student of Dan Kennedy and GKIC. He originally saw Dan Kennedy in 1994 at a Success International event in Arizona, and he’s been hooked ever since. He has owned and operated two separate businesses, one that is still in operation today.

Nick has implemented the key principles of Magnetic Marketing and Direct Response Marketing into all of his business and professional endeavors. He has served as a top marketing executive at companies ranging in revenue size from $1 million to $1 billion.

Nick was an early adopter of the digital marketing side of the business in the early 90s and used this online platform to acquire new customers and gain market share over his competition. He also instituted direct response marketing into all of his companies and industries (even in many industries where direct response marketing was unheard of) and used that to acquire leads and customers and drive revenue and profit.

He has been an adjunct professor of marketing at a Chicagoland University, teaching both undergraduates and graduates, as well as guest lecturing on many different stages and online platforms. He resides in Park Ridge, Ill., with his wife and two children. Nick brings his passion for small business and entrepreneurs to his work every day.

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Show Transcript:

Jesse Stoddard:             00:07

I’ve got Nick Loise here from GKIC the President of GKIC. Nick, thank you so much for taking time to be here today. I really appreciate it.

Nick Loise:                        00:15

Jesse, it’s my honor. I enjoy getting involved with our members and getting involved with their communities that they’re building and they’re supporting and talking all things, entrepreneurship, growth, marketing, sales, you name it. So I’m here for you. Whatever you need.

Jesse Stoddard:             00:26

Awesome. So maybe you could fill in the gaps of your introduction and by sharing a little bit of your hero’s journey when it comes to marketing, I’m sure you aren’t always successful. Did you have some ups and downs?

Nick Loise:                        00:38

I’ve had my fair share of Christmas cards that we’ve mailed out. Write a Christmas card is an ad that goes into the marketplace at that time it was a direct mail campaign that went into the marketplace without calls to actions or anything of that nature or so.

Nick Loise:                        00:52

And I still have one ad that I think I spent $28,000 on that I have to this day, every month, still pay to keep the tracking number on cause I’m waiting for that one person to call me if they haven’t yet and it’s going on seven years. I’ve been bloodied in the marketing realm, but I’ve had a lot of successes too. But I think sometimes you learn more from your failures than your successes. So my hero’s journey as I like to think of, I really started in broken to space that was traditionally brand building space and broke into it with direct response advertising. So I’m a big direct response advertising proponent. Even when I was working for let’s say a billion dollar company and I was running $100 million division from the VP of Marketing perspective for them, we still, everything was, did, was direct response, whether it was, we did the, we did radio, you name it, we did it, all different sorts of media.

Nick Loise:                        01:53

But everything is all direct response driven. I owned from there, I parlayed that into, I had two different agencies, one was in the healthcare space and one was all in all different industries, but we are having the home improvement and it was all direct response. We did a lot of direct mail. We did a lot of direct-to-consumer advertising. Mobile was just becoming very active, so we were doing a lot of mobile back then. We were doing QR codes, some of your audience may not even know what those words,  so long ago, but we were doing the first mobile sites in early 2000’s for our customers. And then we got heavy into social media and kind of really saw the power of social media. It really what it was going to do.

Nick Loise:                        02:41

Especially on a direct to consumer basis. We weren’t that heavy on the B2B side. We were on both of them. We were direct to consumer agencies. I’ve made every mistake and had a lot of wins in the long run. So whatever you or your audience wants to learn about, I try to teach.

Jesse Stoddard:             02:59

So, you had two businesses and one of them still in operation?

Nick Loise:                        03:03

No, actually it is still in operation, but my equity proponent of it is gone. I had to sell my equity when I became president, but it’s one of our divisions is still up and running. It’s been serving Chicago. It’s regionalized that division and certain Chicago going probably 20 years now. It was really good and it’s heavy direct response.

Nick Loise:                        03:30

It was a lot of fun and that was heavy on the home improvement side of the business. We did a lot of work in the arts and entertainment. We did a lot of work for travel and leisure. So we were really in the kind of the fun side of the business.

Jesse Stoddard:             03:44

So if you’re doing this in the nineties, I’m sure there is a little bit of education that you needed to make with the business owners. I’m sure that must have been in direct response too, probably a lot of people didn’t know what direct response was.

Nick Loise:                        04:00

I was lucky because I did a lot of, I was a student of GKIC. So I saw Dan in 1994, as you probably talked about in my bio and kind of carried that through and because we set myself up as like the thought leader for direct response and many of them, a lot of our marketing collateral or was really done in the GKIC style of education.

Nick Loise:                        04:26

So when we got to the door, they knew we were going to talk about direct response. But most people think branding. And especially when you’re working with the arts and theaters and that they think branding. And so we really had to kind of push it back towards theater, ticket sales. And they, a lot of times pushback and use the terminology, “my customers are too smart for this or it won’t work in my marketplace, where it’s not pretty enough,” or things of that nature. But we always say, let us go on our results, we will prove our worth on our results. At the end of the day, it’s your business, your pocketbook, your customer, because we don’t want a lot of agencies too. But the ones that understood direct response really did, the ones that understood measurement really did.

Nick Loise:                        05:11

And it was interesting to come to the hero’s journey if you will. I ended up doing a lot of work and we ended up having venture capital into our business and we did a lot of work with investment or companies that had investment folks. And we’re the only people that they wanted to talk to you because we are a response driven because we were measurable. Everything else they couldn’t put into place but us, they understood and they reminded me, I’m a big fan of David Ogilvy, a big student of David Ogilvy, to be able to study him in undergraduate and graduate. And then on my journey as a marketer and advertising person. And he used to say, the guy’s in the basement, the direct response guy. They are the true marketers because they’re the only ones that know if ads work or not, the branding stuff is just the sexy stuff, but nobody knows what works.

Nick Loise:                        05:57

When you work with a lot of small business folks really you have to be direct response driven because for every dollar they spend they need to get that dollar back or if not $3 back because you know, you’ve got to pay bills, you gotta pay payroll, you gotta pay your kids mortgage and orthodontist.

Jesse Stoddard:             06:15                  So what was the one thing that made the difference? Was it direct response and was it discovering the Dan Kennedy stuff or what really changed things for you?

Nick Loise:                        06:25

I think the one thing that really changed things for me was the marriage of direct response and fitting it into advertising. So it wasn’t blatant? So doing direct response in an elegant way and doing what I call online digital response where it’s like a terminology we recoined where response driven ads don’t have to be ugly. Response-driven ads don’t have to not become appealing to your customers, to your wife’s, to your neighbors or things of that nature, but they do have to be response driven and everything should have one or two pathways to respond.

Nick Loise:                        07:07

You want to capture leads. So that was probably an education of everybody from Claude Hopkins to David Ogilvy, certainly Dan Kennedy to Bob Stone. I’m a huge fan of Bob Stone. I did some studying under Bob Stone or students of Bob Stone. I’m a big fan of Kotler too, for all things marketing with a four P’s. I was fortunate enough to have an undergraduate degree with people that did a lot of studying and writing and research with Kotler. So it was good. But I think the biggest, that was the biggest one and the second biggest one really was understanding consumer behavior and the motivations of consumer behavior, whether it be pain or pleasure and really what drives people to respond to an ad or advertisement or online ad or things of that nature. And becoming a student of that, I do agree with the phraseology that “marketing is really nothing more than human psychology, human behavior and math and everything else is in there.

Nick Loise:                        08:07

I think we’re under underplaying the importance of graphics, we’re underplaying the importance of design, wherein the elegant world, right? If I hold up my iPhone, it’s an elegant piece of equipment. Design matters in today’s world. I believe. So it’s a marriage of all of that, it’s a fascinating, fascinating building. Fascinating study.

Jesse Stoddard:             08:28

If you had to define marketing. If you had to come up with some working definition, if somebody said to you, hey nick, what is marketing? What would you say?

Nick Loise:                        08:36

I think it’s creating the environment where the consumer is open, available and ready to hear your messaging and whether that messaging is through advertisement or whether that messaging is marketing is on the forefront and then, salespeople start coming in for that. I believe it’s kind of set.

Nick Loise:                        08:59

It sets the table to allow you to have a meaningful conversation with the consumer.

Jesse Stoddard:             09:03

And what about the difference between marketing and sales and how they come together? What do you think the difference is?

Nick Loise:                        09:10

Yeah, it’s a great question. I think about that a lot and I think the marriage of the two is more and more important in today’s day and age. I think that some of the marketing, the selling because in a lot of it might be the complexity of what you’re selling. So if you’re selling a low price product marketing can really move a lot of that. If you read Peter Thiel, the one to many, his book, he’s got a matrix and he says,  marketing could really sell stuff from zero to $500. I think in today’s day and age you have to get a person on the phone or a salesperson involvement in the sale, even as low as $250.

Nick Loise:                        09:55

So I think marketing sets the table and sales comes in and delivers the check.

Jesse Stoddard:             10:00

That’s great. I love that definition.  In brief, what does it take to create a great marketing strategy?

Nick Loise:                        10:07

Yeah, great question. One is, I think it starts with really knowing your target market. That’s the forefront. I don’t think people spend a lot of time in that. And when I talked to a lot of great copywriters, I have the pleasure of working with them or talking to them or interviewing them. They do more on research than they do in writing. So it’s really spending the time to understand your target market or your audience or who you’re going after and really understand what drives them both pain and pleasure standpoint. Once you understand that, then you could start really moving through the elegance.

Nick Loise:                        10:43

Then you get some media. But first you have to get the market, then you’ve got to get the messaging down and then you can go to the media. But everybody runs to the media because if you go on your Facebook, everybody is making $30 billion on Facebook, we run the media because that’s what sexy and we want to know what’s new, but you have to start with the basics of knowing who the market is and what the messaging is and then you go to the media

Jesse Stoddard:             11:08

If you had to put together the ultimate marketing plan, how would you do that?

Nick Loise:                        11:15

I’m assuming that I know who my audience is, right? I’ve got the messaging down for that audience than are you saying what media would I go to?

Jesse Stoddard:             11:24

Well, if you had to put together a plan and maybe written a plan, a company comes and says we want a marketing plan, we don’t know what we’re doing.  So what would you tell them?

Nick Loise:                        11:35

Start with the research. We’re talking to who their audience is, kind of look at who’s buying from them now, what are they buying, what’s the frequency of buying? Let’s calculate the lifetime value and then try to source that lifetime value from those people and realizing that the value of any companies in the list, right? So part of the portion of the marketing plan is really growing that list and building up that list and then taking people through and then from there, not all media sources create the best leads, but you have to have different ones. You can’t just have one video. So I would be testing different media sources, whether it’s Google, whether it’s SEO, PPC, Bing Facebook, Linkedin, Direct Response, really for acquisition and I don’t know your audience,  for the most part, most acquisition of leads are coming from the digital space.

Nick Loise:                        12:24

It’s just the most cost-effective place right now to get to them and it’s really easy to get to them or at least test messaging them. So I will be doing that. I looked very inexpensive vehicles for testing, right? So we never test messaging on Google, we only test messaging on Bing because it’s much more – or Yahoo because it’s less expensive on a cost per click basis. Now once we get the messaging down and once we get the keywords down, then you can move it into the Googles and then you can start paying and then you just start looking at what your lifetime value of each lead coming through. A lot of times nowadays, especially in the space we’re in, you know, is that a customer or is it a user? And you know, there’s a lot of things like that because people are looking at monthly recurring revenue and there are different business models out there and they’re all based on, how do I get the most bang for the buck for the lead and some – people don’t want to be members or may want to be members, but they’re okay with constantly buying your products and services.

Nick Loise:                        13:21

So we run weekend web deals at GKIC if anybody is on our list and if not at and join our list, but we run deals every weekend where we pick one special product to sell. What you find Jesse, is that  50 percent of the buyers aren’t our members, but they’re just people that are avid fans. Maybe they were at one time members, but they’re not anymore. But the important thing is knowing that analytics and knowing that kind of money math that, so to speak, as we talk about and knowing that you could really look at how do I keep on driving. I think the one thing too with a marketing plan that most people don’t do is segmentation. It’s just easier to throw everybody into one bucket. The key is really segmenting your marketplace.

Jesse Stoddard:             14:10

That’s excellent. Thank you. Great tip. What are your best or perhaps your favorite examples of great marketing strategies that you’ve used? Stories or examples of marketing strategies?

Nick Loise:                        14:30

We could use some GKIC ones and then I go on my past too. At GKIC we do a lot of events and I think the key is “theming” the event, making it fun, getting people lost in the copy of telling a story. So if you read great copy, it tells a story you want to keep on turning the page. So that’s been a lot of fun and that’s really been successful for us. And then the events that we don’t really a theme, maybe we try to cheat a little bit or try it without a theme. You could see that the results aren’t there. So “theming” the importance of really good copy, telling a story, romancing the stone and copy I think is very important.

Nick Loise:                        15:07

For me, in past lives. The best campaign I ever ran was a lead generation campaign tied around the NCAA. So right now it’s March I don’t know when you’re going to release this, but it’s a march, right? The brackets just came out. My son and I are pouring over brackets my son’s helping my daughter with her brackets and math for math class, we’re going to do a family one. We’re a big college basketball family. Because we all went to different schools. But you want to enter the conversation, Jesse, I’m sure you teach your people to enter the conversation that’s going on around them in their mind. And so I did a campaign that was hugely successful all lead generation for the NCAA brackets and what it was, was there 64 versus 68 brackets. I created a graphic that showed you 64 different ways for you to get lead flow into your business.

Nick Loise:                        15:55

It was a great response rate. It’s a fun thing to do for the whole family. It was good fun. I had big banners that we would mail out to people with the brackets and it was a lot of fun. But the key was one, while it was fun, it was timely. Because that ad wouldn’t work if I ran it in December. That ad wouldn’t work if I ran it at Christmas time or Thanksgiving, but it worked really well for March. And the beautiful thing is- anything to do with March Madness. The whole world stops in the United States from March Madness.

Jesse Stoddard:             16:29

So I know we just had a great no BS marketing newsletter that talked a lot about artificial intelligence and Manychat and different chatbots and that kind of thing. So I want to talk about technology just for a second and I want to hear your thoughts on any key technology or tools that you would recommend.

Nick Loise:                        16:51

Yeah, I think there’s a ton of them. I was just looking at – so for messaging, Slydial is a great one that I like right, so that kind of sneaks that message past dialing your cell phone it goes right to the voicemail. I forget the name of – we’re doing a lot of testing on Facebook Chat. There’s – I forget what it’s – Chatbox? But it’s putting that messengering in so people think that they’re talking to somebody in a Facebook Messengering app and that’s really getting high response rates. Go back to holding up my phone. Anything to do with that little green box on your phone. That’s messaging. We’re big on text messaging.

Nick Loise:                        17:47

We like Mobit. If you ever get a chance to look at Mobit technologies, some of the work that they’re doing with SMS texting in campaigns and the follow-up campaigns are just really well done. They’re elegant, so it’s not just the message box which is very good. Ryan Chapman and that group at Fix Your Funnel or Fix Your Followup. They do some great stuff of integrating with if your people are on Infusionsoft, but they do some really good things. There’s a lot of stuff that’s really going on and we like technology and we liked looking at the technology. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Thinking Chat, AI, that Jay Rice and his team is doing is great. I mean, if anybody, if you’re listeners and customers have, I think the bare minimum they need as 100 visitors to your website over the course of a month and this thing pays for itself and the conversion rates on what you get because no one really tracks the leakage.

Nick Loise:                        18:39

They only track the lead flow, but the leakage of that is important. So Slydial,  Thinking Chat, Mobit, Fix Your Funnel, and from a reporting perspective, we like Wicked Reports rights that kind of sits on and it allows you to analyze your data, analyze your lead flow where it’s coming from. The facebook messenger thing, I forget what it is -but  I’ll get that for your group or I’ll send it to you, then you could put it into the messaging here. That’s important stuff. The Linkedin, there’s a lot of good people out there, we work with Linkedin a lot, selling on a B2B basis. Josh Turner’s stuff is really good. As well as there are some other folks out there, that’s not really some of that moving away from technology and it’s really done on a one to one basis which makes it difficult to scale, but you could do that.

Jesse Stoddard:             18:39

And Thinking Chat, that’s a member of GKIC member as well, isn’t he?

Nick Loise:                        19:36

Yes, Jay Rice and his partners are all GKIC and Mobit I think our members, Ryan Chapman is member, so a lot of the folks who are members and a lot of our folks are, if not members, they know the family there, so they’re kind of friends with family, so to speak.

Jesse Stoddard:             19:53

What marketing books, would you recommend?

Nick Loise:                        20:00

Good question. David Ogilvy, I highly recommend that book. I love that book. Claude Hopkins, in his book, I like Kotler, so anything by Kotler from your folks. Ogilvy on advertising we talked about for Ogilvy for now but Ogilvy on Digital Marketing, which is written by the current chairperson of Ogilvy and Mather, and it’s all about the digital space.

Nick Loise:                        20:29

Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age is a great book. Trout and Ries, any of their work, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Then they kind of broke up and so some of their books are, not as good as their original. Marketing Warfare. Those are all great books. It should be an everybody’s thing. The Robert Collier Letter Book is a great book, especially if you want to learn that. And if you really want to understand direct response or direct marketing I think Bob Stone’s books are some of the best books. There are some that are books, there are some that are textbooks that we learned in undergraduate and graduate, which may be too much, but they really let you understand. Kotler has got a great book that’s called Marketing Models.

Nick Loise:                        21:18

It allows you to really understand how to build different marketing models and understand, the cause and effect of what you’re doing.

Jesse Stoddard:             21:24

I love that you’re a voracious reader.

Nick Loise:                        21:26

I try to be. I was thinking about consumer behavior that really is just a lot of psychology. So you can just read a lot of human psychology books and you read the old stuff. I liked the old stuff just as much as the new stuff, but the old stuff, nothing’s really changed.

Jesse Stoddard:             21:46

I’ve been a member of GKIC since around 2015, so relatively new and a lot of people that I talk to don’t even know what it is yet, so I’m trying to introduce it. So let’s talk about that just for a second. Maybe the USP for GKIC and what a good referral is, who’s a good referral for GKIC if I’m talking to somebody out, how do I say, “Oh man, you gotta you gotta check out this GKIC thing.”

Nick Loise:                        22:12

We’d like to say, GKIC this is really a community of entrepreneurs, like-minded entrepreneurs that are focused with, with growing their business. So we focused on the growth side of the business. A lot of it starts what with lead flow marketing and sales side of the business, and it’s for people that are looking for maybe something different in the marketplace. So they’ve gotten burnt, or the ads they’re doing, aren’t pulling what they want to do. We are founded by two great marketers, gentlemen by the name of Dan Kennedy and another gentleman named Bill Glazer who is a very good student and a very good practitioner of Dan Kennedy. Bill then that took us from the principles of Dan Kennedy, which will never get away from which is Magnetic Marketing, which is medium market and messaging and really started focusing on outrageous advertising. So ads that break through the clutter.

Nick Loise:                        23:00

Today we’re getting bombarded with what is now up to 3,500 advertisers and adverts over the course of a day. So you need to break through that clutter and Bill focused on advertising and outrageous advertising specifically. And then we’re carrying on their legacy and we tell people, we teach you 100 different ways to approach your marketing and we give you that proper – that brief that we send out to people so you could get them to books. So who is a great referral for us? It’s really anybody that wants to improve the results of the advertising and marketing that they’re doing. We’re not good for somebody that’s brand new that just started in business or doesn’t even know what business they want to get in. There’s a lot of others that are better for them. We’re really for the person that’s probably about a quarter million dollars in sales to about $10 million in sales. They have a business.

Nick Loise:                        23:53

They have a marketing – they have the ability to spend on some level of marketing. They do marketing every day. They need lead to flow into their business. That’s who we’re for, we are probably 30 percent of our businesses is a traditional main street business. So that’s the, what we say, the Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, so to speak. We’re heavy in the financial services, attorney space, right? So they understand us, they like us, they like the way we approach things, as well as the medical space, but it’s medical space that they have cash in their business, so the doctor, the chiropractor, the orthodontist that dentists those, that’s our sweet spot. And then another, so that’s 30 percent of our businesses, is main street business, 30 percent is medical professionals or professionals in general, and then another 30 percent of our business would be folks that are like you that have other people that look to them for advice.

Nick Loise:                        24:51

So we call those information marketers, that people kind of come to and really want to spend some time with and learn from them. And they – the business owner can’t synthesize all the different information. You need to synthesize all the different information for them and say, “OK, I think about marketing 12 to 15 hours a day. You have to think about your business 12, 15 hours a day. Let me give you the best and the brightest of information that I could get you out there. This is what’s currently working, this is what we’re testing.” So people like that, that work with a lot of different industries. We work with them and then the rest is like B2B guys.

Jesse Stoddard:             25:26

So awesome. That’s great. So I know I have a link that I can send out for. I think it’s the most incredible free gift ever.  But also if people want to find out more about you or GKIC what’s a good way for them to connect with you or to find out more?

Nick Loise:                        25:40

So the best thing to do is just go to, you’ll put a  Linkedin for them. They could take advantage of two free months of the GKIC no BS newsletter.  There are some other programs that we’ve put in a place for them and we give them a lot of good information and probably too much information, but you can never have enough information. They want to learn about me, which is really boring. They could not read my kid’s blogs now. So they want to go simply go to Linkedin.  So it’s Nicholas L-O-I-S-E if you go to and go to the bottom of the page where they keep us, where we belong, were really on the low bottom, click on my bio here and there you could connect with me, connect with me on Facebook if you want to connect with me on Twitter.

Nick Loise:                        26:25

I’m not active on Twitter as I am on Facebook or  I’m on Linkedin, but you know, I love connecting with people, especially really, really smart marketers, really, really good salespeople because I like sharing ideas and I think, you know, the world is a one to one equals five world in my belief is that one to one equals two. And if you have a good idea and I have a good idea and we share those good ideas, it’s more, it’s more than just two ideas does not become for ideas and five ideas. I like to build my network and I like to learn from really, really bright people like yourself Jesse.

Jesse Stoddard:             26:58

Is there anybody else you can think of that I should interview for this Marketing Strategy Show?

Nick Loise:                        27:07

Oh yeah. Certainly, if you haven’t gotten a hold of Oli Bilson, he in England, he’s got a really sexy accent, so it makes you really smart.  Sound really smart.

Jesse Stoddard:             27:07                  Actually I got him on the list.

Nick Loise:                        27:21

Tell Oli I say hi. I love Oli. He’s about as sharp as they come. You know, I think Darcy Juarez who is part of the GKIC world, she’s really a smart marketer. She’s really sharp so she talks really fast, you got to say slow down to her. Tom Breeze for your people to learn about all things on YouTube. I think he’s doing some great stuff on YouTube and it’s a great channel. Ed Rush a great guy to interview about Persuasion. He’s not really a media guy as much as he is about how to put together a messaging. Davy Dy is a great guy to learn from all things of kind of putting together presentations that really sell.  There’s a lot of folks out there.

Jesse Stoddard:             28:09

Thank you so much. Do you have any last words before we wrap up here?

Nick Loise:                        28:13

Well, what is, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing a great job and you’re carrying the message of marketing, of GKIC and everything forward, which is great. We’re on a pay it forward kind of world. So if anybody needs anything or you need just reach out to me or our company and we’re here to help. In the land of marketing, there are really good people like Jesse and then there’s a lot of other folks out there. So you really want to get your information from somebody that really cares about the people that they work with every day, making sure they’re bringing best in class information to them and really making sure that everything they’re bringing is vetted. So the work you’re doing for your folks is great and keep it up.

Jesse Stoddard:             28:57

Thanks so much, Nick. I really appreciate your time.


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