How Direct Mail Is Your Little Engine That Could

Because direct mail is the little engine that could for your marketing funnel, it can sustain you through troubled times. Direct mail is most powerful when used in a long-term, multi-touch plan. The average prospect needs to see your mail piece seven to 10 times before buying from you.

direct mail
“Mailboxes in ivy,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Ryan McFarland

Because direct mail is the little engine that could for your marketing funnel, it can sustain you through troubled times. Direct mail is most powerful when used in a long-term, multi-touch plan. The average prospect needs to see your mail piece seven to 10 times before buying from you. So a well-planned direct mail program includes multiple drops with various mailers and postcards. Then once the prospect makes a purchase from you, you move the consumer into your customer retention mail program. These types of programs are extremely effective and can be counted on to consistently generate sales.

Are you taking advantage of direct mail programs throughout the year? Do you mail consistently? Do you have a plan? Depending on what you are selling and who your customer base is, it will determine what your direct mail plan should be. The more data you are capturing on your customers, the better you will be able to target them with direct mail.

So what should a basic prospect direct mail plan look like?

  • List — Purchase a multi-use list of prospects based on what you know about your customers such as demographics, psychographics and more.
  • Message — Prospects need to learn who you are, what you do and see testimonials from current customers. You are trying to convert them to customers.
  • Offer — You need to create offers that will resonate with your prospects. What is in it for them?
  • Format — To be most effective, alternate formats for each mailing so that each prospect will get a letter, postcard and self-mailer over the course of your program. You can use formats more than once, but always make sure to add something fresh and new to each mailing. Sending the same thing over and over again does not get you the results you need.
  • Schedule — This will really vary depending on what you are selling, more expensive purchases are made less frequently vs. some items that need to be purchased all the time. The general rule of thumb is once a month to once every other month for high-ticket items and twice a month for more frequent purchases.

So what should a basic customer direct mail plan look like?

  • List Pull as much information as you have on each customer. You can use their purchase history to get your direct mail highly targeted.
  • Message — Customers should get messaging that is applicable to them and what they buy. You can suggest add-ons that complement what they have already bought or items that other people like them have purchased.
  • Offer — Customers love coupons on items that they buy. You can also give them special offers on new items they have not previously purchased from you but are likely to buy.
  • Formats — Just like prospects you should vary the formats of direct mail you are sending to customers.
  • Schedule — Customers should have a more scaled-back schedule than prospects. They know who you are and how to buy from you so send to them less frequently. We recommend at most once a month.

Are you ready to get started planning your ongoing direct mail campaigns? By constantly feeding your pipeline with your direct mail prospects and customers, your marketing funnel will always be generating sales. Get excited about your direct mail programs and create some really fun direct mail pieces. When you get creative you stand out more and get remembered. Make you direct mail campaigns real profit-drivers. Have you had a very successful long-term campaign? We would love to hear about it.

A Popular, Yet Failing Cold Email Technique

It’s shocking. Sales teams across the globe are telling prospects, “You should invest in what I sell — because this research says so” and expecting to start conversations. But using research as a means to break the ice in cold email is a non-starter. Unfortunately, most sales teams are using this failing technique.

It’s shocking. Sales teams across the globe are telling prospects, “You should invest in what I sell — because this research says so” and expecting to start conversations. But using research as a means to break the ice in cold email is a non-starter. Unfortunately, most sales teams are using this failing technique. Often because they’re under pressure to send non-personalized, cold emails to large numbers of contacts … in hopes of starting a conversation.

Targeted (one-to-many) email prospecting is not the best strategy to start conversations with B2B decision-makers. Tailored (one-to-one) earns better response rates. Yet targeted campaign-style messages are used by most BDR/SDR and digital demand generation teams.

2 Quick Examples

One of my students emailed me: “I think I have a good hook from a research perspective to get a prospects attention that also aligns with the service I offer.”

His idea is a common one: Write an email containing research as a means to compel his prospect to open a discussion with him.

For example, an opening email like this:

“Andy, IDC reports more that 90% of retailers are focused on improving their digital customer experience. Are you among them?”

Here’s another example from a different student:

“Hi John,

A customer service benchmark report released revealed 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, however only 8% of customers agree.

Expectations of customers are at an all-time high. Customers are busy, multi-tasking, on-the-go and are more sophisticated than ever before. Loyalty is built with positive interactions over time, therefore it is a continuous process to earn a customer’s loyalty.

It is expected by 2020 that the customer experience leader will be the key brand differentiator over product and price … “

Why Research Fails to Engage Customers

Pushing research at clients via email is ineffective because decision-makers are:

  • bombarded with long, mail-merged email “written at them” rather than quickly provoking them;
  • not swayed by research being used in a persuasive context;
  • often not aware of a problem to be solved (the pain has not yet surfaced);
  • already aware of the facts presented in the research;
  • not interested in being persuaded by a rep’s cold email message!

Telling prospects, “You should consider X solution because Y research says so” is a non-starter. Pushing information at customers works far less than provoking them.

“People generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters, but no one chooses to get cold emails. This simple fact is one of the most important differences between the two,” says cold email expert, Heather Morgan.

Morgan reminds us also how cold emails arrive without context. This is often the first time prospects have heard from you. Further, “you haven’t yet earned their trust or attention yet,” she says.

Context is key. Why talk at when you can talk with? Why push when you can pull, attract the conversation to you?

What You’re Really Saying to Prospects

Sending research to customers (without being invited to) says to customers, “I’m biased to convince you … but know you won’t believe me … so here is someone else to persuade you.”

The technique is weak. It attempts to persuade and convince.

The Truth About LinkedIn Social Selling Software

The automation of fake sincerity destroys your credibility. Can we agree on that? Whether you’re dating or trying to influence a new customer, fake sincerity is deadly stuff. Yet mainstream social selling (marketing) software roars forward — violating LinkedIn’s terms and conditions, and every ounce of what Dale Carnegie taught us about winning friends and influencing people.

Fake It til You Make itThe automation of fake sincerity destroys your credibility. Can we agree on that? Whether you’re dating or trying to influence a new customer, fake sincerity is deadly stuff. Yet mainstream social selling (marketing) software roars forward — violating LinkedIn’s terms and conditions, and every ounce of what Dale Carnegie taught us about winning friends and influencing people.

The Faking of Sincerity

If you’re not familiar with the faking of sincerity … well you’re living under a rock.

“I get emails all the time from companies that sell browser extensions and apps for use on LinkedIn,” says Bruce Johnston, who advises sellers on these issues.

Johnston says the idea is that you can automate and scale up your interaction with others by getting the extension or app to do the work for you.

“Apps will view profiles, invite people with certain keywords or titles to connect, automatically send them welcome messages when they accept, automatically endorse them, automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a birthday, work anniversary or change jobs, and automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections.”

Sound familiar?

Now I don’t want to offend my dear readers but I must ask, point blank, do you think:

  1. Faking interest in prospects is smart?
  2. Automating the faking of your interest will work?

If you do, how long until your target customers catch on? How long until they get inundated with fake sincerity coming from sales people and stop falling victim to your false signals of interest in them?

Why Would Sellers Fake Sincerity?

Scale. Automation. It’s the dirty promise of all things digital.

What’s the result of the automating of faked sincerity? Johnston says sellers want to a better way to scale — to start a relationship with a connection without having to go to the trouble of knowing something about them.

People are lazy. I get it. But robotic nonsense like this? Too many smart people are falling for this dangerous gimmick.

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Johnston says, “Doesn’t anyone find it ironic when these (automation) companies say: ‘We will automatically look at 500 profiles, scrape the data from the profiles, then automatically accept invitations to connect sent your way, and send the new connection a welcome message. It’s the ultimate in social selling!”

He rightly asks, “Wait a second, where was the social part? How social is it when you are starting off your relationship with someone by conning them?”

What’s the Harm?

Using “relationship starting” marketing automation software cheapens the user experience for everyone on LinkedIn. It also violates LinkedIn’s terms & conditions. But it gets worse for you. Because this practice introduces the element of doubt in your interactions with people.

“Is that really you who sent that message or your bot? Was that you who sent me a ‘welcome to my LinkedIn network’ message or a browser extension?” asks Johnston.

Selling in an Era of Cultural Movements

Movements are afoot. Our culture is changing. The “establishment” is considered by many to be evil — or at least irrelevant. And cultural movements become more amplified in an election year cycle when stoked by the masses.

Globe with flagsMovements are afoot. Our culture is changing. The “establishment” is considered by many to be evil — or at least irrelevant. And cultural movements become more amplified in an election year cycle when stoked by the masses. It’s an unfolding of history before our eyes and it’s an opportunity for direct marketers to learn the nuance of positioning and selling during an era of …cultural movements.

Uprisings, like we’re seeing today, can spill over into how we’re perceived and how we sell. Whether it’s politics or issue-oriented policy, marketers have an opportunity to seize the moment by leveraging the relentless news cycles that keep cultural movements front and center.

So what is cultural movement marketing? Some define it as grabbing an idea rising in our culture, and adapting a strategy that ties it to your product or service with a positioning (or repositioning) of who you are.

With movement marketing, you start with an idea that is relevant to a significant group of people in the culture. Then you cleverly, and with authenticity, tie it back to your brand.

When you spot a new cultural movement afoot, you have an opportunity to mine it for your marketing purposes. Individuals engaged in cultural movement are passionate about a cause. A high degree of emotion drives decision-making in ways that are distinct from those when the temperature is more moderate.

By inspiring people to rise up for your idea, you can tap tremendous power — or more precisely passion — by creating a values-based community. Through your skillful use of social media, these people can help you grow.

With an uprising of change, you can join and fuel the movement to potentially attract new, raving fans. But be aware that success may depend on repositioning your organization. Of course, your brand must align with the mindset of the cultural movement. You can’t fool consumers, especially those who are passionate and spread messages on social media.

Finally, consider that if you don’t respond to a shift in culture, you could become the “establishment” brand. There’s nothing wrong with that, and maybe that’s exactly where you should be. But, make sure you know the values of your audience, and evaluate if being an “establishment” brand is the lane you want to be positioned in.