Being Direct

Direct marketing in a B to B environment, if done correctly, can prove to be one of your best marketing strategies. Done poorly, and it can be a tremendous drain on resources resulting in lost opportunities for future sales.

When we talk about direct marketing, we most often think of direct mail both conventional and email but the execution of the campaign can be as simple or as complex as one can imagine. Here’s a list of 10 key areas to help make your next direct marketing campaign a success.

  1. Preparation
    This should go without saying, but I’ve seen so many cases where a company decides to launch a direct marketing campaign without thinking through the issue such as client buying cycles, adhering to corporate branding strategies, delivering a proper call to action and so on. When you decide to launch a campaign, make sure you take the time to really think it through. More on some of these details in a moment.
  2. Target
    As I’ve talked about before in this column, your firm can’t be all things to all people. Whether you are launching a new product/service offering or attempting to gain more share of an existing market, you must choose your target group carefully. Mailing lists are available from a variety of sources from your local Chamber of Commerce to National and Internet list companies. Lists can be obtained in electronic format and are easily loaded into your software of choice for merging and label generation. Select your target group carefully! It’s often a good idea to even send out a small sample campaign to gauge results before sending to entire list. Be selective and make sure your message is going to be delivered to those who can really use it. About every 3 months I get a piece of direct mail urging to purchase a good used fork-lift or two… I applaud their persistence but at our agency, we’re not quite in the market yet for a fork-lift…
  3. Set goals
    If you don’t have quantifiable goals set before you launch a campaign, how are you going to know whether it was a success or not? Goals can vary widely depending upon what your offer is. Are you looking to build awareness, drive repeat business or open new accounts? What kind of conversion rate do you need? Of course the results you get will be determined by many factors not the least of which was how qualified your list is to begin with. Other factors such as your call to action, creative approach and sales performance (turning leads into business) will also play an important role in determining your success. You should set a few different goals such as: a 5% inbound inquiry rate, 30% conversion rate with 90 days etc. In this way, you can asses whether some of the goals but not all have been achieved and then develop strategies to meet the other targets.
  4. Creative Concept
    Early on in the planning stages of your campaign you will need to decide on a creative direction for your direct marketing program. Creative concepts can be as varied as your imagination. From a 1-page letter to a multiple-mail teaser campaign utilizing premium gifts, the number one question you have to ask is, “what will motivate the customer”? Your creative development should adhere to your corporate standards in order to help solidify your brand. Budget is also another consideration in the creative process. Getting custom-designed puzzle pieces and then mailing them one piece at a time to your prospect might be a great way to generate lasting interest, but can you afford that style of campaign?
  5. Budget
    The classic debate over what a campaign will cost vs. what you should budget to accomplish your goals can best be addressed once you believe that your marketing campaigns are not expenses but rather investments. You are investing in future business. Of course, how good your investment is depends wholly on how good your execution is. Key areas of your budget should include: list purchase, creative development, packaging, mailing costs, sales follow-up costs, and tracking.
  6. Execution
    Once your campaign is designed and produced, the next phase is to deliver it to your prospects. Depending on the size of your campaign, there are a number of excellent mailing houses that can take care of everything for you. Alternatively, you can do it yourself but if the campaign is of any size be prepared to be stuffing envelopes in front of the TV for a few nights in a row. Remember that you don’t have to send every piece out at once. In fact, it’s often best to stagger your mailing in order to allow your sales staff to follow-up on the leads. After all, even though you want to generate inbound inquiries, your greatest successes are going to come from your sales staff actively following up with campaign recipients.
  7. Timing
    The success of your campaign is going to require well-planned timing. When do your customers typically buy? It goes without saying that if you’re about to launch a new parking lot snow-plowing business that you may want to hold off on your direct mail campaign in the spring and summer. If on the other hand you do corporate tax filing, sending out your campaign piece in late January and February will give you plenty of time to follow-up and close some new clients just in time for spring tax season.
  8. Follow-up
    As mentioned above, follow-up is a critical component of a success direct B to B campaign. In a perfect world, once your prospects received your incredibly clever and timely offer, they would all rush to their phones and call you immediately. Since this is far from a perfect world, you will need to follow-up with your prospects to maximize your marketing investment. A well designed campaign will “warm up” your prospects providing your company with brand recognition when you or your sales team calls. The better the campaign, the longer your marketing message will stay on someone’s desk. A simple form letter with a paper-clipped business card may not even make it to many decision-maker’s desk before being round-filed. A cleverly designed campaign however, will still be sitting on the desk or in the in-box when you call to follow-up. Wait at least a week after sending but no more than 10 days to follow-up.
  9. Tracking
    You must keep track of your results. Number of inbound inquiries, number of hits on your website, brand recognition when calling back, are all important statistics to track in order to refine and improve your campaigns in future. Your success ratios will increase with frequency. For example, you may get a dismal response rate the first time you launch a campaign, however, the second and third mailing to the same target group will yield remarkably better results as prospects begin to recognize your company and warm up to your marketing message. Keeping track of your statistics will let you know if you’re on the right track.
  10. Step out of the Ordinary!
    How many times have we received a form letter in the mail and simply tossed it in the garbage. Get creative and above all maintain a high level of quality. If you send out a photo-copied flyer it says a lot about your business that you may not want to be saying. If your budget is small, keep the quality up but target fewer recipients. As the success of the campaign grows, invest more in your direct marketing strategies.