Many businesses make a naive assessment about direct mail being an efficient and cost effective selling tool, invest large sums of money in broad based random distribution, and achieve little.
Direct mail relies heavily on two main factors for success, the merchandise the consumer wants and the value to them of the offer made, neither of which applies to a service industry to any major degree.
There is a mailing technique used by some of the more successful service companies that eliminates the major waste factor of contacting random companies and that is what could be more appropriately called Disciplined Mail.
The technique is simple and begins with targeting specific market groups in individual categories and exhausting that avenue before selecting the next category, e.g. Accountants, Legal Practices, White Goods Retailers, New Car Retailers etc.
The identification process is best achieved by using the practical experience of your previous business history and assessing what groups have been the most sales productive, in other words, optimise the opportunity for success.
Having identified the most appropriate group the next phase is to develop a mailing list and it is important that the mail be personalised, it is no longer sufficient to mail with the generic form of "To The Manager" or "The Managing Director" as business has now become acutely aware that this style mail is usually one of the many mailing pieces received by offices every day and almost invariably it does not get beyond the person opening the mail, in many cases the receptionist who will make a decision about the offer, albeit that the decision is unqualified.
The business of getting the names and titles of the addressee often requires some phone research and asking questions but it cannot be stressed strongly enough that this is of primary importance, if it is important enough for the mail to be done then it is equally important that it be directed correctly to the ultimate decision maker.
The 5x5x5 Plan
The effectiveness of this relies totally on a discipline where it becomes part of the daily planned activities.
1) Firstly make 5 phone calls if necessary to ascertain the name and title of the decision maker of businesses in the selected category and diarise the results.
2) Mail 5 personally addressed letters to the identified targets and diarise the recipient’s name and phone number two days in advance.
3) Make 5 phone calls as scheduled in the diary from the previous mailings to the recipient of the letter.
Why 5 letters and phone calls?
Random bulk direct mail fails because it is not followed up, the five letter system is based on the premise that if it takes 5 minutes to print the letter, address and stuff the envelope and mail it, and allow 5 minutes for each phone call then this is almost an hour invested each day in selling.
The best practice is to establish a set time each day to follow the procedure, say 9.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. and mark it out of the diary.
Why a letter and a follow up call? It is an established fact that selling relationships are built up over a number of contacts and this is the starting point to building a rapport with a potential client.
The letter content
If there is one fatal flaw in direct mail it is the putting of too much information in the first mailing, this empowers the recipient to make a decision on the product without feeling the need to ask questions.
A golden rule of Disciplined Mail is to always leave an unanswered question hanging, give the recipient a reason to need to talk to you in the subsequent phone call.
Lastly, finish the letter by expressing that they can expect a call within the next couple of days for their opinion of the service. This in itself is a very powerful tool in gaining entry to new businesses as firstly it is non-threatening by asking for an opinion rather than the order, and secondly it is human nature to discuss your thoughts with someone who values your opinion, the ego effect.
Where does all this lead?
1) Contact has been established by mail.
2) The potential client is expecting a phone call so no cold canvassing is needed.
3) The well written letter will have raised at least one question that the potential client can discuss with you over the phone.
4) The client feels comfortable about making an appointment to expound his opinion, although in most circumstances they are aware that this is a selling situation.
5) An appointment is made and the product discussed in detail. The purpose of the mail has thus been achieved in a sound percentage of cases, your business is in the door, it is here that the conversion to a sale must take place and this becomes the responsibility of the representative.