This is one of those classic agency crises. The account is in review (or resolicitation) as the government likes to call it and one of the decision makers wants 18 how-to brochures, all a bit dated in their focus on old-school direct mail, but all very appropriate for a client interested in usage stimulation. Here are three from the series.
Why your foot in the door should be an envelope.
If you’re in sales, you probably put a great deal of time and effort into prospecting. You tear pages out of phone books or industry directories, call dozens of people, repeating and refining your pitch – all hoping to get that one person on the phone who’ll agree to a meeting.
Mail can make that job a lot easier. Just the act of sending a compelling letter and offer to a prospect can make that person more inclined to see you when you follow up with a phone call.
Also, with the mail, you can reach hundreds, even thousands of prospects at a time. If you have the right message and offer, and if your mail gets to the right hands, prospects will call you.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.
1 Get attention If you have a good prospect, chances are that he or she gets dozens of letters a week from companies like yours. And while some professionals make it a point to look at everything that crosses their desks, others are just too inundated. Be professional, but don't shun headlines, graphics and, most important, offers.
2 Make an offer When you ask for a meeting, you ask for the most valuable commodity a busy person has — time. Make it worth someone’s while to see you. Many companies have had great success by offering high-value gifts in exchange for a meeting with a representative. Just be careful because some companies and government organizations frown on expensive gifts. Offer these prospects a report that can help them do their jobs better, instead.
3 Over-deliver Your letter offered a free DVD in exchange for the meeting. Hand your prospect a box of microwave popcorn along with the movie. Little gestures like these tell customers not only that you keep your word, but that you can be counted on to deliver more than is asked for.
4 Mail often You know what it’s like to chase a prospect — to call and call and call until you finally get the appointment. Mall is the same game on a larger scale. You have to be repetitive. Start a newsletter. Create a series of industry updates. And mail regularly. People will look forward to it. And eventually, when people are in the market for what you sell, they may agree to meet you.
5 Get a good mailing list If you sell to businesses, you know what it’s like to look in a directory, get a name, then call the company only to find out that the person you want to reach no longer works there. Mailing-list companies have the same problem. If you rent a mailing list, make sure it’s as current and clean as possible. If you’re offering an expensive gift, call ahead. Make sure you’re offering it to someone who can authorize a sale.
6 Send thank-you notes One of the most powerful prospecting tools on the planet is a thank-you note. Let people know that the time they spent with you, the order placed with you, even the argument they may have given you, is appreciated. A good thank-you note may even lead to referrals
7 Solicit testimonials and referrals A consultant, upon finishing a project, used to send his clients a form letter with a big blank pox in the middle of the page. The copy pointing to the pox said, “l really enjoyed working with you. Would you please tell me what you enjoyed (or didn’t) about working with me? l’ve enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope." There was also a space for customers to list others who might want his services. The testimonials helped him promote himself, sometimes to the referrals.
When mail goes out, customers come in.
If you want to bring more customers into your store, you have to give them a reason to come in. And there’s no better way to provide that reason than a personal invitation through the mail.
Here are 12 ways to make that invitation a special invitation. And you can easily and inexpensively put these ideas to work in your store.
1 Hold a private sale Show appreciation of your best customers by inviting them to a private sale. The sale can take the form of an extra discount, or a chance to get sale prices a day before everyone else. Good customers not only appreciate the exclusivity, they'll, take you up on it.
2 Hold a drawing “Win a Free _______.” Fill in the blank with anything you sell. For a chance to win, a customer fills out a form and drops it into a fishbowl. This brings people into your store, and helps you expand your mailing list for future promotions. To make it easy, you can let customers use business cards to enter.
3 Mail often Most professional marketers say that any mailing program takes time to build momentum. That is why you want to mail regularly and mail often. Your mailings can be fun and involving. A travel agent, for instance, can mail picture postcards from exotic locations every month. A fabric store could send swatches to customers as new patterns come in. The more you mail to people on your mailing list, the more top of mind you become.
4 Start a birthday or anniversary club Imagine you own a bakery. A customer signs up to receive a coupon for a free cupcake on his or her birthday. About two weeks before the birthday, you send two coupons. One for the free cupcake and one for a discount on birthday cakes. Are there any special days where your store can do extra business? Build a program around these days and invite your customers to sign up.
5 Get behind a local charity If there is an organization or cause in your community that is very popular, send a letter announcing that a percentage of all sales on a certain date will be donated to that cause.
6 Send a coupon calendar Send your mailing list a calendar where each day is a coupon. Offer $5 off on any purchase of $15 or more one day, $10 off $50 in purchases on another. You’d be amazed at how many sales a single calendar mailing can produce.
7 Start a store newsletter Feature new products, employees, ideas for using products that you sell, even upcoming sales. A newsletter can be great for loyalty and business. Existing customers get more involved with your store, and new customers do, too
8 Guest speakers, demonstrations and .seminars Ask a chef to demonstrate cooking with ingredients in a gourmet food store. Or ask an interior decorator to speak at your furniture store. Maybe a pediatrician could speak at a children’s clothing store. Put together an event like this and invite everyone on your mailing list. The speaker gets exposure and you get traffic.
9 Get an endorsement Is there someone in your community who is well-known and does business with you? Ask him or her to write a letter endorsing your store or a product you sell. Then send a copy to people on your mailing list with an invitation to visit you.
10 Remind customers to come in “You’re due for an oil change.” "lt’s time to bring in your pet for a bath.” “It’s time to check your growing child s shoe size.” Customers not only respond to reminders like this, they appreciate them.
11 Hold a block party Get other retailers on your block or commercial strip to join forces for a block party. Bring in rides, games, clowns or other attractions. Make a big sidewalk sale part of the event. Advertise it. And before the big day, mail special offers to the best customers on your mailing lists.
12 Start a referral programAsk your best customers to provide you with the names and addresses of friends and colleagues who they think would be good customers. Then send these referrals a promotional offer. If a referral becomes a customer, reward the original customer with a gift.
Lessons from the humblest of advertising mediums.
It doesn’t take a lot of time, money or effort to create, print and mail a postcard. But when done right, a postcard can be enormously effective. The most effective postcards have all or most of these five traits:
1. They’re simple
2. They’re timely
3. They’re printed on both sides
4. They’re attractive
5. They’re measurable
1 They’re simple A postcard has to get someone’s attention while they’re going through the mail. And a disorganized mass of information just isn`t going to do it. Simple headlines like “Spring fashions are in," “Come meet the famous Chef George,” or “5O% Off Specially Marked Cookware” work best.
And don’t write a book. Make believe that every word is costing you $1,000. Once you get the attention of someone looking at the mail with “Come meet the famous Chef George,” just explain where and when, and maybe a few things he’ll be doing.
2 They’re timely When asked what was the most effective mailer he ever created, a highly regarded copywriter pulled out a postcard. On that postcard, in big bold type, it said, “Your warranty expires October 26? Do you have a timely message for your customers? Use it.
3 They’re printed on both sides What are you supposed to do now that your warranty is expiring on October 26? The answer to that question is on the other side of the postcard. Your postcard has two sides. Use them. But that doesn’t mean fill every inch. You may want to use one side like a poster and the other for a few details. Or put an ad on one side and a personal message on the other. Just remember to keep it simple.
4 They’re attractive In some ways, the design of a postcard has to work harder than the design of any other media. There are no envelopes to open or gimmicks to play with. Your postcard doesn`t necessarily have to be a work of art, but it helps to make it attractive. For instance, you can enhance an invitation to your booth at the County Crafts Fair with a nice picture of your wares. That way, it might hang on the customers corkboard or refrigerator as a pleasant reminder to visit you.
5 They’re measurable A postcard can also be a coupon, a gift certificate, or a ticket to an event. Ask people to present the coupon to take advantage of an offer or promotion. Counting coupons helps you measure the effectiveness of your promotions. That way you can better understand what worked and what didn’t.