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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Direct Mail Formatting Recommendations

Often we'll be asked about putting together a mailing, that' supposed to generate interest in either a technology assessment or seminar.

And just the fact that the consultant is thinking about measurable end-results from the direct mail campaign, as opposed to lame institutional me-me-me advertising, is a huge step in the right direction... although not necessarily the total answer either.

The concept of a soft offer is something that everyone should be looking to embrace.

It’s very difficult to take someone who has never heard of you and try to immediately sell them on a $350 technology assessment, or try to immediately sell them on a $25,000 LAN upgrade, or try to immediately sell them on $1,000 a month maintenance agreement.

You’re going to, in most cases, fall flat on your face because you need to get over that know-like-and-trust hurdle before you can capture their attention. You need to prove that you know what you’re talking about. You need to prove that you understand their problems and that you can provide a solution to that.

So, everything in your early efforts with generating demand should be around some kind of soft offer. In terms of generating interest for a technology assessment, or a seminar, what mailing format works best? I’m partial to the postcard. There are a couple of reasons why.

  1. Using a postcard forces you to be extremely concise, which is really important because you don’t have a lot of time or a lot of attention with people that have never heard of you on the first inbound contact.

  2. You don’t have to worry about the envelope being opened – it’s already open.

  3. Postcards minimize your printing and postage costs.

What should you do in terms of the mechanisms to get it to work the best? If you’re just going to do a very simple 4x6 type of postcard, you probably want to have them fax back their business card with the postcard on a piece of paper or some kind of response.

If you’re doing a larger postcard, you typically can have space for them to write in their information and fax that back.

You may want to drive them to a custom web landing page that’s a modified version of your contact form.

There are a couple keys best practices for best results.

  • Get your qualified questions answered there.

  • Make sure that you’re using some kind of tracking mechanism – a cookie-based mechanism, or analytics package - so you can see out of how many clicks that you got how many resulted in your contact forms being filled out, and that was ultimately used to either register for interest in a technology assessment or sign up for a seminar. A lot of people have used 24-hour voicemail boxes successfully. You basically want to phrase it that way because what you want to do is make sure that the people you’re trying to contact, the non-technical small business owners and managers, understand they’re not going to need to talk to a salesperson that early on in a sales cycle.

    Put yourself in their shoes. When you’re first researching something new or you've have something that crosses your desk, is the first thing that you say, “Gee, I want to sign up so that I get a phone call from a sales person every single week nagging me and asking me when I’m ready to buy.” Of course not!

    They want to be somewhat anonymous. They want to capture this information early on so they can have it to mull over. The whole idea here is you want to get to someone much earlier on in the sales cycle, long before they’re out price shopping, or long before they've just made a commodity purchase.

    Remember, the huge benefit of the postcard is the envelope equals a barrier.

A key thing to keep in mind is that the copy – the words that are on your postcard – are going to be infinitely more important than image, or any kind of pictures, or any kind of ego-trappings that you may think about putting on there.

Don’t worry about bragging about certifications or channel program affiliations, or anything like that. You want to focus on their problems and your solutions to their problems, whether it is in the form of a seminar you’re holding, or a technology assessment that you can do for them, or a special report, or a white paper.

The key thing to keep in mind is that a postcard has a lot of tremendous benefits over doing anything that’s going to be stuffed into an envelope.

Remember, focus on selling the soft offer (seminar, white paper, guide, etc.) and make it so your recipient can reply without having to talk to a salesperson.

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