Genius is sometimes defined as the ability to make the complex simple. Certainly, “marketing” is a complex subject; so complex it’s very difficult for many business people to ever get a handle on it. Its complexity is intimidating. After years in “marketing”, I’ve finally found a definition of “marketing” that reflects the genius of simplicity. Marketing is simply making the right presentation of the right message to the right people.
With that simple definition as a guide, just about every businessperson can clearly see his past errors, and do a more effective job of marketing in the future.
Let’s talk about the right people first. Many salespeople and business owners have dramatically unsuccessful experiences with direct-mail and with tele-marketing for this simple reason: they’re mailing to or calling the wrong people! Who are the right people? Prospects who most closely match the demographics of your good, established customers and/or your desirable customers. “Demographics” refers to statistical, lifestyle and preference information about people.
The best way to explain it is through example:
Let’s say you’ve got a restaurant, a small retail store of some kind or a service business – maybe a hairstyling salon. Your business is doing well, but could do much better. A good first step in seeking new customers would be to find out as much as possible about your existent customers, in search of demographics that might help you in the pursuit of new customers. For example, you might discover that the majority of your customers live within an x-mile radius of your business. Or, you might discover that the majority of your customers drive late-model compact cars…have Mastercards and Visa cards…subscribe to a certain magazine…are between the ages of 25 and 40…are married. Armed with this information, you can obtain a mailing list, or compile a mailing list, of prospects who closely match the characteristics shared by the majority of your customers. You might, for example, get a mailing list of all the subscribers to FAMILY CIRCLE MAGAZINE, who are between the ages of 25 and 40 and who live within a 50-mile radius of your business. Is such a list available? You bet! You might get another list of Mastercard and Visa cardholders, who are married and live within a 50-mile radius of your business.
This is generally called LIST SELECTION and many direct mail experts believe it to be the single, most important factor in success or failure with a direct marketing campaign. I happen to agree, and firmly believe that money spent in obtaining the best possible list is more than recovered via savings on printing quantities (in direct mail) and via improved response.
If you are unfamiliar with the availability of mailing lists and with list selection, you should begin your education with a visit to the main public library in your area, to study a huge directory: Standard Rate And Data Service (SRDS). This directory provides detailed information on tens of thousands of available mailing lists and list suppliers. In your local Yellow Pages, you’ll also find list brokers under the category “Mailing List.” You should meet with several of these people before choosing to do business with one of them. You may also want to deal with national list brokers. There are a number of long-established, reputable list brokers and many of them publish catalogs of the lists they own and/or represent.
You can also compile your own list for many purposes, from local telephone directors, a “Criss-Cross Directory” that lists people by geographic area or membership directories of certain clubs or organizations. And, still another compilation method, suitable for small businesses, is through inexpensive classified advertising. I know an attorney, for example, who has this ad running continually in the “business opportunity section” of his local newspaper:
“Before you buy a business, obtain free consultation on legal issues you need to consider. Also: specialized assistance for the small business person with contracts, incorporations, partnerships, buy-sell agreements, etc. Call for FREE BOOKLET: THE SMALL BUSINESSMAN’S LEGAL QUESTION AND ANSWER GUIDE.”
He gets at least a dozen calls, every week, requesting his free booklet. These people are placed on his mailing list and receive letters and other information from his office, periodically, over a period of time. Eventually, over half of them come in for initial consultations and, again, more than half of these become clients. There are many different businesses that could adapt this idea to their needs.
So, our first of the three steps to success in direct marketing is targeting the right people to receive the message.
I also want to encourage you to use your own customer list, more often and more effectively. Most business people “miss the boat” by failing to maintain frequent contact with their customers. For one thing, it’s important to remember that someone who has purchased from you once, and been satisfied, is then predisposed to purchase from you again. Second, you do have competition to be concerned about, so there is a need to stay on the top of your customer’s consciousness – after all, out of sight; out of mind. Third, frequently communicating with customers is an appreciated form of “extra mile service.”
Here are a few ideas for communicating with customers:
For Almost Any Business:
A News-And-Idea Letter
Seasonal Greetings – avoid Christmas
Thank You Letters
New Product Letters
New Sales Agent – list credentials
Preferred Customer Sale Flyers
For Service Professionals:
Reminder Notices of Service Dates
It’s been my experience that most businesses’ repeat sales can be doubled simply by making additional, more frequent contact and offers to established customers!