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Marketing High-Ticket Products and Services? Rekindle the Power of Direct Mail!

marketing-muse_cv9l_voyf(Part one of a two-part Article)

By Marc Bane, Bane Marketing & Communications

In an age when email can deliver low-cost distribution, near-instant delivery and tracking, and built-in prospect response mechanisms, it may be hard to imagine why anyone would want to sacrifice the time, money, and even some trees to market products using old fashioned, hard copy direct mail. Yet, if you’re selling products and services where the average sale runs in the six or seven figure range, now may be a perfect time to consider adding the U.S. post office to your list of marketing vendors. Here’s why:

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Unless we set our MS Outlook security to accept email only from colleagues and select vendors, each day many of us will continue to face a mountain of new email messages – very few of which hold any interest. Perhaps a particularly intriguing subject line will catch our attention, but chances are we will read emails from the people we know and save the others for later “when we have more time” (whenever that is). Years ago, business people went through a similar routine with the “incoming mail” box sitting on the corner of their desks. But today, hard copy mail solicitations are a tiny fraction of their electronic counterparts, and a good personal letter has a great chance of standing out, getting read, and being remembered when referred to it in a follow-up telephone call.

Hard copy direct mail has other advantages as well. Anti-spamming laws make email marketing lists extremely difficult to come by. On the other hand, many publishers and trade organizations make their subscriber/member mailing lists readily available for rental. A reputable list broker can do all the work for you. They make their commissions from the list owner, not you, so there’s no additional cost for their services. If the list owner will agree to ship the list directly to you, rather than to your mailing house, you now have the prospects’ names, companies and addresses, and it is not hard to get their phone number for follow-up calls.

A Few Basic Rules for Hard Copy Direct Mail

I realize that paper based communications may be a somewhat less-familiar exercise for some of my younger marketing colleagues in the energy space, so let’s cover some of the basic tenets of the process:

Don’t Make a $5 Million Sales Presentation in a $50 Suit

You wouldn’t show up at a sales presentation for $300,000 consulting engagement in cheap looking suit. If you’re selling high-ticket products, don’t scrimp on the quality of your letterhead paper. When possible, use company letterhead printed on stationary-quality, recycled paper (with the recycled watermark). It is an environmentally-responsible practice that may be less offensive to some prospects that are sustainability champions. Do not use copy paper or standard laser paper. It will scream junk mail.

Get Personal in the Salutation and Signature

It is always preferable to use a personal name in the salutation. Except perhaps when corresponding with medical professionals, today it is acceptable and even preferable to use the person’s first name in the salutation. This gives the initial impression of a pre-established relationship between the signatory and the prospect and can increase the odds of readership. It also sets the tone that you are talking to the prospect as an industry peer rather than simply a salesperson. The letter should always have a signature: first choice – a hand signed signature in blue ink (if your company or mail fulfillment vendor has the resources). Unless the letter is actually going to someone who knows your signature, it is not important that the handwriting is not your own. Second choice is a digitized signature that recreates your real signature. This is a computer process that most mailing houses offer. Third is a pre-printed signature that is treated as a graphic in the letter printing process.

If you use the prospect’s first name in the salutation, then use only your first name in the signature. If you use the prospect’s last name in the salutation then use your full name in your signature.

Judging the Book by Its Cover

Envelopes should match letterhead in both design and paper. Envelopes should be laser or inkjet addressed. If quantities are manageable, hand addressing in pen can actually improve open rates. Use labels if they are your only option as they are an instant tip off that your letter is part of a mass mailing. Real postage stamps can be more personal looking than a meter impression or printed postage indicia, even if costs a penny or two more for the added service of affixing them to the envelope. And always mail First Class. Some companies won’t even forward standard mail and the Standard Mail indicia is another tip off that this is a mass mailing.

Risk Versus Reward – Managing Expectations

Hard copy direct mail isn’t inexpensive. First Class postage, alone starts at about 40 cents a piece. Add the paper and letter shop charges, and you can easily exceed a dollar a piece, not even including the cost of renting a mailing list.

Don’t expect high-response rates either. Picking up the phone or typing an email address into a computer takes more effort than clicking on a “Respond to Sender” button. But selling high-ticket business products or services isn’t about response rates. It’s about return on investment (ROP). If someone at a company is in a position to spend $500,000 dollars on a solution, it means that company has a $500,000 problem. If your letter convinces him that you may have the solution to this problem, he will pick up the phone or send you an email. The bottom line is that hard copy B-to-B mailers sometimes generate fewer responses than email promotions, but the responses tend to be more qualified. Say for example that all in, your mail campaign cost $15,000. If just one of those high-quality leads turns into a $500,000 sale with a 50% profit margin, you’ve generated a $235,000 ROP.

I know. It seems a bit riskier and a lot more work than pushing the send button. But if you’re willing to take a little risk, you can reach a whole new world of prospects and deliver a sales message in a way that sets it apart from the hundreds of email solicitations your prospects receive every day.

In next month’s “Marketing Muse”, Energy Central has invited Marc back for part two of this article: “How to write a successful direct mail letter”.

Client Testimonials

Driving Force; Adjunct to our Executive Team

Marc is a seasoned marketing professional with an exceptional combination of energy knowledge, hands-on marketing skills, and creative talent. His marketing campaigns were the driving force behind our highly-successful “Build Our Brand” strategic business initiative. Marc is a team player, and we were proud to have his marketing leadership as an adjunct to our executive team.

-Michael Peterson
Former Managing Principal –
The Structure Group
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Trusted Advisor

Marc is a highly experienced corporate marketing and communications professional with the skills and talent to execute a wide range of quality marketing communications programs quickly and cost effectively.  But more than just his skills, Marc is a trusted advisor who placed the best interests of our company first.

– David Delasanta
Executive Vice President

ThermoEnergy Corp.
ThermoEnergy-6-16-10

 

 

 

Builds Brands; Penetrates Markets

I’ve watched Marc work his magic at both GreenFuel Technologies and Excelergy Corp. I’ve never met anyone else who could penetrate a new market or build a brand faster.

-Cary Bullock
Former Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder
Excelergy Corporation
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Former CEO –
GreenFuel Technologies
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Exceptional Abilities

Marc’s exceptional ability to articulate the value proposition and vision of new technology is a valuable asset to any company looking to capture mindshare in the media and market share in the industry.

-Larry Dinkin
Board of Directors and Cofounder –
InEnTec LLC

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Quickly and Cost Effictively Launchs Quality Programs

“Having worked with Marc at several organizations over the past 20 years, I have always been impressed by how quickly and cost-effectively he can launch quality marketing programs.”

-Dr. E. Ted Prince
Founder and CEO –
Perth Leadership Institute

Builds Customers

Marc’s direct marketing support for the Information Builders sales seminar programs put our sales team face to face with more than 9,000 customers and prospects in a single year.

-Marc Koppelman
Former Director,
PC Software Sales –
Information Builders

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Ability to Simplify Complex Technology

Marc’s unique ability to present complex technology in simple and easily understood terms, combined with his talent at transforming product attributes into clearly defined benefits, quickly builds market visibility and generates sales leads.

-Martin K. Goldenblatt
Former Vice President Sales
Greenfuel Technologies

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Talented and Experienced

Marc not only has the experience to develop effective marketing strategies, he has the talent to execute them quickly and cost-effectively.

-Steve Swenke
Former President and CEO
Metrum Technologies

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Unquestinalble Difference in Quality

There is an unquestionable difference in the quality and effectiveness of your marketing campaigns when a professional like Marc is running the show.

-Chris Cazer
President –
Osprey Systems
Former CIO –
Excelergy Corporation
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Delivers Cost-Effective Results

Marc Bane is an excellent tactical and operational marketer of energy software and technology. He delivers cost-effective results by increasing brand awareness and a predisposition to a company’s value proposition.

-Kevin Monagle
Associate Partner, Energy & Utilities
IBM Global Business Services

Former Sr. VP and Founder
Excellergy Corp.
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