Many mailers spend too little time on the development of mailing lists used to reach business prospects. Some say it is simple. If you are selling computers, all you’ve got to do is find a list of data processing managers. Right? Wrong! What you are really looking for is likely prospects who could benefit from a computer like yours. It may or may not be the data processing manager. There may not even be such a title in a prospective organization. It could be (1) the president in a smaller company, (2) the administrative vice president, (3) vice president, data processing, (4) director of MIS, (5) treasurer, (6) controller, (7) operations manager, (8) general purchasing agent, or many more titles.
That is just the beginning. There are many subclassifications, such as titles, types of industries, size, and so on, that can all have an effect on successfully targeting your promotion to best prospects.
The best way to broaden your horizon is by thinking about the true adage: “It is not what you have to sell, it is what the customer wants to buy.” However, few marketers have the luxury of knowing just who wants to buy-and when.
To get a good start, there are some basic procedures that business mailers should use to find the best prospects.
Make a List of Product Uses
The right way to proceed is to make a list of all the possible uses of your product or service. Then, after each, list all of the job functions that could use or influence the use of your particular product or service.
We’ll let you in on a secret. Don’t make out the list yourself. Get help from others who designed, developed, marketed, and have sold the item. From experience and dreams, perhaps for years, they have been thinking about uses you may never have thought of.
As a next step, list the basic Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) categories that could use your item, based on your research above. A business list catalog will give you those categories- thousands of them.
Using a business list that has selectability on zip codes, industry classification, size, and so on, start building your list of prospects you wish to reach.
Guides to Better List Selection
There are many rules we’ve developed over the years that continue to be successful aids. Here are a few:
1. Assume your salespeople’s list is not good. Probably the biggest mistake most marketers make is the assumption that their sales or representative’s list of prospects is the only list you need.
Unfortunately, salespeople only know who they know. They don’t know who they don’t know. Prove it to yourself. Take any Yellow Pages directory and see how many prospects are not on your house list. How can you expect your salesperson or representative to call, with sufficient frequency and breadth, on companies and on the right individuals? To earn their commissions, they go where they know the action is!
Business dynamics are such that businesses themselves often don’t know when they will be in the market for a particular product or service. Play the odds by covering the logical candidates.
2. Broaden your thinking. While a prospect in-person call costs about $300 to make, a direct mail call costs about $1. Would you rather spend $300 on one person-to-person cold call or make 300 calls by mail? With these kinds of odds, you can afford to mail to more markets. You will be surprised with the results.
3. Test your entire spectrum. In performing the analysis we described above, you undoubtedly uncovered new areas. Mail at least a few hundred or, hopefully, a few thousand pieces to each. It takes that many pieces to get a feel. If you don’t test the spectrum, you may be missing your best leads.
4. Don’t rely on salespeople’s evaluation of a prospect (except on credit). We are always surprised how many good leads we get from places we mailed where we’ve been told there is no business.
5. When in doubt, title address by function. Sometimes it is impossible to know the proper titles. Consider using “To the person in charge of lubricants,” or “manager-lubricants,” or “lubricant supervisor.” When you don’t know the proper formal title, you are, perhaps, more effective just being direct.
6. Code each subselection. All labels have space for code lines. We suggest that you order SIC codes (four or five characters), title addressing code one digit. That still leaves room for mailing package codes and drop date and offer codes, if necessary. Most important of all, make sure you order counts for each subselection universe. Unless you know how many you mailed, you can’t determine response rates. You have to design your piece so the label comes back.
7. Use secondary classification. When you review a list of SIC codes, you will find secondary applications. That means that the classification is not the primary business of that firm. If it is a secondary business, they still need the products and services you offer.
Business list selectivity is a unique art unto its own. However, it is highly measurable. Data and leads you generate can make your sales manager think you are the greatest. Don’t miss the opportunity.