Time and time again, we see situations where agencies and clients are highly proficient in conventional advertising but who seem to miss the boat when it comes to direct mail – especially business mail. Perhaps a review of these differences may be helpful.
1. Business mail economics: High affordable costs. All good direct mail is analyzed in relation to the amount of dollars affordable. We are accustomed to anywhere from $3 to $30 available for our advertising and promotion per product sold when selling directly to consumers. In business-to-business mail, the affordable number jumps dramatically. We are usually talking about big stakes, a sale that will result in thousands of dollars of ultimate business. It may be the one time sale of a computer, office supplies purchased over the years, a metal building, specialized shipping, or a business insurance policy. Whatever is being sold, the average cost of that sales call is now approaching $300. You can be sure that there are thousands of dollars at stake to risk these high sales costs. It stands to reason then, that rather than spending $2 or $3 per order for mailing, you can safely spend hundreds of dollars per order and still have a highly profitable operation. It’s not uncommon for a business mailing to go out that costs more than a thousand dollars per thousand pieces mailed, as opposed to the conventional two or three hundred dollars per thousand.
2. It’s not your reader’s money. That’s right. When you’re communicating to most businessmen or women, they’re going to be considering the purchase of your product or service with the company’s money, not their own money. Of course, everyone has a budget and digging deep into your own pocket. It’s much easier for somebody to spend other people’s money, so you have a better chance of success when you’re dealing with business mail. A good example of this is the newsletter field. There is hardly a successful newsletter that is directed to individuals rather than business. There are thousands of successful newsletters that are paid for out of business budgets.
So what you might consider is directing your advertising thrusts toward benefits meaningful to the superior of the individual you are trying to persuade. After all, it is that person who will authorize the budget your prospect wishes to spend.
3. A small universe. There may be millions of consumers out there for your consumer mailing, but in the business world, you’re probably looking at a universe of a few hundred, maybe a few thousand. This makes it much easier to target your advertising approach. There are many more common characteristics and motivations in a small universe than in a large one. You’ll get a higher response rate, which increases your affordable dollars.
4. The name of the game is leads. If you’re selling something that permits you to afford sending a salesperson on a call, the sale is probably worth several thousand dollars. It’s hard to expect that an order of that kind could be accomplished by direct mail alone. There almost ways has to be a salesperson involved. What you’re trying to do is find those leads that will be the most productive for salespeople. You’re not trying to sell – you’re trying to tease the prospect into getting more information.
5. The mail order buying characteristic is not necessary. We’ve talked before about the mail order characteristic being essential in finding new customers. In the case of business mail, this is not true. This characteristic is unimportant because most business mail is trying to obtain a lead, not a sale. The mail order characteristic is unnecessary to get a lead.
6. The short letter wins. In consumer direct mail, the long letter almost always works best. In business mail, often the opposite is true. You just want the recipient to identify himself to you as a prospect. The short letter works because all it is trying to do is get the person to identify himself by asking for more information. Naturally, the information requested is usually attached to the arm of a salesperson.
We’ve talked about what makes business mail different. Now let’s talk about one element that is exactly the same, whether you’re trying to reach a business or the general public.
In any kind of mailing, people are people. It’s always been surprising to me how often presidents of large companies respond to premiums as readily as the newest employee. That’s because presidents are people just as much as anyone else. They have essentially the same motivations, drives, and needs. Obviously they are more experienced, so you’ve got to be a great deal sharper when trying to reach their magic button.
By remembering these concepts, you can have your business mail achieve the same successes as your radio, television, magazine, and newspaper advertising.