This is true of mail from merchandisers, services, fund-raising, as well as much business-to-business mail.
Then there is the other side. When you do raise your hand and show interest with a request for more information, what you receive, more often than not, is material that does not relate, and
is not as exciting and interesting as the original piece that attracted your attention. Material comes late or does not come at all! By the time you receive it, you’ve lost interest. These mailers have got their promotional efforts backwards!
It makes sense to prospect with low cost mailings and follow up with more informative and exciting (thus more expensive) mailings, phone, or personal contact. In short, once you have a lead, let out all the stops to close the sale.
Here is why. When you are doing cold prospecting (that is, mailing to audiences where you don’t know if they have any interest in your product or service), your chance of success is much lower than with someone who has already expressed interest. For example, your response from an interested party may be 10 or 20 times that of a cold list.
You would probably argue in rebuttal that unless you pull out all the stops and wave the flag the first time out, you’ll never get the second chance. Wrong. This is where creativity comes in. With the right words and a few graphics, you can tease a person into responding, without telling or showing them too much. Later, hit them with a powerful mailing and/or information with a salesperson’s arm attached.
Let’s apply this concept to the various uses of mail.
- Business mail. Few business sales are simple enough to close by mail, so this concept becomes very important. As Boh Hemmings, a leading expert on business mail for years, says, “tell the half-told tale.” By the degree of information requested on the reply card, you can qualify your prospect. Later follow up with all your guns.
- Fund-raising. When a prospect becomes a donor, they know and care about your project. Most fund-raising letters used to find new contributors should be low cost. On this type of prospecting you don’t personalize as much as you would with a former contributor because you haven’t yet developed a relationship. It may be somewhat presumptuous if you do get too personal, and you might lose the prospect. But once a contributor, the more personalization the better.
- Consumer services. Insurance, loans, clubs, and so on usually offer something simple for the first approach. Then they convert to more complex and expensive services once the prospect has become a customer. Expensive, complete mailings are sometimes affordable because the customer is a subscriber for years and years.
- Consumer merchandise. We are referring to mail order catalogs here. To lower costs, a minicatalog is sometimes used in prospecting efforts, naturally featuring the most responsive items and special deals. Be careful here-it may be almost as cheap to mail the whole catalog. It depends on your printing economics. More and more minicatalogs are appearing because of this high cost of prospecting.
- Consumer books and magazines. Our rule of prospecting at low cost and following up with a higher cost doesn’t often apply here. Why? Two reasons seem important. One is direct mail’s format, which permits as much discussion of a product as necessary to sell it at that time. The whole story can be told in one mailing. Magazines require graphics to get the true feel of the publication. If the close can’t be made in one blockbuster mailing, it probably can’t be made otherwise. There is nothing more to say that wasn’t said the first time.
Remember, with most magazines the consumer is already familiar with the product. There is no more information to send. As a result, very few have found initial subscription phone follow-ups to be economical.