Reprinted from ZIP/Target Marketing

Creating More Effective Direct Mail

Follow-Ups for Your Sales Leads

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Gnam is a hands-on response marketing consultant whose clients range from entrepreneurial companies to blue chips. He creates campaigns for a variety of marketers of products and services. He also writes copy, designs promotions, and regularly conducts seminars on both basic and advanced techniques of direct response marketing. He'll be delighted to follow-up your inquiry with a rapid, personalized response. He can be reached at 813-407-8400. - Ray Lewis, executive editor)


by Rene Gnam

By now, you should be on a lot of different lists. When you request information on a product or service you're interested in, you generally get put on a list. And your analysis of how hundreds of others who are responding to information requests follow-up can help you substantially improve your own follow-up program.


In a nutshell, whether you're selling improved widgets or magazine subscriptions, you can borrow techniques for follow-up from a wide range of marketing operations. Your study of what is mailed to you in response to your requests for sales literature doubtless will prove that most marketers make a lot of errors that you should -- and can -- avoid.


But most of those errors can be summed up in two basic categories:

Not being of sufficient immediacy.
Not providing enough information.

Immediacy should be obvious.


But the information aspect, today, is a vital consideration. In addition to telling me where and how to go about buying from you or your distributor or your dealer, recognize that today many decisions are made by committees. Groups of executives review proposed purchases in order to control expenses in a tight economy.


Appeal to Decision-Makers


This means that your mailings must be helpful, informative and meaningful...from three points of view:

  1. The view of the purchasing agent who shops for competitive price,

  2. The view of the ultimate user who shops for performance ease,

  3. The view of the corporate leader who shops for production gains.

All three may decide whether to buy your product or service -- and they need a full-information presentation to help them reach a decision. You must present your message in a way that leads each of them to understand it within the framework of his or her particular job function and particular corporate of institutional role. Each one must clearly see the benefits of your proposition, your products, your services, in use at their facility.


You may wish to not describe every detail in your follow-up mailing, leaving your salesperson something to present. That doesn't mean that your mailing can't be exciting, meaningful, helpful and informative.

For instance, in a follow-up mailing for minicomputers, you could deliver vital data on how to compare input and output goals. You could discuss the relative merits of each model you market. But you might withhold a method of comparing those models for the inquirer's particular business, suggesting in an accompanying personalized letter that the salesperson can better prepare a "customized" recommendation after visiting to learn the prospect's specific needs.

However, if the salesperson does not have to visit, if a purchasing decision is to be made based only on information you supply...then, your mailing must present all necessary facts and product benefits.

For instance, except in rare instances, just about any business person should be able to make a decision about office supplies or replacement parts without having a salesperson make a presentation -- once your literature spells out the unique benefits of your products.


Getting Orders from Sales Lead Mailings


To get direct orders from your sales lead follow-up mailings, consider each of these important points:

  1. Send full information on how and where to buy the product or sign up for the service.

  2. Be sure to enclose a cover letter with your printed literature. The little printed memos that the forms people sell you are totally insufficient. Letters work. They also show that you care, and that you're treating your prospect like an individual worthy of consideration.

  3. Please, pretty please, put your home office name, address, and telephone number on every piece of material in a follow-up mailing, even if it's all in a presentation folder. Inserts get separated from folders.

  4. Your home office telephone number and/or a '800' IN-WATS number should be listed prominently in several places, with instructions for the prospect to call a well-informed contact in your firm. You may subsequently have your local rep follow-up your mailing with a telephone contact, but many prospects will want to pick up the phone immediately to do business.

  5. When you want them to contact a local rep, or dealer, or distributor, give them the name and phone number of that person. If you're worried about turnover in reps or rep personnel, print that data on a separate enclosure so that you can update it inexpensively.

  6. Each of your prospects is an individual, even when they respond from a business address. Use personalization where possible. Do not use carbonized labels. Originals are okay.

  7. Two mailings probably will work better than just one follow-up. And maybe you will need more than two, plus telephone follow-ups. Test different approaches.

  8. Always show photos of your product or service in action. Put appropriate people in these photos. Don't just send out a 4-color photo of your sheep dip. Show the prospect how easy it is to use it, with dippers doing the dipping.

  9. Follow up instantly. Insist that your regional people do the same. Don't let them tell you "I know how to handle these leads." They don't. You do.

  10. Always send follow-up mailings to business or professional people with First-Class postage, never Third. Sometimes bulk rate is okay for consumers, or for some later mailings in a series of business follow-ups...but never at the beginning. The longer it taker the inquirer to get your mail, the less likely he or she will be to buy from you (and the less wonderful they will think you are).

  11. Jiffy printers are okay for certain pieces in follow-up mail. But please avoid promotion pieces that look awful because you saved $4/M.

  12. You steer the prospect to another source when you forget to reveal the basic price of your product or service. Do give at least an inkling of the price. Then support the reasons why the price is reasonable.

  13. Present your mailing neatly; don't send a jumble of little papers as you might in a consumer subscription mailing. You are selling a business proposition to business-minded people. Your mailing is your spokesperson.

  14. Enclose an order form. Even if you expect a purchase order or a requisition, the inclusion of an order form gives a visual command to think about ordering.

  15. Always state clearly that you'll answer any further questions. Many questions may be answered in your literature, but most people feel comforted if they know you'll respond when queried.

  16. Always remind the prospect that you'll be happy to restyle a product, or create a custom service, for his particular needs. No one likes strictly "shelf" items. All prospects may buy "shelf" items, but they want to think that they can get customized units.

Now, take a look at your current sales lead follow-up mailings...and another look at those from your competitors and other mailers. Run down the checklist.

How do your mailings stack up? What should you do to revitalize your mailings? A few dollars invested now can keep paying off for years to come.


Rene Gnam is an independent response marketing consultant

specializing in creative advertising techniques.

He can be reached at 813-407-8400


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Rene Gnam is a Marketing Consultant and Advertising Copywriter

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I'm usually in Florida, and here are the numbers:

FAX 813-475-4354      CELL 813-407-8400

You can reach me right now by e-mail:


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