(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
by Rene Gnam
and most vital thing to recognize about leads you get from magazine
ads, directory ads, reader service cards, and loose deck mailings is
that they are all late.
prospect reads your messages, he or she is hot for you then, not
now. That means your response to the lead must be instantaneous, not
takes weeks for the inquiry to reach you. Fondling it beyond a few
moments will impair the effectiveness of your entire ad budget.
Consider these points:
respond to your magazine ad by telephone, you have me at my hottest
moment for your product or service. Mail your follow-ups
immediately, and you may hold me and convert me to a sale.
But if I
respond to your ad or deck mailing by mail, it's now at least a week
since I read your ad. It will take maybe another week to get your
follow-up message back to me. How much has my enthusiasm diminished
in two weeks? Maybe you should call me when you get my lead, to warm
me up for the mailing that follows, and to answer any immediate
questions I may have.
respond to a reader service card, you may have a bigger problem.
Some publications take as long as four weeks to process those leads
and get them back to you. How cool will I be to your follow-up by
the time it finally reaches me? Again, a call may prove highly
effective for you.
The key to
keeping me hot and pulsating about what you sell is to use a phone
number in your ad and on your card in a deck. Those who call are
usually (but not always) more immediate prospects to do business
than those who mail a card or clip a coupon. They know they'll get a
sales pitch by calling, so they must be interested in your
proposition to start with.
phone number in the ad also helps you book sales visits, allows you
to upgrade the prospect's purchases to a higher level, and
establishes a more personal touch, showing you care about his or her
Some Advice You Should Very Rarely
salespeople with axes to grind tell you how important it is to enter
the names of all sales leads into a computer or other addressing
system so that you can mail to them often.
Nothing wrong there.
But do not
follow their advice of "batching" your leads, and then sending the
follow-up literature to batches of names.
literature out immediately. If I inquire about your vertical filing
systems, I may not have two more weeks to decide which system is
best for me, and most likely I also answered other ads for similar
products. You may lose my order by delaying your response.
still batch names together for low-cost computer processing, but
first, type any kind of label to slap onto your follow-up mailing
and mail it today. Right now!
use a personalized letter (perhaps generated on a memory typewriter
or a word processor), and match-address the outside envelope - and
get that mailing in the mail today, the same day you get my inquiry.
The computer processing can wait. But I can't wait for the
literature you promised.
computer addressing for your second, third, and fourth follow-ups.
How Many Follow-Ups?
two by mail, plus one by phone, produce better-than-average sales
one else in your field is doing such a thorough job, and I'll likely
buy from the company that treats me individually and promptly.
November 1979, as a test, I mailed bingo card requests for free
literature to 100 companies. Only 82 sent the literature and only
two of the 82 called. I repeated the test in November 1987. This
time 84 companies sent literature and eight called.
Because it's more exciting to create the ads and mailings that get
the leads than to create the follow-ups. Because most advertisers
neglect the leads they get. Because most firms assume that sending
one piece of mail will do the job.
When your one mailing arrives, I may be too busy to concentrate on
it today, or out of the office, or in a rotten mood for a reason you
can't predict. When the next mailing arrives, maybe I'll be better
disposed toward buying from you.
call - before your mailing series starts or in-between - can
indicate to you how hot a prospect I really am, whether you should
follow-up even more, whether you should make further calls or even
send a salesperson.
No One Knows the Ideal Number of
for every product or service, for every industry, for every
audience. I've successfully used 11 (yes, 11) follow-up mailings for
my own consulting service, and made them pay!
determine how many to send by noting the fall-off in conversions.
Wait a Minute...A Long Minute
How much is
an order worth to you, or how much is a new customer or client worth
over a period of time?
standard retailer mentality tells you to delete from your mailing
list all names that haven't bought anything in the last two years.
this: In 1975, Joe Reisner attended one of my advertising seminars
in New York. I was a guest speaker. He didn't buy a thing. But I put
him on my mailing list and kept sending follow-ups.
suddenly he paid $660 to attend a Chicago seminar, and in 1980 he
finally bought $470 worth of consulting time. That's $1,130. Add
another $5,000 in 1984 creative fees and $1,650 in 1986.
A good prospect in Fort Wayne. How much did it cost to keep him on
my list? A few pennies a year. How much to keep mailing to Joe?
Maybe $40 for two dozen efforts. Yes...24 times, but I finally
landed him, and then he got more mailings. Was it worth it to
acquire $6,780 in fee-based revenue? You decide.
business prospect should stay on your list forever, even when he or
she moves to another company. When Joe retired in 1988, he and his
wife Millie visited me - "Let's have a sandwich when you're in
Cincinnati," he said -- so he could insist face-to-face that he
remain on my database at his home address, just in case he decided
to do consulting work that might turn into a joint project with me.
He did just that in 1990.
If a good
business prospect liked you enough to respond once, keep after him.
I used seven follow-up mailings and two phone calls to sell boiler
valves to boiler room supervisors. That's why a number of my clients
now send continuing mailings to prospects who initially expressed
only minor interest. That's why General Motors used my consultation
outline to expand from 11 follow-up mailings to 19 for its auto
Evaluate Your Leads. Some Leads are
Worth More Than Others.
simple. But most businesses lump them all together - foolishly. If
you have no other criteria by which to judge, here's the ranking:
lead from a business respondent is worth more than from a coupon
from an ad, which is worth more than a card inquiry -- if the phone
number is your regular number.
But if the phone number is an "800" line, then (generally speaking)
the coupon from your magazine ad is worth more than the other
leads from mailings fit in? No one can answer that question with a
universally acceptable response - because it depends on how much the
mailing qualified my lead (perhaps by using negative factors that
would reduce the quantity of leads while increasing the quality of
the individual responses).
A Human Being Should Look At All
human should be reasonably intelligent. You should sort leads by
didn't fill in their phone numbers are less interested than those
who did. (They know you may call and pitch to them.)
gave you their titles are more interested than those who didn't.
(They want you to know they're important, and your pitch can be
tailored to those titles.)
inappropriate titles or job functions could be worth fewer
small and medium companies usually produce quicker sales than those
from large companies. (The inquirer is more likely to be the
A lead from
a job classification that does not require much reading may be
better than from a reading job. (If he or she normally doesn't read,
but did read your long message, your product or service must be of
A lead from
a branch office or non-headquarters site may not be worth as much
follow-up as one originating from the main location. (Many companies
make purchase decisions in centralized buying offices.)
gave you the information you requested are more serious than those
who omitted certain functions. Let's explain that....
How To Sort Leads
lead producer creates ads and mailings that ask the respondent to
qualify him or herself. Such qualifiers could be:
need vs. future need,
(long-term) vs. spot or walk-in service,
inquiry (immediate purchase, information gathering, committee
product or service within organization or company,
field respondent serves,
services produced and/or used by respondent
If I take
the care to complete that information on your lead-generator, then I
am truly interested in getting the right information from you. If I
omit that information, I may be only mildly curious. But, even if I
omit that information, I'm still interested - just less so. I may be
in a hurry or pressured by other considerations.
guideline followed by successful sales organizations is to devote
prime and maximum follow-up to the sales leads that have answered
all the qualifiers, and less effort to those who are mildly curious.
But even then, the decision on each individual lead cannot be made
by machine. A human must evaluate the lead to determine how many
follow-ups are appropriate, and whether they should be done by mail
alone, by phone alone, or by a combination.
Some Leads Have Added Value
For Your Future Marketing
there's an intangible value to certain leads.
Maybe you sell hex wrenches to maintenance personnel. An inquiry
from an airline would be super to keep on your list forever, because
if you eventually sell even one wrench to that airline, you now have
a great talking point in future sales visits.
situation is unique, as are your products and services and your
prospects. That's why a top marketing executive should mastermind
your follow-up campaigns and determine the viability of individual
leads can be categorized (by following some of the guidelines cited
in this article, for instance), but not all leads should be lumped
together. The main force should be on the value of the individual
lead, and what the prospect can mean to your company in terms of:
sales conversion possibilities,
products or services that can be sold to the same prospect.
As a matter
of fact, maybe more than one human should evaluate each sales lead.
These are increasingly important commodities that can pay off both
immediately and for years to come.
attention to leads. It does pay off!