Here's a detailed description of how to carry out a low-cost targeted marketing campaign, using
telephone selling and direct mail. The end result is to get sales appointments to gain new customers.

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Targeted marketing: how to do it

Make money with Ads by Google

by Ian Traynor

Here's a detailed description of how to carry out a low-cost targeted marketing campaign, using telephone selling and direct mail. The end result is to get sales appointments to gain new customers.

In Part 1 of this Targeted Marketing series of articles, we presented an overview of a highly successful way of getting new customers. (If you want to read Part 1 you can do so now). In Part 2 we cover in practical detail how to carry out each stage of the process.


When can this targeted marketing approach be used?

This particular approach works when:
  • You are selling into one market sector or into a wide number of sectors (a 'market sector' is best defined here as a particular industry or type of business).
  • You are selling to businesses rather than to retail consumers.
  • You are prepared to experiment a little, trying different approaches.
  • Your expected average order size is at least GBP 200 (USD 300)
  • You don't mind using the telephone (or have got a volunteer to phone for you!) and you have got some way of sending out 20 - 50 letters per week (say, a simple mailmerge program on a word processor).
  • You need new customers!

If all of these apply to you, then read on...

Further help on this topic...
<- Look here!
You'll find further help on this topic, or closely related issues, in the side columns on this page..
Look here! ->


The seven stages of targeted marketing

The 7 stages, involving a mixture of tele-research, direct mail and telesales, are listed below. Each stage will be described in more detail later in this article:
  1. Selection of key target market sectors: identifying what types of customers you want to do business with.
  2. List research: compiling lists of potential customers.
  3. Telephone research: to ensure that the information gained from the lists is accurate, and to get any supplementary information not included in the mailing lists.
  4. Prospect selection: based on the lists and telephone research, to eliminate any inappropriate prospects and / or to produce a smaller, manageable sub-list for this particular mailing.
  5. Mailshot: sending out a letter and appropriate sales literature to the selected prospects.
  6. Telephone follow-up: this is where you really go for whatever it is you are wanting - a sales meeting, a trial order, the opportunity to quote... whatever is your objective.
  7. Recording, measuring, monitoring: so that you know what has worked, what has not, what actions you need to take next.

Stage 1: Selection of target market sectors

The chances are that your product or service can be sold into a wide variety of businesses - or it may be that geographical areas are a more important way of defining your markets.

So, sit down and think of, say, 6 market sectors - types of organisations - which could contain good potential customers. And don't say "we can sell to anyone". This is targeted marketing, remember. Some of the criteria you could use to select the key targets might be:

  • Sectors into which you have sold in the past, or where you have current customers - so you can demonstrate some credibility in understanding their specific needs.
  • Sectors where your product might have an edge over your competitors (your cleaning cloths, say, are better at dealing with engineering swarf than other peoples')
  • Sectors which are increasingly developing a need for your services (like lawyers are getting more interested in marketing!)
  • Geographical sectors where you have a distance advantage over your competitors.
Come on... do a bit of creative thinking NOW. Remember - SIX different market (or geographical) sectors to start with.

Stage 2: List research

What you need now are lists of prospective customers in your chosen market sectors. There are many sources of lists, some being better than others. If you are reasonably computerised in your operations (e.g. you can use databases or contact tracking software with mailmerge facilities) try to get lists which are available on disk (or, increasingly, on CD-ROM).

Here are a few sources to try (there's a bit of a UK bias here :-) )

  1. Yellow Pages: Good because they are in industry categories, but weak because they are often at least a year out of date, there are no named contacts and (in the UK, at least), postal codes are missing.
  2. Business directories: .. such as Kompass and Dun & Bradstreet. Chambers of Commerce and town authorities also sometimes make available lists of local companies, categorised by industry. Business directories sometimes have named contacts listed for each company.
  3. Trade directories: There are literally thousands of trade directories, most of them highly industry specific. In the UK, check out the Directory of Directories in your local reference library.
  4. Mailing list brokers: These are our favourites for three reasons:
    • They are often reasonably up to date - if you deal with a reputable mailing list broker.
    • They often contain supplementary information on contacts, number of employees, turnover - which helps you to assess the size of the prospect.
    • Increasingly, lists are available on computer disk format (specify comma-delimited format when ordering - that's often the easiest to handle on databases). Two good sources in the UK are Business Pages (01753 583311) and MarketScan (01243 786711)
  5. Trade show and exhibition catalogues: specific trade shows often have good catalogues of exhibitors, who may be relevant to your market sector. You can sometimes get back numbers of catalogues from the exhibition organisers. In the UK, a tenner will buy you the latest copy of The Exhibition Bulletin (0181 778 2288).
(We'd welcome other sources of names which you might have found useful in the past)

Stage 3: Telephone research

Don't believe that the lists you have compiled are accurate! The chances are that they will not be up to date. In particular, people will have changed and, since you will be writing to them personally it is vital that you get the right name.

So the purpose of this stage is to check the name and position of the decision maker - or decision influencer - who is most likely to be in a position to buy, or authorise the buying of your product or service.

At the same time, you can check that the company hasn't moved (they do, you know!) and perhaps get other useful information to let you know if they are a real prospect.

At this point, let me say that you will not be mailing out thousands, or even hundreds of letters a week. Only enough that you can comfortably follow up by telephone within a week or so of sending out the mailshot (the next stage). So, having selected which your first target market sector is going to be, research 50 - 60 at the most to check that your information is correct. Remember, what you are aiming to do each week is to:

  • Research some names on the lists.
  • Select some names for mailshots.
  • Send out some mailshots.
  • Follow up some mailshots.
In this way, a continuous process will be created and the marketing impetus will be maintained. So bear this weekly list of tasks in mind when deciding how many names to research in one batch.

So.. you get through to the switchboard of one of your target companies. What's the first question you ask? "I need to write to your company. Can you tell me your post code please?" Note the word "need" - it puts the switchboard operator in the position of having to tell you! And it's an innocuous question - s/he doesn't feel threatened. Also, it enables you to check that the address is right (assuming you have the post code anyway - remember, companies can still move, but retain the same phone number).

Next, get the name of the decision maker / decision influencer that you want to contact. Say "And can you tell me the name of your Managing Director, please? .. or whatever is the appropriate title of the guy. Check very carefully the initials and the spelling of the surname - and, if there's any doubt, whether it's a Mr or a Ms. Remember, a person's name, to them, is the sweetest sound in the world!

After that, you could gently probe for any other info that might help you to qualify the prospect as a real potential customer. Eg. "Do you know if your company actually uses 'xyz'? Chances are that s/he doesn't, but it's surprising what you can learn from a switchboard operator! I know; I've done it

That's Stage 3. The next one is shorter...

Stage 4: Prospect selection

This one is relatively easy. Based on what you have learnt from your telephone research, you can now start to refine the list that you are going to mail out to in a few days time. And because of your careful research, you're going to hit some highly qualified prospects.

Two key points:

  • If in doubt, leave the prospect in.
  • If you've kicked out too many names at this stage, go back to Stage 3 and add a few more names to research. After a while, you'll get a feel for the 'redundancy' element of each list. It might be 10 per cent, it might be 25 per cent. But you are learning all the time!

Stage 5: Sending out the mailshot

If you've got doubts about direct mail (i.e. you think of it as 'junk' mail), don't take our word for it. Look at who's using it. In the UK, over GBP 1,000 million every year is spent on this medium, most of it by large corporations. They wouldn't keep spending this sort of money if it were wasted. Maybe your view is coloured by the fact that you throw most of your 'junk' mail away. Quite right.. because most of it is not targeted; you are not interested in it. But you are doing better. Because you have taken the trouble to research and qualify prospects, your direct mail will be more effective!

The sales letter: National and international research has shown that if you can afford to send out either a sales letter or sales literature (but not both), then send out the letter. People like reading letters!

The purpose of the letter is two-fold:

  • To get the recipient to read the sales literature (if enclosed)
  • To get the recipient to act in the way that we want them to act
So, given that the sales letter is the most important part of the mailshot, how can you compose the "perfect" sales letter? This is something that we'll be covering on this site very soon. But remember, that you have to grab people's attention quickly - and you have to make the letter easy to read. (Sorry, if you were expecting tips on the "perfect" letter here - but I'm running out of space - and your downloading time). You'll have to come back for more.

Just a few quick pointers about the mailout:

  1. The 'drop' day: - the day on which your letter arrives. The best day for business mail is Wednesday, second best Tuesday and Thursday, worst days are Monday and Friday. So always aim to mail out on a Monday (if your local mail service is good enough!)
  2. First or second class mail (UK only?): Always use first class. And, if possible, use stamps rather than a franking machine.
  3. Addressing: Experiment with handwritten envelopes. Some folks report a much better response rate from these (if the handwriting is legible!)
  4. Envelope 'stuffing': Place the material in the envelope so that the letter (with its striking headline!) faces the back of the envelope. That way, it's the first thing that the reader sees. If you are folding to a smaller envelope, fold so that the headline again comes out first.
The letter is vitally important. Make it:
  • Personal - use mailmerge to address each letter personally to the recipient (getting the name and initials correct).
  • Directed to the appropriate industry / geographical sector - using phraseology that the recipient can relate to - and which will demonstrate your understanding of their own personal needs.

Stage 6: The telephone follow-up

So... the letter has gone out, with a strong message addressed directly to the right decision maker / influencer, at the right address. Up to this point, you probably feel comfortable. But now comes the crunch.. you are going to have to face REJECTION!

Yes, that's right. When you start to telephone all of these carefully targeted, carefully researched folks who have had just the right message aimed at them, a lot of people are going to say (in so many words): "NO, I AM NOT INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU ARE OFFERING." (Sorry to have shouted at you, but sometimes that's what it will feel like). So many sales people are happy about the 'pitch' but when it comes to asking for the order, it's like someone is about to shoot them rather than say 'no'. So a lot of people don't like 'asking for the order'. You've got to get through this psychological barrier or - to put it bluntly - your business is dead! You are playing the numbers game here, despite all of your careful researching. But that's why I put a price constraint on the minimum size of order for which this technique will work. If it's too small, this method is not time-effective. But if you can stand a 90 per cent rejection rate, then just focus on the ten per cent of 'yes' responses.

OK, that's the 'psyche-up' message over. Back to the practicalities.

Be absolutely clear in your mind what you expect from this telephone call. Do you want a sales meeting? An opportunity to quote? A trial order? Or just that the prospect keeps your literature on file (more than this, I hope!). Most of our clients tell us "If I can get face-to-face with the prospects, I can sell to them." And this probably applies to you (if not, wait for a future article on how to manage the face-to-face sales meeting). Be CLEAR on what you want from this call. If you're not, then forget it.

Some practical pointers..

  • How long after the mailshot?: Probably between 3 - 10 days after the mailshot should have been received. Sooner, and the recipient may not have received your mailing, later and they may have forgotten it.
  • Day of week/time of day? There's no ideal time - you will always be an intruision. Some research has suggested that the higher levels of management should not be approached on Monday morning or Friday afternoons, whilst middle management are oftem more receptive at these times. Check it out for yourself! It may be worth while at first keeping a rough record of times of day / days of week when you make succesful and unsucessfull calls, and so build up your own 'ideal' schedule.

  • Check out our article on telephone selling tips, for more guidance.
In a nutshell, that's a practical way to carry out this type of targeted marketing. It won't necessarily be easy. It can be time consuming. And it does require a disciplined approach to make it work. That's why there's one final stage in the process...

Stage 7: Recording, measuring and monitoring

Marketing is not a precise science, so the results of any actions cannot be predicted. Targeted marketing will require some experimenting to find just the right approach that works for your business. And if you are experimenting, it's important that you keep records of what you do and what the results were. Also, it can help to motivate you (or whoever you have delegated the work to) if you know what sort of success rate to expect. If you hit a 2 per cent conversion rate this week, you might feel disappointed - unless you realise that in the previous two weeks it was only 1 per cent.

If you are using a database or some sort of contact management software, then this recording can be seamlessly integrated into your targeted marketing process. Ideally, you should be recording and retaining the following for each batch of letters you send out:

  • The source of the names and addresses
  • The date(s) when they were researched
  • The actual letter sent
  • How many follow-up calls in total you made
  • How many of these resulted in a contact with the person you were aiming to reach (a 4:1 calls:contact ratio is not unusual)
  • How many of these contacts got the results you wanted (e.g. a sales meeting)
  • Subsequently, how many sales (and the value of the sales) resulted from this particular mailshot.
This may sound tedious, but it is essential if you are to change your targeted marketing approach as a result of being more or less successful with a particular:
  • Market sector
  • Source of mailing names
  • Wording of a sales letter
If you only change one variable at a time and you record and measure the results, you will have a very powerful marketing weapon at your disposal.

Good luck!


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