What is it with direct mail as the panacea for lead generation? There must be something about the simplicity of producing a piece of mail that goes to real names on a page to get sales people dreaming of “Glen Garry Glen Ross” leads flying into the door. Is it the fact that with a piece of paper and a name the process seems more real? Does it mean that the salesperson somehow doesn’t need to cold call the person? Management must like the girth of bulk mail because it feels like things are progressing. Unfortunately, the data indicates otherwise.
Mail response rates were NEVER over 2% consistently even in the days of people actually liking to get mail. The response rate has ALWAYS been near 0% when the salespeople don’t take the initiative to FOLLOW-up. With the plethora of alternative market communication vehicles available today, the use of direct mail should be judged against the needs of the company and the relative strengths of each vehicle.
A well placed article in either a virtual magazine or a real world magazine can often yield better response rates. The critical inclusion of a challenge or call to action can prompt the reader to communicate. Soliciting intellectual communication is the modern equivalent of raising interest. Depending on the product, even a banner ad can bring heightened interest to your product. This yields two benefits for one: the generation of an interested prospect and a “read” on market metrics derived from the analytics behind the responses.
Current thought on “marketing”, if that even exists anymore, is to build a community of interest and intellectual exchange. Producing outbound material is more a function of virtual content than paper. Thoughts are more valuable than messages. Solicting active responses to content is more profitable than phone calls. The difference is in the personal investment of the audience. Open source development taught us that finding an avenue to encourage personal investment in a larger outcome is a powerful business function. I can think of no better outcome than having your customers actively invested in the improvement of your business. Getting to that result is harder than one might think.
Establishing an “Apple” or “Red Hat”-like following requires a significant amount of content generation. Everyone in the company should be involved in the effort. PlazaBridge Group has supported multiple clients in this endeavor and it is hard work. Everyone must think like a journalist. Everyone should be willing to write something daily. But most importantly, everyone must be a student of their company’s products and services. The days of being a functional manager are limited. When the Plant Manager must write about how the products are made for a particular customer set he crosses over from being “operations” into “sales”. But the payoff is well worth it: enthusiastic customers, inflow of critical customer opinions and a plethora of new product ideas.