A B-to-B Tool That Can Help Grow Your Sales
By Jean M. Gianfagna
In the world of business-to-business marketing, where buying decisions can involve entire committees and take weeks or even months, multi-part direct marketing campaignssometimes called "drip" marketingare proving to be quite powerful.
Drip marketing is a carefully planned approach that deploys multiple mailings in a series over a set period of time, instead of sending out single-shot mailings or catalogs. For B-to-B marketers whose goal is lead generation for a sales force, it's increasingly popular.
Reasons to Use Drip Marketing
Lead-generation direct mail is used to create opportunities for sales representatives; it also maximizes their chances of success by producing serious inquiries from qualified prospects. There are many reasons drip marketing is particularly effective in this arena.
Repeating your core sales message in an attention-getting drip campaign:
* Captures the interest of prospects and engages them in your message;
* Increases your brand recognition;
* Educates prospects about your product or service;
* Gives prospects several chances (and reasons) to say "yes";
* Gives sales representatives a reason to call the prospect to follow up.
In addition, a mailing series offers you the opportunity to individually showcase a specific product or service attribute in each effort, so that over the course of time, you present multiple sales messages that answer prospects' questions and overcome buying resistance. The result often is more leads from more qualified potential buyers.
How Often Should You Mail?
There's no set formula for determining how often you should mailevery situation must be evaluated individually based on the time and money you're willing to invest in acquiring a lead or sale, and the specific factors affecting your market. However, there are some guidelines that can help you develop an effective drip strategy.
A typical drip campaign calls for a series of mailings approximately every two to three weeks over a period of 10 to 12 weeks. Mailings spaced closer
together often are delivered on top of each other, diluting their impact. Mailings sent more than three weeks apart tend to lose their punch, as prospects begin to forget the sales messages from earlier mailings and may fail to notice the link between mailings. Campaigns that last longer than three months tend to become boring and too familiar.
Total mailings usually number between four and six, with some sort of payoff in the final mailing piece. For example, following a series of individual postcard mailings, the last mailing might combine all of them into one self-mailer so that the prospect has the entire campaignwith all of its sales messagesin his hands.
How Consistent Should the Creative Approach Be?
It is important to develop a strong creative theme that links your mailings and builds recognition. Prospects should know instantly that each mailing is from your company and that it is related to the previous mailing.
Yet each promotion should have a distinctive message and clearly be a new mailing in the series so prospects have a reason to read it. And, of course, each mailing should contain a compelling offer and a strong call to action.
Keep in mind that as prospects begin to recognize you're sending them a campaign series, their expectations rise with each mailing. To keep them interested and engaged, your creative must keep the excitement level high.
What About Message Constancy?
Your core product message should be repeated in every mailing, but you also should use the series to paint the bigger picture about your product or service and the advantages of doing business with you. Say something new about your product or service in each mailing to build your case. If the first mailing focuses on product innovation, for example, make the second mailing about quality assurance, the third about customer support, and so on.
You also can consider a series of customer testimonials, a series illustrating a variety of successful applications for your product or service, or a series with numbered reasons why your product or service is the right solution for prospects' needs.
What Formats Should You Use?
Postcard or self-mailer campaigns are popular. Postcards offer great value, especially if you're on a tight budget. They can be colorful and inexpensive to mail, and they're ideal for delivering short, focused messages. Self-mailers work well, too, especially with dynamic graphics and multiple panels that open in unusual ways to reveal something inside.
Some B-to-B mailers use personalized letters in a series, particularly to C-level executives (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, etc.) whose secretaries could be screening out anything that looks promotional (such as a self-mailer). Personalized letters work especially well if the letters are signed by the sales representative who eventually will be contacting the customer.
Another option is dimensional mail. A drip campaign made up entirely of
dimensional mailings requires a very strong creative theme and related premiums, otherwise the mailing format becomes a distraction, and a costly one at that. Dimensional mail by its nature also creates high expectations on the prospect's part as he anticipates what's in the package. It had better be good, or the result will be disappointmentand the rest of your series may never get opened.
You also can consider combining a postcard or self-mailer series with a final dimensional mailing using the same creative theme, to end with a bang and deliver a premium or prize with a compelling final offer.
7 Tips to Maximize Your Chances of Success
1. Plan all mailings in the campaign at the outset. Not only can you save money on print production if you have them printed at one time, you'll be much more likely to execute your plan. It's very easy to lose focus and let the schedule slip.
2. Track response for each mailing with separate tracking codes to see which messages or tactics caused prospects to act.
3. As responses come in, delete respondent names from subsequent mailings in the series. Move these responses immediately into the fulfillment cycle.
4. Plan the fulfillment process up front, especially the involvement of the sales force. Be sure reps know about the campaign and its exact timing, and that they get response data in a timely manner to close the loop with the prospect. It's also smart to design your fulfillment materials to match the graphic look of the campaign.
5. Be sure you fully understand the roles of everyone in the B-to-B
decision-making process. A drip campaign to influencers, such as CFOs or CIOs, might be even more effective than a mailing to end-users who
already understand your product or service and know your company.
6. The most common marketing mistake is wasting valuable marketing resources promoting your product or service to people who will never buy from you. One of the most expensive drip campaigns I ever received was from a company that sent me barbeque sauce, grill tools and an oven mitt in a dimensional series. Though the theme was clever (and the freemiums very nice), our company was not a prospect for its serviceand to top it off, my name was misspelled on all the pieces.
It's absolutely essential to target your mail to the right prospects with an accurate list. If necessary, call to verify recipient names and titles before you mail, especially if you're selling a very high-end product to a small, highly targeted list of executive decision-makers.
7. Another common mistake is isolating your mail campaign from the rest of your marketing. Ideally, your mail campaign should be timed to capitalize on other marketing activities and opportunities, such as an upcoming trade show or the launch of a new ad campaign. And, your creative theme should be carried into ads, trade show booths, collateral and even your Web site, to build recognition and deliver a consistent, memorable message.
Repetitive contact with prospects through a drip marketing campaign may be just what you need to ensure that your direct mail gets attention, your messages get heard, and your prospects respond.
Jean M. Gianfagna is president of Gianfagna Marketing & Communications Inc., an award-winning, B-to-B direct marketing and advertising agency in Cleveland serving Fortune 500 clients. Recently named the 2003 Professional of the Year by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington, D.C., she is a frequent speaker on direct marketing and past president of the Northeast Ohio Direct Marketing Association. For more information, visit www.gianfagnamarketing.com, or call her at (440) 808-4700.