Keeping Pace with Small Business Owners
Getting the attention of business prospects is a difficult task in itself, before adding the extra challenge of securing a sales meeting with them.
How do you convince small business owners and employee benefits managers to meet with your sales representatives to learn about the retirement plans you offer when the request is akin to "asking someone to spend Friday evening reviewing their life insurance policy," posits Bob Guidara, president of Dara Direct Inc., the Westford, MA, direct marketing agency that helped Fleet Investment Management create a lead generation campaign that does just that.
For Fleet and Dara Direct, the answer was a direct mail piece that begged to be opened (778FLEETB1199). The 7" x 7" mailing features the image of a running shoe that is formed by pulling two flaps together with a shoelace tied in a bow. When the lace is undone and the flaps are pulled apart, a 7" x 11" letter from Managing Director Robert Ash is revealed. Because the free pair of running shoes is the first message prospects see when looking at the mailing, the letter immediately addresses the reason why Fleet is giving away the freebie and asks for the sales meeting.
The inside panels of the two flaps are used advantageously to promote the Reebok running shoes premium and to list Fleet's retirement plan options.
Winthrop Printing printed, scored and die cut the direct mail piece before it was sent to Mass Communications, the lettershop that folded, polybagged, addressed and mailed the campaign. The shoelaces were tied by hand at an agency that provides work for people with Down's Syndrome and other mental disabilities, says Fleet's Jamie Stahler.
True to the classic lead generation formula, the letter and perf-off business reply card don't tell prospects too much about the product in advance; selling the retirement plan is the salesman's job.
According to Stahler, the financial services company knew it wanted to give prospects a premium, as retirement plans are a considerable investment for business owners. Dara Direct came up with the idea for the running shoes and the campaign creative platform. Bob Guidara served as creative director and shared copywriting duties with account executive Mitch Glazier. Jack Fountain, from Propaganda Inc., designed the mailing, which included the photography of Robert Sansone.
Fleet mailed 52,200 efforts to small businesses with under 100 employees as well as to individuals with self-employment income in the New England and New York regions. The firm culled these names from a small, internal database of customers that are broken out by profession, says Stahler, and from rented lists with demographics that matched the existing customer database.
The total budget for the campaign was in the $100,000 to $249,000 range.
According to both Stahler and Guidara, results from the campaign are not final at this point, since the sales cycle can take anywhere from months to years. Currently, more than 500 appointments have been set up with Fleet sales representatives, a tremendous response for this market, says Guidara.
"Generally, mailings that request more than dropping a reply card in the mail, making a phone call or visiting a Web site significantly reduce the response rate. In cases where the call to action' involves attending a seminar or, as in this case, agreeing to meet face-to-face with a sales person, it is ambitious at best to expect more than a 0.25 percent response rate. Considering that the mailing achieved a net response of 1 percent, it's reasonable to conclude that our results quadrupled the norm in terms of generating qualified leads while simultaneously building brand awareness," says Guidara.
The cost per response, Guidara reports, was $235, which is half the industry average of $400 for a sales call.