How Not to Generate Leads
A 26-year veteran of the Ford Motor Company, Michael D. Richards, was appointed general marketing manager of Lincoln Mercury in January 2006. Prior to that, he served as Ford’s customer service division general sales manager and regional manager for the California region and the Detroit region.
Does customer service experience qualify him to oversee a direct marketing lead-generation campaign for Lincoln cars?
Richards sent me a mailing so humongous—a 10˝ x 15 1⁄2 ˝ four-color outer envelope—that it dominated everything that had come through the mail slot.
Inside the carrier envelope were two elements: a giant 20-page, four-color brochure on heavy paper stock and a 9 1⁄2˝ x 15˝ white card stock piece with a letter on the right side and a $500 certificate on the left.
In this behemoth of a mailing, Michael Richards did not ask me to order a 4x4 Navigator or offer to let me charge $44,985 to my credit card.
That is the only thing he did right.
John Miglautsch and the Question of When
Whatever electronic trail you have left behind over the course of your life will be recorded in some database or other and follow you beyond the grave.
By aggregating all the information on you and your family, database marketers can assemble elegant electronic dossiers —income, demographics, behavior, credit score, product preferences, presence of children, illnesses, criminal records and career moves, to name a few.
As a result, it is possible to predict with profitable accuracy the things you are likely to buy and can afford to pay for.
John Miglautsch of Miglautsch Marketing in Hartland, Wis. is a very savvy database marketer who I have known for a long time.
Many years ago, it was Miglautsch who alerted me to the ultimate one-word imponderable of direct marketing:
For example, Miglautsch described how periodically he would receive mailings from automobile manufacturers—Acura, Toyota, Jeep, GM and others. In his income bracket and ZIP code—combined with the layers of information contained in his electronic dossier found in databases that were rocketing around the country several hundred times a day—he certainly was a candidate for a new vehicle every few years.
But at the time, he had an old Volvo to which he was deeply attached. Although it had mileage in the six figures, Miglautsch spent a ton of money over the years keeping it in pristine condition. It ran beautifully and he had absolutely no intention of getting rid of it.
Then, one day, he totaled it on a bridge; he was in the market for a new car that afternoon.
No database in the world—no matter how sophisticated—could have predicted the “when” of a John Miglautsch automobile purchase.
Why Michael Richards’ Pitch was Wasted—Part I
Like John Miglautsch, my wife, Peggy, and I have an old Scandinavian car—a 1999 Saab 9.5 sedan with less than 60,000 miles—and we have spent big bucks with Saab to keep it running like new.
This will be our last car unless, like Miglautsch, we total it.
Even then, we would never dream of buying a Lincoln for one very basic reason: Lincolns are very large cars ad we live on a street so narrow that snow plows cannot navigate it.
Why Michael Richards’s Pitch Was Wasted—Part II
The giant mailing—which to my 71-year-old eyeballs had to cost somewhere between $2 and $3 (and likely much more)—contained to following:
* It was all about dreams. The words “dream” or “dreams” appeared 19 times in the copy.
* The brochure, made up of eight two-page spreads that stretched 30˝ long by 9 1⁄2˝ high, had a series of seven teeny inch-high, black-and-white photo stories running along the bottom entitled “My Dream.” Here was the story of a Wall Street analyst who became a Sonoma Valley winemaker and a girl who was so in love with her homemade wedding dress that she started a wedding dress design company. You get the idea. These stories had nothing to do with Lincolns and everything to do with the agency’s arty creative process.
* At the end of these dream sequences was the URL, www.mydream.tv —a YouTube-like exercise in warm fuzzies where you could see these heart-warming stories in motion. If the prospect does indeed go to this URL and gets involved with these dream story videos, Lincoln has lost the lead.
*The brochure was filled with beauty shots of exteriors and interiors of several new Lincoln models with descriptions in 7-point sans serif type—much of it reversed-out against dark and busy backgrounds making it utterly unreadable—describing the myriad features of the various models in techie Lincoln engineering jargon.
* The letter—on the left side of 9 1⁄2˝ x 15˝ addressing card—was in 7-point sans serif type and started with a self-laudatory lecture:
Dear Denison Hatch,
Recently, the level of sophistication and craftsmanship in every type of vehicle has surged upwards. The luxury market, perhaps more than any other, leads the charge. So to stay ahead of raised expectations, Lincoln has raised the bar.
* A line on the reply device stopped me cold with its marketing MBA jargon:
2. We would like to provide you with the appropriate incentive information.
How do you plan to obtain your next vehicle? __ Purchase __Lease
The Secrets of Successful Lead Generation
In my opinion, the most knowledgeable person on the planet about generating leads is Seattle guru Bob Hacker, founder of the Hacker Group.
What follows is some of Hacker’s business common sense on how to generate leads from Don Jackson’s and my “2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success.”
* In lead generation, the more you tell, the less you sell.
Copy platforms should focus on generating a lead, not closing the sale. When you say too much, you often create reasons not to respond. The goal at each step of a multi-step sale is to get to the next step. When you try to skip a step, you break the sales chain and scare away qualified buyers. Tease the prospect into wanting to know more. Be strong on emotional benefits—leave the features and advantages to the sales rep.
* Strong offers, boldly stated, are the key to success.
If the offer is a 25 percent discount, tell me now! Don’t bury it in the brochure or sixth paragraph of the letter. Tell me if I can’t survive without it. “Billboard” the offer with Johnson boxes, bold face, underlining, highlighting and inserts. And tell me often in the letter, brochure and response form.
* Test ugly early.
Pretty packages soothe. Ugly disturbs, and disturbed people respond better than peaceful people. And there’s more good news: Ugly usually costs less—which brings down cost per response.
* Assume the reader doesn’t care.
Because they don’t care about you or your product. They want to know what’s in it for them. First, tell them what they get. Then, if that grabs them, they may sit still for your story.
* Use the great motivators.
Greed, anger, fear, guilt and exclusivity. Fear of loss and want of gain have sold more product than all other offers combined. Use the ephemeral if you want to win awards; use the visceral if you want to sell product.
* Use words that sell.
Pepper your copy with words like: understand - proven - health - easy - free- guarantee - money - safety - save - love - new- discover - right - results - truth - comfort - proud - profit -deserve - happy - trust - value - fun - vital
*Avoid response killers—words to avoid: cost - pay - contract - sign - try - worry - loss - lose - hurt - death - buy - bad - sell - sold - price - decision - hard - difficult - obligation - liable - fail
A Note on the Illustrations
Below are illustrations from the Lincoln mailer. My scanner is too small to take in the massive size of the pieces from this murky, moody, muddy mailing effort. The letter and $500 certificate are two halves of the same cardboard sheet. The envelope design that depicts an interstate highway with a clover-leaf exit is repeated on the back of the envelope. The brochure cover is half the full cover, and when opened to the full 30˝ front and back, it shows a diorama of a city skyline taken from an interstate with no vehicles on it. The page with the car seats and reversed-out sans serif mouse-type is one-fourth the full two-page spread.