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Focus Your Direct Response Marketing for Lower Costs and Higher Response

By Mac McIntosh

The complaint is a common one among business-to-business companies that depend on direct response marketing: “I’m sick of spending a fortune to send out thousands of full-color catalogs and direct mail pieces only to get a measly 1% response rate. How can I cut costs and find a more practical way to get my target market to respond to my mailings?”

Marketing Meeting

My clients have found that the best place to start is by determining who their best customers are, then targeting their marketing efforts at companies and individuals who are similar in nature. If you want to do the same, the first step is to rank your current customers by three criteria:

  • How much revenue each represents for your company
  • How profitable each customer is to your company
  • How well the needs of each “fits” with what your company offers

The companies that appear at the top of all three lists are your best customers.

The next step is to determine the unique attributes of these top customers and to look for trends. What industries are they in? What applications do they share for your products? Are they large, medium or small companies? Where are they located? Who are the key decision makers and what are their titles?

Armed with this information, you next analyze your database to find which companies are similar in nature to your best customers and then start targeting your direct mail, e-mail or telemarketing efforts at them.

If you don’t have enough names in your database, you can supplement it by purchasing third-party lists that include the companies and contacts you’re trying to reach. Once they respond to your offer or mailing, you can then add them to your database.

Another group of contacts to consider targeting is customers who bought in the past but haven’t bought recently. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge to get these inactive or ex-customers to buy again. To get the ball rolling, try thanking them for their previous business and acknowledging that you are aware they haven’t bought recently. Also ask them to let you know if there was a problem so you can take corrective action. Consider making them a special “preferred customer only” offer such as a substantial discount on their next purchase to get them buying again.

The next group to focus on is those prospective clients who have inquired about your products or services in the past but have not yet purchased. Research shows that three out of four inquirers have longer-term needs, and by keeping in touch with them as they move through the buying cycle, you can build a sales-winning relationship with them.

And don’t forget the internet. A recent study shows that more than 60% of B-to-B buyers are now looking for products and services on search engines and in specialized directories. Ensure that your site is optimized to catch these targeted inquiries; then, once they get to your site, give the prospects information that helps them along the buying cycle: have an e-newsletter they can subscribe to, white papers or reports they can download and a toll-free number that is listed on every page of your website. If people can contact your sales department by e-mail, ensure that someone actually responds to those inquiries promptly!

Responding to inquiries doesn’t have to be expensive either. Instead of sending out full-size brochures, one software company I know simply mails postcards once a month in order to keep in touch with its prospective customers. The postcards elicit a response from a large percentage of these prospects when they are ready to take the next buying step.

Founding partner of B2B demand generation agency AquireB2B, and president and principal consultant of B2B sales lead management consulting firm, Mac McIntosh Inc., Mac specializes in helping companies generate more high-quality B2B sales leads, nurture, qualify and convert them into sales, track and measure results, and prove a favorable return on investment.

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