Why Small Business Owners Get Better Sales Results From Relationship Marketing

There are 3 major differences where direct marketing, also known as relationship marketing veers sharply away from traditional marketing and advertising.

You’ll see why it’s the most cost effective method any business can do. But especially small business because let’s face it – you’ll never have the money to throw at marketing and advertising that BIG business does. 

And the good news is you don’t have to. These proven principles will work on or offline across the board, for any business, in any media, with any product or service. 

But first let’s be clear that direct marketing is not just direct mail. It includes mail of course, but that was just the beginning it’s now expanded to include all the mediums available today. Remember the media is just the delivery method.  

So here’s the 3 major differences between traditional marketing and advertising AND direct marketing using direct response advertising. 

The first is – Direct Marketing is based on a one-on-one customer relationship which gives the ability to have 2-way communications. 

Unlike traditional marketing direct marketing relies on dialogue. We all know that people do business with people they know, like and trust and that is best achieved by building the relationship. So it’s not the “catch and kill” approach here. 

Getting the contact details of your prospective customer is goal number one because it puts you in control of the communication process.   You are no longer at the mercy of the crowded marketplace when you are “talking” to your list. 

It’s also easier to find more people like them. 

The second is – Direct Marketing always has a call-to-action so the customer is asked to do something. 

And that’s because you “ask” them to take the action you want them to take – either request more information or place an order immediately.   Whatever is the next logical step in your sales process. In fact it’s called “a call to action” or “asking for the order” which doesn’t happen in the traditional advertising model. 

You see there are actually 2 types of advertising. 

The dreaded awareness advertising and the champion “direct response”. 

It’s important to understand this because the biggest mistake I see small business owners make is they copy big businesses. You won’t make this mistake now you know about direct response advertising but naturally people think that big companies are successful so they must know what they are doing and they “copy” their type of advertising. It’s the last thing you should do. 

Big companies use Awareness advertising which is image based advertising or brand awareness. These big companies, with well known brands have expensive ads that aren’t really selling they are promoting their brand trying to get you to “feel good” hoping when you are out in the marketplace making a buying decision, you’ll remember them. 

They never ask their customer to do anything – think about all the ads you see on TV.   It takes many years and many millions of dollars to make an impact. So don’t waste your money on this. You need ads that sell NOW. 

And we’ve all seen those print ads that don’t ask the reader to do anything – just check out the yellow pages. People pay tens of thousands of dollars for just one advertisement, depending on the size.  And what do they do? Put a big fat logo at the top, boring feature after boring feature in bullet points and a phone number at the bottom. All about the company and product and NOT about the customer. 

Direct response ads, on the other hand are all about the customer, their needs and problems because your customer is listening to radio station WIIFM or What’s in it for ME. And they offer a solution, make an offer then ask the customer to “respond” using a call to action. 

It’s obvious the difference this must have on your advertising response and now that you know this you’ll never look at advertising the same way again! 

The third thing is – Direct Marketing results are measurable which means you know what works and what doesn’t. 

Unlike mass advertising you can make an offer in any media and track the results. It’s simple. So once you know what works and what doesn’t you can test other ads or media to try to improve the results and increase your profit margin. 

Tracking can be simple or sophisticated depending on your systems and resources and will vary for online and offline activities. But all you need is a way to identify where the responses came from and count them. 

You can have proven, predictable results to build your campaigns on and who wouldn’t want that?

Integrated Marketing Tip 3 – Direct Mail and Email Marketing

Let’s All be Friends: Integrating Direct Mail and Email Marketing Marketers understand that first impressions mean everything. And they also know that those good impressions need to be sustained. Messages should be reinforced – many times, and in multiple channels – until your audience sees you as recognizable, trustworthy, and someone they want to do business with.

Unfortunately, using only one channel – say, email exclusively – to communicate your message forces the recipient to interact and respond via the channel you choose, not the one that is most comfortable for the recipient. That one-size-fits-all approach often leads to less-successful campaigns; but it can be avoided by using email in concert with direct mail. Indeed, response increases across the board when direct mail and email are combined in a multi-channel campaign. This two-ply marketing strategy will also strengthen your brand by reinforcing a consistent theme across channels.

Fortunately, the tools to coordinate a synchronized, direct mail and email campaign do not need to be overly complicated. Where do you begin? There are four elements to consider: branding; timing; the call to action; and analysis.

1. Branding and consistency: Both your direct mail piece and your email should contain the same slogans, logo, and other marks that help your prospects identify your company. If your marketing campaign includes a tagline or other brand-reinforcing slogans, you can repeat those in both the email subject and the envelope copy or a prominent line in the postal piece. Simple and to the point is best: keep your headline between 30 to 40 characters and try to make it brand-specific, action-oriented, or benefit-driven. To maximize the effectiveness of your direct mail and email campaign, play one off the other – and play to each channel’s strengths. You might, for example, consider sending the direct mail piece first, introducing the benefits you offer the prospect. Let the recipient know that in a week you’ll be following up with an email with a special online coupon.

2. Timing and frequency: Much has been studied and written about the day of week and time of day that maximize email open rates (it really depends on your audience – test and see what works best for you). More important is the timing of your email relative to your print mailer. In most cases, it is best for the first email to hit a week after the postal mail arrives (give or take a day or two). The printed piece goes first because it has a longer shelf life. Emails should continue at regular intervals.

How often should you mail? It depends on what you’re sending. Brochures and catalogs are often mailed quarterly, accompanied by monthly emails. Postcards and smaller printed pieces can be mailed more often. The general rule is to send two to four emails for every printed package.

3. The call to action: The importance of the call to action really can’t be overemphasized. Every piece in every channel needs a strong call to action. By using multi-channel vehicles, you have the opportunity to restate your call to action multiple times, and perhaps in multiple ways (maybe the print mailer asks the recipient to visit your store and the email asks her to visit your website).

4. Analysis: Some businesses measure a marketing campaign’s success by identifying responses by channel. Yet this is not as accurate as viewing the results as a whole. Remember that the whole point of integrated marketing is that channels reinforce each other. So the consumer may respond to an email, but it is possible the initial postal piece was the reason why he opened the email to begin with. Or the customer may phone in an order after reading both a direct mail piece and an email. So it’s important to test your email and direct mail campaigns individually, but to also measure how well they worked in coordination with other channels. In an effective integrated marketing campaign, the channels will work in harmony and, therefore, it is best that they are evaluated that way.

Direct mail and email have different strengths. But sending a consistent message through both channels is a great way to generate multiple contacts with your prospects, reinforcing your consistent messaging and building a relationship with your targets (which is, after all, the key to the sale).

Relationship Marketing for Prospects

As personal selling to cold prospects becomes more difficult and expensive and as business-to-business marketers come to realize the prime prospects in their niche markets are relatively few, relationship marketing becomes the priority.

First there were the separate discipline of advertising, public relations, direct marketing, sales promotion, event management and personal selling, then integrated marketing communications brought all those separate disciplines together in one combined approach to the marketplace. Relationship marketing is integrated marketing communications to qualified individuals.

For the business-to-business marketer relationship marketing has four components:

- Developing and maintaining a list of key prospects, which means winnowing down a mailing list of 2000 to the best 200, or to the top 100, decision-makers in your specialty.

- Staying in contact with the list and requalifying it; “Still the same decision-maker? And assistant? Same address? Same general qualifications?

- Establishing credibility with key prospects over time by offering choices of content by trade media, the Internet, phone, mail or in person.

- Being on call when a need arises. On first contact perhaps 95 percent of your key prospects will have no immediate need. But over time, perhaps 100 percent will have a need.

The last bullet point is why repeated direct mail canvassing of a large database to gain a few immediate prospects is not a wise relationship marketing strategy. Instead of harassing key prospects with that kind of mail (and cheapening the perception of your company), it is better to send valuable information to a much smaller, more qualified list and create a favorable perception with them. Include qualified opinion leaders on that list. So they may digest your information and have knowledge of your products/services when asked by a decision-maker.

How do you get the attention of decision-makers, and how do you get them interested in your products or services?

Today decision-makers are scan-readers bookmarking, or rolodexing, future resources. Unless there is an immediate need, they don’t have time to thoroughly read valuable, targeted content on particular products or services, they only have time to differentiate between good content and promotional schlock. The source of the good content gets filed, put in a rolodex, or bookmarked on a Web browser for the inevitable future need. That exchange, your good content for the decision-maker’s interest and attention, is the beginning of a marketing relationship. It is no coincidence the increasing dominance of the Internet and the World Wide Web and the resulting overflow of information have made credible, targeted content important to every business-to-business sales and relationship marketing effort.

How do you stay in touch with and on the short list of the majority of your prospects who do not have an immediate need?

Canvass your select prospects regularly offering content by phone, email or mail in exchange for more information about their needs. They will respond as their needs change and develop, or if they tire of their current provider(s). Sometimes making it onto a short list of invited bidders is as far as the prospect will allow the relationship to develop. But if you make that short list, you are conducting a successful relationship marketing effort.

Establishing the credibility of your company’s special expertise in solving prospective purchasers problems paves the way for your sales consultants to provide the decision-maker with expert professional service to customize your offering and close the sale. The consultant is introduced into the relationship as a person possessing valuable information needed by the prospect to solve a problem.