What kind of results have direct mail campaigns had in the material handling industry? Has one type of direct mail seen superior results? How can a company effectively maintain its mailing list?
— Greg Meyer, President, Meyer Material Handling Products Inc. (Indianapolis, IN)
Dave Griffith: We have had very good luck with direct mail. The key is the quality of the database and the contact information. Direct mail can be the traditional mail or e-mail. We’ve had success with both. We also look to have a series of mailers, not just a one shot item, and we tune the mailers to the territory and sales situation. The key is then follow-up and the proper design of the response process. Do they call 800 numbers? Do they mail or e-mail back interest? Do you have a coupon design to drive activity? Do you bring them to your Web site? Each has a place. In general, we look for a four to five percent return when we do it right.
Warren Gandall: We have had our single best results in dealing with vertical markets that have similar sets of needs. These are difficult to identify, but when you do, you’ll be able to sell to them with direct mail. It all depends on delivering a good message to the right people. If your goal is to sell things via direct mail, put prices on the mailers. If your goal is to maintain some visibility with the customer, you need frequency, even if it’s a simple postcard.
Most of your customers don’t need most of what you do most of the time. Even your best customers don’t buy more than a few times a year. No matter how clever your mailer is, you won’t prompt someone into an impulse purchase of material handling equipment. They buy it when they need it. The role of direct mail is to put your company’s name in front of them frequently so that when they need to buy, they remember you. You can direct mail for less than 30 cents per contact with the correct setup. You probably know what a sales call costs you, so that 30-cent mailer provides contact in a very cost-effective way. The first thing to remember about direct mail is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. If you choose to do a single mailing and then stop, you may as well have not done anything. You must commit to it over time to get results.
Maintaining your mailing list is the most difficult thing you’ll attempt. You should involve your salespeople, your business system and other sources so that valid customers can be pooled into a mailing database. Always mail to a person, not a company if you can. The very first group you should mail to are the people who already do business with you. Mailing lists are like a garden: Weeds will spring up in the form of outdated or dead contacts, while new contacts will only come to being if you plant them. The key is never to consider a mailing list “finished.” You always have to work on it. Once you feel you have your existing customers, you can decide to use any number of services to provide external data to find people in your market you don’t have in your customer database. There are services online, CDs and many places to buy these lists.
Greg Morrison: You may have the best mailer ever created, but if your mailing list is outdated and the mailer does not reach the designated target, it is potentially useless. The same goes for having an extremely well-maintained mailing list and a poorly executed marketing plan. You must have both. Having an effective mailer and a well-maintained mailing list are critical for a direct mail campaign to be successful.
Our company has had positive results with mailers. We consider the mailer an important marketing tool, but it is only one of many ways that we attempt to keep our name in front of consumers of our products and services. When I go into a customer or prospect’s facility, I hope to see our calendar hanging on the wall, our note pad on his desk, our hat on his head, our pen in his shirt pocket, and our golf ball and tee in his golf bag. Most of all, I want to see our products and services in his facility.
While our recently mailed flyer may be sitting in his waste basket, at least our name crossed over this person’s desk one more time. The repetition of our name reaffirms in the minds of the customer/prospect that whenever this person gets the slightest thought of any material handling products, our name is what he thinks of first. Repetition rules!
One such direct mail campaign our company has had success with is a parts special every other month. The special is promoted with a flyer that is mailed to the person who would make the decision in regard to that product. For example, every July we have our lift truck seat sale. All of our employees are attuned to this seat sale, and participation ranges from the parts department to the sales reps to the service techs. Prior to July, a massive mailing promoting great savings is sent out. It is now a tradition to buy your seat in July! In September, we have our tire sale and throughout the year, we have similar types of sales that are supported in the same consistent fashion. The direct mailing contributes to the success of these sale campaigns, but the team effort of all involved is just as important. Having all of our people involved, or at least aware of a promotion, is important. It would be embarrassing if we were to send out a mailer and someone responded, and our people didn’t know about it. During our July seat sale, our receptionist knows where to direct the call when an incoming caller is inquiring about buying a seat. We have fun with each of these promotions, and our multiple branch locations get competitive to see who sells the most seats.
The majority of all of our mailers are created in-house. Technology has made it possible to put together great mailers at affordable prices. Be careful, though. If you do keep it in-house, any hint of unprofessionalism in your mailer could backfire and turn off a potential customer. In that case, aligning yourself with a marketing professional would be the best way to proceed.
One of the best kept secrets is employing a college intern, preferably with a marketing major. He or she will do wonders with keeping your mailing list updated and sharing current marketing ideas.
Maintaining the mailing list has to be done on a daily basis and even then, it is already outdated. Each department needs to communicate whenever they encounter a change or addition. That information is then entered right away. Have your key people review the list information on the accounts they cover to check on the accuracy. The longer your list, the higher your profits!