Prospecting for More Clients

Every month I get notes and emails from people wanting to know the best way to find new clients. This month we are starting a new feature on marketing. Each month we will explore new ways to find prospects and how to turn them into clients.

This year is winding down and before long people will start thinking about the holidays. But come January 5th everyone will be thinking about the new year and most will be starting with new budget that needs to be spent. So now is the time to start planning on how you will get a share of their budget and provide them with your great services.

One way to reach new prospects is through direct mail. With a direct mail campaign, you face four challenges. You must:

1.) Get your letter to the right person. 
2.) Get your letter opened. 
3.) Get your letter read by the right person. 
4.) Get that person to take action.

Let’s look at some ways to accomplish each of theses challenges.

Getting You Letter to the Right Person 
Your letter should be addressed to the person in charge of sales and marketing, or – if you’re writing to a small firm (20 employees or less) – to the president. If these names aren’t listed in the manufacturers directory, call the company to find out the person’s name, the correct spelling, and his or her title.

Getting Your Letter Opened
Be aware that businesses are deluged with piles of mail every day, much of it unwanted. You’ll be compelling with all that other mail for your prospect’s attention – and, of course, your letter may be tossed by a secretary before it even reaches your prospect. So, what kind of mailing is most likely to safely reach your prospect and then interest then enough to open it?

Very important: your mailing has to look like a personal business letter. It should not look like a mass mailing piece. So don’t address your envelopes with computer-generated labels; each envelop should be typed or printed from a printer. Also, don’t hand-address the envelope – it doesn’t look business like.

Use good-quality paper stock for you envelop and letterhead. If you can’t create your own or can’t afford a graphic artist, many quick-print shops now offer desktop publishing services and can produce a professional-looking letterhead design at low cost.

Here’s a tip from the book Guerrilla Marketing Attack by Jay Conrad Levinson: instead of using one stamp, use eight stamps which add up to the same amount. Levinson says:

“Who could fail to open a letter with eight stamps? When was the last time you received such a letter? If found a letter with eight stamps in the mail, isn’t there a good chance you’d open it first?”

We have used this technique several times to get a prospects attention with great success: Send an empty plastic video cassette box to your prospect with their company’s name and logo printed on the label. When the prospect opens the box he sees a post-it note saying something like: “This tape doesn’t exist yet, but it could by calling me.” Enclose a brochure or cover letter in the box. If it is a big prospect or one you really want to work with, send the package next day air. Now, That package will get opened.

Getting Your Letter Read 
When you write a direct mail letter, understand the mindset of your prospect. They are too busy to waste time reading every letter that lands on their desk.

They will most likely read the first paragraph, then toss the letter if it doesn’t capture and hold their interest.

So how do you grab your prospect’s attention?

It’s simple: offer a solution to a problem there experiencing. Again, quoting from Guerrilla Marketing Attack:

“It is not difficult to flag the attention of prospects with the problem; merely state it clearly. Then, offer the relief and joy of your product or service to those with the problem.

Former advertising superstar Alvin Eicoff said, ‘Set forth the problem. Explain the solution. And then demonstrate why your specific product or service best provides that solution.’ He also said, ‘The first visual and audio elements of a commercial should state the problem clearly and concisely. The potential customer should feel a strong personal identification with the problem presented, reflexively nodding his or her head in acknowledgment.'”

In other words, don’t talk about how terrific your new realtime editing system is. Your reader could care less. You should talk about them, not you. Tell them specifically how their company can benefit from using your services. Start with an attention-grabbing opening sentence. And try to add drama by making the facts interesting.

What problems do your prospects have that you can help solve with video? Here are some you can mention in your letters:

1.) Print brochures and still photos can’t show a product in action. Prospects are very reluctant to buy an expensive piece of equipment until they see it in action.

2.) Traditional marketing materials – color brochures sent with cover letters – typically get around a 2 -3 % response rate. Pretty anemic, considering the cost to print a slick, glossy brochure.

3.) Studies show that the cost of the average in-person sales call is $275 – a lot of money for a small company.

4.) Sales people often spend much of their time explaining how a prospect works, rather than doing what they do best: sell.

5.) Companies sometimes set up live product demonstrations for prospects, an expensive and time-consuming undertaking.

Get That Person to Take Action 
One of the most effective techniques is to follow up your letters with a phone call. There are good reasons for this: you will find out if the person making the decisions received you letter. The personal phone contact can help establish a business relationship. If you mention in your letter that you will be calling in a week, your prospect will probably give some thought to your offer.

I’ve tried this kind of phone follow-up, and I’ve also tried using business reply cards. Some people have told me that they get better results using business reply cards. Maybe it’s because they don’t like making follow-up calls. Or maybe it’s because people feel more comfortable using reply cards – perhaps it lets people feel more in control of the situation. If you are like me and hate warm (cold) calling, hire someone to call for you.

They could call and say I am ______ from ________ and we recently sent you a video case describing our video services. After discovering that they received the empty video case and that they might have some questions they could schedule an appointment for you to visit their office or to call them back. This will free you up to do more important work and you will get a better response from your mailing.

Business Reply Cards
Using only a business reply card you will get about one production job for every 100 letters you mail out. You will increase this to three to five or more with a follow-up phone call. Talking to someone on the phone allows you to answer questions they might have that they wouldn’t have asked had you not called.

This may not sound like a blistering response rate. What you have to remember is that the key to business is the “lifetime value”of a client. A customer satisfied client will return for more projects, and order dubs regularly. For example, last year we did a tape for a company and two months ago they called us to do another project for them. Most importantly in the past year they have referred two other companies.

Remember, its not how many people don’t respond or how many tell you that they are not interested on the phone, it’s the quality of work you do after the sale that keeps them coming back. We recently divided the total sales (including repeat business and referrals) by the number of letters we mailed out and each letter we mailed out generated $87 dollars worth of business. In other words we got paid $87 dollars every time we made a follow-up call to a company whether they used our services or not. Not bad huh?

If you do decide to approach manufactures using direct mail, you may very well get some responses within a few weeks. Many small companies are thinking about using video, and your letter can be a catalyst for them to take action. This has happened to me several times.

More often, however, you’ll get no response. Or, if you’re using phone follow-ups, the prospect will be non-committal.

Then, one day out of the blue – sometimes years later – that company will call. This past July we received a call from a manufacturer I’d contacted two years prior. They’d saved my letter, and they’re finally ready to do a video.

Don’t Get Discouraged
The point is this: don’t get discouraged if your direct mail effects don’t get instant results. Keep mailing to the same companies: We repeat mailings every year. Marketing experts claim that we need to see something seven times before we pay attention to it (hence why we get good success from the empty video case, no won want to throw it away.). The firm may have hired a sales manager who realizes the value of marketing with video. Or maybe the idea of using video for marketing purposes was not afforable three years ago, but now their competitors are using video and they have to create one to keep their customers.

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