A couple of months ago, two engineers dropped by our office to talk about a lead generation program for their consultancy business. “Things are slow,” said one of them, “and we might have to lay off some of our staff.”
So we asked questions and learned about how they made their money, got an idea of their budget and they went away while we went to work developing a program for them.
I called them a week or so later to set up our next meeting and they asked if we could postpone for a while because they were up to their elbows on a new project that had just come in.
“Sure, we can wait,” I said.
I wanted to add “But I don’t know if you can” and then ask if he’d ever heard of Howard Ruff.
Howard Ruff was one of the first of those financial self-help authors. At one point, back in the ‘70s, his newsletter “Ruff Times” had 175,000 subscribers. If he still has that many, all those $149 subscriptions bring in about $2,600,000 a year. He had his own syndicated TV show for a while and he’s written a lot of books. One of them was on the NYT bestseller list for over two years.
I remember him for one great line he came up with back in 1975. He wrote “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
It’s a fancy way of restating the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared.”
When our engineer clients get close to the end of their current project, their pipeline is going to be empty and they’ll come in for another talk. If they had launched their lead generation program while they were busy, their next project, and the one after that, would already be walking through the door.
Here are some ideas for you to use as a refresher on the essentials of using direct marketing to fill your business pipeline.
• Start with your target market. Who are they? What interests them? It helps to visualize these people by creating an internal image of what one of them might look like. Give her a name and a face. Gladys. Imagine Gladys at her mailbox or leafing through a magazine and you will never, ever, even consider one of those undistinguished, boasting, empty promise pieces.
• Begin talking to Gladys on a “knowledge level” which means using something you already know about her. (Gladys is stand in for your entire audience, remember.)
• Develop a curriculum approach. Companies and people who have purchased from you in the past are the most likely to buy again and to refer others to you. To keep your new business pipeline always filled, it is good to continue to talk to your customers even when they aren’t buying. A newsletter can be great as long as it’s about something of interest to all those Gladyses.
• Email hints and tips are helpful. Thank you notes are nice for previous business. Remember their birthdays; not everyone will. Unexpected rewards are a special surprise.
• Keep your database clean and updated with everyone’s change of address, at home and at the office. Also, remember to keep track of what they’ve done with you in the past: when they purchased, what they bought, etc. 1800flowers is very good at reminding me that last year I sent four bouquets at Easter time, and maybe I might want to do that again and, of course, I do.
• Always talk to people in a human voice. That means you should get the best copywriter you can find to work on your business. It is worth the investment and then stay with him/her to maintain that wonderful voice or point of view. People prefer to buy from people they like.
• My Dad used to say “do what the other guy isn’t doing”. If everyone in the real estate world is using postcards, that’s a super opportunity to mail a great letter. In fact, use a letter for anything you’re doing, as it will always outpull the postcard or the self mailer. And, if you want to use the self-mailer, add a letter anyway. Same with your catalog.
The whole idea of direct marketing is to keep the relationship going, in whatever channel the customer chooses. And, to continue to communicate with them over time.
Make a sign over your desk, It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark!