How to Get Leads by Mail









Getting leads by direct mail is an art of its own. It has a unique set of creative rules quite different from direct mail that sells a product or service by itself. Everything we talk about here also applies to e-mail lead acquisition, and to consumer lead acquisition programs.

To make the most of your lead acquisition efforts, step back and notice where lead acquisition stands in your sale sequence.

The Lead Is Only a First Step in a Series of Events That Lead to a Sale

This obvious point is often overlooked in the day-to-day execution of lead acquisition campaigns.

Let's look at the steps of a typical business sales sequence.

  1. Mail or e-mail is sent to get leads.
  2. A follow-up brochure and cover letter are mailed or e-mailed to those who respond.
  3. A salesman follows up with mail/telephone/e-mail marketing, or an in-person visit.
  4. Shortly thereafter, a detailed proposal is custom made for the prospect’s needs.
  5. Even later, perhaps after several more contacts, the sale is made.

Given This Typical Sale Sequence, Where Do Leads Fit in?

What is the job of Step 1? Is it to sell the widget? No, that happens much later, after we know more about the client's needs, budget, etc. Step 1 is simple. It's only purpose is to sell qualified leads, no more, no less.

Many lead acquisition campaigns are weakened when their creators confuse widget leads with widget selling, possibly because they are too close to the task. They know the ultimate goal is to sell widgets so they pour out a stream of information aimed at a sale. That is admirable, but not practical. Remember, the only purpose of Step 1 is to sell qualified leads, not widgets.

Step back and say to yourself, "What will sell the greatest number of qualified leads?" When you have the answer to that question, you have the answer to your lead acquisition strategy.

Keeping the right perspective on leads takes special discipline and courage when you are supervised by an executive who wants to see something created that "sells." It is not always easy to convince a senior executive of the best use of lead acquisition in a sales sequence. And, in fact, it may be best to create a lead acquisition campaign that talks very little about his widget's wonderful features.

Even Though You Have the Right Perspective on Your Leads’ Place in the Sale Sequence We Still Face Creating the Right Message

THE FIRST CARDINAL RULE OF LEAD ACQUISITION COPYWRITING: Aim at arousing curiosity, not dispensing facts

Generally, the less you say about the widgets in your lead copy, the better off you will be. Instead, focus on the benefits and creating questions in the prospect's mind. There are two reasons for this. First, if you give someone a lot of information up front why should they send for more? Give them lots of information and they think they know enough to make a buying decision, which will probably be, "No,” or, "Not right now," without your salesman to explain the details and start the closing sequence. Second, by giving too much information up front you steal your salesman's thunder. The salesman has nothing new to say if you told the prospect everything before the salesman's contact.

Your lead acquisition mailings should be brief. In fact a single page letter with a few paragraphs is normally enough. Make responding an impulse action, free of deep thinking, and clearly not an obligation of any kind.

Your lead acquisition copy should focus on benefits, not features. It should tease, not sell. It should create an itch of curiosity and promise relief from the itch simply by sending for more information.

THE 2ND CARDINAL RULE OF LEAD ACQUISITION COPYWRITING –Your copy should create more questions than it answers.

You may want to include premiums, discounts, or other incentives for a prompt response. The Limited Time Offer, a backbone of direct marketing, should be a part of such special offers.

Here are the beginnings of two hypothetical letters aimed at motivating small business owners to inquire about minicomputers:

Dear Mr. Smith,

The ABC company proudly announces its new Micro Plus office minicomputer. Offering rapid text editing capability, and electronic filing efficiency, this new system is expandable to use as a workstation in multi-terminal applications, or an independent machine. It is easily carried by your employees for work at home, or travel, and it costs far less than you think it would. It features a 3 GB RAM, and 980 GB of hard disk space.

That's okay as far as it goes, and it will pull some leads. But it gives away too much information up front. I think the following copy would be better.

Dear Mr. Jones,

Would a 100% increase in your office's computer efficiency be a welcome relief? Would you like to wave a magic wand that instantly gets rid of filing problems, incompatible systems, lost information, lost paperwork, backlogs, bottlenecks and overtime? It's not a dream. We can do it for you. Fast.

That’s because we have a new computer miracle for you. How does it work? Why is it so superior, yet inexpensive?

Send me the enclosed Information Request by July 18, and I'll e-mail you full information about our Micro Plus minicomputer – and mail you a FREE computer carrying case, with our compliments.

The second letter's opening was aimed at creating personal curiosity by displaying benefits. Notice that the second example does not even mention the product early on though it would later mention it to give us a qualified lead.

Copy Should Not Focus on the Product As Much As the Opportunity of Something for Nothing

The second version homes in directly on positive personal expectations within the mind of a living, breathing person.

Now to the subject of lead quality. Everyone has a different opinion about what constitutes an adequately qualified lead.

Everyone's needs are unique. Some companies are content with leads that just put their salesman in contact with a prospect. Other companies demand extensive prequalification of leads because their backend sales efforts are so expensive. Choosing the right mailing list is the first step in prequalification.

Generally, Leads Should Be As Loosely Qualified As Possible

After all if you want 100% presold leads why not just put an order form in the mailing and fire your sales staff?

Like mail that sells directly, your lead acquisition mail should be tested constantly. Careful tracking of cost per lead is very important. Also, tracking of cost per sale from each lead source will tell an important story.

We created a direct mail lead acquisition program for a client and the total response was roughly equal to their former program. But twice as many of our leads led to a sale. That is because we had created a better lead acquisition mailing by focusing attention on positive expectations that made prospects eager and receptive.

You've probably read the saying, "Nothing happens until a sale is made." It has an important corollary, "No sale happens until a lead is created."

Give your lead acquisition program the attention it deserves. It is the first step and therefore the most important step in your marketing efforts.

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