As a quick introduction, the client was a professional services firm wanting to reach out to a business audience to generate leads / appointments for a referral building campaign.
Well, here goes.
The Planning Phase
1. Setting our objectives before we started helped us to shape the strategy and tactics behind the campaign. We decided what we wanted to achieve and what success would look like which included:
- to increase awareness of the referral programme within target audience
- to generate X appointments with key decision makers
- to sign-up X new partners to the programme
2. The next step was to define our target audiences. As the campaign was fairly specific, we identified our target by geography, company type, company size and key decision maker. These criteria enabled us to establish their potential value of the target audience and any specific needs and requirements, essential for us in the next step – defining the media selection.
3. When defining the campaign, we had in mind a direct mail piece as being the core piece of communication. However after more careful thought about our target market, we quickly updated not only the type of direct mailer (content, format and messaging) but also the need to support the mailing with a telemarketing piece. This step was therefore about refining the format of the campaign media.
4. Once we had defined the objectives, target audience, the media selection, we moved on to timing. When would be a good time to send the mailer and when would be good to follow-up with the telemarketing.
After careful consideration, we opted to ensure the mailer or telephone calls were not received on a Monday or a Friday and all calls would not be made first thing in the morning, when our target audience is at it’s busiest. We also considered time of the year and decided to act before we hit August, the key holiday period.
Buying the Data
5. With all of the planning out of the way, it was time to acquire some data. I wanted to run a sample to test our creative and messaging before buying any data. This helped us to better refine our buying requirements, for example through clearly identifying who the core decision makers would be. As such we compiled a short data list through our own research, generating a 10% sample size.
6. Following this test we were in a good position to buy data that accurately reflected our target audience. For some guidance on buying data, I refer you to an excellent book called ‘The B2B Handbook, A Guide to achieving success in business-to-business direct marketing’.
Produced in association with the Direct Marketing Association and various professional consultancies, its guidelines include:
- remember all charges when calculating a cost per thousand – watch out for those extra charges some data list providers add on top
- check the recency of the data you are buying – did you know that some data lists decay at a rate of 40% each year. As such, check with the list provider how recent the data is and ensure you receive the most recent data – otherwise you may well be wasting your money
- negotiate usage in advance – make sure if you plan on multiple contacts with your list that you pay upfront as it can be costly if you want to buy re-use of the data – data is bought in single or multi use rates.
For more ideas, I strongly recommend buying the book – ‘The B2B Handbook, A Guide to achieving success in business-to-business direct marketing’.
Of course there are plenty of options for acquiring data, from in-house (i.e. your own data), to custom research (as we conducted for the test) to list brokers and data owners. Each offers it’s own advantages and disadvantages, which you ought to consider carefully before proceeding.
Executing the Campaign
7. The test campaign enabled us to identify the core messages that worked well with the mailer and the telemarketing campaign. We know as we asked for feedback from our sample as to why they did or didn’t respond. We then applied these lessons directly to the main campaign, refining our direct mail piece to a personalised letter with clear product examples. Again, for some guidance on how to structure the content of your creative, I would refer you to ‘The B2B Handbook, A Guide to achieving success in business-to-business direct marketing’.
8. We decided to fulfil the mailer and telemarketing in-house in order to save on the costs. The mailer was personalised and each one signed in ink by a company director to add the additional touch. The telemarketing was handled by the marketing department to ensure the follow-up was appropriately managed and sales scripts followed (although with callers able to be flexible as required). There are of course plenty of high quality agencies that can fulfil on both of these counts.
9. Along with running the campaign, we planned the resources required to enable effective follow-up. This included providing resources online for target decision makers to acquire additional information, training incoming call staff on how to deal with enquiries, setting up the database to be properly updated and more. This alignment ensured we were able to manage responses to the mailer and telemarketing.
10. The final step of the campaign was to analyse how well we had performed. We of course looked at the response we had generated, but also what the cost per acquisition was. This is useful for comparing the campaign to other marketing tactics.
We also looked for patterns in the response rates, considering what company sizes responded better, which decision makers carried the most weight, whether any of the geographies we targeted offered a better success rate. All of which will be helpful for our next campaign. Overall it was a very successful campaign and even where we didn’t receive a positive result we learned a few lessons for next time around.
Now I know this isn’t a perfect example of a direct marketing campaign, but for small companies, it might give you a few ideas and some structure to work with. As ever I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to tell our readers about a recent direct marketing campaign – successful or not.