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15-Page Direct Marketing Plan

The 15-Page Direct Marketing Action Plan

By Jeffrey Dobkin

If the thought of writing 15 pages of material doesn’t scare you, pick up your pen and complete a tremendous segment of your marketing.

Here are the pieces. The material you’ll write is a press release, a cover letter, and a short series (2 or 3) of direct marketing sales letters to people who respond to your magazine write-ups. In addition, you’ll need an introductory letter to better accounts, plus a slightly longer series of letters to send to them over time. This is how all the pieces fit together:

The worst mistake you can make with a high quality lead is to send a letter and a brochure, call a week later, and when there is no immediate sale, file the lead – never to see it again until you go through the drawer years later to clean it out. Ugh. If your marketing programs sound like this, you’re missing some of the easy sales you can get from minimal, inexpensive (49¢ each) second and third efforts.

While I don’t encourage clients to further beat a dead horse, usually more than one piece of communication or advertising is necessary to convert a suspect into a prospect, and a prospect into a sale that involves any substantial amount of money. The basis for this principle is Multiple Exposure Marketing. Everyone has their own favorite number of exposures for this: five sales calls, seven ad views, three phone calls – I don’t care which number you chose as long as it’s more than one. It simply takes more than one contact to make a sizable sale. The larger sales really do go to the people making additional efforts.

The Mailing List

To separate real potential buyers from the universe of everyone else who may have any possible interest in your product including your competitors, you need to get a list of qualified names.

Plan A: This is accomplished most commonly in two ways in the direct marketing universe: first by buying a mailing list of all possible suspects, narrowed down as far as possible by creative list procurement, and whittled down further by database enhancements to the list. So call your list broker, and make him or her work for their money. Keep digging until you find the best list possible; a little extra work here will be well worth it in terms of less wasted money and increased percentages in response.

Plan B: The second way to get suspects is to subscribe to the trade journals sent to the industries where you are marketing. Then take out an ad campaign in each of industry, and place those who express an interest in your product or services on your house mailing list. With this method you’ll find you’ll need to invest about ten grand for what you hope will be a great bunch of leads. Right. OR – for most of my small business clients who don’t have a lot of marketing monies, a more viable plan C. The $25 dollar plan.

Luckily, I happen to have a copy of Plan C in my file. It’s for the money conscious, and the rest of us mortals who drive old cars. Here’s plan C: Go to the library, find the magazines that serve the industries you are marketing to in the Cision Directory of Periodicals, or the new and nicely put together Oxbridge Communication’s Directory of Magazines. You can find your markets – and the magazines that serve them – in less than an evening with any of these fantastic marketing tools. These directories make finding the trade journals and consumer interest-specific magazines easier than ever.

Get the magazines (for free) by calling their advertising departments and requesting a media kit. Media kits are the promotional packages the publishers send to potential advertisers.

The magazine publishers know when media kits go out, the money comes in… and they send them promptly. While you’re on the phone with the magazine folks, ask if they print a directory or annual reference issue and ask for that, too. Usually the publishers sell their annual directory, but if you request it at this time under the umbrella of “We may buy advertising space in this,” it’s always sent for free. It’s a powerful industry resource to find the major players.

As they arrive, read through the magazines looking for competitor’s ads. If you see a competitor’s ad, call the magazine and find out how often your competitor runs it. This will tell you how well it’s working for them.

2. Assess the market fit of each magazine: assign each particular magazine a letter grade between A and F of the likeliness of having an ad work profitably in that publication for your product. Write this letter grade on the cover, along with the cost of a full page ad, and a 1/4 page ad, and their circulation.

Finally, 3. note if there is a column or department devoted to new products or product briefs. This will appear as a spread of small product photos, each followed by a one or two paragraph write-up. This is a traditional way press releases appear in print. Write the name of this column on the cover, too.

Now throw out the plethora of ads, rate cards, and other extraneous material the magazine folks sent you. Boy, they sure like to write, don’t they? Save the magazines in which you are considering placing an ad, and also the ones that may accept your press release. Just save the covers of the other magazines – so in 6 months when you can’t remember which magazines you reviewed and what they looked like, how much the ads cost and circulation – you’ll have a record of it. A thin record.

Read through the remaining magazines that are applicable to your markets.

3. Write a one page press release, and nice cover letter.

4. Send your release and cover letter to the magazines that accept releases. Include in your cover letter how much you enjoy their magazine, and that you have included a release for their column entitled “xxxx,” and specifically name the column. This alerts the editor you are serious about being in their industry, you read their magazine, and you did your homework by being familiar with their new product column and editor. This increases your chances for a free press write-up by about 45%.

5. Call the editor. If you really want to increase the chance of having your release printed – by about 80% – call the editor and ask “Are you the correct person I should send this release to?” Make sure you have a quality one minute spiel about your product ready, and if they will sit still long enough to listen, give them this short pitch.

When you send your press release, be sure to include a cover letter that lets them know – in the first sentence – it was nice speaking with them, even if it wasn’t. This reminds them you’re the one that called and spoke with them personally. This reminder is invaluable in helping to ensure your release will be published.

Send all your releases with personalized letters, and include clear crisp black and white product photos (5” x 7”). It will take about three months before the releases get printed and start to generate leads for you. You don’t get this time off. While you’re waiting for the magazines to publish your release, get busy with the next part.

Part Duex.

Create a sales letter campaign you’ll send to people responding to your magazine press release.

Write a letter showing the BENEFITS of your product and what’s in it for them. Include a data sheet or brochure showing the product features and a data sheet showing their pricing. Include reasons to buy now. Offer something special to close the sale immediately. If possible include a business reply envelope they can enclose money in when they send an order. Include an order form to increase the likelihood they understand they are to order now!

Create a second sales letter and mail with a data sheet and brochure two to three weeks later. If it’s a hot list or the initial response is very good, mail a third letter. As with all approaches, test this 2 and 3 part mailing for profitability.

Scour the magazines and directories for the names and addresses of better prospects. Make calls to large firms in your markets to find out the names of big purchasers at each firm. No need to talk to them just yet, this is merely an information gathering call and pretty easy to do.

The rest of the writing in your campaign is to seduce your very best magazine prospects and your hand-picked prospect list of about 100 people (more if you’re a large firm.)

Write a series of sales letters – maybe 6 or 7 – and send one letter to these “best of the best” prospects every three to four weeks. This is a short campaign to win the hearts and minds of your newly acquired prospective customer base.

Create a winning direct mail campaign – with a hard hitting benefit-rich letter, data sheet (or brochure if you have one), BRE, and order form. The letter is the key to selling through the mail, make sure yours is benefit heavy, and asks for the order (the objective of the piece) or a call to you (the secondary objective) several times and again in the PS.

Start out the series like every other sales letter, with an interest arousing short opening, then dive right into benefits, benefits, benefits. No need to be pushy for a sale here, you still have 5 or 6 more letters to go. Second letter: still casual and friendly, “In my last letter to you on May 9th, I mentioned several benefits we offer over our competitors’ models. There are several additional benefits I’d like to highlight that will save you quite a bit of money and time.” Now feel free to mention additional benefits.

Over the next 5 letters create a friendly dialog and rapport with your prospect. All letters are personalized and no prospect knows anyone else is receiving them but themselves. A letter is a powerful sales vehicle, and the most effective personal marketing tool you can buy for under a dollar. Each letter gets progressively harder selling. Ask for the order. Cajole. Plead. Be frank. Be sincere. But be friendly (and persistent), and the sales will come.

If you decide to call these people after this multiple exposure letter campaign, I guarantee recipients will all know who you are at the first mention of your name. If the letters are constructed to be friendly and persuasive they’ll feel good about purchasing from your firm. From just a few letters. Yes. From just a few 49¢ letters.

This 15-page marketing plan is condensed from the text in the last chapter of his book, “How To Market a Product for Under $500!”

Jeffrey Dobkin has written 7 books, 5 on effective direct marketing techniques. The books are filled with tips and techniques to make small business marketing faster, cheaper, more effective and fun. You never learned this stuff in college!

Mr. Dobkin cuts right through the theoretical crap and demonstrates practical how-to direct marketing techniques. He is also a speaker, and a direct mail copywriter that specializes in letters and letter series. Dobkin is an insightful marketing consultant who can help most any firm by creating a more effective marketing and advertising campaign. To speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Dobkin is the president of The Danielle Adams Publishing Company, Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066. Satisfaction Always Guaranteed.