By Michel Fortin
you ever been lucky enough to
receive those nice letters from collection agencies? In addition to being
persistent on the phone, collection agents are known to be terribly
effective when their efforts are combined with a series of letters that seem
to be as equally relentless.
First, you get
a letter with the typical request to "govern yourself accordingly." If you
don't respond, a second letter appearing in the form of a "reminder" is sent
to you a few weeks later. And, if you happen to be as persistent as the
agency, you would then get a third letter with that big, red (and somewhat
intimidating) "Final Notice!" stamped in the upper right-hand corner.
direct mail has been as profitable an endeavor for entrepreneurs as it has
been for collection agencies. And the reason is that a sequence of letters,
particularly at least three of them delivered to a same recipient, not only
increases the response rate but also multiplies it exponentially. Aside from
increased sales, the per capita cost savings is also considerable.
Let's Do The
Even though I've first
heard of this technique from marketing guru
Dan Kennedy at a Toronto convention in 1996 ("Success '96"), I still
didn't believe in its effectiveness until I actually used it in my own
practice. Tested in one of my client's businesses, our first mailing
conducted to approximately 7,000 recipients generated a response rate that
was about 1%. It's not much but typical for most one-time direct mail
campaigns -- no big "hurrah" there.
However, the surprise came
when the rate shot up to about 7% following the second mailing and over 3%
after the third, which were targeted to the exact same market. With all
three mailings totaling 11%, the overall response was a tenfold improvement
over what could have been a single mailing (with only a threefold increase
in direct expenses).
The first letter had a
special time-sensitive offer and an invitation to enter a draw. The second
letter, which was mailed out 15 days after the first one, had a "sorry we
missed you" and "we're concerned" flavor to it. It went on to offer several
additional incentives in order to help nudge unresponsive recipients into
action (a backend product worth only a few dollars).
Thirty days after the
initial mailing, the third letter boldly stated "this is your last chance"
and "deadline around the corner" right at the top -- similar to the
collection agent's "final warning" stamp. The content of the letter
reinforced the urgency and, along with an extra incentive, emphasized the
negative outcome that would result if the recipient chose to remain idle.
Increased Perceived Value
In essence, I have found
and personally experienced that three if not more mailings to a same target
market is often more profitable than a single one. If you want to take a
look at the numbers, you will see that, while you may have doubled or
tripled your direct mail marketing expenditures, you will likely triple the
results of all three separate mailings… Combined!
By the way, the prize drawn
in the previous campaign was for one of the services offered by my client --
priced at about $1,500. Shortly after the draw, we decided on a fourth
mailing to all those who did not respond and offered a discount on the very
same service. It said "Congratulations! You've won the second prize -- a
$250 rebate on [service]." As a result, the response rate had finally risen
to a total of 16% (and sales still kept trickling in way after).
The mailing was indeed a
success. But the power of such a process lies in the fact that people who
receive a second and third mailing tend to conclude that the offer is more
valuable. If you can, transform your next direct mail marketing campaign
into a sequence of offers to a same market and you will see a substantial
improvement over one-time mailings.
When an estimate, a special
offer or a sales information package has been issued, the process that
normally follows is probably more important than the deadline and the
reinforcements combined. It's the follow-up.
However, follow-ups are not
limited to a single letter. As you may likely know, statistics prove that
most sales occur in the follow-up process. In fact, following up is also an
art. You need to do so in a timely, consistent, and compelling
manner. For example, if you received an inquiry, conducted a sales
presentation, gave a product demonstration, or provided an estimate for a
service you offer, like a blacksmith you need to "hit the iron while it's
The 10-10-10 Technique
It is a fact that
consistent follow-up gets results. And if done at preset times, follow-ups
will dramatically increase your sales since some people need to see your
offer more than once. Utilizing the combined power of the "thank you" letter
and the three-step direct mail sequence described earlier, you can conduct
what I call the "10-10-10" technique (although it can be 15, 20, or 30, all
depending on your industry or the type of product you sell).
For starters, you'll need
to develop your follow-up messages. Your first follow-up letter, within the
first 10 days following the initial presentation or meeting, may say
something to the effect of "Thank you [for the time we spent together or for
your interest in ABC Corporation]." Realize that gratitude goes a long way.
And while it may simply be an act of appreciation on your part, it helps to
keep your company or product fresh in the prospect's mind.
Your next follow-up
message, sent within 10 days after the first letter (or in other words
within 20 days after the initial contact) should restate the benefits of
your offer as well as stress its deadline. It could list the potential uses
for your product or service, and include several additional testimonials
from other clients. More important, your letter should give your prospect
the ability to focus on the important points, such as with the use of
bullets, keywords and action words, quotes and reviews, and benefit-rich
For your last follow-up
message, sent within the final block of 10 days (in between 20-30 days
following the initial presentation), you should create a sense of urgency in
your prospect's mind. Remember the collection agent's final notice? In this
case, remind them that their estimate (or your special, time-limited offer)
is about to expire. Make them an even more special offer in order to give
them an additional reason to order and to order now.
A Little Nudge is All it Takes
Creating a sense of urgency
can be done in many ways. For example, by adding an additional
time-sensitive bonus to your offer (one that will now expire quickly since
the deadline is even closer), you will give your message weight and nudge
unresponsive prospects into action.
This incentive could be
many things, such as free delivery, a complementary service, an additional
item, a coupon for another product, or an extended guarantee. It could even
be a more affordable alternative to the initial offer. But you'll need to
look at your product or service and see how you can make your offer more
palatable and thus stimulate response.
Finally, if after all three
letters your prospect has not responded, you could still send a fourth,
fifth, and final letter in order to obtain some useful information. Within
10 days after the offer's expiration, your additional follow-up letter could
simply ask why they haven't ordered. Try to get them to respond -- turn the
back of the follow-up letter into a survey they can fill out, or include a
small notice telling them that you will call in order to gather their
It's unlikely that people
will order from you after all three letters (depending on your product or
industry) since 90% of buying decisions, in my experience, are made within
those first 30 days. But feedback is precious. It could help you to
modify and refine your follow-up letters, your offer, as well as your
product or service so that future prospects will indeed order from you.
Incomplete sales are wonderful opportunities to gather important marketing
Nevertheless, both timing
and timeliness are vital. You want your prospects to have more information
quickly since they are probably shopping around -- again, "while the iron is
hot" in other words. In each of your follow-up letters, tell them why they
need to take action soon. Don't just remind them of the deadline. Give them
a sincere, logical, and justifiable explanation. As Jim Rohn once said,
"Without a sense of urgency desire loses its value."
Whether it's fluctuating
prices, a pilot promotion, a quantity-bound offer, or whatever, make sure
your explanation is logical and makes sense, and is not a mere cannned
attempt at only-trying-to-make-a-quick-sale kind of response. Nevertheless,
don't annoy your prospect with too much at once -- make sure your letters
are spaced at least 5-10 days apart.
The moral? Be relentless
like a collection agency. Send at least three letters instead of one in
order to get more mileage out of your campaign. Use the 10-10-10 technique
after you've provided an estimate -- or even after someone has requested
information about your offer. Remember that the bulk of most sales are
usually made in the follow-up phase