Each new generation of human
beings seems to team up with each new generation of technology in mysterious
ways that change human behavior.
Take communication, for
example. From telegraph to telephone to television to telecommunications, we
have come to communicate faster and faster. Though some say that true
human-to-human contact has diminished in the process, it’s hard to argue that
our “faster” communication isn’t also “better,” especially from a business
point of view.
Take selling. The backwoods
peddler sold one on one to individual families carrying his goods on a horse.
The traveling “snake-oil” salesman went more efficiently from town to town,
huckstering groups from a ramshackle platform on the village square. Direct
mail and calling campaigns have sold all sorts of products and services to all
sorts of people at all sorts of hours. And, of course, we all know how
mass-marketing blitzes inspire millions of us to line up for “great deals” at 4
a.m. in the dark and, sometimes, stormy night.
Smart Business spoke to Philip S. Krone at Productive Strategies, Inc.
about micro-marketing and bringing the personalized element back into the sales
Where are we today?
Today, in addition to other
approaches, we are communicating via ‘micro-marketing,’ or trying to. Considered
a new method by some marketers, micro-marketing essentially targets small
segments or even individuals with tailored products or services.
Social media have in fact
opened up a whole new channel for getting face to face with individual
prospects and customers without actually being face to face in the same office
or meeting room. But mom-and-pop businesses have long been micro-marketing to
prospects and customers in their immediate geographic areas.
While we find the new social
media channel valuable, we also find that a longstanding social,
micro-marketing medium still gives us solid results: the occasional letter
delivered in an envelope with a stamp or even just metered.
One of our largest and
longest running accounts came to us in exactly that way. A comment in the
newspaper (yes, newspaper, and it wasn’t all that long ago either) prompted me
to write a snail-mail letter to a high-level executive at a major utility
company. He responded with an invitation to talk, and we taught their
salespeople consultative selling for five years as a result.
How does it work?
The key is for the letter to
be sincere and to strike a nerve.
That means the first sentence or two must refer to something specific that will
catch not only the attention of the target but also the attention of the
gatekeepers. And, remember, low key is better than keyed up.
Not: ‘Wow! The recent award you received shows that you
and your company really are the greatest! It didn’t get anywhere near the news
coverage it should have.’
What’s wrong with this
approach? Essentially, it doesn’t deliver any value to the recipient and
doesn’t include anything to spark a response.
Instead: ‘You were recently quoted in the Tribune as saying about your company that “global expansion
is important but growing our key domestic markets is essential.” Just this past
quarter our local distributors in your key markets of Illinois and Indiana have
found that face-to-face interaction is becoming more and more effective in
several, perhaps surprising, locations for your products.’
This approach is much better
because it’s specific and delivers value to the recipient. Face-to-face selling
is working in specific markets.
This kind of micro-marketing
letter should contain a subject line at the top that itself delivers value and,
if possible, sparks immediate interest. For example, ‘Re: Illinois and Indiana
see surprising growth.’ And the letter should always be signed personally in
blue ink. (Black is too serious and ‘legal’ in nature.)
E-mails can be used in a similar way, but
individual letters have worked well for us. Busy executives too often delete
e-mails whose senders they don’t recognize, and high-level e-mail addresses can
be tough to get. In most companies, at least, a human being has to actually touch
a letter before throwing it away or pausing to second-guess that decision and
just sending it up the ladder to where we want it to go.
So, when I see a potential
major opportunity that truly interests me, and that our services can support
effectively, I often write a letter and drop it in the mail. It’s
micro-marketing that can deliver macro results.
Naturally, we also use direct
mail in many other ways, often in combination with calling campaigns to set
appointments for our clients. If you’d like more of our thinking on
micro-marketing, or other business-building topics, just give us a call. We’d
love to talk with you one on one and, eventually, maybe even face to face.
Philip S. Krone is the
founder and president of Productive Strategies, Inc., a 17-year-old Northfield,
Illinois-based management and marketing consulting firm. Productive Strategies
provides clients with particular expertise in sales process development, lead
generation and appointment setting, marketing and marketing communications.
Phil can be reached at (847) 446-0008 ext.1 or firstname.lastname@example.org.