From the December 1998 issue of Startups

Have you ever visited a Chinese restaurant with your family or a large group and ordered from the family-style menu? That's the one where you can choose two dishes from column A, two from column B and two from column C. Growing up in my family, every Sunday night meant dinner at the local Chinese restaurant. We always went home way too full--yet thoroughly satisfied.

Here's an approach to setting up a year-round sales and marketing strategy for your new business that follows a similarly satisfying principle--you choose tactics from the lists below: two from column A, two from column B and two from column C.

The prospects for your new business will fall into three categories: cold, warm and hot. Your coldest prospects are those you believe are qualified but have little or no information about you. Warm prospects are those who have had some exposure to your company and its sales message, either by ongoing contact or by noticing your advertising or public relations efforts, for example. The hottest prospects are those closest to closing. They have either moved through your sales cycle from cold to warm to hot, or have come to you as referrals.

In order to set up a well-rounded sales and marketing program, it's essential to use tactics that reach out to all three categories of prospects at once, while keeping your sales prospects moving steadily through the cycle. Some new business owners make the mistake of using only one or two tactics, so their programs operate in fits and starts; as a result, prospective customers and clients often fall through the cracks. Other entrepreneurs make the mistake of relying exclusively on marketing tactics or sales, when a combination of both is necessary. If you were to rely exclusively on direct mail and never talk to your prospects, for example, you'd lose the opportunity to build lasting relationships with your customers.

What follows is a breakdown of some sales and marketing tactics you can use to reach prospects from each of the three categories. Choose one sales tactic and one marketing tactic per category. The key is to engage in each of the tactics on an ongoing basis. For instance, you'll reach some prospects with marketing tactics from column A and, during the same period of time, close others with sales tactics from column C.

Column A: Cold Prospects

Sales tactics: The three most common sales tactics for cold prospects are cold-calling, networking and individual sales letters.

Marketing tactics: You can introduce your new company to your target audience through print or broadcast advertising, a public relations campaign or direct-mail marketing.

Column B: Warm Prospects

Sales tactics: Once you've warmed up your prospects with tactics from column A, you can use meetings, presentations, proposals, follow-up phone calls (called warm calls) and letters during this phase of the sales cycle.

Marketing tactics: Continue to use whichever marketing tactic you selected for cold prospects from column A. This way, your target audience will be exposed to your message with enough frequency
to get results. For example, if you've successfully used direct mail to reach a targeted list of cold prospects, keep ongoing direct marketing a part of your program. You can also add two additional warm marketing tools: faxes and e-mail messages. If a particular tactic is working, stick with it; if not, change it.

Column C: Hot Prospects

Sales tactics: For many types of businesses, personal selling adds the heat necessary to close sales, so meetings, presentations, proposals and phone calls are the best sales tactics to use with your hottest clients.

Marketing tactics: When it comes to closing, immediacy is key. Use faxes and/or e-mail to deliver your marketing message.

It may take eight to 10 or more contacts with a prospect before a sale is eventually closed. By choosing at least one sales and one marketing tactic from each column, you'll ensure ongoing communication with your best prospects as you successfully move them through your sales and marketing cycle from cold to warm--and eventually, to hot.

New Dimension

We all enjoy opening gift boxes during the holidays. Wouldn't it be even more exciting to unexpectedly receive a box in the mail during April or August? That's the premise behind the rising use of dimensional mailers--those boxes and envelopes with an enticing surprise inside.

One of the biggest drawbacks to conventional direct mail is that often, recipients simply discard the pieces as "junk mail." Dimensional mail pieces, on the other hand, almost always get opened, says Emily Soell, vice chairman of Chicago and New York City-based DraftWorldwide, an advertising agency specializing in direct marketing.

"The child in all of us reacts to receiving a box with the expectation that there's a gift or something special inside," explains Soell, who adds that there are four reasons to use dimensional mail, all designed to stimulate increased levels of response:

1. To send a gift. One gourmet food magazine sends a free cookbook to subscribers several weeks prior to asking for renewal. This builds goodwill and increases renewal rates.

2. To send a sample. Many com-panies send new product samples to customers they know are frequent users of their product lines.

3. To break through clutter. Soell cites as an example a promotional mailer once sent by the city of Memphis to meeting and convention planners. It consisted of a hand-addressed box wrapped in wrinkled brown paper, on which was handwritten "We found your wallet in Memphis." Inside was a real wallet and the message "Next time, why not come with it?" In the wallet were mock credit cards for accommodations and dining, with lists of hotels and restaurants on the back. A letter in the box explained why Memphis was the most cost-effective city to hold a meeting.

4. To make a point. One express-shipping company sent a box filled with what looked like shredded money, with a teaser printed on the box that read "Our records indicate that money means nothing to you." Inside, the company included an offer to ship one package for free.

Dimensional mailers do cost more, so pick a reasonable number of your best prospects and carefully qualify them prior to mailing. You can hire an advertising agency, freelance creative talent, or create your own dimensional mailers by working directly with a packaging company, such as All Packaging Company Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri.

All Packaging's president, Elliott Goldstein, consistently uses dimensional mailers to promote his firm and has received response rates as high as 23 percent--significantly higher than the average 1 to 3 per-cent response rates of conventional direct mail. Receiving a piece of dimensional mail is simply more compelling, says Goldstein: "I dare you not to open it."

Kim T. Gordon is a national speaker, author of Growing Your Home-based Business ($12.95) and president of National Marketing Federation Inc., which provides marketing guidance to small businesses. For information and books, call (800) 2-SOLVE-IT.

Contact Source

DraftWorldwide, 633 Third Ave., New York, NY 10017, (212) 692-4000.