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Direct Hit

Looking for more customers? Our Marketing Expert helps you put together an effective marketing plan to help you expand your client list.

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Q: I've had some success in catering to companies with three to 500 employees serving chili and Polish dogs, which we produce in our own commissary. We also take our cookout truck everywhere. How do I reach human resource managers so I can do this for other companies?

A: Your clearly defined -to-business gives you several significant advantages: You know the titles of the individuals you're marketing to, the size of the companies you're targeting and the geographic market area you can serve. A combination of direct-mail marketing and one-on-one contact with your top prospects is just what you need to reach your goals.

Direct-mail marketing is ideal because you can rent lists of human resource managers who work for companies with 300 to 500 employees in the ZIP codes you specify, plus choose any other important qualifying criteria. To find the best lists for your purposes, consult a Standard Rate and Data Service directory, The Direct Mail List Source, which you'll find in most major public libraries. A 1- to 3- percent response is considered positive in direct mail, so purchase large enough lists (usually 5,000 names constitutes a minimum purchase) to meet your goals.

An effective direct-mail package contains five components: a carrier envelope with a teaser, the letter containing your offer, a response form (though you should also include your fax and toll-free numbers on every page), a reply envelope and any sell sheets or other optional inserts. Creating successful direct-mail copy and design elements is not a do-it-yourself project, so you should rely on the expertise of a marketing communications agency or a copy and design team with a good track record in direct-mail marketing to produce your package.

Like most entrepreneurs, you probably have a wish list-a short list of companies in your area you see as ideal prospects for your catering business. Your agency or design team can also provide assistance with the brochures and other materials you'll use in one-on-one meetings with them. Before you call on your top prospects, carefully craft your collateral materials to address the benefits your company will deliver to effectively position you against your competition.

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