Have you ever tried to generate leads through direct mail?
Today’s Mailbox Monday is my response to a question about this very topic.
I’ll give my specific take, and you can use it as inspiration or direction toward your next lead generation effort.
Remember: Every Monday I answer YOUR questions in the weekly Mailbox Monday issue. Submit your question about marketing, copywriting, sales, business-building, or more here.
Now on to today’s question…
The single-most pressing marketing need I have right now is how to write a direct mail prospecting letter to send to selected financial services providers, to encourage them to invest in a lead gen trial.
The idea is that they pay the advertising costs (and a small set up fee) for 100 leads.
I then generate these using Facebook or Google Ads.
If they like the quality of the leads, we agree on a price per lead and I continue sending them as many leads as they want.
A prominent lead gen company currently sends a (very dry) three page letter to prospects and gets about a 5-7% response rate (i.e. a request to learn more about the offer).
I think that rate sucks! Surely more than 5% of companies are interested in more leads, if the price is right?
So I suspect their letter copy is boring the recipients into not responding. But I don’t want to burn through what is a relatively small number of prospects testing out different letter formats, without at lest knowing which elements should be included in an effective prospecting letter, and in what order.
P.s. I don’t currently have a lead gen business (I run Google Ads campaigns), but this is the model I want to switch to.
First things first: 5% is actually a pretty good response rate…
Okay, so let’s start off with a big assumption you made.
You see this other company doing this and getting a 5% inquiry rate from a direct mail piece.
You could probably do better. But don’t assume too much.
Because 5% is actually a really good response rate to any marketing. That means 1 out of every 20 letters is generating an inquiry.
You may think any company would want more leads. And that’s probably true. However, think about the process of what’s actually required to get that person to raise their hand and inquire.
First, the letter has to make it into their hand. Let’s assume that there’s a gatekeeper in some of these organizations, and they filter out 10% of the letters up front. That means out of 20 letters, we’re down to 18 that are actually delivered to a prospect.
Now, let’s make the fair assumption that these prospects are pretty busy. Half of them, at least, don’t have time to really pay attention to it right now, and so they either throw it away immediately or set it aside, never to return. We’re down to 9 out of 20 letters that are actually given much attention.
From here, only about half are in a good enough mood that they’re willing to actually consider ANY marketing message, regardless of content. Even though they open it. Even though they give it their attention. They scan it and ditch it. Now, 9 doesn’t split in half equally, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say 5 out of 20 are actually willing to really engage with the letter with an open mind, enough so to consider if it’s a fit.
We’re down to just 25% of all the people who got the letter actually taking a few moments to read it enough to actually consider it. (And this might be generous.)
Now here’s where your copy has to really shine. The challenge these 5 letters must overcome is immense. Let’s put it in terms of my PAISA formula, as covered in The Ultimate Selling Story. It has to connect with the prospect by speaking to a PROBLEM they consider to be urgent enough that it’s worth taking action on. It has to AGITATE their experience of the problem, enough that they want to take action now. It has to INVALIDATE all other solutions, including whatever they’re doing now. It has to present your SOLUTION to their problem. And it has to ASK them for action, in the form of an inquiry.
And it’s easy to miss on one of those steps. Either by going over the top (to which they’ll respond “Bullshit!” and throw out the letter) or by missing the mark on making it relevant to them (to which they’ll respond “So what?!” and throw out the letter).
If you get the letter PERFECT, it means that you actually connected with a problem they care about, reminded them why that problem is so agitating, invalidated other solutions in a way that was true and believable in their experience, presented a solution they believed was superior, and actually convinced them to take action.
And on any given day, you could miss the mark on 4 out of the 5 just because THEY were more concerned about another problem (such as operations headaches) in their business and didn’t care enough about lead generation to take action.
Can you see now, when you follow the letter through the process it takes to actually get a response (paying attention to the experience of the recipient), how 5% might actually be a GOOD response rate?
So my first recommendation here is to check your assumptions.
Not that you couldn’t do better. Not that you shouldn’t try to do better. But if this company is succeeding at a 5% response rate, consider that might be enough and you’d do good to match it.
Especially when you look at the big picture. What’s your lead worth in that business model? $1,000? More? If they’re generating leads at $20 each, they’re doing swimmingly. Even if they were spending $200 or $400 to generate a lead worth $1,000, it’d still be a smart investment.
Second: Consider, will you really burn through leads?
Yes, your pool of leads is probably pretty small. Especially if you’re trying to work with companies in your local geographic area.
But for the most part, you are incredibly forgettable.
What do I mean? Well, can you list the companies who’ve sent you direct mail solicitations in the past week? How about the past month? Six months?
As long as you don’t do something incredibly offensive, you’re likely to be forgotten by everyone who doesn’t respond.
And so the idea of burning through a relatively small pool of leads probably shouldn’t be your first concern.
Remember my illustration above. Only 25% really paid enough attention that they might have read your name more than the one time on the return address. Even so, most of those forgot it. Which means that for the most part, 75% or more of the people who read your second letter will not even remember the first letter.
YOU remember. But that doesn’t mean your prospect does.
Third: Try an application process…
I don’t like your offer very much. Generating 100 leads for free may be an okay offer, but do you want everyone who responds to be your client? Is that the type of service you provide? If you serve the lowest common denominator in your industry, maybe the answer is yes. But if you want to serve a more select clientele, you have to be more selective as well.
“I’ve developed a proprietary approach for getting financial services leads from Facebook and Google. Most financial services firms in [region] have no clue the power of this approach — or the quality of leads they could be getting every day, with the right methods.
“For most financial service professionals, I can generate 28 more qualified leads every week. Perhaps this is interesting to you. If you’re like most financial services professionals I speak to about my methods, I bet you’d love getting your hands on these pre-educated, pre-motivated, pre-qualified leads.
“The only problem is, I don’t believe every financial services practice is capable of providing quality service to the leads I generate. And I only want to generate these leads if I know the human being that each lead represents will be given the best possible service. I consider it my ethical duty when I generate a lead that they will be given high-quality service.
“If you believe your financial services business could handle an additional 28 leads every week, starting as little as three weeks from now, I invite you to go through my new client application process. This helps me determine if you’re a fit for what I do. To apply…”
I hope you get the point.
Turn the selling process around. Instead of it being about selling to them, make them sell to you. Especially because the financial services profession is packed with people who have a strong sales streak, you’ll find many will rise to the challenge if this is presented in the right way.
You’ll have to get really clear on your process, and make sure you can deliver. But if you have that down, and you make it harder for them to get to you, you’ll find they will work harder to do so and your job in selling will be easier.
You just have to maintain this positioning throughout the sales process. Because if you do flip halfway and start chasing them, they will immediately lose interest.
Side benefit to this: if you’re always looking for the most qualified leads in a market (and accepting a limited number at any given time), it gives you a decent reason why you’d mail over and over again to the same leads.
Fourth: Not all copy looks like “great copy”…
In the world of novice copywriters, “great copy” has to read like Gary Halbert or John Carlton, but with the hype turned up to 11.
But great copy is not defined by the level of hype.
Great copy is defined by profitability and the ability to generate response.
And, in a culture of testing, the ability to generate more response than anything tested against it.
Consider that maybe boring copy works to this market.
Or maybe the underlying message hits the right level of excitement, such that the tone of the copy provides candor and believability.
When copy really works, there’s often a lot going on under the surface that’s harder to spot than the use of a headline formula out of How To Write A Good Advertisement.
There’s often piles of proof and believability.
There’s a great offer. It’s going to a great targeted audience.
There’s timing and market forces.
There’s broader strategy considerations.
There’s a lot going on to make an ad or direct mail campaign work.
It’s not enough just to trash the copy because you don’t think it’s exciting enough. Consider WHY it’s working, what you can do to learn from that, and where you might innovate in controlled tests to perhaps discover something that might work better.
Fifth: Just do it…
After all of this, I don’t know that I’ve actually given a direct answer to the question.
For that I’ll say, try to figure out why the letter you’re using as an example is as effective as it is, and what you can learn from that.
Then, write your own version, as part of a bigger sales process.
Then, try it.
And when it doesn’t work, try again.
Limit your testing, and try to minimize risk while learning what works.
But when you do find methods that work, scale them to the best of your capacity.
But it all comes down to trying.
Not to thinking, or planning, or meditating on it.
But putting letters in the mail, and seeing what kind of response you get.
That’s how you’ll get the breakthroughs.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,