Marketing is selling to a defined audience. Sales are to anyone, but marketing is devoted to finding and selling to the group who is most likely to make a purchase.
Reaching business to business (B2B) customers
There are three ways to reach B2B customers and prospects: Magazines, Direct Mail, and Trade Shows. Of course, there’s salesmen, and then there’s the phone, but I hate making selling phone calls almost as much as salesmen “just stopping by” my office.
Advertising vehicles such as newspapers, TV, and radio address too general of an audience to be effective for most business to business sales and are generally used for consumer products and services.
Most business to business product marketing is defined by the boundaries of an industry – or several industries – as opposed to defined by geographic boundaries like the markets for services, retailers, or any of the many local consumer markets. I will admit, smaller B2B service providers do need a skillful set of defined geometric boundaries to grow in a logical fashion.
RSC Lead Sheet
The most common prospecting tool in B2B marketing is the “lead sheet” from a publisher when you take out an ad or press release in their magazine.
Most ads in business magazines have a “Reader Service Card Number” at the bottom of each ad: “For more information Circle Reader Service Number 00.” The reader finds the reader service post card bound into the magazine (also called the RSC, or bingo card because it has all of the numbers from all of the ads making it look like a bingo card), finds the number corresponding to the ad, circles it, and mails the card.
Upon receipt, the magazine publisher prints the reader’s name, address, and phone along with some ancillary information about the prospect, then sends the advertiser print-outs on mailing labels with the leads on them.
Each magazine supplies the advertiser with what they feel is the most pertinent data about the reader, which is taken from the reader service card the reader filled out or the data in the publisher’s files about the reader when he requested the magazine. This is usually comprised of name, title, company, phone, and sometimes type of firm, size of company, budget, interest level, urgency and/or immediacy of need.
All these should to be taken with a grain of sand by the advertiser who is free to send – or not send – information, or call the suspect. I don’t consider readers using the RSC as quality leads or actual prospects quite yet – all they have proven so far is they somehow got a copy of the magazine, have a pencil and can circle a number.
Interpreting the Reader Service Card Information
My favorite piece of information supplied by some magazine publishers is not usually found on the short survey of the reader service card. The favorite piece of information I’m referring to is the number of other inquiries the reader has made on the card.
If the publisher includes this data, and you can see the reader made 40 other inquiries, I feel the reader is either new to the industry, new to the magazine, or just likes to get mail. If the reader has circled no other numbers I feel he’s a likely bet of having genuine interest in our product and I would probably call him. Most leads fall within those extreme parameters.
Unfortunately, while the quantity of RSC leads can be quite heavy, these are the names and addresses with the least value. Because it’s so easy to circle numbers to get free information, a good percentage of RSC leads are from people with wood burning stoves that want your expensive literature to heat their houses in the winter.
Five classes of RSC Prospects:
1. The less interested: they had a brilliant idea using your product when they saw your ad a couple of weeks ago, but by the time they received your literature they have forgotten why they circled it and now wonder why you have sent them something. Result: your direct mail literature only gets the briefest of looks before being tossed out
2. The people who like to get mail – it makes them feel important
3. Consultants – you know the ones: those who like to keep their finger in the pie and taste everything without really ever buying anything
4. Your competitors: it was just sooo easy to get your pricing breakdown and promotions by circling a number
5. Real prospects.
At our own offices, we always try to weed out the best leads from the mix – although it isn’t always possible, sometimes even unlikely, and we just usually wind up sending literature to all or at least most of them. Least most?
Handling RSC leads
If you are prospecting heavily with lots of ads, and your literature is expensive, I favor a smaller package of literature sent to RSC leads for the first mailing, with a big response post card inside for the reader to be able to get more literature or your FREE Booklet of useful information. You do offer a FREE Booklet of valuable information, don’t you?
In your direct mail response package show your product in the data sheet, tout the benefits in the letter, and sell the response hard: “Send for our big, information-rich package showing you everything you need to intelligently buy a product like ours. Call now for our FREE brochure of comparative data on every model available from every manufacturer and then decide for yourself which you’d choose…”
By using a four step approach (Magazine ad, RSC Reply, Small Mailing Package, Large Mailing Package) – making the reader send for additional material and our harder hitting and more expensive package, it saves us from sending our $6 dollar mailing package to everyone and allows us to narrow the list from literature seekers to those more genuinely interested in information about our product as a prelude to possibly purchasing it.
It’s a little unusual, but the three step marketing package works well. It saves you from sending expensive literature to everyone – and filters out the “just curious” from the really interested. Reader service cards are known for supplying an easy vehicle that prompts the curious to circle additional numbers without much extra effort.
If your product is lower priced, and you need an immediate sale – you probably should ask the prospect to buy right off the bat, from your first mailing. With low cost products, there generally isn’t enough money or time in the sale for two or three pieces of correspondence. Buyers also recognize the lesser cost of products don’t warrant as much product investigation and a shorter sales cycle.
Consumer marketing is different from B2B Marketing because in consumer marketing your initial objective is to close the sale on the order, in B2B your objective is to get the inquiry, the sales call or the positive response to send more info.
Most B2B orders – and customers – are worth more, B2B orders can be thousands and thousands of $$$ and customers may remain for years and years. RSC card play an important part of marketing to business customers, but remain profitable only if handled with care and forethought.