This is another one of those months where I want to catch up on a few not so random thoughts which don’t justify an entire column, but will (hopefully) have some value to you anyway. The menu includes some thoughts on sales culture, personalization, and having a “unique selling proposition.”
I went to the movies a few weekends ago, and one of the “coming attractions” trailers was for a film titled “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.” It’s one of those comedy/love story movies where the flawed hero has to change his ways in order to win the girl. The hero is a car salesman, and from the trailer, he looks like everyone’s worst salesjerk nightmare.
That got me thinking that there are really two distinct “sales cultures”—one is all about the customer, and the other is all about making the sale. The latter is probably the most appropriate culture for car salespeople, because most of the data collected by that industry suggests that if the customer leaves the lot without buying, he/she is probably not coming back. That’s why they work so hard to draw out the process—the looking stage, the test drive stage, and most importantly, the negotiation stage. If you’ve been through the process recently, you’re probably still exhausted from the sheer effort involved.
I think the printing sale is a lot different, though. It’s more about need than about want, and it’s really much more about an ongoing customer relationship. Sure, the car guys want you back when it’s time to buy your next car, but when will that happen, and how many times have you actually found the same salesperson at the same dealership when it was time for your next car? A printing salesperson should be talking to people who have frequent and regular printing needs, and he/she should expect it to take a while to establish a relationship.
Here’s the bottom line on all of this. When I see car sales on the resume of anyone I’m interviewing for a printing sales position, I always ask them if they liked selling cars and if they were good at it. If the answer is yes and yes, I disqualify them—because they’re not from the sales culture that I want representing my client’s company.
The hot trend in direct mail these days seems to be putting the recipient’s first name in lights—or on a sign, or a balloon, or written in sand—on the front side of a mailer. This is undeniably cool, but here’s the important issue: are these “creatively personalized” mailers really generating significantly higher response rates? From everything I hear, the answer is no. And the result is that many customers are not re-ordering and continuing with the programs.
Here’s some advice, then: Stop promising the world! It is usually a good thing to under promise and over perform. It is usually a very bad thing to do the opposite. Stop talking about 25% response rates and start building more reasonable expectations, and I think we’ll all see more rapid acceptance—and continuation—of these advanced personalization capabilities. Right now, I think most of the sales effort is more car-like than customer-driven.
Here’s something else to think about. Personalization is only part of the key to success in direct marketing and, in fact, it’s the smaller part. The bigger part is the demographics—sending a personalized offer to a person who’s likely to be interested in it. As printers pursue the transition from print provider to marketing services provider, the demographics component is the least understood but most important piece.
Personalization: Part 2
I got a call from a printing salesperson the other day, and he asked me to help him come up with a “killer” subject line for his prospecting emails. “I have to grab their attention,” he said, “and I’ve been thinking about personalizing the subject line. For example, ‘Marketing Ideas for David Fellman & Associates!’ What do you think about that?”