The Industrial Buyer Must Receive Individual Treatment and Consideration of His Needs Industrial marketing is similar to general or consumer marketing in practically all respects but one: the point of view of the buyer. In selling to the public you deal with single individuals who buy something for their own use. In selling to a business organization you deal with a group of individuals who buy something for the business. Their points of view are determined by the position each holds in his company. To make this point clearer, let us assume that I want to sell chain grate stokers to a manufacturer of automobile tires who operates a large boiler plant. With whom in that organization do I have to deal? First there is the chief engineer of the power plant, who can probably block the sale unless he approves of my product, then the superintendent of power, who is the next man higher up. Above him there may be a production manager, who is responsible for the maintenance of plant and equipment. And then one of the chief executives, a vice-president perhaps, will have to approve the investment. After I have gone to all those men the matter is turned over to the purchasing agent, who will buy someone else’s stoker if I don’t watch out. In this instance there are five individuals to be won over before I can get the order, and each one of those five views the purchase from a totally different angle. Now that is probably more complicated selling than is met with by the average industrial manufacturer, but I have taken it as an example because it illustrates very nicely the point I want to bring out: In industry we have a set of conditions wonderfully suited to the use of direct mail. How can you reach these five different men with their five different points of view except by direct mail? Direct mail enables us to go directly to each man. We do not have to limit ourselves to a broad message written for the business as a whole. THE chief engineer of this boiler plant might be Irish, German, French, Scandinavian, American any nationality at all, or none. He might be married or single. Catholic or Protestant, educated or uneducated, but the minute he steps inside the door of his boiler plant he be- comes, and in fact is, nothing but a chief engineer, so far as business is concerned. His reaction to a piece of boiler plant equipment is not the reaction of a German or a French- man, it is not the reaction of an individual at all. It is the reaction of a chief engineer in a boiler plant and nothing more. And the same thing applies to the other four men. Now it helps us a lot in working out copy for our direct mail to know this, for instead of wracking our brains for a bright idea, all we have to do is to study the business environments of the men we are writing to, and our advertising approach becomes obvious at once. Study the environment of your prospects, find out what they think about in business, the daily problems of the individual, and write your advertising in those channels. You will hit the nail on the head ninety- nine times out of a hundred. If you do not have the time, or the money, or the authority to take a field trip, go to your correspondence files, dig up all the letters you can find written to your company be- fore the prospect had begun to study your product, and note what he is thinking about. By tabulating all the different things that are mentioned as problems, the troubles that are bothering him, you will get a pretty good cross section of his interests; enough at least to give you a copy angle. If the correspondence files are meager, send out a questionnaire and frame your questions to catch the other man’s point of view. I have never liked the word “campaign” in connection with direct mail. It conveys overmuch the idea of a limited number of mailings to a fixed mailing list. Of course there are times when it is advisable to use direct mail in that way. but there is nothing in my experience that would lead me to believe direct mail can- not be used continuously, just as we all use magazine advertising continuously. The circulation of a magazine is nothing but a mailing list, if you consider it from that point of view. And if it pays you to advertise in the pages of a magazine month after month, and year after year, why will it not pay you to send direct mail to the same mailing list month after month and year after year. “The mailing list gets worn out, all the worthwhile prospects are skimmed off after a reasonable length of time,” you might say. If that is true, then magazine circulations should wear out too. But they don’t, we know that, and mailing lists do not wear out either, if they are handled properly. Think of direct mail advertising just as you think of publication advertising, and use it the same way — regularly and consistently, month after month. I am not going to say anything about all the uses of direct mail such as sales drives, introducing new products, etc., that are open to the industrial advertiser, but I do want to say something about the various physical forms in which direct mail can be used. For convenience I have classified these forms as follows: First — Letters — typed. multigraphed. printed, etc.. sent by either first or third class mail. Second — Printed matter such as folders, booklets, house organs, etc., sent by first, second or third class mail. Third — Combinations of letters and printed matter such as illustrated letters and letters with leaflets, booklets, etc.. in- closed, sent by first or third class mail. In the instances I gave you of direct mail advertising that we have been running for so many years, we are using multigraphed letters, accompanied by printed leaflets and a stamped, return addressed post card, sent by second class mail. But that is because it happens to be convenient and economical for us to use that particular combination, and not because we think it produces the best results. We could probably get just as good results with illustrated letters or with folders, mailing pieces or broadsides in two or more colours. In fact, we have tried a number of these variations with very satisfactory results. THE thing that really counts, in my opinion, is what you say to your prospect — the message that is conveyed from your brain to his brain — and not the vehicle that transports it. Naturally you have to put it in a form that is attractive enough to assure its getting read by a fair percentage of the list. But assuming that you are able to make all forms of mailings equally attractive and easy to read, I believe there is little to choose between them. If your copy is right it will bring results, for your prospect will react in the same way to an idea whether he reads it printed or typewritten, in colours or in plain black. Many advertising managers seem to think their responsibilities are ended when they have turned over a bunch of inquiries to the sales department. In my opinion it has just begun. Industrial equipment cannot be sold successfully by direct mail. Industrial selling is too complicated; too many people have something to say about a purchase; too many questions have to be answered and discussed. So the salesman will always be the biggest factor in industrial selling, and I think we ought to recognize that fact as fundamental. Viewed in this light, an inquiry be- comes nothing more than an opportunity, and rather a questionable opportunity too, for a salesman to get to work. Therefore, the thing to do is to get a salesman on the job as fast as possible, and to do this you need the whole hearted cooperation of the sales department. There are many places where it is impossible to send a salesman after an inquiry in a hurry, and at the same time if you don’t keep in touch with your prospect he may cool off, or buy from a competitor — which is worse. So he has to be followed-up by mail. In our business we consider the mail follow-up to be just as important as the advertising, and no program of direct mail or magazine advertising is prepared without its accompanying follow- up letters and literature. ALL inquiries are divided into three general groups: First — Inquiries which show that the prospect is actually in the market for our products, such as letters asking for estimates and prices, or requests for salesmen to call. Second — Inquiries which tell about some problem or difficulty and asking for advice or help. Third — Inquiries which ask for literature or general information. Inquiries in the first group are what we call red hot prospects, and the nearest branch office is immediately notified by telegram. They are followed up within twenty-four to forty-eight hours by a personal call from a sales engineer. The only letter written to prospects in this class is an acknowledgment of the inquiry. Inquiries in the second or specific problem group are answered by a personally dictated letter from the main office which deals with each case ac- cording to its requirements. There- after they are handled in accordance with the general methods used for our third group which I will describe. The third or general information group constitutes the majority of inquiries received from our industrial advertising, and because they do not disclose the purpose of the sender it is doubly important that the follow-up system be carefully devised. The inquirer may be simply curious; he may want to keep up-to-date in his engineering- knowledge or he may have a real need for something we manufacture. ”THE first purpose of our follow-up in A these cases is to separate the inquiries into potential and non-potential buyers, so we send a data sheet with some literature and a letter showing him why he should return the information requested. A stamped, return ad- dressed envelope is also enclosed. This letter is followed up two weeks later by a second one along similar lines, and this in turn is followed by a third and fourth at two weeks’ intervals. In the meantime, the branch office has been notified, and has arranged to check up on the inquiry by the end of our follow-up series, which gives them approximately a month in which to arrange for a sales call. The most important thing about any follow-up plan is promptness, and that is worth more than all the honeyed phrases you can write. There are four fundamentals that I believe form the basis for building industrial sales by direct mail. First. A study of the problems and the environment of your prospects, and the writing of copy around these problems instead of about your products. Second. The continuous use of direct mail to a given list, month after month, instead of limiting it to a brief campaign. Third. The use of the most convenient and economical form of mailing piece with a copy arrangement that will assure easy readability and understanding. Fourth. Prompt and thorough follow-up. With this basis, it is my opinion that direct mail will be found by the industrial advertiser to be one of the most powerful and profitable means at his command for increasing business.
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