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a blog by Chris Barrow

Direct marketing

I was taken to task on my previous post about mailers, adverts, gimmicks being a waste of time.

Offended dentists and marketing consultants complaining that their mailer worked – so what the hell do I know?

Everything works. Exploding cigars work. There is simply a conversion rate…

  1. 1 in 3 people you ask for referrals will refer

  2. 1 in 6 people who visit your web site will call for an appointment

  3. 1 in 20 people who see your signage will drop in

  4. 1 in 100 people who see your stand at a wedding show will ask for details

  5. 1 in 1000 people who hear your radio advert will visit your website

  6. 1 in 1500 people who see a post on Facebook will ask for more information

  7. 1 in 4000 people who get your direct mailer will respond (and in direct marketing 0.25% is a good response rate – that’s 3999 mailers in the recycling and 1 on a desk)

Everything works to some degree or other. What’s important is to measure the ROI.


What did you pay and what did you get?

and then to PRIORITISE your marketing activity.

In our urban village of Hale, Cheshire (very affluent – footballers, corporate finance, big business) we have a bakery – Hills (see photo above).

This year they celebrate their 100th anniversary and in the shop window are photos of the founders, in World War 1 military uniform – and a history of the family.

They make the best pain aux chocolat I have ever tasted – and people queue to buy them – even though Sainsbury’s across the road, Tesco next door and the busiest Costa in Europe a few yards away, sell the same.

Do they taste THAT MUCH different?

Probably not.

Sainsbury, Tesco and Costa are really wholesalers of their products.

It’s OK for wholesalers to do direct marketing as a means to initiate relationships, you have a national marketplace.

But there’s no ‘fun’ in buying there.

It’s not quite as OK for small retailers to DEPEND ON direct marketing – you have a local marketplace.

Hills don’t need to do mailers, adverts and exploding cigars – they just need to be visible, serve their local community and make sure that the food is great, the premises are quaint and the staff are courteous and efficient – job done.

It’s ‘fun’ to go there this morning, when I have a day in The Bunker, and chat to the ladies behind the counter.

And this is my beef.

When I see a small dental practice DEPENDING on direct marketing because the people in the practice don’t have the time, the energy, the communication skills or THE BALLS:

  1. to ask for referrals

  2. to build an active website and social media engagement programme

  3. They don’t have the VISION to engage a really good TCO

  4. They don’t have the SELF-ESTEEM to get off their arses and network in their local community

  5. They are too SCARED to get out of their comfort zone and attend a sales training programme

They throw money at direct marketing and live with a 1 in 10,000 response rate (and maybe even a positive ROI).

Direct marketing is just like crystal meth – you are going to have to spend more and more money over time to get the same result – and if you ever stop, the withdrawal symptoms will kill you.

Wholesalers do direct marketing first and relationship marketing second.

Retailers do relationship marketing first and direct marketing second.

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