Accounting Firm Mails Circles Around Prospects

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An accounting firm is generating leads using the simplest of devices -- a black-and-white, circular mailer -- that takes advantage of the latest direct mail program from the U.S. Postal Service, Customized MarketMail.


Rosenfield Raymon Pielech PC's mailer is part of a four-stage marketing campaign to 1,100 businesses in southeast Massachusetts that has resulted in face-to-face meetings scheduled with about 200 prospects. It's one of the first examples of Customized MarketMail in business-to-business marketing.


The campaign has generated appointments so quickly that the company has had to schedule them two to three weeks in advance, said Erik Dorsey, director of marketing for the New Bedford, MA, firm.


"Which is good," he said. "We're victims of our own success."


The campaign is the first time Rosenfield Raymon Pielech branched out beyond local mass advertising and standard direct mail letters. The firm wanted its mailer to stand out amid the clutter but took a reverse-psychology approach, eschewing four-color mailers typically used for that purpose and using a starkly monochrome piece with an odd shape. The piece has no catchphrases or clever copy, just the firm's name, its principals and contact information.


"Lots of times, through color, design and content, you can get very creative," Dorsey said. "But sometimes the simplicity of what your organization does gets lost a bit."


This use of Customized MarketMail is ironic because CMM was created to allow mailers more creative freedom to design irregularly shaped pieces. The firm could have sent the piece via regular mail packaged in an envelope more cheaply, but Dorsey thought that would have made it less of an attention-getter.


The company's color choices did save money, however. Though Dorsey said the cost of color didn't factor into his design decisions, using a black-and-white mailer saved about 50 percent versus the price of a four-color piece. The mailer cost about 31 cents per piece to produce and another 33.5 cents to mail.


The first of the campaign's four stages began in August, when each prospect got an introductory letter from one of the firm's eight partners. Instead of using bulk-mail rates, the company used a 37-cent First-Class stamp on each letter to make it look more personal, Dorsey said.


The circular black-and-white mailer followed in September. In October, the firm's partners made follow-up calls to set up appointments. The fourth stage will be conducted this month, when prospects who declined appointments will be invited by mail to a free tax seminar in December.


In the follow-up calls, the partners asked prospects whether they remembered the mailers. About 35 percent said yes, while only a few remembered the initial introduction letter.


The firm's ideal targets are privately held businesses with annual revenue up to $20 million. These small businesses typically are in the early stages of their growth and likely have used a one- or two-person firm for their accounting services since their inception, Dorsey said.


The effort aims in many of these cases to convince the companies that they have grown complex enough to require a larger, more sophisticated accounting firm, Dorsey said. Rosenfield Raymon Pielech has 50 employees and offers tax services and business consulting along with accounting.


The firm's database of prospects includes 4,000 contacts. Rosenfield Raymon Pielech used lists and the contributions of partners who added contacts developed on their own to build the database. In this year's marketing effort, the firm targeted only those prospects in its immediate geographic area.


Dorsey said he plans to replicate and expand the four-stage marketing campaign next year, using most of the elements but doubling the size of the prospect list in the first quarter of 2004. The firm will hit the rest of its database in second-quarter 2004, he said.


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