GeoNeighboring Solutions Helps Vendors Target Customers' Neighbors

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GeoNeighboring Solutions (GNS) has developed a system to automate door-to-door canvassing and consolidate prospect information in a database.

Founded on the principle that your customers' neighbors are your best prospects, GNS, a subsidiary of Caldwell List Co., Atlanta, targets prospect households located near existing customers by longitude and latitude coordinates. The information then is refined demographically by household income, age, length of residence, dwelling type and presence of children into a list of 50 to 100 qualified leads for direct mail solicitation and follow-up telemarketing.

GNS provides full-marketing services to vendors and also is a supplier of prospect data to list brokers and advertising agencies. The GeoNeighboring home consumer database is available with family, household, mail-order and financial selections and telephone numbers. The database contains records of customers and the leading prospects in their immediate vicinity.

"This is another option for an agency that is doing a lot of traditional campaigns,'' said GNS president Matthew Nelson. "It gives them a new angle to pitch a client on.''

"We found it to be extremely effective in getting close to the neighbors of people that were having installations,'' said Jim Callahan, who used GNS while he was vice president of sales for home-security company Rollins Protective Services, Atlanta. "We were getting about a 4 to 6 percent conversion rate, which we thought was excellent and much higher than a typical direct mail campaign."

The basis of the system is the implied referral: If a neighbor is using the services of a company then it is a good one with which to do business. Each direct mail piece is personalized and carries a message with the neighbor's name and address that serves as the implied referral.

The mail piece is followed up by a call designed to further qualify the prospect and set up an appointment with a home-products vendor. Telemarketers use a script that asks prospects whether they have noticed a remodeling project in their neighborhood.

"While we don't have a way of establishing a relationship, we can infer that through the fact that they live within 500 feet or are familiar with the area,'' Nelson said. "In most cases, [prospects] know the neighbor. If they don't know them by name, they definitely know their house and can form a picture."

Nelson said 70 percent of those who remodel their homes base their contractor selection on referrals. For 30 years, members of remodeling teams have knocked on doors of neighbors for leads during the construction process. GNS does the same thing using marketing technology. "We can go in and get the same precision as you could get on foot by direct mail,'' Nelson said.

Besides building sales leads, GNS strives to help customers make educated, informed decisions about home services and remodeling projects. In its current campaign with Sears HomeCentral, Hoffman Estates, IL, GNS developed different mail pieces for varying levels of prospects. Top prospects are sent a postcard detailing a specific Sears service and others receive information that explain how remodeling can increase the home's resale value.

GNS is being marketed as an alternative to canvassing areas by street name or postal carrier route. The mail and telemarketing follow-up are intended to sift out all but the most likely prospects. Callahan, whose company had tried the carrier-route approach, found GNS more useful.

"Other mailings set up by ZIP code are very broad brush,'' he said. "If you're not careful, even with a carrier route, you can end up four miles away. The carrier route didn't allow us to eliminate apartments and condos.''

The GNS approach isn't foolproof. It helped Homecraft Industries, Newington, CT, a replacement window and door maker, double its success rate of turning leads into appointments.

"Initially, it proved helpful, but results have dropped off dramatically in the last couple of months," said Wayne Jones, telemarketing manager at Homecraft. Jones had no explanation for the drop.

Although home products and services are more visible to neighbors, the GNS approach is applicable for financial services and other "Keeping up with the Joneses" offers.

"If you assume neighborhoods are built in the same time frame and have similar socioeconomic and psychographic characteristics, you can look at a neighborhood like a cluster group,'' Nelson said.

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