Reap the Benefits of the Educated Sell

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I previously have taken the position that direct mail is selling, not advertising. But when is direct mail neither selling nor advertising? When it provides your clients with valuable information about your services that can help them improve the way they do business.


Though the underlying goal of every direct mail effort is increased sales, sometimes the sell must be soft and you must delay closing the deal. When you provide clients with news about developments or technologies in your industry, you offer them valuable clues to navigating your world and you become their resource for critical details.


By positioning yourself as an expert in your field, you also add another dimension to the value-added services they are accustomed to receiving from your company.


How do you marry the two techniques into a comprehensive direct mail strategy? Taking the "education" route, you must give clients important, productive and helpful information free of charge. This is no time for fluff or filler. If you don't give them the real benefits of your expertise, your cover will be blown quickly. Widget 101 can take you only so far. The guidance and facts you provide must be authentic, tangible and useful.


The approach also should give you a chance to upsell. For example, after we installed new inkjet addressing systems in our lettershop, we saw an opportunity to marry information and sales. Our new equipment clearly improved the look of a direct mail piece by allowing for the addition of spot color, graphics and the use of custom fonts at production speeds - a major advance over the older equipment.


We not only educated our client base and prospects about our technological advancements, but also sold them the opportunity to upgrade the quality of their direct mail pieces. The teaching was accomplished through press releases, print ads, our monthly newsletter and e-mail. The sale came via a direct mail card that showed off what the new equipment could accomplish. The copy described the advances in technology and explained in detail how it could enhance their mail pieces.


Before this, clients would grumble about the primitive dot-matrix look of the address on their direct mail pieces. Now we were telling them exactly how they could benefit from our latest technology. We created a first-time offer tied to the application of color or custom fonts. The inkjet-produced burst on our promotional card showcased precisely how their mail pieces could become more attractive and powerful marketing tools for very little cost.


Though such scenarios do not present themselves as clearly every day, most industries can benefit by keeping their clients informed about changes in their specialty and turn the information into value-added selling opportunities.


Remember the line about not hiding your light under a bushel basket? Informing clients and prospects about important industry or product advancements can focus the spotlight on you as their expert. Even if you do not push the sale while educating, you are telling your audience that they can be affected positively by your information.


Your business clients, no matter how skilled in their own craft, couldn't answer complicated questions about what you do, nor should they. That's why they buy from you. The more you can teach them, the more they will regard your company as their expert, and subsequent sales efforts will be responded to with confidence in your ability to deliver on your promises.


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