Good lead generation campaigns are much more than a shot in the dark

I have a friend with a son who is a sophomore in high school.  This morning, she told me that she can't believe how many money colleges waste precious funds on expensive direct mail communications.  She described the quality of the paper, the outsized packaging, and the heft of the packages they've been receiving-all of which she tosses in the waste bin.

Direct marketing mail campaigns are often cost-effective

As a marketer, I told her that her would-be correspondents may not be wasting their money.  After all, college tuition for four years is now in excess of $100,000-perhaps more than her fully loaded salary as a manager at a Philadelphia-based research organization.  If only 1 or 2 students that they contact eventually enroll, a school can easily justify the cost of the mailing.

Success depends on a compelling value proposition

I suggested she open a few to see if they had a message that would compel her to act, something that was important to either her or her son.  So, she opened one that arrived yesterday.

Sell, don't tell

As she expected, it was just like all the others.  It started by pointing out that her son ranks higher than most students in the country.  They knew that.

The letter said that they are seeking students who want the types of challenges and experiences, from which others shy away.  Then, the letter told him they were looking for students.

Response mechanisms can erect barriers

Finally, before closing by asking that her son visit their website or send them a card, they said they were a prestigious liberal arts college-even though they confided, they prefer to think of themselves as a school that nurtures collaboration for big results.  The Admissions Director included his phone number under his signature.

Good design contributes to the message

The collage of pictures on the letter didn't seem to add to the message.  In fact, if one just saw the pictures, he or she would be hard-pressed to guess what the sender was advertising.

Most prominent was one of the Dalai Lama.  Another was of clinicians in an operating room.

Others were of people talking, a building, an outdoor snapshot, a row of apartments, and kids kicking a soccer ball.  There were also headshots of people of different races and national origins.

Calls to action must resonate

The calls to action encouraged students to give the school a chance to get to know them before they apply-and offered to provide advice that would help them apply to any school.

She threw the package away.  Now perhaps there are students with whom one of these marketing messages will resonate-but I think the schools can do a better job of convincing their correspondents to take the next step.

Capitalize on the data you have

Clearly, this school was able to get students' names, PSAT scores, and zip codes.  Even without additional information, they could probably guess the student's sex-and assume that he or she was a sophomore in high school.

Think through the implications

From just the zip code, they knew that her home is in a middle-class community several hundred miles north of the school.  From that they could have discerned that the recipients likely weren't aware of the school and would probably require financial aid.  Yet, nothing in the communication addressed either concern.

Step into the buyers' minds

The letter writer had sufficient information to recognize that the main marketing messages wouldn't resonate.   Having had no previous interaction with the school, which didn't have a national reputation, neither mother or son was likely to care that the school was seeking students-or wanted a chance to get to know the son before he applied.  Moreover, there was no reason to believe that the family would contact a complete stranger for help applying to other schools.

The letter also didn't speak to the son's needs.  In March of his sophomore year of high school, the son wasn't seeking out more challenges.  Instead, like most boys his age, he's focusing on the here and now:  his schoolwork, his friends, his extra-curricular activities, and sports.

Timing is everything

Unless the school could obtain information from the PSAT administrators that would enable them to speak to his current needs, a letter to the son was premature.  Also, the chances are slim that any teenage would call an adult and this marketing communication didn't offer an email option.

I had to agree with my friend's initial assessment.  Even organizations that seek small response rates can't afford scattershot approaches.

Create campaigns that generate leads

How much more effective would this lead generation campaign have been if the sender had:

  • Focused on its most promising prospects
  • Spoken to their needs and concerns
  • Tailored its message to where prospects were in their buying process
  • Tested its calls to action
  • Offered multiple response mechanisms

My guess is that the college could have gotten a far better return on their marketing investment-if only they'd thought a little more about the audience-rather than focusing exclusively on their own goals.  The question is how often do businesses make many of the same mistakes?

Need help confirming assumptions about your audience?  Try our Revenue Accelerator Quick Start program.

This blog

by Barbara Bix - In tough economic times, more and more clients are looking to their accountants to help them improve the bottom line. Often, the best way to do that is to start with the top line-since one can only decrease expenses so far. This blog discusses concrete actions you and your business-to-business clients can use to accelerate revenues.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

48618

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

81871

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

53790

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

97180
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
24553

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

61154

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

86979

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

28485

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

69923

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

38188
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
109966
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
29958

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

58144
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
31976
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
36593

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

108782

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

37862

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

119953

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

67276

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

43644
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
71352

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

98286

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

58872