Choosing the right audience and the right message are two of the three most important factors (the other being a compelling offer) in the success of your direct marketing campaigns.
For some companies, particularly in B2C markets, these choices are more
intuitive. For others, particularly high-tech companies in emerging B2B
categories, the audience decision in particular is a difficult one. For example, if
you’re marketing a new breed of enterprise software, is the best target:
– The IT manager who approves technology choices?
– The relevant line of business (LOB) VP?
– The finance director looking for savings and ROI?
– The end user most likely to be “feeling the pain?”
In the absence of hard data or test results from past campaigns, marketers
often make these decisions based on the sales process. They examine 1) where
the sales force is having the greatest success penetrating accounts and/or
closing sales, and 2) what messages are achieving the greatest traction with this
audience – and then construct their campaign accordingly.
However, sales success doesn’t always translate into direct marketing success, for two reasons:
1. The individual that buys your product, or the person who has primary
influence on the selection of your company, isn’t always the person most
likely to respond. Your most likely respondent is someone who feels the pain
that your product can solve. That could be the decision-maker, but more
likely it’s someone further down the food chain.
2. “Reasons to buy” and “reasons to respond” are very different animals.
Example: how your product or service differs from the competition may help
you win sales – but is unlikely to cause someone to respond to your
campaign, unless that person is in the process of actively evaluating vendors.
By all means listen to your sales force – their input can often help optimize your
marketing strategy. But unless you’re in the mail order business, the goal of
your campaigns (generate a response) is not the same as that of your sales reps
(close deals), so be wary of attempting to duplicate a winning sales strategy in
Instead, test your assumptions. Pit key benefits against each other in competing
subject lines or headlines or envelope copy. Split lists based on company size,
job title, gender, age group, etc. to find out precisely the group that responds
best to your message.