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Direct marketing FAQs: The questions should start the conversations

Posted by David Quigley on May 21, 2014

Working in new business development for a direct marketing agency, I have the pleasure of receiving many weekly inquiries regarding our services. Quite honestly, I am starting to think that there must be a book out there titled, The most general and vague questions to ask a direct marketing agency.

I’m reminded of a recent visit to an auto repair shop. While in the waiting area, I overheard multiple conversations that went like this: Customer: “How much do you charge to fix my car?” Repair guy: “Well it depends, what’s wrong with your car? What type of car do you have?” Customer: “It’s making this weird noise and sometimes smells like something is burning. I have a Buick.” Repair guy: “Well, I’d have to take a closer look. What type of Buick?” Customer: “It’s a blue Buick.” As you can imagine, this back and forth went on for some time. It was entertaining and helped pass the time. But it also reminded me of the inquiries I often receive and how both parties could improve the art of the question by engaging in smarter conversations.

Here are the top three general FAQs that I receive and my suggestions for improving the overall experience for everyone:

1. So, you guys are a direct mail company right?
First let me start off by recognizing that many people still confuse the terms “direct marketing” and “direct mail.” Direct mail refers to printed materials designed to elicit a response from a selected consumer or business market. Direct marketing is bigger than direct mail; it is a set of techniques using targeted communications that drive response and action. While direct mail is one of the techniques used, it is often used in conjunction with other communications channels designed to complement each other.

Optimize direct mail for maximum response. Sign up today for this free webinar. If you are contacting a direct marketing agency, chances are they have direct mail in their service offerings. Rather than ask questions that will trigger clarification questions, it would be better to start off by describing what issues you are looking for solutions to and why you thought direct mail was an answer. Expect a detailed discussion and be prepared to supply enough information to get to a point where the agency can actually formulate an answer that will make sense for your request. Keep in mind that a direct marketing agency is not a mail house. If you are simply looking for someone to execute direct mail as quickly and economically as possible, an agency might not be a good fit.

2. What is your pricing for your services? Do you have a price list you can send to me?
At first glance, this may seem like a straightforward and simple question. Unfortunately, when it comes to speaking to a direct marketing agency, pricing will depend on many factors that are different for each project or campaign. Size and scope are two of the major factors that impact pricing.

Rather than ask for pricing or a price list, it may be better to request a proposal. Keep in mind that for an agency to effectively develop a proposal, there will need to be a detailed conversation that maps multiple factors, including strategy, goals, channels, metrics, etc. Also keep in mind that when considering a direct marketing agency, price should not be the sole factor in your decision.

3. Can you get us to market in the next 3-4 weeks?
This question always seems to pop up with various timing requirements plugged in. When it comes to timing, there are two major points to consider.

The first and most important is that your time frame may not be realistic. When it comes to executing a campaign, be sure to consider the suggested timeline from the direct marketing agency. They will know best how to reach optimal results from a multichannel engagement. After all, you are seeking help from the experts in this area. Why would you potentially sabotage the success of your project by not adhering to the proposed solutions, including the timing? Often I encounter companies that have failed to allow time for testing, metrics and analysis so that programs can be optimized to achieve the best possible outcome.

The second major point to consider is that generally the quicker you want things, the more it’s going to cost. Quite frankly, if you’re asking a direct marketing agency to call an “all hands on deck” situation to accomplish things within your desired time frame, you’re more likely to encounter up front costs.

Direct marketing agencies do not take every project from every company that approaches them. On the contrary, there is a detailed process that agencies use to evaluate new opportunities in order to make an educated decision on whether or not they should proceed.

Rather than contacting a direct marketing agency with a list of initial questions, consider starting a conversation. A detailed and informational discussion with an agency will eventually answer all of your questions, as well as some that you may not have thought about.

Direct Mail Best PracticesTo learn more proven ways to enhance the effectiveness of your direct mail programs to align with direct marketing best practices, sign your company up for J&C’s optimizing direct mail response webinar. Or click here to download J&C’s Direct Mail Best Practices ebook, which showcases more examples that can improve the overall performance of your programs.

Topics: Direct Marketing

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