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Case Study from Our Files
There's a Right Way and Wrong Way to Write a Customer Follow-up Letter
by Joe Gracia

Note: The names of the people and businesses in our case studies have been changed to ensure the privacy of the people involved, but the details, recommendations and results are based on actual events from our files.

A few years ago a client asked us to review a follow-up letter he was mailing to his customers a few weeks after they had purchased one of his products.

He wasn't achieving any of the goals he had set for this follow-up letter.

After reading it, it was apparent why.

He was expecting way too much of his customers. Here's the advice we provided:

Dear Bob,

Iíve reviewed your follow-up letter and have a few suggestions.

1. WE, ME, versus YOU, YOUR:

People get bored and distracted 'very' easily. If you talk about your product, your company and your services in the beginning of your letter, your customers will stop reading immediately.

Your ratio of the words YOU and YOUR -- as in, YOU get, YOU will receive, YOUR problem, YOUR benefits, YOUR solution, YOUR savings, YOUR gift, etc. -- versus the words WE, ME (or variations, like OUR staff, OUR customers, OUR company, etc.) -- as in, WE installed, WEíRE #1, WEíVE been in business since 1937, etc. -- should be ten to one in favor of YOU, YOUR.

Your prospects and customers donít care about your company, and your successes, they only care about themselves. They want to know 'Whatís in It For Me?' and they want to know that immediately -- or they will stop reading.

This is a hard lesson for business people to learn, because they are so enamored with their products and services, that they erroneously believe that their prospects/customers will be too. Not true.

You start talking about what your customer will get in the middle of page two -- 'Enclosed is Your Free Gift . . . ' Thatís where you should begin your letter. Eliminate the copy about YOUR product and how many uses people have found for your product. Youíve already sold these people. This letter has a different purpose.

2. FOCUS ON ONLY ONE OFFER AT A TIME:

People can only hold ONE thought in their heads at any one moment. Itís tough enough to get a prospect or customerís attention to begin with, but to expect them to grasp and hold more than one thought or offer at a time is impossible. Once they have gotten to your second thought, they have erased the first one from their minds.

You have presented a total of FOUR different thoughts for your customers to retain in your letter, and three of them require action on their part:

ONE - OUR PRODUCT IS VERSATILE: This isnít an offer, itís a selling point meant to get your customer thinking about the many uses of your product. They have already purchased your product, this is irrelevant to them now.

TWO - $25 DISCOUNT CERTIFICATE: This is your first offer.

THREE - $25 REFERRAL GIFT: This is your second offer.

FOUR - TESTIMONIAL: This is a request, and your fourth thought they have to remember and consider.

Focus each of your marketing vehicles on only one thought each.

If you want your customers to consider purchasing more of your products with the $25 off certificate, then that is all that should be in the marketing vehicle.

If you want a testimonial, then focus 100% on getting the testimonial, etc.

Most business owners want to kill 6 birds with one stone. It canít be done. One bird -- one stone.

3. DONíT PUT THE BURDEN OF EFFORT ON YOUR PROSPECTS/CUSTOMERS:

Any time you ask your prospects or customers to take some action, you are going to be met with resistance. People are busy. They are easily distracted, forgetful, and they love to procrastinate -- and thatís with activities that they are interested in. They will take even less effort for someone else, especially a business.

-- $25 DISCOUNT CERTIFICATE: You are asking your customers to consider purchasing additional products in the future and to file and remember this discount certificate and use it then. They wonít do that.

If you want them to apply a $25 Discount Certificate to a future purchase, then you must send them the certificate later, at the time when you believe they may be ready for another purchase, and follow-up with a personal call to make sure they've received the certificate and to answer any questions.

Your customers are not going to take the time and effort to file your Discount Certificate away for future use. Any Discount Certificates you provide for 'future' purchases will most likely end up in the trash, or lost.

-- $25 REFERRAL GIFT: You are asking your customers to think of someone who might have an interest in your products, and then have them speak with those people about your product. They also have to tell their friends how to get in touch with you if they are interested. Thatís a lot to expect--most wonít do it.

If you want to get referrals, create a referral card -- offering a free info-kit -- that your customers can just hand to their friends or neighbors. Put a referral code on the cards so you can tell who referred the new customer.

You can also ask your customers for referrals right after the sale while you are standing with them.

-- TESTIMONIAL: You are asking your customers to think of some positive things to say about your product and service and take the time to sit down and write them out and then mail it to you. Very few will remember or take the time to do it.

If you want testimonials, you must do the work for them. Listen to their positive comments while you are with them, then ask them right then and there if you can use their comments. Then type them up and have them give you their permission to use them.

You can also call them and ask them for their comments about your products and your services a week or so after the sale. Again, YOU must do the actual work of typing up their comments and getting their permission to use their comments.

If you wait for your customers to do your marketing work for you, you will get very few testimonials.

4. USE A BENEFIT HEADLINE:

Headlines arenít only for newspaper ads, they are for all of your marketing efforts, including sales letters, and follow-up letters.

Tell your prospects and customers why they should read your letter. Tell them 'Whatís in It For Them' in your headline. 'YOU CAN RECEIVE A SPECIAL $25 GIFT. HEREíS HOW.' (Notice the word YOU). Then tell them about the $25 gift and what they have to do to get it, in your copy -- one thought only per marketing piece.

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