Qualifying your leads

With the high cost of printing and mailing, catalogers can’t afford to waste mailings on unqualified leads. Business-to-business marketers-particularly those mailing expensive directory-size books of industrial products, or those mailing to medical or public safety professionals-especially don’t want their catalogs ending up in the garbage or in the wrong hands.

For instance, the manufacturers of many of the products carried by the Nailco beauty salon supplies catalog specify that their goods are to be sold only to beauty professionals, rather than to consumers looking for wholesale prices. “So while we send some catalogs to chain-store buyers, we market mostly to cosmetologists,” says Lisa Phillion, director of media development for the Farmington Hills, MI-based company.

Nailco rents lists from the state boards of cosmetologists, which ensures that the prospects have licenses, Phillion says. “We also mail to Yellow Page listings of salons, and then we get the cosmetologist’s license when we take the order.”

Other business mailers, such as fire, police and emergency medical gear cataloger Gall’s, rely on compiled lists to find qualified customers. “We qualify by profession,” says Tim O’Malley, vice president of advertising for the Lexington, KY-based mailer. “Compiled lists work well for us because we can select a specific profession. We also qualify our incoming calls by asking the caller’s profession. If the caller’s profession is on our list, we send a catalog.”

A model method of qualifying But sometimes scribbling down the professions of leads isn’t enough to help determine whether they are worthwhile prospects. Business-to-business marketing consultant John Coe of Database Marketing Associates in Scottsdale, AZ, says many of his clients qualify their leads in a more high-tech manner: by comparing the names against a database model that includes the industry, company size, and job function of active customers, using overlays to obtain the pertinent information for the leads if necessary.

“The trend is to be more selective when deciding who will receive a catalog,” Coe says. “Even your house list is probably a collection of trade show names, call-in requesters, and other sources. So we use a good merge/purge program, then pass the remaining names through an SIC [standard industrial classification] code and company-size model. We now pass all our compiled and response lists through the model too.”

Running leads against a model that segments them by standard industrial classification or company type can also help create clusters of similar prospects. A computer cataloger, for instance, could then send different versions of its catalog to leads from within the publishing industry and to leads from accounting firms.

As for leads generated via a Website, the medium’s immediacy simplifies the qualification process. The catalog request form can be modified to include a few industry-specific questions that would help ascertain whether the requester does indeed belong to the desired target audience. Along those lines, computer manufacturer IBM asks its Website visitors which computer and networking products their company already owns. Like running leads against an SIC model, this has the bonus of enabling the marketer to tailor the mailing to the prospect.

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