How I found all the customers I needed for 30 years….
Marketing with Directories in B2B business —
How I acquired all the new customers I ever needed
using nothing more than a 28¢ salesman…
By Mark Goggin
Peter Drucker – the father of marketing consulting – said that THE PURPOSE of a
business – any business — is to attract customers. It would be best, to do that at a profit.
But, for a business to be a business its number one task is to…
Yet, in many small and medium size businesses customer acquisition is put on the back
There can be many reasons for this.
Expense is often one of them. Also, it is time-consuming. And, finally, it is seen as an
unreliable, “hit or miss” process.
For 30 years I had a small business and so I faced each of these issues.
How I solved my customer acquisition problem helped me stay in business for 30 years.
If you are in a B2B business, my solution may help you streamline at least part of your
customer acquisition problem. Certainly, there is no cheaper and more effective way to
Here’s what I did…
Before I do that, however, let me introduce myself and tell you a little about my business.
For all of the 30 years I was in business, I was an envelope broker. What this means is
that I bought and sold custom envelope orders for other businesses. I didn’t own a
factory. Every order was subcontracted. Didn’t even have a printing press or “trade
I’m sure you would agree this was not the most attractive business to be in. But, it was
the only business idea I had at the time. So, if I wanted to support my family…
I had to make it work
From the start of my business I knew, intuitively, this meant I had to have a cheap,
reliable and repeatable source of new customers.
I also knew they had to be prospects who wanted more than just a “good price”. If they
all they wanted was a good price on their envelopes, I couldn’t compete.
As a practical matter this meant that my typical customer had to be a small or medium
size business envelope customer – someone who bought from a few hundred dollars a
year to, perhaps, someone who bought $50,000 a year (my largest customer, actually).
There was another complication –
I had to do it cheaply
I couldn’t afford any of the expensive Lead Generation programs out there.
Now, as it happened, I’d been studying direct marketing for several years. Therefore, I
knew that the place to start was finding and buying a good list of likely prospects. But,
Which lists should I buy?
There are two kinds of lists. Compiled lists and lists of buyers.
In general, lists of buyers are preferred – because someone who has bought what you are
selling once – even if it’s not from your company — is highly likely to buy twice.
But, what I found was that, in B2B direct marketing, good and accurate compiled lists
worked fine – as long as you knew the companies on these lists were likely to need what
you were selling.
This last point is really what was at the heart of what I did – and what I’ve come to call
What this involves is studying your customer list to find those customers that might
represent a niche market for you business. My home run in this area came when I decided
to find out how many Credit Unions might be prospects.
I already had several local Credit Union customers and realized that, in many ways, these
were my ideal customers. They typically bought I the quantities I could be competitive
in. They were underserved by my competition. And, because they typically weren’t large
purchasers of envelopes, they had a tough time getting great service on custom
envelopes. What’s more, rush and on-time orders were almost impossible for a small
envelope buyer to get on a consistent basis — at least here on the west coast. But, I was
very good at that.
Getting a list of Credit Unions was relatively easy. I just went online and bought a
directory. The advantage of a directory vs. purchasing a list was that it was usually more
reliable and had more information on prospects.
Also, once I entered the names of Credit Unions onto my computer, they were mine
forever. The list didn’t expire in a year. In addition, there were no restrictions on how I
could use it. Oh, and the cost: it was only $42. Much less than a list.
When my directory came in the mail, I found it had 1400 Credit Unions in those states
where I could be competitive — Calif, WA, OR and AZ. When you consider that the
average envelope salesman has, at best, fewer than 100 prospects you can see how this
gave me an enormous competitive advantage – not the least of which was that
Every one of these 1400 was a genuine prospect. Guaranteed
They used envelopes! This means that I didn’t have to “lead score” the names I got. I
already knew they were real prospects.
What’s more, as I said, this
directory had all sorts of great detailed information about each of these Credit Unions.
The key, however, was the number of members. Once I knew that how many members
they had, I knew how many statements they would have to send out every quarter – and,
therefore, how many envelopes they needed every year.
But, at this point, I was still only half way home. Because I now had to figure out how to
contact these 1400 prospects on a regular basis.
The rule of thumb in B2B marketing is that you must contact a prospect 7-10 times
before you either convert them or give up. This meant that I had to figure out how to
contact them cheaply.
I didn’t have a sales force. So, that meant I had to contact them either by direct mail or
Sending out 1400 direct mail letters was too expensive and time-consuming. Not just
because of the postage. But, because each of the letters would have to have been printed,
stuffed, sealed and the postage attached.
That’s where my
28¢ salesman came in
That was what I called my secret weapon – a Post Card.
But, not just any Post Card. Post Office Post Cards. Why?
First, because they were First Class Mail. Many large companies had announced that they
would not deliver 3rd class mail. But, Post Cards are First Class Mail and therefore
Mailrooms in large companies couldn’t toss them out. By law they had to deliver them
internally to the addressee.
So, that solved the cost problem of contacting customers. There were other issues…
At first, I thought I needed the name of the envelope buyer a each of these firms. But, I
quickly realized, after making 100s of calls to get the identity of the buyer, that this
would never work.
It would take me too long. And, then, when I was done, there would be an unknown
amount of personnel turnover which would obsolete my work.
That’s when I had
This “AHA! Moment”
I tested addressing my mail to “the person who buys your envelopes”. It worked like a
charm. And, it completely neutralized the personnel turnover issue.
The final element was what to write on each Post Card. After all, there is not a lot of
room for much of a message. But, that’s an article for another time.
The bottom line is that I now I had the inexpensive, reliable and repeatable LeadGen/
customer acquisition system. It could run on auto-pilot and deliver customers on a
About Mark Goggin
I started out in physics. Got a BS in ’63. Master of Arts two years later.
Worked in the Aerospace industry for approx 4 years. Grumman. Hughes. Litton.
Decided to go into sales around 1970.
Sold envelopes for US Envelope for about 3 years. Was national salesman of the year for in 1973 (I think).
Decided that I needed more control of my income and so started Golden State Envelope in ’74.
Ran it till I sold it in 2004.
Probably the main reason that I was able to have a 30 year success is that I figured out several clever (if I do say so myself) and low cost ways to attract customers.
Since then have been “retired”.
Got tired of that and have started to think about consulting with small and medium B2B businesses in both offline marketing (such as the stuff covered in my article) and online marketing.
To contact the author: email@example.com
© Mark Goggin 2009