“Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done right.” – Walt Disney

If you need sales leads but don’t know how to get them — or if your marketing efforts aren’t generating enough of them — here is a proven lead-generating program that almost always works. Although it involves some work and several steps on your part, it is basically very simple. In fact, if you are using direct mail to generate sales leads now, it will likely double or triple your response rate.

Here’s what you do:

Approach a local business or trade organization whose members are potential customers for your business. Offer to give a free talk at their next meeting on a topic that is (a) related to the product or service you offer and (b) of interest to the audience.

For instance, if you are speaking at a local chamber of commerce meeting and you are a CPA, you could give a talk on “10 Ways to Save Money on Taxes Under the New Tax Code.”

The idea is to deliver 20 or 30 minutes of simple but useful information in your area of expertise. You don’t have to be a professional speaker to do this. Just present your tips and ideas in a clear, straightforward fashion.

Arrange to have the talk professionally taped. In most towns, there is at least one music or recording studio. Hire them to come to your talk and record it on professional-quality audio equipment. Take the “master” (the tape of the recording that they make) to a duplicator and have 20 to 50 copies made. This will run you about a dollar a tape.

Have the duplicator put a laser-printed label on each of the tapes. The label should provide the title of your talk, along with your name, company name, and contact information (at minimum, your phone number and website address). Also, even though you will be giving the tape away and not selling it, put a price (I recommend $15) in the upper-right corner of the label.

Reason: This increases the perceived value of the tape. Next, rent a mailing list of potential customers from a mailing-list broker. Using our example, a CPA might rent a list of small businesses within a 60-mile radius of his office. Write a short letter to these people offering them a free copy of your audiocassette. You might say something like this:

“Dear Business Owner:

“At a recent meeting of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce, Dan Goodman of Goodman & Jacobs, a local CPA firm, gave a  well-received talk on “10 Ways to Reduce Your Business and Personal Taxes Under the New Tax Code.”

[At this point in your letter, you might want to insert a couple of paragraphs or a few bullet points referring to the useful ideas on the tape. For example, “You’ll discover half a dozen or more loopholes that can slash your tax payments by thousands of dollars this year — as well as sound advice on how to avoid an IRS audit.” But this is optional. If you prefer, go straight to the closing paragraph below.]

“If you would like a FREE copy of Dan’s audiocassette, “10 Ways to Reduce Your Business and Personal Taxes Under the New Tax Code” (list price: $15), just complete and mail the enclosed reply card. Or call Goodman & Jacobs at 201-555-1212 today.”

Enclose a reply card with your letter. It should have a space for the recipient to write in his name and address, as well as a box he can check off that reads: “[ ] Yes, please send me your FREE audiocassette, “10 Ways to Reduce Your Business and Personal Taxes Under the New Tax Code.”

I like to add a second check box that offers specific information on the product or service you are trying to sell. For instance: “[ ] Contact me about a free consultation with Goodman & Jacobs to review my current tax situation. My phone number is: _____.”

The front of the reply card is addressed to you. You can put a box in the upper-right corner that says “Place stamp here.” Or you can obtain a business-reply permit from your local post office and create a pre-paid business-reply card (BRC). The advantage of doing this is that the recipient does not have to affix postage to a BRC. And you pay postage only on those that are returned to you.

Now, you conduct a small test. Pick 200 to 500 names on your mailing list. Send each of them your letter, along with a reply card (pre-paid or not — your choice).

When you send out such a mailing, you will find that for every 100 letters mailed, between one and 10 of the recipients will mail back the reply card requesting the free tape. If two out of every 100 recipients ask for the tape, your response rate is 2%. Even though these people are simply asking for a free audiotape, they are actually qualifying themselves as potential customers by demonstrating an interest in the problem or need your service addresses (e.g., saving money on taxes).

My experience is that you can convert between 10% and 35% of those who request a free tape into a sale of your product or service. So, if you mail 500 letters and get a 2% response rate, you will have 10 sales leads.

Out of that, you will get at least one new customer — probably two or three. And if you do really well, four or even five.

(Ed. Note: Bob Bly is the editor of Mailbox Millionaire, ETR’s program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business.)

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.