How would you like your prospecting letters and emails to be so compelling that they wind up framed on your new customers’ walls? Impossible? Wall Street Journal cartoonist Stu Heinecke uses cartoons to do just that.
Stu is also a DMA Hall of Fame-nominated marketer, and author of Drawing Attention, Big Fat Beautiful Head and his soon to be published How to Get a Meeting with Anyone: The Amazing Power of Contact Marketing.
Stu is in the vanguard of a movement he calls Contact Marketing, an emergent form of marketing that fuses marketing and sales. Although the title of Stu’s new book promises a meeting with “anyone,” anyone is not his goal. He gets you to in front of senior level executive prospects—a prospecting campaign goal that every SVP of Sales and B2B salesperson can relate to.
Conventional wisdom tells us a 100% response rate from a direct marketing campaign is not possible. But ROI for Contact Marketing Campaigns has proven off the scale. Most Contact Marketing campaigns are producing response rates as high as 100% and one produced more that a $600,000 ROI.
Some of the campaigns are outright audacious. For example, to reach Larry Ellison, Oracle Corporation’s CEO who is notoriously hard to get to, a company spent $10,000.00 to place a contact letter as a full page ad in the Wall St Journal. They letter was successful: the sale of the company which was the objective of the campaign. But most campaigns while creative can range for $0 to $10,000 per effort.
Stu specializes in cartoon campaigns and he has a long line of record breaking campaigns for many of the world’s biggest direct marketers such as Time, Inc., Forbes, Harvard Business Review, The New Yorker, The NBA and NHL, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals and GSK GlaxoSmithKline. In those Contact Campaigns Stu produces “Big Boards” which are 18” x 24” foam core boards with a cartoon about the recipient on one side and a message on the other which shares a relevant insight and a request to talk. Additionally, for executives that have assistants which Stu thinks of not as gatekeepers but talent scouts, he includes them in the campaign as well.
So how can the magic of cartoons work for you and your organization? One insurance company identified 30 executives as priority contacts. Stu developed a campaign involving his BigBoards, which he sent via FedEx to the target executives. The sales reps followed up over the phone. Where there were executive assistants involved, they received thank-you cards featuring their own personalized cartoons. The result was a nearly 100% response rate and an ROI of over 10,000% — and climbing.
Stu’s own example may be the best. Early in his career he knew he wanted to create direct response campaigns for the big magazine publishers. Using his cartoons he landed Rolling Stone and BonAppetit and the campaigns he did for them set new response records. Having hit what he calls a “double home run” he wanted to spread out to the rest of the industry which meant reaching 24 VPs at big publishing houses. He felt he could not tolerate anything less than a 100% response. He spent less than $100.00 on personalized cartoon prints with a letter to each VP explaining how he used cartoons to beat the controls for the two magazines and suggested a test for their titles. He got through to all 24 VPs and closed millions of dollars of business which he used to launch his business.
Editorial readership surveys have long shown that cartoons are the best read and remembered part of magazines and newspapers. Stu leveraged that insight to apply cartoons to mailing campaigns to draw prospects in.
He explained that “Cartoons, like all humor, are about truths revealed in a twist.” His cartoons are always about the recipient and he is careful to steer their use to the truth they reveal. He learns gathers these individualized truths by starting with an assumption that everyone on the list feels pride in their business accomplishments if they are C-level executives. I then memorialize that as specific to the person situation as research can provide to memorialize that in the cartoon. By getting it right we create an irresistible keeper. He says that “When the humor is on target, the effect is simply stunning.”
I was captivated by this approach because I continuously see sales organizations and salespeople struggle to make contact with prospects and secure meetings with executives sponsors critical to winning business. I recently spoke with a salesperson who lost a deal after seven months of intense contact—but not at the right level. The salesperson finally met the executive too late—at the final presentation.
I have always loved cartoons. The idea that cartoons can serve as another arrow in the quiver of prospecting to get to executives is exciting especially in a sales environment in which salespeople are tasked with not only responding to clients but generating demand.
Stu sees Contact Marketing as a “shortcut to explosive growth.” His advice: “Always have a tightly-focused list of executives who can change the scale of your career or sales results. Executives are the right target audience for Contact Marketing. Keep your focus on creating those relationships.”
As I think about it really what could be better than beginning executive relationships with a smile.