Small Batch, Hand Crafted Outbound Marketing Works

mailInbound marketing, or being found, has certainly become the way of marketing promotion these days because let’s face it, broadcasting or outbound marketing doesn’t work, right?

Well, done poorly -as most outbound marketing is, nothing works. If you take your time and create personalized campaigns that not only get the attention of the right prospects, but also offers value in exchange, then outbound marketing can be a very effective component of your overall tactical plan.

The secret to making an advertising or direct mail campaign work these days is to think small, think personal, think value, think follow-up. If you can’t plan and implement each of these steps then your campaign success will be limited.

Small – create the smallest, most information-rich list you can -even if you have to build it yourself from resources at a local library. This way you know that every name on your list belongs to the right association, reads the right magazines or has the right demographic profile.

Personal – When you do your research you might think to include personal details in a mailing that were acquired by a little bit of social media research. Look, getting noticed these days takes work and depending upon the type of client and potential you may be better off writing five hand written letters with specific details than mailing truckloads of generic stuff.

Value – Advertising works when you combine it with a call to action that has value for the reader. Use the web to offer free content, free evaluations, free trials, and access to special events and you’ll start the process of building trust before you try to sell something.

Follow-up – Small batch outbound marketing works best when combined with a personal follow-up mechanism. In your letter tell the reader you are going to call and ask permission to send them or provide them with something of value, and then do it.

I’ve written numerous times about something I call Lumpy Mail. Sending small batches of mail with a packaged item or trinket that helps get your message across is a great way to combine all of the above elements.

The thing about adding this kind of outbound marketing to the mix is that while it comes with a cost, it also offers a great deal of control. It’s hard to know when your inbound marketing is going to kick in or when a journalist is going to profile your business, but with a small batch outbound marketing approach running at all times you know exactly when and how a prospect is going to receive your message.

With all the chatter about inbound marketing and social media it’s easy to overlook some of ways to round out your entire plan with some good old fashioned hand to hand direct mail.

One of my Duct Tape Marketing Consultants provided a case study this week for a campaign she conducted for her own business.

  • She built a list of 150 chiropractors in her area from a state board list
  • Sent a personal letter to each citing various things she noted about their web sites
  • Followed-up by phone and booked 18 appointments
  • From those appointments, 5 became clients

Total cost of the program was about 2 days of time and $100 – Revenue generated from the approach is initially in excess of $100,000 and lifetime value, significantly more.

Image credit: chidorian

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  • DaveWellman

    This is awesome information. The opportunities for success still exist in virtually every market, but it takes smarter marketing than ever before!

    • ducttape

      Yes I think the prospects keep get smarter about ways to block out messages too :)

  • Leaflet Distribution

    Great article, I have found Direct Marketing to be an under utilised form of marketing. It is cost effective and can bring excellent results.

  • Paul Simister

    Excellent John.

    I find people rush to dismiss direct mail and lead generation advertising when it can still offer great potential to take control and hit your target prospects straight between their eyes.

    Sure it takes time but so does social media and as you have shown, you can combine the two.

    • ducttape

      Always looking for that free magic bullet aren’t we :)

  • James M Cooper

    I love what is going on with marketing at the moment, vast amounts of people are buzzing with activity… but I do think careful selection of tactics is the key, outbound, inbound or permission. It’s not 1 vs the other, it’s what will deliver ROI. thanks for the post John!

    • ducttape

      Actually I would suggest it’s careful selection of the strategy that’s key – do that and just about any set of tactics, practiced and measured consistently will produce a result.

  • Eddie Gear

    I believe that Outbound Marketing Works only best for Large Scale companies.

    • ducttape

      Umm – did you read the post? The real life example was a very small business

    • John Abrams

      I’m a small business. And I built it on most of these exact concepts.

      • ducttape

        That’s awesome John – keep it up

  • Nick Altrup


    As an inbound marketer, I applaud your post. I believe that you are correct, and that small batch outbound marketing still works and has its place. I’m very focused on teaching clients the benefits of inbound marketing, so it’s nice to have someone like you remind me that outbound marketing can still provide a positive ROI.

    • ducttape

      I think it’s always going to be the careful blending and fusing of all of these elements that pays off in the long run

  • Scott Asai

    I’m sure outbound isn’t as effective as inbound, BUT it’s a matter of getting in people’s faces enough to leave a lasting impression. Maybe the direct mail campaign is the final straw that breaks the camel’s back. We get coupons in the mail and we use them. Offer a “buffet” of options for customers to choose from and they’ll be eating something from your menu soon!

    • Jennifer Melwani

      Agreed. In addition to the example you mention, there are instances in which outbound is actually more effective than inbound…particularly in B2B. A few examples: 1) when you are targeting a job role that doesn’t “google” – for example the CFO or VP Sales 2) when you have a brand new product and are in the process of creating a new category (eg, no one is searching online for your keywords yet) 3) when you have a need to drive sales pipeline to satisfy your Board of Directors and need revenue now

      Yes, inbound marketing can work, but it doesn’t always work. It is not a sure bet nor the only option. Executing a personal, relevant direct marketing campaign can be a pretty good bet as the article notes.

  • Jennifer Melwani

    Thanks for a well written and relevant post. In this era of inbound marketing hype, I think people often forget that outbound marketing can work and work well. Particularly if the list you use is both relevant and accurate. The case study you cited is a great example. We compete in a very crowded marketplace, and getting found is hard. We are getting our toes wet now with some social media and inbound strategies, but essentially we’ve built our business on great outbound marketing. In direct marketing, its all about relevance and segmenting carefully (even to a segment of one if needed) in order to make the message personal.

  • Sylvia

    Do you have any suggestions how to do an outbound email marketing campaign effectively -with a small, relevant and targeted list?

  • Blair Evan Ball

    I like the idea of the smaller more targeted approach, it still works, and as you say you have more control. I believe in marrying the “Old Marketing” with the “New Marketing” to target different segments and demographics of the marketplace.
    The key is branding. Differentiate your product and service from the commodity masses unless you work on volume and thin margins.

  • JoAnne Funch
  • Ryan Hanley


    I’m just blowing smoke here, I think this is one of the most useful prospecting blog posts I’ve read in a really long time. I’ve been struggling with “effective” outbound techniques and for the market that I pursuing right now I think this has some traction. I will let you know what the results are in 60-90 days.


    Ryan H.

    • ducttape

      Thanks Ryan – look forward to hearing what you come up with