Does your headline sell?
"Trade-UP Your Wax Candles for Pure,
"No Drip. No Smoke. No Odor. Clean.
"Discover why over 2000 Presbyterian Churches
These are 3 of the dozens of running headlines Kerry Candles uses on their direct mail letters directed to churches.
First, let's get the "liquid candle" question answered. You undoubtedly noticed the phrase "... Kerry Liquid Candles". What ARE liquid candles?
Let's begin with terminology. Sometimes "liquid candles" are called refillable candles. Or liquid wax candles. In every case they are a manufactured to look like traditional wax candles.
They are made of a translucent shell. They are designed to be both beautiful and long lasting. So long lasting Kerry offers a Lifetime Guarantee (which simply means, your Kerry Candle is guaranteed for the life of your church).
A liquid candle is not the conventional beeswax candle most of us are familiar with. Liquid candles burn a special liquid fuel, such as KerryLight, which offers a smokeless, dripless, odorless and safe flame.
The "candle" does not burn. Only the special wick and fuel. So, every candle is always fresh and beautiful.
And because liquid candles do not burn down, they leave no mess. No wax on the floor, linens, the church alter, the candle stick holders. There is nothing to clean up ... as the fuel is all that burns.
The candles light instantly. The flame is adjustable to suit every taste. And ... they last a "lifetime". Even the wicks are FREE forever.
Okay, you now have the liquid picture. Let's talk about the leader in the liquid candle business Kerry Candles.
Joseph F. (Joey) Stewart, founder and President of Kerry Candles International sold the first liquid candles in the early 1980's. In the beginning he literally went door-to-door ... church-to-church, showing his product and telling his story.
If you have the opportunity to meet Joey, accept the challenge. He is a salesman from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. He loves to talk ... and he loves his product.
And ... most importantly, he believes in what he creates and offers to the church marketplace. He really believes!
Reducing the order cycle time
It didn't take too long for Joey to realize what was happening on his church-to-church sales calls. The priest or pastor saw the product in action, asked for a sample, tried it for a few weeks with the congregation, and most often placed an order. Yet, the time lag from first contact to order was often several months.
Which was a killer on a small, new company. Cash flow did not exist.
Further, it was very inefficient to go church-to-church. The time to drive place to place, to maybe catch the priest in, and maybe not, combined with the long time to a buying decision, forced Joey to create an entirely new way of selling to churches;
Direct mail, with a telephone follow-up!
Wow, what a concept!
Yet, it did not work instantly. The next hurdle was obvious, yet it was not. Going church-to-church allowed a demonstration. Direct mail and phone did not. Initially. Until the offer was changed to a "FREE Trial Sample".
With the FREE Trial, Kerry sends the interested church, without obligation, a Kerry candle (or a pair, if they wish) to use in their church. Thus, giving a "hands-on" opportunity to see exactly what this unique product is, how it looks and works in their church.
This worked when it was first tried, it has worked since. It will work tomorrow. It will ALWAYS work! There is nothing like a demonstration to convince the unconvinceable.
Simplyfy, simplify ...
Quickly there was another problem. Most first time buyers had never heard of nor seen a liquid candle. They did not know how to set up the sample candle and light it. What was needed was a set of simple instructions clear what to do in a 1, 2, 3, 4 outline. So, that is exactly what was done.
And although they have been rewritten a number of times since the first time, the concept is still the same: Make the instructions easy to follow and the product easy to use!
Plus, remember, the people doing the "work" are most often volunteers, maybe working in a semi-dark church. They have never done this before. If it is too difficult the sale WILL be lost.
Find the right contact
To begin marketing a list of churches with mailing address was needed. This is fairly easy to come by in the States ... names and addresses of Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and United Methodist (the 5 groups who make up over 85% of all church candle use) is easy.
With list in hand, Joey began mailing. A one page letter, personalized to the Pastor or Priest, with the FREE trial offer. The mailing is chased with an outbound telemarketing call.
The name of the right person to talk with is not always easy to get. And it changes often once you do get it. So, even though the mailing is sent to an individual, frequently that is NOT the person who makes the decision. Or even influences the decision.
For Catholic churches it is most often the Priest who makes the decision. For the Protestant churches it is most often a lay person, and a committee. The good news about the Catholics is you usually get a quick "yes" or "no". Whereas with the other denominations, getting any decision can take much longer.
The sample package of the '90s includes a soft sell video. With Joey doing the talking. The setting is in front of a church alter. It runs about 7 minutes and has proven to be very effective in Protestant churches, where a committee is involved.
Up front costs of liquid candles appear high. I say "appear", because the back-end makes liquid candles a real buy.
Conventional beeswax candles, on the average, cost more than 25 cents an hour to burn. Kerry Candles cost only a nickel an hour. A substantial saving.
Of course, you have to buy the liquid candle shells first. And they are not inexpensive. Yet, there is a remarkable measurable return on investment. Plus, all the conveniences and beauty benefits.
An Absolute Guarantee of Satisfaction has been developed. It is simply worded and easy to understand:
If you are ever dissatisfied with your Kerry Candles,
Several times a year Kerry surveys the marketplace. Customers and prospects. With customers they use both blind and open surveys ... with prospects most often it is blind.
The surveys are not long ... maybe 10 to12 questions on 2 sides of a single sheet of paper. A candle lighter is offered as a premium to those who wish to be identified. Response rates run 20-40%.
The results are predictable. The churches like the Kerry product, they feel it is expensive, yet excellent value. They do not object to direct mail, and they prefer not to be sold by telephone. Nothing new or revolutionary in any of this.
And yet, as is often the case, all sales are made over the telephone. Either the church calls in ... or Kerry calls the church. All orders are made over the telephone inbound or outbound.
So, Kerry Candles has established a large telemarketing operation. Open from 6:00am until 3:30pm daily plus a half day on Saturday. One TM group follows up all new leads those that come by phone and those that arrive by mail. And the few that do come by fax. (So far e-mail has not produced any response. A number of churches say they will use the WWW in the future.)
One consistent message
The message is the same to all leads try Kerry Candles.
Accept the free trial offer. The "close" rate on trials is very high. If someone has expressed interest, they want the trial. They want the experience.
All those who accept the free trial offer receive the package within the week. It is shipped immediately, always within 24 hours ... sometimes the same day.
One week later they get a follow-up telephone call. To make certain the package has arrived and to answer questions. On this call the next follow-up date is set.
Solo direct mail, church related post card decks and "gift" advertisements in a very few select publications is how the Kerry Candle message gets out. A catalogue is now in the development stage.
General Manager Glenn McKay has brought a new spark to Kerry. He is excellent at "seeing" things. As the company has grown he has brought in additional people to manager. He has developed support teams ... so those telemarketers who are the real sales people, can sell. Others do the qualifying, handle customer service issues, push the paper.
And, there is new direct mail, too. Mail has been the thrust to the church audience since the inception of Kerry. Glenn has looked at what they have done and decided to update everything. Which means prospect mail, service mail, customer mail.
Most church prospects have been getting mail 2-3-4 times a year from Kerry. For a decade or more. Much of it had not been updated. So, new outreach lead generation mail is being developed. Such things as illustrated letters will be tested.
All letters used by the telemarketers to confirm their customer and prospect conversations, have also been re-written. To carry the Kerry message in a way that is business like in tone, yet friendly in a one-to-one way.
Adding fuel to the fire
Earlier I mentioned KerryLight. This is the liquid candle fuel. It is quad-filtered to remove all impurities, it burns longer than any competitive fuel, and is so safe it can be shipped via the post. It has a high "flash point" meaning it is designed to burn at the wick only, it will not light otherwise, and thus is very safe. Good stuff!
Yet, with all the KerryLight benefits it is still a tough sell. Why? Because it is more expensive than other oils available in your local hardware, building product or church supply store.
Kerry Candles definitely does NOT have a razor / razor blade operation. They need to make money on the "razor" ... and on the "blade".
So, selling KerryLight is a true challenge. In the past the telemarketers would do some calculations with the church buyer, "guesstimate" how many hours of fuel they might need in a year and multiply by 2 or 3 or even 4. Which gave a short term gain of a large sale ... several years worth of liquid at once.
Sure, on the surface, for those working on commission, life looked good. And absolutely you keep the competition out when the buyer has 2 or 3 years worth of liquid in the storage room.
At the same time this method of selling greatly reduced the opportunity for a continuing dialogue ... communication with the customer. And cut up-sales and cross-sales, too.
A "new" idea is now in test stage. The offer has been changed to a 2 year supply of oil, shipped in 6 month increments, paid for only upon shipment all at the current year price, based on a volume sale. The church commits to buy KerryLight for the next 2 years and Kerry gives the church a 2-year price guarantee.
This is a "Buy Now / Pay Later" plan. Offering a true benefit to the church. And an ongoing reason for the Kerry sales reps to talk with their customers.
Wow ... what a concept!
Glenn is also looking for new and additional marketplaces. Florists especially those who do weddings is one audience. Country Clubs, particularly the upscale who will have a fine dining room where candles will be used, is another. For the present, churches is where the business is.
Kerry Candles International was the first in the business.
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.