Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

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Direct Mail Marketing Is Hot in the Desert

Several times in recent years I've enjoyed the opportunity to visit the Gulf Region to do seminars on direct marketing. My first visit was with a major international bank and its team in Dubai, UAE. The sand is hot, the water beautiful and warm, the city white with high-rise offices and hotels. And direct marketing is very much alive and well in Dubai.

Twice more I have traveled to the region, this time to both UAE and Oman, where again I did an in-house special event, co-ordinated through the local Chamber in Muscat. Attendance was high, interest even higher. But this story is from and about Dubai - truly one of the world's most beautiful cities. And a company named InfoCenter Intemational.

ICI is a conference management company. It'll run your meeting or congress or special event or convention for you. And it also conducts a lot of programming on its own. Bringing in speakers from around the world to stage events and activities on a variety of topics.

What does all of this have to do with direct marketing? It so happens that the team at ICI uses direct mail marketing as its primary tool to build attendance at all events. Supported by local newspaper, and sometimes other media as well.

Mark Mogridge is Director of Direct Marketing at ICI, the guy who cranks out all the mail and print to get those high attendance figures for the 40+ events staged each year.

In addition to marketing, direct marketing and sales events, the subjects cover a wide range of topics. Such as finance, distribution, management and a number technology subjects including waste management and environmental concems, plus quality control, hobbies and games and communications. Most of the events run two to four days each.

Part of the ICI Direct Marketing offering includes much of Asia. The number of lists is not great and, if anything that makes their list services more in demand.

Tellecommunications is key

Telecommunications is a major part of business today. It almost impossible to operate a business without an effective phone and fax capability. Dubai offers the best available in the world, and ICI Direct Marketing makes the most of it. Faxes to businesses introducing new services, as well as invitations to all of its special events, are a regular feature.

Telemarketing, again with equipment as good as anywhere, plays a major role in ICI's success.

Something I noticed following my first of three visits to Dubai was the tremendous change in both the approach and quality of the creative process. The audience is the key factor in the success of any marketing program, and dreaming about an offer and how to present it in an interesting way to the audience is something that has grown in a major way over the last 18 months.

To illustrate one of ICI's business-to-business projects, let's use a live example. The product is called Europages and is billed as The Essential Gulf Guide to European buyers and suppliers. Anyone doing business in the Gulf Region with anyone in Europe could find the directory useful.

A mailing was prepared for 1,000 prospects to introduce the product. Two interesting things happened:

  1. A 15% response netted only a 2.5% cash sale.

  2. The message evidently was not clear, as some thought they were being pitched for advertising space, others did not understand a directory was being sold, and still others thought the product was being offered for free.

So a second mailing was planned. Same audience — similar message, hopefully this time stated in a clearer fashion.

Wholesale Changes

Response went up to 228, but conversion to sales was still dismal at 3.5%. The reasons were the same as the first time. Obviously wholesale changes needed to be made if this product was to gain a profitable foothold in the marketplace.

So further changes were made, and here are the keys that began to get Europages into the black:

  1. Audience changed to upper management — those who could say "yes" or"no" — instead of end-users.

  2. In addition to senior management at headquarters, directors at secondary locations were added to the mailing list.

  3. Brochure dropped, as it took more away than it added to the mail package.

  4. Fax broadcast became the media, no more mail.

  5. Telephone hot line provided for incoming calls (both orders and questions).

  6. Credit cards accepted as method of payment.

  7. Discount price with limited time 14-day only offer made to encourage fast response.

  8. A money-back guarantee offered.

  9. Targeting for this part of program limited to UAE rather than entire Gulf Region.

Fax worked. Response went up to 30%+, and cash sales also increased. This time to 5.3% — but still not what was hoped for with this type of a strong offer.

Negatively, returns on sales made also went up. It seems that some companies elected to photocopy certain pages from the directory, and then return it asking for their money back.

Guarantee dropped

This, frankly, is a surprise to me. Not that it doesn't happen once in a while — of course it does. But most often not in business. Most business operations are not so cheap that they can't afford to pay for a directory that they really are going to use.

The guarantee has now been dropped from the offer.

There have been some interesting responses. For example, "I need one address in Germany from the book. Can I buy these only?"

In addition, there were some technology questions that all of us get these days. We need the CD. Will it fit in our floppy drive? What this says is "Do you have it available in another format?"

Another question: Does the directory come in Arabic? This doesn't surprise me ... many are asking for a second language option, even though English is universal as a business tongue.

Fax broadcasting has certainly continued to be a profitable method of introducing this product to the marketplace. As I write, it is still being used as a prime method of selling. And InfoCenter International is rolling through another successful business year with more conferences, exhibitions and special events scheduled then ever before.

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