Every sales person knows that there is a difference in prospects.

Leads provided by people who love your products and services convert better than those found in the phone book. Prospects who request catalogs generate better response rates than those from rented lists. Pre-qualifying people before investing marketing resources improves success rates. The more they are vested in the buying path, the more likely they will complete the process.

Direct marketers understand this and use their skills to create a path from pre-qualification to conversion. When prospects enter the marketing stream, they are segmented by source and any other qualifying information that is available. Catalogers often charge prospects a catalog fee because it qualified shoppers and helped offset prospecting costs. A person who pays to receive a catalog is three to five times more likely to buy than one who doesn’t.

There are other ways to qualify prospects, too. Requiring email address, full name, street address, and phone number is stronger than just asking for the email address. Overlaying demographics to existing information helps target messages well. Direct marketing is a science that has been tested for years. We know that when people to invest their time and resources, they become more open to the sales message.

Now this doesn’t mean that direct marketing is a perfect science. It is quite the opposite because a 97% campaign failure rate is a roaring success for most prospecting campaigns. Yes, you read that right…a 3% response rate is a profitable campaign. This is something that has always bugged me. Nothing in my engineering background adequately prepared me for the direct marketing industry standard. It was the polar opposite of my quality control experience. Over the years, I’ve learned to adapt my expectations as needed and to always push for better analytics that deliver better results.

Direct marketing results are stellar compared to those of social media.

I never would have guessed that a channel would emerge that required more resources, delivered lower response rates, failed to generate profits without integration, and still be accepted as the new normal. But then, I’m weird that way. I believe the purpose of business is serving customers for a profit. All activities must move the company towards fulfilling that purpose. The better customers are served, the more profits.

Social media as a marketing channel was handicapped by early adopters who imagined a future of conversations driving sales. Individual participants were trained to expect free and easy access to everything. Corporate participants were promised free or low cost marketing that delivered over-the-top results. Both were misleading.