Direct Mail Lead Generation Idea – Good, Bad & Ugly

Published on May 15th, 2008 | by Janine Popick


Lead Generation Idea – Good, Bad & Ugly

I got a direct mail piece the other day in a letter format. It was from a company that “teaches managers how to manage,” so they wrote. They were requesting a meeting with me to talk about how they can help our company. They had a $50 bill clipped to the letter. The punchline said:

“The $50 is yours to keep as prepayment for spending 3 minutes with me on the phone when I call to follow up.”


It could work to your benefit. Let’s say your list was a very targeted list of 100 CEOs at businesses you’d like as customers.

Printing Cost: 100 x .20 =  $20
Mailing Cost:  100 x .42 =  $42
Money Cost:   100 x  50 =  $5,000
Total Cost:  $5,062

Response rate (high because you’re so clever) is 10% so number of meetings is 10.
Close rate (high because you’re killer on the phones) is 50% so the number of new customers is 5.
If you charge $2500 (guessing) per training, you’ve got $12,500 large in your pocket, 5 new customers and you’ve made $7438 to put towards your next mailing. Nice.


Christine, our office manager, answers the phone when I’m busy and I started to get calls from the sender of this mail piece. They would never leave a message, just their name regarding the “money they sent me.”

This is an uber form of OPT-OUT. It’s like sending someone you’ve never talked to an email, then telling them they’re going to hear from you until they unsubscribe.


So on the negative side, if you’re going to do something like this, be prepared for:

a) Brand damage – Some may not like this marketing tactic and tell the world.
b) The people who don’t see the need for your services but keep the dough. It’s the cost of doing business.
c) Sending money through a shipper seems a bit risky.

Hey, $50 is nice and would contribute greatly to the “beer fund” at VR, but for me personally, I didn’t really need to feel guilted into talking to someone just to feel good about keeping it.

So…I sent it back.

Should I have? You tell me…

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About the Author

is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse.

8 Responses to Lead Generation Idea – Good, Bad & Ugly

  1. Careersyntax says:

    Uh…I wonder how many envelopes went into the trash can without being opened..

  2. Alan says:

    Cash can seem a bit tacky, especially for a premium brand. Money is one of those things that has a number of unpredictable psychological responses. (I’m a shrink – money and the psyche is a whole other topic.) In marketing and brand building inducements should also qualify – something for something. Cash is ‘too easy’ (therefore too sleazy?)
    The design of a well thought out promotion is usually evident to the recipient.
    Now, having said that, targeting is everything with this sort of approach and if it genuinely fits your brand, market and target – then cash might just be king.

  3. Jude Bourff says:

    I’m with you on that one. If I couldn’t use the service; I would have to give the money back too.

  4. Jon says:

    We have a very similar problem when hosting events and seminars when we decide whether to charge to attend the event and then how much. When you send someone money or charge them for an event you’re essentially telling them what their time is worth. So you have to find the right balance of what to charge, or what to send.

  5. Byron says:

    I agree with the prior comment in that $5-10 would seem to work as well, if not better than $50 (at a lower cost). Even better than sending money, however, is what we did at a startup. Send a creative, 3D piece that gets their attention, has a clear, relevant message (need a good list), and has a compelling offer…something of interest and/or perceived value for meeting with you. The cost out the door is not huge…the big cost comes only if they accept a meeting. A great response rate of 50% would allow you to offer something valued at nearly $100 at the same cost as a $50 bill to the whole list. No guilt. Lower cost. Creative opportunity. Likely higher response. Meetings, not phone calls. Better all around.

  6. Stu says:

    So uh… how do I get on their mailing list? ;)

  7. That is a clever idea to get your foot in the door.

  8. Angela says:

    We did this at a start up that I worked for where we were trying to make contact with the owner of small businesses. We tried using $5, $10 and $20. The amazing thing we found – the $5 always worked better. People were suspicious with anything over $5. A few sent the $10 and $20 back (like you). It worked well at getting attention and the response was generally positive. It allowed us to show them how we could save them even more money. I’m like you though, $50 seems like a bribe. It’s excessive. And if they have that much money to throw around, maybe they don’t need my business!

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