What You Need to Know About Direct Marketers And The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life

Posted by Kevin Jorgensen

Dec 29, 2011 10:10:00 AM

I admit it, I’m a bit of an extra terrestrial life junky. The idea that there might be life out there just facinates me. So just the other day I was doing a little channel surfing and I came across a program on the search for extraterrestrial life...

In addition to the typical fringe characters with hair that looks like Dr. Emmett Brown's in Back to the Future, there were big university, lab coat scientists, talking about the factors that direct marketing is like the search for ETdetermined the probability of finding a planet like Earth that could support life similar to our own.

I’m not going to get into the heavy math here but the factors included things like probability of water, probability of moderate temperature, probability of an atmosphere etc. There were about 20 of these factors that the scientists determined were requirements for a planet to support human life. Hmm… Requirements for human life to exist… when I heard that I had an I could have had a V8 moment and immediately thought of a direct marketing lead generation campaign I was bidding… sure, that's a little weird, but let me explain what the search for extraterrestrial life and finding leads for your business with outbound marketing have in common.

Whether you’re an admissions officer at an independent school, a small business owner or a travel agent marketing a trip, there’s something you must know about the search for extraterrestrial life that will impact the way you think about marketing your service, finding a prospective student or growing your business.

So the way that the ET life searchers come up with the probability of finding an earth-like planet is to take 1 and divide it by the product of all the probabilities of each of the factors required for a planet to be earth-like. The idea is that all those factors must be true in the same place, at the same time in order for a planet to be earth like.

Here’s the parallel to outbound marketing. In order for a person to respond to your outbound marketing pitch, there are factors that all have to be true at the same time, just like the search for ET life. In outbound marketing, direct mail for example, the factors might be:  

  • Have the address of a person who would be interested in my offer
  • Have the right offer to interest the recipient
  • Have the right creative to interest the recipient
  • Reached the recipient when they were in a buying frame of mind

Are you getting the idea? In your outbound direct mail campaign or email campaign, whether you’re after a prospective student, a new dental patient or a person looking for a Bermuda vacation package, all these factors have to be true at the same time for the same recipient in order for that person to take action on your offer.

If we just made things simple and said that each of these factors have a probability of being true of 10% - that is one person in 10 will think you have the right offer etc. of the time, then the probability that someone will respond to your offer is:

1 in 1/(10% x 10% x 10% x 10%)

Which is 1 in 10,000 or a 0.01% response rate. Ouch! This is looking more like finding extra terrestrial life all the time. And this math applies to direct marketing for any industry or business because direct marketing assumes that the person who will respond doesn't know about you or know that they need what you're offering.

So what did I do about my bid? After I explained that finding the required new  customers using this approach was similar to finding extra terrestrial life and that in order to achieve the required 500 qualified responses from the campaign we would have to send out about 5 million solicitations with an associated postage cost of $1.6 million, my prospect declared “Surely, there must be a better way!” (actually there were some expletives in there but I edited them out) My response was quick and certain… you bet there is!

And that’s when I explained how inbound marketing works

Call to Action!

Topics: Inbound Marketing, B2B Sales and Marketing

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