Speaking Directly: Samsung designed good DM program for computers

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.Recently, I...

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.

Recently, I received a terrific piece of direct mail from Samsung Electronics.

At its root, the mailing is designed to develop a prospect list for a new line of notebook computers.

You probably know that selling computers is one tough game (all the majors recently cut their prices, yet again), and, for those companies that are not among the leading brands (which, in my opinion, includes Samsung), the job is twice as difficult.

Samsung’s response?

A classic travel sweepstakes, a good letter describing the company’s ‘unique’ Worldwide Emergency Support Plan, a supportive color brochure, and entry form complete with three simple questions to help Samsung separate mere contest entrants from the more valuable members of the species, ‘leads’ and ‘prospects.’

By supplying a free replacement while your computer is being repaired, delivered directly to you by FedEx, no less, Samsung not only offers a meaningful customer benefit, it tackles any quality concerns head on.

Thus, a potential notebook buyer who is unfamiliar with Samsung would likely be reassured by the confidence expressed by the Worldwide Emergency Support Plan.

And, the letter makes sure that the reader realizes the obvious; namely, that this program includes local breakdowns as well.

To enter, one simply completes the entry form, tears off and attaches one of the four destination tags (true pch-style), and sends it in using the supplied bre or toll-free fax number.

At the bottom of the entry form are three questions, and a soft request to answer them: ‘Would you kindly answer the following questions concerning your computer needs?’

Two questions inquire as to your intent to purchase a notebook (when you plan to buy and how much you plan to spend), while the third asks for permission to ‘contact you concerning your thoughts on our products.’

Wisely, Samsung knows that all contest entrants are not created equal, and that it would be a massive waste of time, energy and money to follow up on those who have little or no interest in its products.

Or, you can enter by calling a 1-800 number, in which the qualification takes a slightly different approach.

Callers are ‘asked’ just two questions – when they plan to buy and how much they plan to spend – and ‘told’ that they will receive information from the company shortly.

Does this mean that all telephone contest entrants go to the top of the prospect heap? I wonder.

I ‘told’ Samsung that I planned to buy a notebook in 12 months (based on three supplied options: 3, 6 and 12 months), and, furthermore, that I planned to spend $3,000 to $5,000.

Will they try to sell me sooner? Will they try to sell me at all? On your behalf, I will be watching my mailbox.

David Foley is a marketing consultant and an instructor in database marketing at York University in Toronto. He may be reached at (905) 940-8784; fax (905) 940-4785.