thanks Ron I really appreciate your input. Not a downer at all. I think marketing success for any company starts small and builds steam as you go. If the routine above works for you then I think its the right one for you to use.
In non pottery related marketing spanning a decade plus but over a dozen years years ago now, I had better and worse response rates than those you mentioned, I think it is very important to understand that the effectiveness of a campaign can vary dramatically based on how targeted the market is and the overall approach and mailings are but a part of the overall campaign.
My personal experience is more like 3-6% direct response from a well thought out mailing, meaning resulting in an appointment. I/we closed most appointments.
I do strongly disagree about holding back a means to order. It was and is my moto always, always, always ask for the order in every conversation direct or indirect when marketing B2B. Your not building brand but soliciting accounts. Brand and trust go hand and hand with that process but always be ready to take the order as that is what you are doing, trying to get orders.
Good followup then adds a few more points. It took us a few cycles to start hitting those numbers and our market was a few thousand as opposed to a 400-500 I have currently identified to start. This is not really a mass mailing but more of a targeted one and over time I expect I will weed that down to a couple hundred and then expand my reach if I need to increase my numbers.
I do agree that mailing materials is just one aspect of a campaign but a very important one as it gets exposure in your target geo in a wide fashion and that gets things started. That 3-6% response is huge and opens doors and frankly if I hit a couple of points on my initial mailings I would be very happy. Then good followup both in person and more mailings will further the effort. In my case I have a finite, targeted audience that will change by a few dozen shops year in and year out and my mailing is a first step to continuous marketing efforts. As I get to know my prospects and carefully weed out prospects that are not a good fit my efforts should be more successful as I go along. I am just a one man studio so I am not aiming for scores of shops to sign on initially and a handful would be just fine out of this beginning effort.
The objective is to become a known entity as that often translates into trust until you do something that undermines trust. As time goes on, with continuous (in my case twice a year- thanks Mea) contact a sufficient number of accounts I think/hope will sign up and/or recommend me to someone else who does.
I also wear hearing aids so telephone marketing is not part of my routine anymore so it will be cold calling and mailings to get where I need to be.
Route sales (and I at this point see a lot of similarities to craft/gift shops and its the experience I have to draw on) is about spear of influence and legitimacy.
It's a long haul situation and obviously buyers at the end of the day, once I get in front of them, have to like my pots but it takes effort to get in front of B2B reps because there is a lot of noise they have to filter and its always been my attitude that they remember the continuous, more low key reps (and that's what we are) over time that just stay in front of them and always pitch quality over price. Price is buying business and no rep ever really trust a relationship simply built on low price.
Once I get this started I will keep you guys posted on my numbers as it might help if someone is going to try something similar.