Mail is the workhorse of b-to-b marketing
Business-to-business marketers seeking hard-to-reach prospects and looking to address their pain points and know that direct mail provides key benefits as part of an integrated campaign. Four experts share how it's done
Mary Ann Kleinfelter
VP marketing, L-Com
It is critical that business-to-business marketers be multichannel marketers, because b-to-b purchases often carry a big price tag, can be very technical in nature and typically require more than one person's approval. As a result, these purchases can't always be made instantly on the Web, and potential customers often want to talk to a live person or review printed materials over a period of time. Direct mail is a great tool for directing customers and prospects online.
Some might consider using e-mail on its own, but people get a lot of e-mail these days. It's best to use direct mail and e-mail together so that you're reaching people in the ways that they want to be reached.
In addition, given the relative lack of rentable b-to-b e-mail names compared to postal lists, prospecting via direct mail is often a good choice. A company can send out a catalog accompanied by a message directing prospects to a landing page for more information. It is also a co-registration opportunity. Once there, they can fill in their name and address as well as some basic information about their needs, which helps build the database with qualified leads.
Direct mail is also good for reactivating lapsed customers, using basically the same technique as with prospecting. However, you'll find that you can get three to four times the response rate from a reactivation effort compared to a prospecting campaign if you've done your homework. This is because these are people who know you already.
For all the talk about integrated marketing, a lot of business-to-business marketers still view their online and offline channels as separate. There is a lot of potential to drive sales and increase customer loyalty for marketers who can figure out how to integrate their marketing efforts, with direct mail playing an integral role at the beginning of the conversation.
A direct mail piece can effectively direct recipients to a targeted landing page
EVP, CMO, QuantumDigital
For many business-to-business marketers, key prospects work in the field. From construction foremen and operations managers to health professionals and retail owners, many business professionals work outside of a traditional office setting and thus away from a computer. In this case, using direct mail as part of an integrated marketing campaign is critical for reaching these target audiences and developing future relationships.
One strategy for integrating direct mail into a campaign is to use it as a primer before or after an e-mail or phone call. Sending a letter or direct mail postcard summarizing the nature of your business and what you have to offer will familiarize prospects with you and your brand, making them more aware of and receptive to communications via other channels.
Direct mail may also be used to drive prospects to Web properties and social networks like Twitter and Linkedin. Print your Web site address or links to social profiles on direct mail pieces to notify these business prospects of the different channels they can interact with your business.
Integrating personalized URLs (PURLs) and landing pages with direct mail gives b-to-b marketers the ability to customize call-to-action elements so that they are unique to each recipient, thus increasing the likelihood of response. According to the Direct Marketing Association, close to 33% of mail recipients go online to respond to direct mail. This response rate is increased by 20% to 30% when PURLs are used.
Once online, marketers have an opportunity to capture the recipient's level of interest and collect even more data, such as e-mail addresses, through surveys and interactive forms. This may be used to develop content tailored to prospects' interests and needs. With the help of variable data printing, that content may be introduced to prospects via follow-up direct mail pieces.
Direct mail is integral for pinning down prospects outside traditional offices
Marketing communications manager, Tandberg
There's more to a successful direct marketing campaign than list, offer and creative.There's also the upfront homework of finding out what's really important to your audience. Use this information to take prospects and customers through the buy cycle with meaningful messaging and offer combinations. Direct mail should be the lynchpin of your marketing campaign, but to ensure maximum effectiveness, every element should be customized and relevant.
The most critical factor that helped determine the success of a recent campaign for Tandberg was to find our prospective clients' "pain points" and address these in their own language. With the help of Goodman Marketing Partners, we targeted and researched four vertical segments important to our business — health care, utilities, manufacturing and financial services.
Goodman used a proprietary data validation initiative that allowed us to verify the C-level executives at the targeted companies and acquire accurate contact data.
We then set out to determine what keeps these executives awake at night as it relates to the solution that Tandberg provides. Then, weaving in the pain points we discovered, we solved each industry's problem with relevant messaging specific to the title of the executive. Integrating customized whitepapers and executive briefings helped our audience identify with their industry peers and the problems and solutions they found with Tandberg. These critical components of the campaign were housed at a microsite.
Once we understood the pains of the audience and our list was clean, we set out to create the vehicles that would carry that message. Understanding how vital it is to grab attention from the minute the package lands with the gatekeepers, we developed a multitouch, three-dimensional campaign. The more innovative or unusual the materials, the more likely the packages would be hand-delivered to the C-level executive. If you think C-levels don't respond to advertising, they do: Business reply cards were returned by all C-level executives. And, if they wanted to pass the buck, we provided a space to refer another person in their organization.
Use targeted, relevant direct mail that addresses your prospects' pain points
Managing director, account management, Hawkeye
It's an easy decision these days, especially in our current recession, to discount direct mail as a cost-effective tactic in reaching your b-to-b customers and prospects. Direct mail is more expensive than e-mail as a personalized medium on the front end, but as direct marketers, we know ROI is the most important measure.
Our experience with our many b-to-b clients is that direct mail followed by e-mail returns a higher total ROI than either medium alone when executing multitouch, integrated campaigns. We've also executed many b-to-b campaigns where direct mail returns a higher ROI than e-mail when used as one-off communications. It sounds counterintuitive, given the higher cost of direct mail, but it speaks to the powerful impact that direct mail can still deliver.
I believe there are several reasons why this is true, even in an age of "digital everything:" First, direct mail lists are more plentiful and generally cleaner than e-mail prospect lists.
Second, most of us are still much more accepting of unsolicited mail than we are of unsolicited e-mail at work.
Third, direct mail will still get delivered even if your customer or prospect is no longer with their organization. When someone leaves a company — think of the millions laid off over the past year — their e-mail is turned off. But someone still has to do their job and mail will be forwarded internally.
Finally, because direct mail features an almost unlimited number of format and creative possibilities, it can stand out from the thousands of advertising impressions we are exposed to every day to a greater degree than e-mail.
Direct mail costs have actually decreased in the last year as paper mills and printers struggle to keep their equipment running. Now is a great time to get creative in testing b-to-b direct mail, especially as part of a multi-touch, integrated b-to-b campaign. Learn what works best for your organization, your customers and your prospects in generating the greatest ROI, and you'll benefit for years to come.
Direct mail and e-mail work wonders when used in tandem to drive response