Handwritten Notes, And Direct Mail’s Role In ABM Strategy

Earlier this week, DMN contributor Joe Stanganelli outlined the differences between traditional “mass marketing,” and the “one-to-many” approach that’s tied to ABM. Though done at scale, one-to-many has a more personal touch, with ongoing dedication to sets of target accounts.

In context to ABM, direct mail can play a dynamic role. I experienced this firsthand a few weeks ago, when I received a handwritten letter from the Terminus team after attending their #FlipMyFunnel conference (where, not surprisingly, handwritten notes were a part of the conversation). For someone who literally gets hundreds of emails a day (I’m sure I’m not the only one), holding a letter clearly inked by a person was certainly a break from the typical inbox clutter.

But at the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder — how does this work at scale, or as part of the overall process? The effort is clear, but handwritten notes are a risky move if you put in extensive effort without the ROI. What role does direct marketing play in the grand ABM scheme?

I reached out to Terminus co-founder Sangram Vajre, and Engagio CMO Heidi Bullock for their outlook, and how direct mail plays a role in a cross-channel ABM journey:

Direct mail is memorable, and can spark conversations

According to Bullock, the best direct mail is “personalized, while also containing something of business value.” Items chosen go beyond the typical gift basket or trade show swag, and provide something that would ideally be helpful for your audience.

“It is nice to get a box of cookies, but if there is nothing else with it, the effort could easily be forgotten,” Bullock said.

Sending items of value to several members of an organization can also help foster internal conversations, and get different company stakeholders talking about your brand.

“It just creates another really valuable sales touch point, and for customers to say ‘these people are not trying to sell me software, they’re trying to help me with my whole strategy,’” Vajre said.

Designating direct mail campaigns for different account tiers

But, how can you determine what types of efforts are worth it, and for whom?

One of the biggest caveats with highly-personalized direct mail campaigns is cost. Putting together handwritten notes can be a time-consuming process. For marketers, the challenge becomes orchestrating campaigns that will produce the most productive results for the effort.

“The trick is using the idea of program entitlements,” Bullock said. “Tier one accounts (10s of accounts) need be very personalized and heavily researched. As you move to tier three (1000s of accounts), that is much harder to do. You need to do more scalable direct mail – which could be customized packages for an industry. The spend will also typically be more for tier one and less with lower tiers.”

Calculating opportunity cost and lifetime customer value can also be an indicator of where to invest, Vajre said.

“It allows us to look at the value, and based on that we determine ‘okay, if a particular customer has the lifetime value of this, then it’s okay to go a little bit over and beyond.’”

Marketing automation platforms (like PFL and Sendoso, for example) can be an ally when orchestrating and tracking the success of large-scale campaigns.

“It is very helpful with direct mail campaigns to make sure you are leveraging some type of program set up so they can be tracked, whether that is in marketing automation, or a Salesforce campaign,” Bullock said. “By doing that, you will have the ability to measure ROI.”

Direct mail ties into the entire omnichannel journey

Vajre believes in a “high-tech, high-touch” approach, which utilizes different marketing strategies to engage target accounts at different stages of the customer journey. Vajre gave an example that included a blend of targeted ads, content marketing, and direct mail:

“The whole combination of one-to-one ads to a direct company that you’re trying to reach out to, and the people on the executive team; a direct mail that goes to the marketing team, but also to their sales teams to have a conversation; and a podcast….so it’s more learning for them. That trifecta has been a game changer for us,” Vajre said. 

“It’s not just direct mail, and it’s not just one-to-one ads,” Vajre added. “One in isolation does not have the same amount of impact as both of them together.”

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