Based on the buzz these days, I get the impression many in our business think “multichannel marketing” means including social media with your paid search campaign. For those of us working in business-to-business marketing before “friend” became a verb, direct mail was usually the centerpiece of most multi-channel campaigns. However, the astronomical growth of the Web — and a concurrent shift in marketing budgets — has left the once-venerable workhorse of direct mail languishing in the barn.
In 2008, direct mail as a whole declined for the first time in 60 years, according to a March survey by the Winterberry Group. With budgets slashed in a slumping economy, business marketers have shunned the higher cost-per-contact of direct mail and switched their diminishing dollars to online channels. Nonetheless, even with a higher cost per contact, there are instances when direct mail is still essential to the success of your multi-channel marketing campaigns.
Paid search and search optimization are powerful, cost-effective marketing tools as long as your prospects are actively searching online. What if you’re launching something new? Who’s going to search online for a solution to a problem they’ve never considered? For my money, you can’t match the power of direct mail for introducing a new b-to-b product or service — especially if your marketplace is limited and the value of each customer is significant.
E-mail will work to introduce a new product if you can get e-mail addresses for the key decision makers in your market. However, on the level of pure impact, it’s a lot harder to ignore a box on your desk than an e-mail from a stranger.
I’m not suggesting you forego online marketing channels in your multichannel marketing campaigns. Search, e-mail and social media are powerful new vehicles for raising awareness, creating brand preference and generating response. But it’s important to remember the old workhorse can still pull a lot of weight.