We’ve got good news for you: contrary to popular claims, b2b direct mail is not dead.

If done correctly (and that’s a big ‘if’ here), b2b direct mail can be one of the smartest, efficient and measurable ways to acquire new customers and make the most of your marketing budget. By using tried and trusted methods in combination with insights from your website, content marketing and social media, direct marketing can help you knock some big commercial goals out of the park.

What’s more, direct mail is completely accountable: it can show you exactly what’s working and what isn’t, justify every cent you spend in terms of return on investment, and teach you something about your customers every step of the way.

In this blog post we’ll walk you through some of the basic principles behind a successful direct marketing campaign.

So what exactly is b2b direct mail?

Direct mail is any physical material a business produces that is directly addressed and delivered to a prospect or client's mailbox through a delivery service. This could be a letter, a postcard, a catalogue or even a personalised sales brochure. B2b direct mail is always aimed at the individual and you always know exactly who you’re talking to: at the very least you know their name and contact details and often you know something about their demographic and purchasing habits.

Direct mail is a fantastic tool if you’ve got a message or offer that is specific to a relatively narrow audience. For instance, if you just wanted to let the world know that your dog shampoo was the best in the world, then direct mail wouldn’t be an effective way of doing it. But if you wanted to promote a dog shampoo aimed specifically at owners who like to pamper their ginger curly-haired dogs - then direct mail is your go-to guy. You can just send your marketing communications to the 3% of your customers who you know own ginger curly-haired dogs and enjoy pampering them, rather than wasting time and money on the other 97% of customers who your offer isn’t relevant to. Good, hey?

Be clear about what you want to achieve

Like a good accountant, good b2b direct mail should always be able to prove its worth. In order to make sure this happens every time, there are two things you need to do:

1. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons?

Use this handy checklist to find out:

  • Do you have a specific idea of the sort of people you want to market to?
  • Do you have a clear idea of what you want to communicate?
  • Do you know exactly how you would like them to respond?

If your answers to any the above questions are a little vague (e.g. ‘We just want our clients to feel good about our business’s green credentials’) you might be better off doing something a bit more general and broad-reaching, like content, online PR or social media marketing (that’s okay, no hard feelings).

Remember, direct mail only works when you know exactly who you want to talk to, and the effect you want your marketing to have. Vagueness is like kryptonite to direct mail!

2. Be clear about what you want your direct mail to achieve

If you want your direct mail initiative to be accountable, you need to have something to measure it against. So – before you start – think about exactly what you want it to achieve (and don’t be afraid to throw in some numbers). This is really easy if you’re including a call-to-action, such as a phone number or a free trial offer in your b2b direct mail: think about how many free trial opt-ins you want to generate, or even how many sales you want to make.

What returns to expect?

It’s very difficult to give a blanket prediction of what a direct mail campaign will achieve (and don’t trust anyone who says differently!), as it all depends on the quality of your data, your industry, your relationship with the person you’re mailing and your offer.

However... we’re feeling bold today, so here are some guidelines:

In terms of response rates, your average direct mail campaign can pull anything from 0.5%  to 4%. We’ve been reliably informed that the b2b average is between 3 and 3.5%.

You can expect a lower response rate if you’re targeting prospective customers for the first time, and a higher response rate when you target people you’ve already been communicating with.

To get a really accurate idea of how your mailings are working, you need to measure your return on investment: not just your response rates. To do this, you need to:

  • Predict your response rate
  • Work out how many respondents you expect to convert to sales
  • Estimate how much you expect them to spend over an average lifetime
  • Compare that to the cost of mailing them.

That sounds complicated, but it’s not - we promise!

Don’t stop at one mailing

Sending one b2b direct mail piece on its own is rarely the most effective way to go about things (especially in b2b), as chances are it might not land when your target is ready for it. It’s better to promote your product or service on multiple occasions, which will increase the likelihood of it being top of mind when the target’s need does arise.

It’s often a good idea to plan a series of mailings promoting the same product, service or offer in varying ways. One tactic would be to introduce the offer and then tweak or enhance it in subsequent mailings. Don’t forget (especially if your product or service is quite complex) that you may also need a fulfilment piece to send out if people request more information: make sure it sings nicely with your sales mailers.

A final word

In a world of social, digital, content discovery and online remarketing, a well presented and engagingly written piece of direct mail can actually deliver great cut-through and deliver incredible results for your organisation. Is it time you gave direct mail another look?

Brand chemistry is a b2b marketing agency winning your customers' hearts and minds through inbound, brand, content, lead generation and digital strategy. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques.

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