Changing Landscapes in B2B Direct Mail Marketing
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
It's tempting to ask the question, "When will we be back to normal?". That might not be the right inquiry, though. The innovations taking place during the health crisis have kept many companies afloat, and even more are seeing the same or better success with new tactics. This isn't the 'New Normal', but the 'Old Normal' may get an update.
Covid-19 Effects on Marketing
If you're measuring by the stock market, there's no doubt we were experiencing a national economic prosperity leading up the pandemic. This business friendly environment due to lower taxes and easing regulations allowed for companies to devote more spending to marketing. Also, growing customer bases was easy with more money in people's pockets. Consumers had disposable income, they felt confident about their future, and were engaged in consumption of the brands they know and love. That quickly came to a halt.
Many companies saw the initial stock market nosedive and lock-downs, and thought 'This is the end!' Scrap the new campaign. Slash digital budget. Slash everything. Cut, Cut CUT! But market forces steadied, and those who panicked have had and will have a lot of rebuilding to do. As they say in the medical field, this operation needs the scalpel rather than a cleaver. The most successful companies trimmed excess, but maintained the core function of their ad spend.
Many are wondering if there's any lessons from the past that could indicate our economic recovery direction. We would have to go back to the Spanish Flu of 1918 to have a specific historical analog to our current moment. Marketing was in its early form at the time, though. Instead, we have much more data on the recession from 2008/09. To sum up the takeaways, we're in for a long haul in the marketing space. There was a laborious recovery in ad spending that took 5-6 years for spending to return to pre-recession levels.
Although I wouldn't say we're out of the woods, it does not look like the Covid-19 downturn will last as long as the sub-prime mortgage crisis. So I think we can say ad spending will return to normal on a faster schedule.
While the mail is sometimes seen as an old fashioned institute of the past, it's also been recently revived as a channel of communication for sales and marketing teams. Big data and easily accessible demographic data has made target marketing an essential tool. With the advent of landing pages and websites promoting registration just like magazine ads did back in the day, there is a good chance just about everyone is on a list to receive promotional mail. Before the health crisis, it was certainly working:
"Two-thirds of direct mail is looked at and over 40% of consumers have made a purchase in the last three months because of a piece of direct mail they received."
-InfoTrends Market Research (2017)
While there is a huge market for Business to Consumer mail, Business to Business companies have also been coming around. Many of them have experienced diminishing returns with their digital strategies and are slowly starting to follow B2C strategies. According to Xant, as of 2017, only 38.5% of B2B companies reported using direct mail, and 30% reported using it in prospecting activities. Although not every company adapts in this way, on average B2B organizations take 3-5 years to follow the B2C trends, so this number is likely on the rise.
Leveraging direct mail has other benefits as well. In a study conducted by Marketing Sherpa of 1,200 consumers, print ads were deemed the most trustworthy channel of communication when making a purchase decision. Trust is a huge component of B2B sales with every deal involving an average of 6.8 stakeholders. Sales teams must be able to establish trust with these decision makers, and doing so with direct mail and gifting can be a major differentiator. Account-based marketing is another recent B2B trend that works in-conjunction with direct mail. Personalized communication is a proven way to increase engagement.
According to research conducted by Marketo, ABM strategies were able to generate up to 27% more sales revenue and achieve a 42% higher conversion rate. Direct mail and gifting can be the bread and butter for some ABM campaigns.
On a slightly unexpected note, I ran across this brainy fact in my research. A Canada Post study found that direct mail takes 21% less cognitive effort to process than email. The innovative allure of email has faded and there's a true exhaustion from scrutinizing a message from a computer screen. At least that's my personal experience; I'm not sure about the younger guys in the office. Either way, It all points to the market consensus that direct mail ties into better brand recall and association– an essential for growing new business.
The digital channels are clogged up as more people aren't leaving their houses. Let them know you're out there with the mailbox.
Growing your Business with Direct Mail
At the highest level, outbound sales and marketing sequences are intended to build awareness with those who have never heard about your company. While digital automation makes it so easy for companies to manage communication with leads, the quality of the message isn't nearly as impactful because everyone uses it. Direct Mail, as mentioned before, is tactile, in their home, and most importantly personalized. An Epsilon survey found that 80% of respondents are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences. Instead of introducing yourself through an email or a LinkedIn message, consider using direct mail as part of your outbound strategy.
Direct mail with some provocative offers can add significant value at the top of your marketing funnel. Direct mail offers easy attribution, which digital outreach does not. For instance, introductory postcards are a great way to create a meaningful first impressions. Keep the branding and designs concepts consistent with your digital strategies when following up with email. I can speak for our sales team in saying our specifically targeted mailers played a part in bringing three of our recent clients acquired during the pandemic.
There's a lot of tactics available with direct mail that go beyond a snippable coupon. At Milestone Marketing Solutions, we have clients from an array of industries. To get the best response rates, we show the problem the client solves for, why they are reaching out, a customer success story, or maybe just something fun and heartwarming that's guaranteed to catch your prospect's attention. After the last few months, we found a little lightheartedness goes a long way. There's all kinds of methods for leveraging direct mail at the top of the funnel. Please reach out if you would like to hear more.