Let’s Get Physical: Direct Mail Should Be Making a Comeback

There’s a huge over-emphasis on social media, online advertising and digital marketing in general, and traditional marketing seems to have…

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Direct Mail

There’s a huge over-emphasis on social media, online advertising and digital marketing in general, and traditional marketing seems to have been forgotten despite the digital market becoming oversaturated. If you delve into your competitor landscape, practically all the alternatives to you will likely be using the same digital marketing tactics that you deploy. Do you know where they won’t be? In a parcel on a desk.

No, this blog isn’t about Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 classic; it’s about the opportunities that come with physical marketing aligned with hyper targeted ABM. That’s been the focus this month at the Cremarc Innovation Hub.

Barbara Noakes once wrote a line of copy for a BBH Levi’s ad, that truly became evergreen and engrained in culture.

“When the world zigs, zag.”

With the almost complete shift to digital from you and your competitors, direct mail and other physical forms of marketing stand to make a bigger impact than ever.

And ultimately, if one of your target audiences is C-suite level, many executives don’t open even their own inboxes or browse social media these days. That almost guarantees that if you try email marketing, organic social, paid social, or LinkedIn InMail, you’re unlikely to get their attention. You can however get in front of them if you disguise your marketing as a personally addressed FedEx envelope. That’s almost guaranteed a place on the pile of letters on their desk, and it’s also almost guaranteed to be opened.

Years ago, direct mail was one of the most popular types of marketing, which meant that it got very overused, and maybe people lost trust in the mail they were receiving. This has shifted completely now, as marketers in their standard magpie fashion got more excited about the new ways of marketing to their audiences. The industry shifted to using digital advertising with reduced touchpoint costs, and began to expect instant conversions. Just the very investment of time, effort, and higher touchpoint cost add credibility and long-termism to your relationship/partnership intentions. That’s trustworthy marketing, and that’s exactly what’s needed in B2B.

A 2022 Response Rate Report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) says that direct mail campaigns using a letter-size envelope generated 112% ROI. That’s a 19% improvement over email campaign ROI. Now think about what a parcel with a gift and handwritten note inside would achieve

Another survey from the Data; Marketing Association and Demand Metric showed that direct mail campaigns had a higher ROI than both paid search and online display ads also. In fact, direct mail was only 1% behind social media, the second highest ROI approach tested.

Why have people stopped using direct mail?

With all these fantastic ROI stats and facts, you’d be well in your rights to question why marketers stopped doing it. Well, both marketers and businesses are to blame. With the rise of short-termism and performance marketing, everyone shifted their focus from the big picture to instant results. With instant attribution and the ability to frontload dozens of touchpoints, marketers were forced to show results, sooner. Businesses see less risk with a focus on short-term results, but of course as many great marketers know, that leads to sacrificing the long.

Direct mail is difficult to track and therefore often doesn’t show an instant ROI. But what we fail to remember is that a memorable touchpoint of this quality can stick in a prospect’s mind for a while. In fact, if done correctly, you could provide them with a gift that sits on their desk for years or capture them at a pivotal moment in their work life, engraining your brand and mission within them for months. Tell me a Google Display ad that does that. Tell me a sales email that does that. Tell me a LinkedIn DM that does that. Tell me, well, any digital marketing tactic that does that. You can’t, because there isn’t one.

Now I’ve won you over and you’re thinking about allocating some time and budget to direct mail, here’s the absolute musts that you need to abide by to achieve great direct mail results.

Make it personally addressed

The mail or package should be personally addressed to the proper individual, so it gets to the right person. This rests on your initial data quality – make sure that you do your research and find the exact person you want to speak to, and that you get their details right!

Don’t be cheap

The mail or package should be high-quality. Always use a FedEx envelope/parcel because it’s almost a guaranteed 100% open rate. FedEx even offer a custom box now so you can brand your package.

Combining different channels is more effective

Combine these physical tactics with digital tactics. Utilise the power of subconscious brand building or air cover on LinkedIn Ads before, during and after the physical package has been sent. Send a follow up email a week after the package that includes a personalised video message. There are a couple of tools that make this easier to execute: SundaySky, Idomoo, and Vidyard.

Do your research and make it meaningful

You must know the individual well enough to know what they like/will respond well to. Make it personal to them, useful, educational or even just funny so it starts a conversation in the office. Due to this granularity, you need to take an ABM approach, with a one:one or one:few lens. You can’t do this on mass, because you lose the quality and meaning.

The more investment you put into this, the higher chance you’ll receive the desired reward. A big part of it is simply costly signaling. Just by spending £30 on a package and a bit of time looking at their LinkedIn/Twitter profiles to find personal details and interests, you can create a touchpoint 100x more valuable than a £1 Google Search Ad click. Yes, your digital marketing is key, because the ultimate transaction will likely occur through your website or over the phone via a phone number they found on your website, but to get more people to that point, you should definitely be thinking outside the box, or rather inside the parcel.

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