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Why direct mail isn’t dead and how to use it to your advantage

Direct mail has always had a bad reputation.

Some naysayers perceive it as junk mail, sent to anyone and everyone with eyes closed and fingers crossed.

Others disregard it in favor of digital outreach that can be tracked and analyzed with the click of a mouse.

But for targeted, business-to-business marketing, there may be no better time to consider the potential results a value-based, tangible communication piece can bring to your sales and marketing efforts.

Why direct mail isn’t dead
The first and most obvious reason why this is a good time to rethink direct mail is because so many other businesses have jumped ship. The competition for attention has never been leaner. And while postage expenses have increased, printing costs have dropped dramatically.

For an affordable price, you can add an entirely new channel to an integrated promotional campaign. And in that split second — which I call the mail moment — when a recipient sees your piece in their mailbox and it grabs their attention, it’s worth it. At the least, you get a stab at name recognition. At the most, you get an inquiry.

Second, direct mail is an outbound effort that gets those not actively shopping interested in your product or service. Google AdWords and SEO only direct audiences to your business once someone is looking. Keywords relevant to your business need to be entered into a search engine in order to serve you up as a potential resource.

While it is essential to be readily accessible when someone is looking and ready to buy, the vast majority of sales are not started by someone seeking out your specific product, service, or company even. We all start out as unaware buyers.

So now that I may have convinced you to consider the potential of direct mail, let’s talk about how to execute a campaign that is effective, and most importantly, repeatable.

How to use it to your advantage
Marketers who have deserted direct mail efforts may have done so because they did not feel the campaign garnered the results they were hoping for. Remember: direct mail is only as effective as the sound marketing practices used alongside it. The fate of your campaign’s success is set during your planning phase.

Ask, who is the audience? And, what is the best way to reach them? Use the answers to these questions to guide your decision-making process. Even the most convincing sales pitch won’t be worth anything if the target audience isn’t there to hear it. And, certain promotions are better delivered physically, such as an invitation or a coupon.

Develop an integrated marketing campaign. Reach your target audience in a multitude of ways — Facebook and LinkedIn advertising, emails, phone calls, and also direct mail. A multi-channel approach also ensures coverage to those small groups who are only accessible on social media or only accessible offline.

Example: A prospect first sees your promotion in a general manner on their Facebook newsfeed. Then they get a postcard in the mail. A few days later when a sales rep calls, the most difficult challenge in sales has been handled because the prospect recognizes your company name — or even better, the promotion — when you call. You can skip over the icebreakers and get straight to the point.

Set your measurement of success. This ensures the results are tracked properly instead of operating off feel. A common mistake is to judge direct mail on one criterion: close of sale. But wait. Did the phone ring? Did your website traffic increase? There are many steps in the buying process before purchase that a direct mail campaign, just like any other communication channel can benefit, such as education and awareness. Campaign effectiveness should be measured throughout the entire sales funnel, from awareness to close.

Make the next step for the prospect as painless as possible. Direct mail doesn’t have an easy “Click Here” button. The piece itself should focus on peaking interest and compelling recipients to take action. Include contact information (email and phone), a web page dedicated to the campaign, and/or an offer that requires a code. All of these avenues also automatically make it easier to track campaign effectiveness.

Follow these best practices in your next campaign and let me know if I’ve changed your mind!

About the Author:

Over 20 years of experience in marketing, sales and advertising in industries including healthcare, commercial real estate, technology, staffing, insurance, financial services, legal, non-profit, manufacturing, architecture, and printing. Through Gravity's Virtual Marketing Officer (VMO) service, currently, serve as the executive marketing officer for more than a dozen local organizations.

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