How Branded Should B2B Direct Mail Campaigns Be?

The topic for this week’s best practice focuses on how direct mail campaigns should be approached.  In chatting with customers and prospects that are using Alyce to execute on direct …

Jerry Kiesewetter unsplash mailbox photo

The topic for this week’s best practice focuses on how direct mail campaigns should be approached. 

In chatting with customers and prospects that are using Alyce to execute on direct mail campaigns, we get this question every day: how much of our company’s branding should we be putting into direct mail outreach?

It depends on the buyer stage

The answer, from data that we’re seeing from our customers and anecdotes from many people that I’ve spoken to (shout-outs to Catherine Kellogg at Turbonomic and Lisa Ames at DemandBase) is that the earlier someone is in the buyer journey, the more the message they receive should be about THEM. The further down the funnel the outreach is used, the more it should be about your brand/product.

.     .     .

B2C and enterprise B2B aren’t the same

Now if this sounds a little crazy—after all, how can you justify spending marketing budget and not emphasize your logo and elevator pitch?!—then it might be because marketing is only viewing itself through the “brand awareness” lens.

There is ample reason to want to invest in this: brand recall can be a powerful predictor of choice in consumer purchases.  But if you sell enterprise software with 9-month sales cycles, that decision-making process isn’t happening by one person in an aisle at the grocery store.

It’s happening because you’ve developed a relationship not only with the champion but the additional 5 people involved in that purchase process. In many purchases, there are more than one person who are staking their own internal reputation on your solution.

In short…you need a heck of a lot more than brand awareness to win those deals. (This doesn’t diminish the importance of being a dominant player in a market and flexing those muscles on your competitors, by the way. That’s the enviable phenomenon when customers say “we’re going with Big Player X because no one is going to fire me for choosing the biggest player in the space”).

Another difference between the B2C world and the B2Bworld with direct mail is what you can reasonably ask someone to do when they receive that piece of collateral in the mail. In the B2C world, it’s usually something very close to making a purchase: a coupon, a catalogue, an invitation to participate in an online sale, or to go somewhere to buy something. You’re only one step away from buying.

In B2B, you’re likely 25 steps away from buying.

.     .     .

Another difference between the B2C world and the B2Bworld with direct mail is what you can reasonably ask someone to do when they receive that piece of collateral in the mail. In the B2C world, it’s usually something very close to making a purchase: a coupon, a catalog, an invitation to participate in an online sale or to go somewhere to buy something. You’re only one step away from buying.

In B2B, you’re likely 25 steps away from buying.

Direct Mail Works Best When Personalized

So you’re not going to send someone something and ask them to sign a $100,000 contract by the end of next week before the sale ends (like a B2C campaign would). But does that mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater?

No—there’s a reason that we still get so much stuff in our mailboxes at home—B2C direct mail works! Why? Because it’s targeted. Because it’s really personalized. And become it’s timely and relevant. They do a great job of making it about the customer.

And then B2B marketers do the opposite of what we know works well.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of direct mail from a company that you did not know, and it was the standard “about us” bit—their logo, their “product triangle”, their elevator pitch, and an item that matches their witty campaign that has no relevance to you, what do you do?

You throw it away. I must have had items hit the trash bin 25 times a year in my previous role as VP Marketing at Seismic. No one ever sent me anything that showed they cared about me in the slightest bit. And I never responded to any of it.

Pipeline, Not Awareness, Is The B2B Metric of Success

We encourage the marketing folks that we work with to think about the purpose of the spend: to get pipeline generated. That’s going to happen by putting the sales rep in the best position to help develop that real, trusted relationship that will need to be cultivated over the course of several quarters.

If the direct mail effort is going to helping get doors open, make it about THEM. Their branding. What interests THEY have.

If the buyer is much farther along the process, i.e. right before contract signing, by all means reign down the branded swag. You’ve got a fan! But swag is like a t-shirt from a band—you’re not going to wear a band shirt if you can’t even name a few songs.

State of Swag Report

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

June 28, 2018
Daniel Rodriguez
Daniel R.

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How Branded Should B2B Direct Mail Campaigns Be?

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