In chatting with customers and prospects that are using Alyce to execute B2B 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, is that the earlier someone is in the buyer journey, the more the experience should be about THEM. The further down the funnel the outreach is used, the more it should be about your brand/product.
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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 emphasizing 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 personal relationship not only with the champion but the additional 5 people involved in that purchase process. In many purchases, there is more than one person who is 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 B2B world 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.
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Direct Mail Works Best When It’s About The Recipient
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 relevant. And become it’s timely. 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 B2B direct mail campaigns 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. No one has ever sent me anything that showed they cared about me in the slightest bit. And as a result, I have 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 personal bond and relationship they will need to manifest with their prospect over the course of several quarters.
If B2B direct mail campaigns are going to help get doors open, make it an experience they want to open the door for. Utilize THEIR branding. What relatable interests THEY have as an individual.
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.