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Direct Mail Reborn: B2B Marketers Integrate More Physical Mail With Digital Channels

Featured Direct Mail Reborn: B2B Marketers Integrate More Physical Mail With Digital Channels

Traditional direct mail is still an important means of communication among B2B marketers, and industry experts are seeing signs of its resurgence as a lead gen tool. This is due to marketers seeing better response rates to mail pieces, and leveraging it with other channels and disciplines such as account-based marketing for a targeted and integrated approach.

A number of B2B marketers have told Demand Gen Report that direct mail will play a bigger role in marketing plans this year, partly as a way to gain attention among the overstuffed email inboxes plaguing many B2B buyers.

Malinda Wilkinson, CMO of Salesfusion and one of 20 executives who weighed in on DGR’s 2016 State of Marketing Automation Outlook Guide, said her company is using direct mail as a way to stand out.

“We are over-exposed in the digital world, but it is rare these days to get anything interesting in the mail,” she said.

With robust 10% to 15% conversion rates, Wilkinson said she will continue to deploy Salesfusion’s three-dimensional direct mail campaigns.

Other marketers agree that a less cluttered physical inbox is an opportunity. Although expensive, B2B mail packages can attract attention and ultimately be worth the production cost to capture the right lead.

Dave Bruno, Marketing Director at Aptos, said his company is “spending more on direct mail to break through the clutter of digital content.” Bruno added that, “In 2016, we’ll see a significant increase in what we spend on direct mail.”

Bruno cited a current example of a high-end mailer that Aptos is working on which targets very specific prospects.

“I’m doing a piece right now that will cost me almost $50 per unit to put together and ship,” Bruno said. “We’re spending a good bit of money to try to nurture those suspects with specifically targeted direct mail pieces.”

Integrating Digital And Physical Channels

Direct mail is one of the easiest media channels to track and measure — enabling more complex messaging than many digital avenues for B2B marketers. Marketers can also orchestrate additional messaging timed alongside direct mail initiatives through other channels such as email, phone and web to boost multichannel campaigns.

While overall direct mail continues to lose volume and share of wallet in the marketing mix, it is increasingly integrated across the customer journey, according to Bruce Biegel, Managing Director of Winterberry Group.

“Mail is being increasingly recognized as an important channel in the customer journey,” Biegel said. Rather than a place to start a campaign, Biegel noted direct mail is now “a key part of the process based on actions that happen online and offline, and is triggered by behaviors and designed to cut through the clutter.”

Ruth Stevens, President of B2B consultancy eMarketing Strategy, agreed that mail’s power is as an integrated part of relationship development with customers and prospects.

“Direct mail is an effective part of an integrated outbound touch,” Stevens noted. “It’s a contact strategy. You want to reach your target through a variety of channels, including email, direct mail, phone and social media. That messaging is a means to deepen the relationship, whether you are lead nurturing on the prospect side or deepening the relationship on the customer side in order to upsell.”

Stevens said direct mail is also a more effective outreach medium than other channels. “In the B2B world, there’s an increased understanding that you cannot get all the business you want and need by using email as an outreach medium, since email address data is far less available than physical addresses.”

Other marketers agree that mail can be a powerful component of an integrated strategy. Lauren Goldstein, VP-Strategy and Partnerships at B2B agency Babcock & Jenkins, said her shop has “leveraged direct mail as part of an account-based marketing approach” for clients including CSC, IBM, Jive Software, Lifelock, Tripwire and Xerox.

Physical mail integrated with ABM “absolutely makes sense,” according to Maura Packham, VP of Marketing and Communicationsof Quad/Graphics. “It goes back to the ability to target with direct mail. You need to think less about the traditional funnel and more about the buyer’s journey. There’s so much noise out there and how do you get through the clutter? Direct mail has to be a part of that. You can cut through the clutter, you can be relevant and targeted, and you can measure it.”

As CMO of a major commercial printer, she may be accused of bias, but Packham said direct mail “will always be part of what we do because it works.” At the same time, the company is increasing its investment in digital channels.

Another benefit of direct mail is simply its staying power in the marketing mix. While the top channels driving leads for pipeline among B2B marketers are email, search and social media, direct mail is still a viable channel, according to preliminary results from Demand Gen Report’s 2016 Demand Gen Benchmark Survey. The study also reveals that among the most effective channels for driving conversions later in the funnel, direct mail ties with social media with 21% of marketers citing it as most effective.