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Direct Mail Reborn: B2B Marketers To Invest More In 2016


Traditional direct mail — the stuff that is delivered to your snail mailbox — is still an important means of communication, and we are seeing early signs of a resurgence in its use in 2016.

A number of B2B marketers have told Demand Gen Report that direct mail will play a bigger role in lead generation efforts this year, partly due to its novelty factor compared with the overstuffed email inboxes plaguing many potential business 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 will continue to deploy its three-dimensional direct mail campaigns.

The volume of direct mail pieces has declined over the years, according to the Direct Marketing Association. This is no doubt fueled by less expensive Internet alternatives such as email and search marketing — but direct mail has held its own in recent years. The most recent U.S. Postal Service Household Diary study indicates overall mail volume is down only slightly, while standard mail volume has increased.

Other marketers agree that a less cluttered physical in-box is an opportunity. Expensive, B2B mail packages can attract attention and ultimately be worth the production cost in order to capture the right lead.

Dave Bruno, Marketing Director at Aptos and one of Demand Gen Report’s editorial advisory board members, 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 he’s working on that targets very specific so-called suspects.

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

Ricoh also uses high-end, targeted B2B direct mail. “We’ve been doing more direct mail in the last couple of years, especially with our global accounts and our large major accounts,” said Kristin Carroll, Demand Generation Manager at Ricoh Americas and a DGR editorial advisory board member.

Carroll characterized them as “high-end and very targeted dimensional mailers,” adding, “We do dimensional mail … with a highly interactive website, and then use [telephone] follow up.” When Ricoh wants to target C-level executives, Carroll said these types of mailers along with events tend to be far more effective than email.

This resurgence of direct mail usage is no surprise, since direct mail could be considered the original lead generation tactic for both B2B and consumer marketers.

Direct mail is one of the easiest media channels to track and measure, and it enables more complex messaging than many digital avenues for B2B marketers. It can also be orchestrated by marketers who know when the mail is arriving and can integrate and time that messaging through additional channels such as email to reach buyers at the right time and boost multichannel campaigns. And its newfound novelty factor, given the proliferation of email and other digital channels, obviously also helps these communications stand out even more.

What are your direct mail plans for 2016? Let us know through the comments section or by reaching out to me directly; we’ll be compiling a feature to dive deeper into this topic next month.