How direct mail can still make an impact

These days, the focus for many marketers is overwhelmingly on digital channels. From SEO to PPC and from email marketing to social media, there are so many digital outlets – and such a wide potential audience – that other, more traditional channels can fall by the wayside.

But if that sounds like you, then you could be missing out in a major way. Why? Because, to paraphrase the great novelist Mark Twain, reports of direct mail’s death have been greatly exaggerated – and, done well, it can still help you gain a vital advantage over your competitors.

Although the world of marketing has become increasingly preoccupied with digital, direct mail still has a role to play – and, indeed, many businesses are still making very good use of it. But where does direct mail fit in, and just how effective can it be? Read on to find out more.


What is direct mail?

Direct mail is a marketing strategy which involves sending physical promotional material to prospective clients. This material can take a wide range of different forms, including brochures and catalogues, packages, letters or even postcards.

For many years, direct mail has been a marketing staple. But with marketing having increasingly shifted towards digital and social media-based strategies, there has been a tendency to assume that it has essentially had its day. This assumption is itself increasingly being challenged, however.

More and more businesses are making clever, funny and practical use of direct mail as a B2B marketing tool. But just how effective is it – and why?


Is direct mail still effective?

You might well be tempted to drop direct mail in the great filing cabinet of obsolete things, alongside the cassette tape, VHS, Teletext, the penny farthing, the sundial and so on. But this would genuinely be a mistake – because direct mail can still play a valuable role in effective, eye-catching campaigns.

Think back three or four decades – if you’re of that vintage, that is – and you probably remember that back then, direct mail had acquired some negative baggage. It had become so ubiquitous that many people were sick of the sight of it, so a lot of marketing material sent via direct mail went into the bin. This has changed in more recent years, however, with direct mail enjoying a quiet comeback.

In fact, the earlier trend away from direct mail and towards digital marketing has created an opening for enterprising marketers. This is because the decline in direct mail has meant that potential customers are no longer as flooded with physical marketing material as they once were – so, instead of being irritated by the clutter as they might have been previously, it can actually make a pleasant (and almost retro) change for them to receive direct mail.

With our virtual inboxes so saturated with marketing content, it’s very easy to tune out – so if you’re concentrating solely on online channels, it’s very easy for your campaigns to get lost in all the noise. But complementing these digital campaigns with appealing, attractively-designed and inventive direct mail output can make both much more impactful.


How to get the most out of direct mail today

When planning a B2B direct mail campaign, there are a few key points you should bear in mind. The first, as with any other type of marketing campaign, is to define your target audience clearly. You need to have a good idea of who you’re targeting and what sort of approach – in terms of messaging and format – is most likely to garner a positive response from them.

Don’t forget, however, that good data is vitally important. Direct mail – obviously – costs money, and is more expensive than digital channels. You therefore need to be sure that your direct mail output is reaching the right contacts – so don’t just rely on a data list. Make sure you check out every contact on social media (LinkedIn, in particular). You must know exactly who you’re sending direct mail to before you do so, in order to minimise wastage.

When targeting a prospect, make sure you’ve researched your target market in detail and understand the sort of challenges potential clients are facing. If you can send a client something that shows you understand a key pain point of theirs, they’re much more likely to appreciate it than they would be if you just sent them something run-of-the-mill, like a branded mug, for example.

You also can’t afford to neglect design. It’s important to remember that you only have a limited window to catch a prospect’s eye – so you need to make sure that your direct mail material is attractive and striking to look at, as well as conveying your key messages in a concise manner so that your messaging has that all-important cut-through. Design that’s either too garish or too bland simply isn’t going to land with prospective clients.

Think about exactly what you’re sending out, too, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. What can you do that your competitors aren’t already doing? Don’t be afraid to get gimmicky with it, though make sure you know your audience: this approach will inevitably appeal to some prospects more than others. But creativity goes a long way – so if you can come up with something that makes a prospect laugh or makes them think, it can really cut through and leave a lasting positive impact, which can only increase your chances of converting.

Here are some of our favourite direct mail projects from over the years:

Personalised Direct Mail Pack with Door Hanger (For Hotels)

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By Helen Walker