Direct Mail Tips That Deliver

As with Mark Twain, reports of the death of direct mail are greatly exaggerated. Remember what we all knew about direct mail? It was expensive and so slow. And email was cheap and fast. But, then, something very interesting began to happen….

Direct mail suddenly looked attractive again.

Inboxes Filled Up, and Mailboxes Emptied Out

Rich Hansen, an expert who has worked as a designer and creative director for agencies since the time when direct mail was the prime way to reach buyers (I was there with you, Rich), shared some of his insights about direct mail and why he believes it’s a channel worth adding to your B2B content marketing strategy.

What is it about direct mail that makes it almost impossible to ignore?

“When you receive regular emails from a company as part of their marketing campaign, you pretty much know what their message or intent is,” Hansen says. “It becomes easier to ignore or quickly delete received, unread messages. You can attempt to clean up your stream of incoming emails by unsubscribing or marking messages as spam. The ultimate ditch is to change your email address. But it’s pretty tough to change your physical location.”

It’s Easier Than Ever to Get Personal

On the flip side, creating personalized direct mail is much easier now. “By employing digital printing to match the content to the buyer’s journey and personal preferences, you can truly create a one-to-one print experience.”

“I don’t think the cost of a tactile print piece should be considered prohibitive anymore,” he continues. “It’s just another touch that should happen in the communication cycle.”

But if you are a content marketer who is new to the direct mail game or haven’t played in a long time, there are some nuances that you need to know before you create your first campaign.

Look Before You Leap

Because direct mail is physical, mistakes can be costly. Do you know how much additional postage you’ll have to pay if you want to mail a non-standard-size mail piece? Were you aware that designing pieces for the printing press you’re using can have a dramatic effect on the cost?

Here are just some of potential pitfalls Hansen sees marketers facing if they are new to direct mail:

  • “Setting up a program that includes significant data and variable images takes time to set up. You want to personalize. Make sure you build that into your schedule.”
  • “Postal regulations are changing and vary in some areas. Work with someone that knows the rules and has experience. Choosing a non-standard-size mailer can increase your postage costs exponentially.”
  • “Mail is a lot slower than digital: A lot. Patience is required. Working with a creative team, print vendor and the post office takes time. Then it may take time for the recipient to respond. It isn’t a ‘click and get it’ proposition.”

Five Top Tips for Doing Direct Mail Right

Time it right. Rich sees direct mail as a good fit for a middle-of-the-funnel content piece: “Once a buyer has raised their hand in the process, marketers should have enough information about the prospect to create a personalized mail piece. A physical piece of mail can sit on a desk for days or weeks until the buyer is ready to take action on it. Direct mail also makes a nice closing piece to send a welcome to a new customer or a thank-you for choosing your product or service.”

Build it into a campaign. “Direct mail is not cheap and shouldn’t just be ‘content for consumption’,” he warns. “It should contain personal, relevant information and invite the recipient to take action through a landing page, via email or phone, online or through in-person attendance.”

Make it one touch in a multi-channel campaign that also includes digital and, if appropriate, telemarketing. Use a call to action that involves going online to get the buyer into your marketing automation system so that you can measure results.

Test. Historically, direct marketers cite list, offer and creative as the three keys to a successful direct mail effort: mailing to the right list of people, with the offer of a compelling CTA, using persuasive and attractive creative. Don’t forget to test each of these, one variable at a time. Do A/B testing to see what’s working and what’s not.

Personalize. In addition to list, offer and creative, Hansen recommends an important fourth component: relevant, personalized content. With digital printing, you can now print 10 or 100,000 or 1 million pieces of direct mail, each one personalized for the recipient. This makes direct mail scalable, as long as you have the budget.

Leverage the physical quality. One final important aspect to keep in mind is that direct mail is a tactile medium. In addition to doing dimensional mailers; i.e., anything that’s not a flat envelope, you can use different sizes or different materials like metallic paper and inks, textured stock, clear poly bags or tubes. Be creative. This is one of the major factors that sets direct mail apart from all those bits and bytes buyers receive digitally.

As you create your next B2B marketing campaign, consider how direct mail can help you transcend the inbox clutter and add a personalized experience for your B2B buyers.

Check out our recent blog post about how new direct mail platforms are helping companies deliver and scale their direct mail. If you need help with strategy, content development or campaign execution, we’ve got the experts at Content4Demand to make it happen. Contact Holly Celeste Fisk at holly@content4demand.com.