Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Combining Direct Mail with Your Online Marketing Efforts

Many B2B marketers today are either slashing their direct mail budgets or drastically changing the focus of these campaigns to make them more targeted. MarketingSherpa in conjunction with KnowledgeStorm have released a recent study that demonstrates that direct mail is still relevant.

I like to read a white paper on actual paper!

If you think waaaaay back, there was a time when all newsletters and white papers were sent by mail. I actually remember those days (hey - it was only a decade ago). Then there were the transition years in the early part of the decade when some of your customers and/or prospects still had the option to read your materials offline so you provided this option. Many companies still have this option but most don't. Why did we stop doing this? Most likely the answer is cost as well as the belief that everyone reads and has easy access to email. Your online materials are also more easily measurable. So why should we even think about going back to the "stone age" of direct mail?

Why Direct Mail?

Because there is demand for it and it produces results! The MarketingSherpa study indicted that 44% of survey respondents would choose to receive a white paper by direct mail if the option existed. Instead of just having your online visitors sign up to receive a white paper or e-book online or by email, why not provide the option of having it mailed to them if they select this option? You can use some fancy Java Script to make key fields such as address, city etc... appear on the landing page if the "snail mail" option is selected.

As another idea, send the individual an email in a few days after they registered to receive something in the mail to indicate that they should get ready to receive the white paper by mail. This is a good way of maximizing your direct mail investment and increasing response. Some people may forget why they received the direct mail piece when it eventually gets to them. Here is something to think about - include a picture of the sales rep for that person's regions on the email and also have it on the cover letter of the white paper that they will receive. How is that for personalization?

The other great thing about direct mail is that it's visible outside of your computer. This means it can get passed around an office, be put up on a bulletin board etc... etc... Depending on how good the content is, people may keep your materials around for years - something that typically doesn't happen with the online versions. You can also include a cover letter and additional offers to continue the conversation and move the prospect further along the sales funnel.

Question: How do you make direct mail easy to execute without burning your budget?

Automation of Direct Mail is the Key

If you're a smaller business and you get minimal leads, this is typically a non-issue. You are typically happy to get the leads and you can do this fulfillment yourself. You can also manually decide if the order is worth fulfilling.

If you're a bigger business and you're thinking about going this route, the one thing you don't want to do is create too much additional work for your team. What you need to do is to automate this process so that you can easily send out direct mail pieces in a "just in time" format. You may even want to restrict who is sent a direct mail piece. For example, what if you could automate the lead qualification process to automatically determine if the individual was qualified to receive a direct mailer? If they weren't deemed suitable, you could send them an email apologizing and saying that you're unable to send them a direct mail piece at the moment. I'm thinking off the top of my head here but there are many possibilities with the goal of sending the right people, the right information at the right time so that you maximize your marketing dollars and convert more leads into opportunities and eventally sales.

In terms of automation, your form capture tool could be linked up directly to a mailing house which would take care of the printing and mailing. Again, these are further ideas to explore. You would also want to ensure that that you could track the success of these campaigns. This may include tracking those individuals that follow up by calling, emailing, or visiting the site.

I hope this gives you something to think about!

Chad H

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