Direct marketing: no better way to generate B-to-B leads
“We tried direct mail one time and got no results. We tried email and got zero response.” The story is usually the same, but then, so is the process (or the lack thereof). To be fruitful, direct marketing requires thoughtful planning and preparation and the coordination of various tactics or touchpoints. When executed properly, it is by far the most strategic and potent way for business-to-business marketers to generate qualified leads. Plus, it integrates Sales and Marketing like no other lead generation methodology.
Target thy market
Business-to-business (B-to-B or B2B) marketers need to target relatively small, distinct audiences. Direct marketing can be the most efficient and effective means of reaching B-to-B prospects. The idea with this method is, you invest your resources in those who are most likely to be interested in your offering and to influence and/or make buying decisions.
Targeted, attention-getting direct marketing builds awareness and mind share while providing valuable intelligence to Sales and Marketing, helping them prioritize their efforts.
Direct marketing can make the strongest impact in the least time, generate qualified leads, and create a lasting impression. This does require deliberate research, planning, execution, analysis, and management.
The tactical part of direct marketing is only going to make an impact if the strategic part is properly addressed. Your direct marketing pieces must reach the decision-makers and influencers within organizations that match the profile of your ideal customers. This isn’t mass marketing. It’s about targeting those who fit the profile of your target market. As you expand your database include multiple people in each company to build broader and deeper awareness.
If you want to reach prospects that resemble your best existing customers, develop a prospect list based on the profile of these ideal customers, e.g., industry, size, location, etc.
Use cumulative touchpoints
When a direct marketing program includes a mix of mediums, it has a compounding effect. The concerted touchpoints increase the likelihood of engaging the audience. Each medium (e.g., postal, email, landing page, web) has a distinct purpose and advantage.
Direct mail: your brand is felt
Why use this old-school method when you can reach more people with email for less cost? Well-designed direct mail gets attention. And when you send creative postal pieces with compelling value propositions, they are likely to be looked at repeatedly. Dimensional packages are often kept long-term and serve as ongoing reminders of your company, product, and/or service. Unique parcels are shared and passed on by the recipient to others.
Dimensional direct mail pieces get attention
More direct mail rationale
People who were supposed to receive a direct mail package have responded to the follow-up email by saying they didn’t get the direct mail and asking that they be sent another package. This proves businesspeople want to receive direct mail of a certain caliber. Another reason to use direct mail: it greatly increases the chance for engagement.
Direct mail open rates
The higher the quality of a direct mail piece, the greater the chance it will be opened. Notice we said “opened.” Pieces in nice envelopes with first-class postage are much more likely to be opened (and read). Self-mailers (not in an envelope) tend to go in the recycle stack or, at best, the might-look-at-later pile.
If the number of prospects is small enough (dozens vs. hundreds), consider a dimensional piece. A dimensional direct mail package will be opened nearly 100 percent of the time. Not only will this increase brand awareness, but it will likely make a stronger impression and be shared and/or passed on by recipients to others in the organization. When using dimensional direct mail, it’s mandatory to have a follow-up plan.
Email: let the tracking begin
Follow up your direct mail package with an email. This is a way to call attention to the direct mail and make it easy for the recipient to give immediate feedback. You can track email open rates (who opened the email), bounces, and click-throughs. You are also able to see when recipients forward the email. Multiple forwards suggest there are others in the company that may be interested in your company, product, and/or service.
Ever just email?
Should you ever skip direct mail and just use email? Sure. Once an accurate, thorough database is built (including email addresses), sending just emails between more elaborate campaigns can make sense. Use an email-only approach for such things as announcing new personnel or keynote speakers at conferences, the availability of new white papers or case studies on your website, etc. Include a landing page or link(s) to the applicable web page(s)—this is important for telling your whole story and allowing complete tracking and intelligence.
Landing page: expand on email
A web landing page specific to each campaign includes various calls to action: register, collect information, opt-in, visit preferred links, etc. The activity of the visitors is quite telling.
Website: content critical
Whether prospects get there via links in the direct marketing mediums or they find it through search, your website must be branded, content-rich, and worthy of return visits. Does it support the campaign with relevant content? How will it compare to competitors’ sites? Your site will encourage or discourage prospects from contacting you.
Web content relevant to the campaign
Based on actual events
Picture yourself receiving a creative package (or a series of packages) in the mail pertaining to a type of product/service in which you have some interest. You set the package, set it aside, and this is what may ensue:
- A few days later, you get an email calling attention to the postal piece(s) you received (of course the email coordinates with snail mail).
- There are links in the email that take you to a web landing page that expands on the previous communications.
- Links in the landing page pertaining to the product/service, as well as information about this company, take you to the website, where you spend a few minutes. All of the marketing communication mediums, thus far, have been very cohesive and memorable.
- In the meantime, you spot an ad for this same product/service in a trade publication or online.
- A few of weeks later, when you are walking through a trade show, an exhibit grabs your attention because it is so familiar. This display features the brand that you have recently become aware of because of the direct marketing communications you have been receiving. You are curious and stop by to ask the exhibitor a few questions about his or her company and product/service. You are impressed because they recognize your name and are familiar with your company.
- Ongoing communications and nurturing will transpire, and you become keenly aware of this company and its products/services. Ultimately, this is the brand you will think of first when in need of this category of product/service.
This is the sort of replay our clients have experienced when Borns’ direct marketing process was integrated into their sales and marketing efforts.
Watch their digital body language
There are opportune times through the direct marketing process for follow-up calls by the sales team. The timing can be determined by monitoring recipients’ email and website activity (opens, forwards, click-throughs, visitor paths, etc.). Pre-show campaigns have generated leads, RFQs, and even sales prior to trade shows.
Segmenting the segment
B-to-B marketing is about quality, not quantity. It’s about creating unique, thoughtful communiqués with the right message for the targeted audience. Unlike traditional advertisements, direct marketing messages can be customized for various recipients. The direct mail, email, and landing page of a particular campaign can be tuned to appeal to certain people within an entity. For example, the ROI your product/service provides can be stressed to a CFO. Enhanced productivity may be the emphasis for a COO. And positive bottom-line results could be the key message to a CEO.
Leads: passively or proactively
For more than 100 years, advertising in trade magazines has been a common way for B-to-B marketers to try and generate leads. Advertising is a passive way to build brand awareness and promote products and services. The problem is that ads are not very trackable. You only know if prospects have seen your ads if they contact you and tell you so. Unless you interview each inquirer, you won’t get their reaction to your offering. Direct marketing is a proactive way to market. Not only is it more cost-effective, but it will provide much more feedback from its audiences. By augmenting your direct mail with email and websites, you can glean what product, service, capability, data, etc. your target audience is most interested in, whether they passed your message on to others in their organization, how many times they have returned to your site, and other valuable insights for your sales and marketing teams.
It is not unusual for companies to spend half of their marketing budget on trade ads. When comparing the cost per lead for advertising with that of direct marketing, the difference can be dramatic. Advertising leads can cost more than five times the cost of direct marketing leads. We have seen marketers dramatically cut their ad spending after realizing how much more immediate and insightful direct marketing can be. We commonly see record trade show traffic and leads, spikes in website traffic, a sudden interest in a company and/or product, and shortened sales cycles due to direct marketing campaigns.
Is your existing list current?
Your existing database may be suitable for introducing your new line extension. Do consider, though, the time that has passed since the list was last confirmed. Lists typically grow over years and are full of names of people who have moved on within the company or to other places. Keep in mind that contact lists degrade several percentage points per month (30% per year on average). Database cleansing should happen before your marketing campaign has been created and is ready for release.
New segment begets new list
Your existing database may not include the right audience for that new product/service launch. Once the market has been clearly identified, consider membership in applicable trade or professional associations. This often gives access to membership lists with up-to-date contact information, including the hard-to-get email addresses.
After joining an industry group and exhibiting at an annual conference, you may have access to the list of event attendees. This list could include names, titles, postal addresses, and email addresses. To purchase a list of this quality would be rather expensive.
Spread the love
As you build a rapport with each company, work on adding multiple people in each company. This way, it’s not just one person’s idea to consider your company. The more people you engage, the clearer it will become who the decision-makers and influencers are. Your name will become known among the influencers within each company. As many as four departments in a given company can be involved in buying decisions.
Play it again and again
Direct marketing campaigns should be an ongoing activity. Incorporate them into your annual marketing communications plan. Consider doing multiple campaigns each year highlighting a trade show, product/service launches, website additions, new sales channels, etc. Besides generating leads, your database will be cleansed and expanded, your website traffic will increase, and your sales team will become more engaged.
Integrating with other tactics
Direct marketing should be integrated with your other marketing initiatives, such as trade show marketing, publicity, advertising, literature, presentations, social media, etc. The look, feel, and message must be consistent in every instance.
Integrating with sales
Direct marketing is intended to set the stage for selling. Direct marketing does many things to support the sales process, starting with building brand awareness. Beyond this, leads are not only identified, but the sales team will be able to understand the behavior of these prospects, such as who is looking at your offering and what specific products, services, capabilities, etc. interest them most. When these prospects make an inquiry, or a member of the sales team makes a contact, they will be prepared to talk to these soon-to-be customers.
Manage those leads
Don’t waste the money spent on getting those leads. Score and record every lead so that none get lost over time. Determine if leads require immediate follow-up, a scheduled follow-up in a number of weeks, or nurturing with an ongoing series of communications to keep them warm and aware of your company.
Let’s get to work
Now you have the idea, a direct marketing program requires much planning, preparing, and implementing. The rewards can start to come soon after launching the first campaign. Contact Randy Borns at 616.502.2213 or email email@example.com to find out how we can help you take your marketing to a proactive level.