Direct Mail-Effective Tool For Capturing Targeted Business-To-Business Clients
By Larry Turner, CEO of FP Mailing Solutions and Kathy Mattson, President of Mattson Communications
Today direct marketing is one of the most effective tools in prospecting and retaining clients. Simply by consistently mailing a targeted, compelling marketing piece, such as a cost effective post card that grabs attention quickly or a limited time offer letter that prompts a faster buying cycle, you can build and retain loyal customers for your products and services.
Not only are direct marketing campaigns an effective way to build in new customers, they are also an essential client retention tool. In today’s tough economic climate, a well-timed retention direct mail campaign coupled with an active telemarketing and email follow-up can maximize customer retention and lead to long-term relationships and value for your company.
Size and Scope of Direct Marketing Today
In the last few years direct marketing campaigns drove over $1 trillion in U.S. consumer sales in 2001, and over $800 billion in U.S. business sales in the same year. The direct marketing industry generates $200 billion in media expenditures annually, representing 56.5 percent of total U.S. advertising expenditures, and $50 million in direct mail alone in 2002. Direct mail (not including catalogs) is still the number one direct marketing method used by more than 70 percent of corporations in America.
Although consumer confidence and the geopolitical environment are exhibiting a negative pull on direct marketing project spending, users report that the share of direct marketing in their total advertising mix continues to get top priority. Companies know that it is wise to invest in getting leads that turn into sales. Additionally, marketers concerns over privacy issues are likely to impact email and telemarketing direct marketing efforts far more than direct mail campaigns.
Direct Marketing Best Practices
Targeting your audience is the critical first step in any direct marketing campaign. An abundance of business-to-business (b-to-b) direct marketing lists now exist for direct mail and email. If your goal is to conduct an integrated direct marketing campaign, renting a multi-channel list that offers you the ability to target businesses by such criteria as industry, annual revenue and number of employees is essential. It is also easy to pinpoint and select potential b-to-b clients by decision-making power such as CEO, President and Purchasing Manager.
Don’t forget that your current customers are also your best targets for future product purchases. Since they’ve already bought from you in the past, they most likely will be confident enough to buy from you again. You already know them, their business and the key individuals who are likely to purchase your products going forward. Direct mail can also deepen and strengthen client relationships and help you focus more marketing dollars on your more profitable customers.
Many marketers favor the post card format for effective b-to-b prospecting because they grab attention via short messages and are more economical for you than a full package. In addition to a post card, a one-time offer or personal incentive direct mail piece are also favorite direct formats.
Additionally, direct marketing campaigns allow you to test, measure and refine your campaign’s impact. No other medium allows you to continually test and learn the specific factors that impact response with each rollout of a campaign. Series marketing, timing and seasonality are all factors that you will want to capitalize on when conducting a direct marketing campaign.
In acquisition efforts, a series allows you to:
- Stagger lead quantities to create a steady stream of inquiries – avoid prospecting peaks and valleys
- Give prospects more than one chance to act
In retention marketing, a series approach will:
- Keep customer awareness top-of-mind
- Allow you to tell your story over time, in smaller bites customers can digest
- Present a full-service solution in stages rather than selling a single component, or gushing forth too much information at once
As for timing and seasonality, you can target an offer around a client’s buying cycle, contract and maintenance time frames relevant to your products and services and avoid seasonally slow buying periods, such as holidays.
Why Use Direct Marketing and Specifically Direct Mail Now
Direct marketing offers you the ability to send a personalized, customized communication out to targeted potential buyers. Well thought out direct mail campaigns offer better value for your marketing dollars, as they are more cost-effective than mass advertising, are highly measurable and financially accountable. Direct marketing also allows for infinite testing and improvement.
Today there are a variety of direct mail tools to help you manage your direct mail marketing campaigns, as well as monthly invoices and statements and other transaction-based mailings. Many markets today are bringing their direct campaigns in-house as it allows them control over:
- Client and potential client target lists
- The ability to upgrade the mail center with a range of mailing systems and software
- Cost-efficiently outfitting a complete in-house solution.
A 20-year veteran of high-tech business development, Larry Turner is CEO of the US region of Francotyp-Postalia (FP Mailing Solutions), a leading mailroom solutions provider, meeting the needs of small, mid-sized and large organizations