B-to-B Direct Mail: Don’t Get Lost in the Details

It seems that we business-to-business marketers too often get caught up in the details of direct marketing rather than concentrating on the things that are most important: the list, the offer, and the results.

Stop worrying about the unimportant details such as whether it is better to use gray paper or white for your direct mailer. It really doesn’t matter what color paper you use—if you’re mailing to the wrong people with the wrong offer, your campaign is going to bomb. For example, if you’re sending a mailing about graphic design software to chief financial officers—or sending a mailing about financial forecasting software to design professionals—you’re betting against yourself with regard to generating sales leads or orders, –no matter how good the copy or offers are.

When planning a business-to-business direct mail campaign, first determine your objective:

  • Are you trying to generate sales leads?
  • Are you trying to move prospects along the buying cycle?

Your copy and offer should be designed specifically to support your objective.

The next step is to consider your list. Again, focus on the important things—such as results—instead of worrying about less important details such as the percentage of undeliverables on the list.

A client of mine recently told me she was concerned by the high percentage of undeliverables from a business mailing list she rented. She was seriously considering not using the list again because of it. When I reviewed the overall results of previous mailings with her, however, it was clear that the list she was questioning generated more leads and sales than any of the other lists she had tested to date. In fact, that list resulted in the best overall return on investment. When considered from that important perspective, the list she was about to not use again was a real winner.

The next step and the best way to boost response rates is to create a strong offer—a targeted offer, or call to action, that will entice prospects to respond.

In business-to-business direct marketing, educational offers work well for getting people to “raise their hands” and express interest. These types of offers include how-to guides, buying guides, reports, white papers, articles, case studies and invitations to events such as webinars and seminars. (For more on what offers work best in b-to-b marketing, see ;“New Research: Search Marketing Not the Best Tactic to Reach Global 1000—or SMB— Execs” at sister site www.ChiefMarketer.com.)

Also consider boosting your response rates by making multiple offers, each designed to appeal to people at different stages of their consideration/buying process.

But don’t make the mistake of offering something “cool,” like an iPod. Yes, you’ll get a high response rate, but those responses will be from people who want the iPod, not from people who want your product or service.

The last step is to make it easy for prospects to respond to your call to action.

Your response form should include the various ways people can request the offer (Web address, e-mail, toll-free number, even fax). Your form could also include a few questions that elicit the information you need to determine whether the respondent fits your definition of a qualified lead. Don’t ask too many questions, however, as you risk turning off the prospect.

Successful b-to-b direct marketers understand that most of a campaign’s success relies on the list and the offers. So be sure to determine the objective of your direct marketing and then ensure that your list and offers support your objective. Your response rate will be much higher in terms of qualified sales leads.

M. H. “Mac” McIntosh is president of North Kingstown, RI-based b-to-b marketing consultancy Mac McIntosh.

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