A current campaign I’m involved with got me thinking about my roots in consumer direct marketing. Whenever we launch a campaign that relies heavily on direct, I’m reminded that the rules in business-to-business direct marketing are really the same as they are in the consumer space. Granted, the overarching differences between the two disciplines are still present and should be considered (e.g. committee buying/decision-making in b2b vs. a solo decision in b2c), but when you strip it down, the similarities are crystal clear.
- State Your Objective: Generally, one objective per mailing is best and should be the very first thing you do. Are you trying to generate leads, nurture leads, cross-sell to existing customers, or otherwise retain them? Establishing a clear objective at the onset will lead you down the path of a sound campaign.
- Know Your Audience: Aligned with your objective, knowing your audience is crucial for any direct campaign. Figuratively, you’ll want to know what types of people make up your target list, and communicate accordingly. Are you targeting in-house prospects, or a rented list? Current or inactive customers? Senior VPs or CEOs? Teenagers or housewives? In the literal sense, you’ll want to make sure your mailers are addressed properly, and include as much personalization as possible.
- Create Compelling Copy & Offers: Why should I buy your product, let alone respond? Aside from any level of personalization, which can only increase response, compelling copy begins with developing a unique selling proposition (USP) that speaks to your target audience. A successful USP is one that promises to solve a problem and makes life better, easier, or otherwise addresses the What’s in it for me? question from your target audience. For most products and services, a compelling USP will only generate so much response, so identify any number of offers that can be tied into your campaign. Your offers should be relevant and continually tested. If your budget will not allow for big-ticket items, free trials or even introductory discounts, think about free information or content you can offer (this is especially effective in b2b).
- Make it Easy to Respond: Following a clearly stated call-to-action that specifies how you would like your target to respond, give them as many options for responding as appropriate toll-free number, postage-paid envelope, URL, etc. Not too long ago, offering multiple response options would have been frowned upon because the age-old rule was that more choices equates to a lower response. Times have changed; people expect a choice, and not having a preferred response channel could decrease response. Now, is there anything else you can do to make it easy for your prospect/customer to respond? OK, do it.
- Maintain Continuity: Regardless of your business or cause, you must extend a consistent brand identity (messaging, logo, design, etc.) across all channels, and direct is no exception. Chances are, your direct efforts will overlap another campaign channel. Each of these impressions to your brand has a cumulative effect that, over time, can lead to increased recognition and recall that can make a positive impact on your response. You’ll only see these benefits if you’re consistent with how you present your brand identity.
- Test, Test, Test: If you can think of a variable, it may be worth testing. A/B split and 2×2 testing are common tests for direct mail, and include examining things such as the creative, the copy, the offer, the list, etc. However, before you begin, make sure you know how much of a response you’ll need from your test to break even, and make sure the sample size of your test group will be large enough to yield results that are statistically significant. This is what you’re supposed to do. With b2b direct, the reality is that you’re often dealing with a universe under 10,000, so statistically significant isn’t achievable, and therefore can’t be guaranteed to perform the same if rolled out. In cases like these, you have to be that much more selective about what to test, and you’ll probably also want to be more frugal with your split if you have a dominant control piece.
In true direct form, you could analyze and segment each of these steps to create an even longer list, and while every effort was made to consolidate for easier consumption, I would like to hear your thoughts or experiences.
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