Freelance Writer Files: How to Make Your B2B Direct Mail Rock!

You seldom see the terms “B2B” and “Rock!” in the same sentence. Especially in the context of “direct mail.” Hey, isn’t that the fuddy-duddy old granddaddy of e-mail marketing? Well, yes. But the old fella is still kickin’, and kickin’ up sales for smart companies.

Now, you’re going to say, “Hey, but social media is the thing now. It’s cool. It reaches everybody, and it’s cheap.”

Sure, Twitter and Facebook are free or cheap. But if you have to hire a company or an employee to tweet and maintain your Facebook presence, your social media efforts could cost plenty. And even though 10,000 “Likes” on Facebook may give you a warm, cuddly feeling, does it translate to sales? Maybe. But how many of your prospects make their decisions based on Twitter or Facebook?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe social media is fine and dandy for certain things, like creating a buzz, or making people aware of a cause or a brand, but direct mail can do a couple of things social media can’t. Like stay around in eyesight of a prospect, right on his or her desk. And more importantly, give you trackable results. (Yes, I know there are ways to do that in social media, but it’s simpler with direct mail.)

With that in mind, here are a few tips if you’re now considering doing a direct mail campaign.

1. Act as if every DM promotion is life or death.
In other words, take it seriously. You’re going to spend some money on it, so think it through carefully.

2. Zero in on your ideal target audience.
What kind of company needs your product or service? How big a company are you after? How close to your business? How much annual revenue? What kind of customers do *they* have? What’s their corporate culture like? Determine as many characteristics of your ideal prospect as you can. Then go to a good list source with your requirements. These days, they can home in on your prospects so specifically, it’s amazing. And by the way, all list sources are not the same.

Story time

When I was working on a DM program for a repair shop that repaired only two makes of foreign cars, I was looking for a mailing list of
(a) owners of those two car makes ONLY,
(b) who had purchased them more than three years ago (so they were off warranty), and
(c) who lived within 25 miles of the repair shop.

Two list people gave me their counts. One said he had three times as many mailing addresses fitting my criteria than the other did. So more is better, right? Not in this case. The second list guy had weeded out the dead addresses, so my client wouldn’t waste money sending his mailings to people who weren’t there. We went with him, on the advice of a printer I trusted. Always have a printer you trust.

3. Identify your prospects’ biggest gripes.
Figure out what is costing your prospects time, money or grief, and how your company can help eliminate it. Then build the content of your direct mails around that. Too many companies send out messages that are “all about me and what I can do,” instead of “what I can do for you.” Their messages completely miss the mark. You be different: be the solution to their problem.

4. Be sure you have the right fix for their gripes.
Your solutions must match their problems. Obvious, right? But it’s amazing how often direct mail messages say they’ll deliver solutions to problems I don’t have. Or sometimes, they get the gripe right, but I can’t figure out how their solution is going to help.

5. Plan a campaign, not a shot in the dark.
Unless you’re giving away free golden doubloons, one letter probably won’t get much of a response. A successful direct mail campaign includes multiple touches. Say you identified three of your prospects’ biggest gripes. Develop three letters based on your company’s way of solving those three gripes, and send them out at 10-day intervals. Then make follow-up phone calls. Then send out three brochures addressing those same gripes and your solutions at 30-day intervals, with follow-up calls sandwiched in between.

6. Deliver an easy way to respond along with your pitch.
A prepaid post card works. So does a special phone number and/or an e-mail address. Be sure the response goes to a person who’s been designated and trained beforehand to handle the responses. If a postcard comes into the office or an e-mail comes to your website, and it sits idle or floats around looking for a place to land, time passes, and you may lose your opportunity. Get someone to get on it NOW!

5. Track and test response.
For a DM campaign I worked on recently, we wanted to know if prospects responded more to a simple “call this number” or to a “Call this number or go to this URL” call for action. We developed a splash page for the URL letter, where prospects could fill out a quick form for someone to get in touch with them. We had two different codes for the letters. The letters with only a phone number had a code number the prospect could mention to get a free evaluation. The “number or URL” letter had a different code number. The campaign is still in process, so when it’s done, we’ll know more about what works for the next campaign.

Many voluminous books and countless articles have been written about how to do direct mail. These are just a few top-of-mind tips from my own experience. Do you have some tips or war stories to offer? I’d love to hear them. In closing, if you’re doing direct mail, I say, “Rock on!”

And of course, if your biggest gripe is that you don’t have the help you need to plan your campaign and write those letters and brochures, well, hey, I’ve got your solution. Just give me a call.

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