Evidence That Direct Mail is Alive and Well in B2B Demand Generation

Here are two case studies from Deliver magazine that show how integrated direct mail efforts can pack the biggest punch of all.

Given all the buzz that surrounds web and mobile platforms these days, direct mail has come to look like the plain-Jane country cousin of B2B marketing.

But my experience with DM campaigns, historically and recently, suggests that the snail-mail channel still has plenty to offer—when it’s used in a highly targeted and integrated way.

The numbers game

Mass-market DM was never a great way to meet and convert highly qualified B2B prospects, but that’s what most people envision when they hear “direct mail.”

Today the most successful targeting for DM goes beyond segmenting by vertical and often focuses on hundreds, not thousands, of targets.

Being clever with a purpose

The most effective direct mail campaigns do more than simply utilize another channel—they are intended to be clutterbusters right from the start.

The focus here is on getting attention and stimulating interest with something that’s hard to ignore. A clutterbusting DM is:

  • Dimensional—Think big, or at least oddly shaped; think color (NOT easily scuffed white)
  • Specially delivered via Priority Mail or any method that marks it as an important package
  • Personalized
  • Fun!

It goes without saying that we have to promote the right content and message for the right personas at the right point in the buying cycle within the piece, but that’s the part we’re most likely NOT to neglect.

Two entertaining pieces of evidence, for inspiration

This is one of those times where it’s probably better to show rather than tell.

And I’m lucky to have USPS publication Deliver magazine on hand for a couple of case studies that emphasize how diligent targeting and thoughtful messaging, thoroughly combined with entertaining creative, can produce outstanding results.

While the industry average for DM response rates is 1-3%, these campaigns garnered response rates of 10-15%.

(Full disclosure: both campaigns featured were created by my home base, Babcock&Jenkins, in conjunction with Omniture and Adobe.)

Sweet Charts


In my opinion, you can never go wrong with anything chocolate. And when the Omniture Business Unit at Adobe chose the concept of sending a chocolate pie chart to 500 of their hardest-to-reach prospects, they were rewarded with a response rate of 11.6 %—and estimated ROI of 289%.

(An essential ingredient in this DM pie was an overlay of a personalized URL, or PURL, that directed each prospect to  their informational microsite.)

Indulge in the chocolate pie chart story here.

Want S’more?

Omniture and Adobe presented 500 more tough-cookie leads with a S’mores kit meant to represent Omniture’s digital suite.

In the Deliver article that analyzes the program’s results, Adobe’s senior director of demand marketing and media Mike Chertudi says he believes clever DM linked to relevant educational content is more effective than self-serving “freemiums.”

With a response rate of 12.7% and ROI nearing 300% as of August 2010, the S’mores campaign certainly supports his view.

Click for a close up

Read the rest of the S’mores story here.

Have you had to fight for your right to use DM lately? I’d love to hear your experiences—good, bad and delicious—in the comments.

5 Responses to Evidence That Direct Mail is Alive and Well in B2B Demand Generation

  1. Karen Oakland says:

    Hi Lauren – Love this article and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had too many conversations with execs who believe “mail is dead” and the evidence just doesn’t show that. My last DM with B&J in fact performed exceedingly well and prospects even showed it to salespeople IN the room. Mail can be memorable – and even more so now that it’s so much rarer.

    Good luck with your blog!

    • Hi Karen – Great hearing from you! Thanks for reading my blog, and providing additional proof! Like any channel/medium….it’s about applying it to the right audience and against the right marketing objective. My organization used direct mail as part of an integrated marketing campaign to an executive marketing audience…and received over a 40% engagement rate (marketers who were actively interested in talking with our organization). Now…we did have a secret ingredient (chocolate)….but the real “secret” was smart targeting, relevant messaging and an integrated set of touch-points (and great sales follow-up).
      Great hearing from you! Cheers, Lauren

  2. Lauren,

    Great post, but I was bummed that you didn’t include Genworth Financial’s piece in Deliver (link to the article here: http://jspk.me/6y).

    You obviously get “it” when it comes to delivering a truly unique and memorable experience through the mail. It’s not only possible, but I’d argue unmatched by any other medium.

    I really like the one-two punch that melding mail and web offers.

    Thanks for the post.

    -Michael

  3. […] Lauren Goldstein of B2B Demand Generation Insights points out that a successful B2B mailer targets hundreds – not thousands – of carefully selected prospects. Plus, the DM piece needs to be personalised and designed to deliver a strong physical impact. Goldstein refers to the example of an Adobe DM campaign where chocolate pie carts were sent to 500 hard-to-reach prospects in a campaign that ultimately achieved almost 300 per cent return on investment. This is excellent proof that great creative can deliver outstanding results in the post as well as online. […]

  4. Amaryllis Jones says:

    I love the idea of direct mail! It’s a great way to get creative with marketing and advertising just from the colour, shape, size and content. However I find that many people shoot down the idea because it is “costly” to print materials and mail them to prospects. The question is “is it worth the investment in materials and shipping costs”? I think anything everything is worth a shot at least once…

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