B2B Channel Wrestling: Which Is First, Email Or Direct Mail?

This must be Direct Mail Day in B2B. 

Forrester had put out a report titled “Direct Mail Captures the Attention Of Buyers Overwhelmed by Digital Tactics.” And Demand Metric and PFL seemed to concur in a report called Multichannel Marketing: Maximizing Program Engagement and ROI.

Not that all the statistics back up the ascendancy of the old paper analog channel.   

Take the stats from Demand Metric and PFL. They show that email is the most popular B2B medium, utilized by 91% of the companies surveyed. Social media is used by 81%, and events by 73%.

Direct mail, pursued by 55%, is fifth — still not bad. But it follows display advertising/remarketing, listed by 60%.

Direct mail does better when it comes to effectiveness. Events are the most useful B2B channel, cited by 83%. But 78% say that integrated branded, personalized direct mail is productive.

In contrast, email is seen as beneficial by 68%, behind search marketing/PPC (73%) and outboundBDR/SDR (71%).



Why this disconnect between usefulness and effectiveness?

It might be that “marketers are guilty of using the channels that are easiest or most familiar, and not necessarily those that work the best,” the study states. Or they could be “using the same audiences for all channels.”  

But it depends on the audience. Direct mail is first for targeting financial/purchasing people, followed by outbound and events teams. And it is second in the more difficult task of reaching C-suite and other top executives. 

Email is second for reaching sales/marketing staffers and direct mail is third — both coming in behind events. 

Indeed, direct mail is mail is in the top three for effectiveness in reaching all targeted groups: end users, sales/marketing, financial, technical and C-suite. Email comes in fourth. 

Demand Metric and PFL surveyed 579 B2B executives.

Meanwhile, Forrester shows that open rates average 18% for B2B emails, and 2% for click-through rates denoting “serious challenges” in this channel. The study adds that emails are “easy to send and easy to ignore.”

That doesn’t mean email is being replaced by direct mail — less than 20% now use it in B2B. But the study argues that it should be part of marketers' omnichannel strategy. 

(The report mistakenly states that the tactic of sending physical items through the postal system is 70 years old. Actually, it goes back at least to the time of the Civil War, and a British ad executive used the term direct mail in 1896). 

Back to the 21st century. Does paper mail, which is reliant on the postal service, have a place in the B2B marketing mix?

Forrester urges brands to “resist the urge to treat direct mail like a silver bullet. It should complement — not replace — digital channels such as direct mail.

And brands should use quality data.Unlike email bounces, direct mail returns have a real cost,” it states. (That’s not totally true, given possible damage to reputation from badly addressed emails). 

The real takeaway is that direct mail should be used in tandem with the other channels — particularly direct mail — and that the branding should be consistent in each.   

For marketers that need help navigating their way into direct mail, Melissa announced on Tuesday that it is offering a tool called Mailers Online PRO that can help high-volume direct mailers presort their mail for maximum USPS discounts and process USPS and Canada Post compliant mailings.



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