Email Sidekick: B2B Marketers Take A Hard Look At Direct Mail

B2B marketers whose customers are showing signs of digital fatigue might take a look at an older medium: direct mail.   

Many brands apparently are: 54% have increased their direct mail spend this year, and 69% expect to do so next year, 18% of them by 20% or more, according to Hybrid Experiences Bring Direct Mail Into The Digital Age, a study from PFL, conducted by Forrester. 

What's more, B2B marketers are using direct mail at points throughout the customer lifecycle, including early product or service discovery (72%), conversion (63%), and customer engagement and enrichment (54%).

Of course, there is no way paper mail can provide the immediacy of triggered email notifications or the instant measurement. And we don't know the size of these direct mail budgets. 

That said, these respondents are facing a dilemma. They agree (or strongly agree) that: 

  • When I receive a package while at work or for a work context, I am very likely to open it — 81% 
  • The pandemic has caused my organization to increase its reliance on/investment in digital marketing touchpoints — 80% 
  • Our analog touchpoints (e.g., direct mail) have been performing better for our organization than they had a year ago — 78%
  • Our buyers are less likely to engage (e.g., open, click, reply) with our digital marketing touchpoints than they were a year ago — 76% 



The result is that many are at least willing to use direct mail if convinced they could do it effectively. They say: 

  • We would use direct mail for more of our marketing if delivering engaging, differentiated campaigns was less cumbersome or difficult — 85% 
  • We prioritize digital marketing touchpoints because they are measurable and optimizable — 81%
  • The pandemic has caused my organization to increase its reliance on digital marketing touchpoints — 80% 
  • We would use direct mail for more of our marketing if delivering engaging, differentiated campaigns were less cost-prohibitive — 75%

All those points are serious enough. But the companies that were inclined to use direct mail faced these difficulties in trying to creating personalized experiences:

  • Our customer data systems aren’t compatible with direct mail — 54%
  • We prefer the measurability and optimization of digital touchpoints — 50%
  • We weren’t aware personalizing direct mail was possible — 47% 
  • It would be too expensive to deliver personalized direct mail at scale — 44% 
  • We aren’t able to effectively include or orchestrate direct mail with our other personalized marketing experiences — 40% 
  • We don’t have the technology we need to personalize direct mail — 38%
  • We don’t have the internal skills needed to personalize direct mail — 35% 

Then there are possible attitudinal issues — for instance, the respondents fear that badly done personalization would cause the following:

  • Buyers would opt out of further communication from us — 46%
  • Wasted marketing spend — 43% 
  • Inability to demonstrate ROI of major campaigns or programs such as events — 43% 

Not very encouraging: You better stick with email, no? 

Not so fast. Failure to use physical mail could lead to these issues, the respondents say:  

  • Damaging customer relationships/offending customers — 41%
  • Inability to understand if our marketing experiences are working — 40%
  • Lower customer lifetime value (CLV) — 35%

And the firms polled seem interested in trying mail. They find the following either valuable or highly so:

  • Ability to scale direct mail delivery up or down based on our budget or financial requirements — 77%
  • Automated mail creation and delivery tied to buyer purchase signals and behavior — 76% 
  • Ability to tie direct mail planning and execution to buyer journey insights — 75%
  • Ability to orchestrate direct mail with other buyer touchpoints and marketing channels — 74%
  • Ability to know when sent mail has been delivered so we can time experience delivery against customer signals — 72%
  • Ability to measure and optimize direct mail through existing marketing technologies (e.g., CRM, MAP, etc.) — 71% 
  • Ability to scale delivery mail delivery up or down to suit the campaign — 69%

Let’s admit it: Email provides all of those benefits, and more. 

This doesn’t mean that B2B brands should forego direct mail (or email): Rather, they should see the channels as supporting each other. 

“Buyers today are flooded with digital promotions and communications, which has led to increasing levels of digital burnout," states PFL CEO Nick Runyon. "As a result, digital touchpoints like email no longer pack the punch." 

Runyon provides the example of when a marketer needs to "follow up with a prospect who has become slow to respond over email. Sending a piece of personalized direct mail could be a welcomed touchpoint to re-engage with the prospect. By bringing together physical and digital tactics into true hybrid experiences, brands can create more impactful moments with buyers that increase brand loyalty and drive conversions.”

PFL surveyed 158 B2B marketing leaders in January 2022. 









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