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Direct mail: Alive and generating revenue

Direct mail: Alive and generating revenue

By Nancy Steelberg

When was the last time you included direct mail as a component of your marketing plan? It’s probably been at least ten years since direct mail has been a serious strategy for business-to-business marketing.

The trends are clear –  media spending experts at MagnaGlobal expect that offline direct marketing will continue to decline in 2012, under the competition of online and mobile alternatives, decreasing by 23.2% after posting a 20.2% decline in 2011. Direct mail revenues will also fall by 2.4% after dropping 1.9% in 2011.

But with fewer marketers mailing, it might be time to reevaluate direct mail for certain, hard-to-reach audience groups.

One of ENC’s clients provides its members with a vast portfolio of insights and resources. But finding ways to reach this powerful, very busy target audience – and compel them to take action –  is a bit elusive. Advertising in high-end publications like the Wall Street Journal is very expensive and this audience group is understandably cautious about engaging in social media outlets. Could direct mail possibly be effective?

When we began talking with our client about direct mail, we considered these factors in making the decision to proceed:

1. Could the package be delivered with reasonable certainty? You still can’t reach a government audience via the U.S. mail, but for business-to-business marketing, if you can reach key targets at home or at their office, an attractive package and offer can offer a significant ROI. Our client’s mailing list could work well since it has been carefully tracked and nurtured.

2.  Could the package make a compelling offer? For this association, their premium membership was offered at a small discount for a very limited time. Corporate decision-makers are still very concerned about costs, so a small savings still makes a big difference. With an impressive renewal rate, offering a discount could serve to drive home the value of giving membership a try.

3. Could the package prove its value to a prospect? Is there enough rich content to brag about the association’s value? How could testimonials and their prestigious membership base prove that the investment is worthwhile?

4. Could the package stand out in the in-bin, and get past the “screener”? With careful design and copywriting, the team was confident that we could create a prominent, must-open direct mail.

After careful deliberation and discussions about these four questions, our client agreed that direct mail could be used to engage with this elite audience. ENC designed an elegant, sophisticated package that included a special invitation to join this elite group of corporate leaders and a colorful brochure highlighting the logos of member companies, all wrapped in a special carrier and crystal clear packaging.

The results? The campaign not only paid for itself, but resulted in a 300% return on investment when taking into account the lifetime value of a member (the association has a very high member retention rate). The campaign was also the tipping point for prospects already engaged in membership discussions, confirming the age-old practice of making sure your potential customers know about your services by communicating to them across multiple channels with multiple marketing methods. We continue to leverage our client’s investment in this campaign by reusing the same creative concepts in all of their marketing materials – a smart way to keep growing their membership base at a reasonable cost.

Direct mail may not be effective for everybody, but it’s certainly an old-school technique that needs to be considered seriously by forward-thinking organizations.

Image courtesy Flickr user kla4057

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