How to guarantee responses with direct mail

Mini Mighty ABM

This article is part of the Mini Mighty ABM series where we ask top experts in ABM to share one actionable idea that you can use at work today. These tips are mini, but mighty. For more, visit ABM Revealed.

Marty, the director of operations, has been ignoring sales calls for months now. Then a package arrives. The outside is textured to look and feel like sand. Inside is a note in a glass bottle that reads, “Lost on an island, Marty?” Just then the phone rings. This time Marty picks up.

This is an actual scenario from the marketing team at a PFL customer. When 13 of their digital touches failed over a matter of months, one succeeded because it was physical, unignorable direct mail.

Mail delivers the goods. FedEx gets 100% open rates because packages break the usual pattern of outreach and make it tangible. And if that item is thoughtful and demonstrates you understand them and their company, their response is almost guaranteed.

Why direct mail works

For all of us, we love to interact with others face to face and we want to know the personality of the companies we’re partnering with. Digital is essential, but not sufficient: If you want to make real connections it helps to pull your brand through into the real world. That’s what we do at PFL, we make omnichannel tactics tactile and give digital marketers a physical presence.

We sort of discovered this by chance. We’re a 23-year old print and fulfillment business that, in the last six years, has transitioned to being a software as a service MarTech firm. We were doing what’s now called ABM direct mail campaigns since before there was a name for it, and the more we work with digital marketers, the more we realize that in an age of cheap and abundant email, nothing delivers a return on outreach like sending something people can hold and touch.

How to find where direct mail fits into your cadence

1. Start simple. Pick a group of high-value accounts and compare personalized, engaging print pieces or personalized packages to digital touches. (More on what to send later.)
2. Check your address data. You only need correct addresses for your test accounts and contacts, not all accounts and contacts.
3. Pick a metric. The most common error I see is marketers saying, “I just want to send the same thing to my entire list” and not measuring it. That’s not going to move the needle, and you won’t know your ROI. Get clear on where in the funnel you’d like to see higher engagement and what metric, like response rates, you’ll use to measure lift.
4. Run the test. Hit send. Use the notifications of when packages arrive to alert sales reps to call then.
5. Perform a retrospective. Did it work? Did it increase lift? Take notes.

So, what should you send? That’s really the secret to making direct mail work. You have to personalize it, and that doesn’t mean just using the recipient’s first name, although that’s a start. Good personalization is sending something thoughtful that shows that you’re listening and deeply understand them and their company. Maybe it’s something that references a prior conversation or otherwise indicates that you’re an uncommonly thoughtful partner. Jenn Kloc at Jellyvision does a great job of this.

Every campaign Jenn sends stems from deep insight into how her customer, HR professionals, feel. Namely, that their work is often thankless. They never get enough love. So she sends them personalized maps to “the benefits communication wilderness” and buttons that say things like “Master cat herder.”

The message is that HR teams are unsung heroes. While others in their own company may not realize it, Jenn does. And now that she has their attention, she’d love to help. Her response rates on these campaigns are through the roof.

Jenn Kloc sends thoughtful outreach to HR professionals.

So, don’t send your campaigns—direct mail or otherwise—just to hit quota. Send them based on deep customer insight and a desire to break through on an emotional level. If you recognize your prospects for something no one else does, the odds that they respond are fantastic.

My actionable takeaway:

Make direct mail personal and use it as a way to show prospects that you get them. Paired with a phone call, it breaks the typical sales outreach pattern and starts a real conversation.

Marne Reed

Chief Evangelist and VP of Strategic Alliances, PFL

Passionate leader tasked with guiding PFL’s expansion into enterprise software solutions, which includes proprietary Tactile Marketing Automation (TMA) and robust API integration's with Marketing Automation and CRM programs. Responsible for providing vision, leadership and hands-on execution for all initiatives supporting this key growth area as well as the overall health and growth of the PFL culture.