It’s better to reach the people who count than to count the people you reach.


It seems these days email and social media are the default mediums for promotion. They’re effective for sure, but many overlook the power of direct-mail promotion for business-to-business marketing. It’s still a contender. It offers many benefits other channels lack, or offer with less precision and flexibility. The two biggies are:

  • The ability to rifle-shot a targeted message to a specific audience segment.
  • Lots of room to tell your story.

Five things to consider when planning your mailing.

The list. The first place to go is to your house list. Sort by customers, prospects, product interest – whatever makes sense for you. Keep the list clean, and keep it busy. When you broaden your audience with rented lists, slice and dice by SCI, job title, plant size, geography – and most important – probable interest in your product category.

The offer. You won’t sell big-ticket items or products that require sales consultation in a single-step direct mail effort. Just go for a response – a way to begin a dialog that will lead to the sale. The all-time favorite offer for B-to-B DM promotion is the information package. But try to take it a step beyond product information only. A how-to technical booklet or video related to processes or operations that involve your product is especially effective.

Timing. If you’re after sales leads, calculate how many leads your troops can handle per month. Make assumptions about response rates and conversion ratios, and mail accordingly. Anticipate seasonal demands.  Stress building attendance at your trade shows, open houses, and other special events.

The presentation. There are three general approaches to the mailing package:

  • The classic package consists of a carrier envelope, a sales letter, a brochure or flyer, and a response device. This is a very effective format when a lot of space is needed to make a lengthy presentation, or when you need to be more formal in tone.
  • The self-mailer is popular in business-to-business promotion. It is often as simple as a standard postcard. More common is a jumbo card or folded piece. Two colors are fine for simple messages repeated often.  Use four-color process, photography, and illustration for less-frequent mailings that require more impact.
  • Specialty packages are no-holds-barred productions that involve three-dimensional pieces, large packages, expensive giveaways, and more.  They have great impact, and are justified when the stakes are high.

The budget. Don’t sabotage your effort by under funding it. Consider the lifetime worth of a new customer and ask yourself how much you would pay to begin a dialogue. That’s the cost per inquiry you’re                    shooting for.  Multiply that times probably responses. That’s your budget.

Another way to look at budget is to do a simple break-even analysis.  Assuming you can put your promotion in the mail for $5,000, divide that figure by your gross operating margin (shall we say 40 percent?), and you get a break-even revenue figure of $12,500. Is that feasible? Your call.

Critical success factors.

The most important pressure points are your list and your offer. If you don’t get those right, your mailing won’t work, no matter how much money you throw at it.

If you do have qualified list and an on-target offer, the right words, pictures, and graphic design can make all the difference in the degree of success you enjoy. The investment you make here will pay for itself, and then some.

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