May 20 2022 03:31 AM

B2B companies have long relied on email and in-person events for lead generation. The pandemic changed all that. The glut of emails businesspeople now receive every day makes it difficult for organizations to get their electronic communications noticed. I get 50-100 business emails every day. Most of them are ignored, deleted, or marked as spam. I’ll never find enough time to open them all.

In-person opportunities to meet with prospective customers have also disappeared. Though a few in-person events are beginning to re-emerge, many show organizers cancelled events, transitioned to virtual, or reduced the size of their shows. It’s not clear if B2B conferences and shows will draw the same number of attendees they did before COVID-19. Lower attendance will make it tougher for companies to justify spending the money to take part as speakers and exhibitors.

Those of us in the mailing business know the solution, of course: direct mail! We can talk about direct mail’s superior conversion rates and the ability for mail pieces to stand out in the uncrowded postal mailbox. Physical mail has other advantages that I’ve mentioned in previous columns.

B2B Direct Mail for Today

Direct mail may indeed be the answer, but it’s time to talk to customers about B2B mail that differs from the campaigns marketers relied upon for the last 20 years.

One of the first areas to consider is the mailing list. Customers know that direct mail costs much more to produce and deliver than electronic messaging. With material shortages, rising postage rates, and inflation, these costs will continue to rise. Convincing customers to spend their money on direct mail can be a challenge.

You can help your customers afford direct mail by trimming those mailing lists. Do everything possible to ensure that addresses are deliverable. In some industries, businesses closed because of the pandemic and many of them haven’t re-opened. Purge as many of those closed businesses from the mailing list as possible. Also, access third-party data to qualify the businesses that appear on the mailing list. Make sure they match your customer’s criteria as a viable prospect for them.

Trim the List and Integrate Channels

List-reducing actions will lower the number of pieces you ultimately print and mail and decrease revenue. However, by doing so, you get to preserve the job and increase the ROI of the campaign, increasing the chances of running more campaigns and securing work to handle follow-up mailings or fulfillment.

Direct mail marketing is not a standalone channel. Mail is a great way to get attention and spur someone to take action, but it’s almost certain that the action is going to take place online. The great news is that the mail pieces can help to direct that action by providing QR codes, pURLs, or website addresses. Make it easy for new prospective business buyers to do the research you know they will do before ever thinking about placing an order. Also, make sure you can track each recipient’s activity. This will open the doors for follow-up activities and strengthen your pitch to manage more campaigns for your customers.

COVID-Inspired Tactics

Use digital printing presses and variable data to personalize mail pieces, making them relevant to vertical markets, geographical locations, and other variables. Add the recipient’s name if known, but also address mail pieces to the attention of the appropriate job title. Many employees left their jobs recently, and the mailing list you are using might be out of date. The actual person holding the position you want to reach within an organization in a B2B situation may be someone different from the name you have on file.

You might also consider lengthening the intervals between mailings or other outbound messages. Some of those employees you want to reach may be working from home. It may take extra time for their physical mail to reach them.

Don’t forget about the value you can add to a direct mail campaign at minimal cost to you. Track the mail with Informed Visibility to give your customers a view into when their mail will arrive at the destination addresses. For some applications such as fundraising, tracking the inbound reply mail may also be of value to your customers.

This is an ideal time to talk to customers about the value of B2B direct mail. Just be sure you’re talking about the mail of today, not the nearly obsolete methods your customers may think of when you mention direct mail to them.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at

This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.