23/06/11

By Gareth Stoten, General Manager UK & Ireland, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies

To paraphrase the famous Mark Twain quote, reports of the death of direct mail have been greatly exaggerated. In this article, I look at the role of direct mail in the modern marketing mix and the reasons why the technique is enduring in a digital age.

As each new communication technique flourishes, so arrives another posse of pundits ready to hammer another nail into direct mail’s coffin. And yet, decades on, in a world of email, sms, personalised URLs and social media, businesses continue to devote significant budget to mailed marketing messages. Pitney Bowes surveyed 4,000 B2B companies across the UK, France, Germany and the USA about their marketing preferences to discover how direct mail fits into the modern marketing mix.

The results will surprise many - in the B2B arena direct mail commands some 16% of total marketing budgets, the largest single slice of the marketing pie. Over half of respondents in both Europe (56%) and the USA (53%) declared that direct mail was the best way to reach senior management prospects. Similarly, over half of European respondents felt that removing direct mail from their marketing strategy would substantially harm their business lead generation.

The value of mail

The look and feel of mail is an important factor in its popularity. This tangibility gives mail a sense of authority and gravitas that emailed communications cannot match. 62% of European B2B businesses stated that they used direct mail to make the recipient feel ‘special and valued’.

Personalisation of the message also plays a vital role in the acceptance of direct mail as a prospecting tool. The latest document processing and mail fulfilment technology enables businesses to effortlessly transform captured data on an individual into highly targeted communications. Accuracy and relevance is essential. Senior prospects are time-poor — many will have their mail opened by personal assistants. These assistants will be primed to discard or re-route any communications that look like generic mail-outs. Only mail which looks relevant and intelligently targeted will be passed to the intended recipient.

Marketing mix

The fact remains it is not a case of traditional marketing methods or digital techniques. The truth is, consumers or customers don’t stick to just one media. They expect a choice of channel and welcome variety in the way in which messages are delivered.

A 2009 BrandScience report shows that combining direct mail with other single channels boosts response rates and combining mail with digital media/channels can bring about a 62% rise in responses. More striking still, a recent report by British television channel ITV found that the TV- direct mail mix could boost response by 143%. Our own research shows that mail is a key driver in convincing prospects to make purchases from web sites that they have never visited before.

Clearly, mailed communications continue to play an essential role in B2B marketing. Amidst email, sms, web, and more, mail has evolved to become the preferred method of communicating with highly valued prospects. Personalised mail is regarded by businesses as a tool with which to make the client feel valued and special. Mail continues to evolve to remain a relevant and dynamic marketing tool in the digital age.

www.pitneybowes.co.uk

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