Email, social media and mobile are prominent channels in the B2B digital age. But sometimes going against the grain and using old-fashioned tactics, such as direct mail, can be the best way to break through the noise and reach prospective customers.
ChannelAdvisor began using direct mail campaigns to create memorable interactions and drive conversations with target accounts. The campaigns allowed the company to reach prospective clients who had long been unresponsive to marketing efforts across digital channels, and also earned ChannelAdvisor a Killer Content Award.
In an exclusive interview with Bradley Hearn, Content Marketing Strategist for ChannelAdvisor, he discussed the company’s approach to ABM, the value of direct mail campaigns and the need for marketing and sales alignment to ensure campaign success.
B2B Marketing Exchange: Tell me about the campaign that earned ChannelAdvisor its prestigious Killer Content Award.
Bradley Hearn: We decided to create a unique ABM campaign that targeted specific, strategic accounts — via direct mail. We wanted to revive the age-old method of “getting in the door” by literally getting past the prospect’s door with a sales pitch that spoke directly to their specific needs. We targeted prospects at top strategic accounts who had either grown cold to traditional outreach or couldn’t be reached at all.
For the first campaign we ran, we sent prospects Amazon Tap Bluetooth speakers, along with a personalized, handwritten note and instructions for activating an Alexa skill we created. For the second campaign, we sent Amazon Fire tablets that were pre-loaded with an app that pitched our software, as well as the handwritten note.
B2BMX: Why did you choose direct mail as a key component of the campaign?
Hearn: Essentially, direct mail was the campaign. We had been hammering prospects through all the traditional channels like email, social, paid, phone, and more — but so was everyone else.
The idea of the campaign was to break through the clutter, create a memorable interaction and initiate actual conversations with our sales folks. We coordinated with our sales department to follow up with the prospects within 48 hours of delivery.
B2BMX: How did you go about figuring out who received the Amazon devices?
Hearn: We worked closely with our sales team to identify top strategic accounts. Despite months (even years) of outreach, there were still lots of prospects we couldn’t get any reaction from. Or in many cases, they were great prospects that we just couldn’t seem to move further down the buying cycle.
B2BMX: Why do you think direct mail has made such a strong comeback, especially with the buzz around ABM?
Hearn: At its core, ABM is about personalizing your marketing efforts around specific accounts. And it doesn’t get any more personal and specific than a piece of mail (and a handwritten note) addressed directly to the person.
As we grew more sophisticated with our campaigns, we also began tailoring the presentations in the tablets to the pain points of the business, so the pitches could be more relevant.
B2BMX: What type of value does direct mail bring to the marketing mix, compared to other efforts such as digital content, email blasts, etc.?
Hearn: I think it varies from business to business and industry to industry. It’s about finding what the best “marketing mix” is for your team and that depends on your budget, your goals and who your ideal customers are. Maybe the value of direct mail for one company is found at that initial point of contact with a potential customer. For another, it could be building a relationship deeper down the funnel.
It’s hard to say how big that direct mail piece of the pie should get. Obviously, no one is ever going to go “all in” on direct mail or scrap any of the proven digital channels, but hopefully organizations can figure out the best way to holistically weave it into an overall marketing strategy.
B2BMX: Can you share any tips or suggestions around how to get buy-in from the C-suite for a direct mail campaign?
Hearn: A direct mail campaign doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need to send everyone a tablet. It can be as simple as a postcard. The key is relevance: What makes sense for your audience?
So, you might not even need executive buy-in from the get-go. Start small, learn what you did right or wrong, optimize and scale it from there. Once you’re able to quantify the success you’ve had at a smaller scale, you’ll be able to justify the dollars and cents that the C-suite wants to see.
B2BMX: Can you share any best practices on implementing direct mail campaigns?
Hearn: Far and away, our biggest takeaway is around creating clear alignment between sales and marketing. I know this isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it’s one of the most important things we’ve learned. It’s easy in theory, but it becomes much more complicated during execution — especially if you’re dealing with a larger sales team.
For example, it’s one thing to get an “OK, sounds great!” from a sales director on the campaign you came up with. But if the individual reps you’re asking to help you execute it haven’t bought into the idea, you’re wasting your time.
You need to pitch the importance of the whole project to every member of the sales team. Make them care. Show them exactly what the prospect is getting, how they should follow-up and what the desired outcomes are. Because if they’re not on board, the results will suffer.
After several campaigns, there was a very clear link between the reps that actively bought into what we were doing and the reps who had success.
B2BMX: What’s next for ChannelAdvisor?
Hearn: We’re still learning, so hopefully these direct mail efforts are just the beginning. We want to continue to evolve and incorporate more personalization in our digital marketing programs and layer that a little more seamlessly into new direct mail pieces.
Also, we want to continue working more with our sales team on new campaigns — getting their input on what’s working best, how we can improve, what we can try next, etc. See? I wasn’t kidding about the marketing/sales alignment. We can’t stress it enough.