When you market to a business, your direct mail is sent to a building of some kind. But it gets opened and read by people, living, breathing human beings.

And to paraphrase a former presidential candidate, businesses are people.

Whatever workplace they’re in when direct mail reaches them — office, factory, field, classroom, laboratory, or home — people have wants, needs, and challenges just as they do when they are targeted and react (or not) as a consumer.

Consider the amount of digital clutter a person faces in the business world with email alone. Dozens of messages a day, right? Now add to that total all of the ads that show up on websites and social media. How much of it gets deleted or completely ignored?

Your direct mail can stand out from that glut by reaching the right prospect at the right time with the right message, and persuading them to act. With powerful words and compelling images, your mail can help you turn a prospect into a customer, and then, to keep spending money with you.

According to the 2018 ANA-DMA Response Rate Report, 45% of marketers prefer using B2B direct mail, ahead of paid search, online display ads, and social media. So we know it works. 

But why does it work? To answer that question, we have to look at some of the best practices that successful B2B companies follow.

1. Build Your Audience

Think hard about your audience. Today, high-volume, mass-market direct mail for a B2B audience may not be as sustainable as it once was. Instead, you have to be more targeted in your approach. Segmentation lets you zero in on specific groups of prospects. 

In the case of B2C mail, any targeting will require making sure that your data is in top shape, up-to-date and complete, with no duplicate names. But that’s only a good start. Your data provider will have to give you names with accurate titles or positions and business addresses. With that information, you’ll be able to more closely match what you’re marketing with the profile of your prospect, instead of mailing blindly. You can even go with variable data printing (VDP) to tailor your creative and your offer on a personalized, 1-to-1 basis. 

In this example (below), online payroll provider Paycom mailed a personalized offer with a PURL to a company’s HR director.

best practices for b2b direct mail Paycom

2. Tap into Emotions

You may think of B2B marketing as cold, analytical, and fact-based. However, making an emotional connection is crucial in setting the stage for people to change their behavior. Swedish entrepreneur Axel Andersson and direct marketing agency founder Bob Hacker identified seven key emotional drivers:

  • Greed
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Exclusivity
  • Flattery
  • Salvation

To get your B2B prospects to respond, your direct mail campaign’s copy should reflect one or more of these motivators. However, the emphasis here is placed on how the company benefits, even for small business owners or solopreneurs.

For example:

“Does hiring feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack? With ZipRecruiter, look no further” (Salvation — ZipRecruiter)

best practices for b2b direct mail ZipRecruiter

“Your business could save hundreds with Spectrum Business. 0 Added Taxes. 0 Hidden Fees. No Contracts. (Greed — Spectrum Business)

“With the BuyPower Business Card from Capital One, business owners like you get rewarded for their hard work” (Flattery — Capital One)

“Exclusive deals for business customers” (Exclusivity — Amazon.com)

best practices for b2b direct mail Amazon

The key here is to demonstrate value more clearly for the business, instead of the target person. Or, to put it another way, to answer WIIFTB (What’s In It For The Business)?

3. Talk Benefits, Not Features

Speaking of WIIFTB, you should assume that your customer may not have time to think about how the features of your product or service can help them. So, get to that part of your campaign quickly.

Corporate trainer Fred Pryor Seminars puts the benefits of its certification programs on the front of its mailing (see below) with a bullet-pointed copy.

best practices for b2b direct mail Fred Pryor Seminars

4. Lead with Content

To make a decision about what product or service to buy, a customer needs to be educated.

With content, you can:

  • Create brand awareness
  • Demonstrate your expertise
  • Build trust
  • Generate leads
  • Nurture customer loyalty
  • Produce sales

There are other goals for this tactic, but these are the ones most often used.

In this example (below), American Express reached out to its OPEN small business customers with a 4-page leaflet, “Building and Protecting Business Credit”. This guide provides financial management information as well as promotes its own services.

best practices for b2b direct mail American Express

5. Show Your Credentials

To build trust in the eyes of your business prospect, let them know how others see you. Your professional accreditations, business memberships, and even social media or web ratings can help you establish your reputation in your B2B direct mail.

This letter from fintech company Fundbox puts its ratings from “industry experts”, mentions in business media, and a customer testimonial all on the same page.

best practices for b2b direct mail Fundbox

Get an Edge by Learning from B2B Direct Mail in Who’s Mailing What!

Who’s Mailing What! includes both B2B and B2C mail. As of October 2020, the database includes 7,500+ B2B direct mail campaigns.

When a mail piece is scanned for inclusion, our algorithm assigns an appropriate tag.

Here’s how to filter your search and find mail with either one or the other designation.

After logging in to the website, click on the Search option from the Dashboard.

On the left side of the page, you’ll see Direct Mail Filters as one of the options under Filters. Click on the plus sign to activate the menu, then scroll down to Business Model.

Checking on that box means that you can search on both B2B and B2C direct mail examples. You can exclude either option from your search by unchecking the box next to it.

Final Thoughts

The buying decision in B2B can be complex, in many ways more complicated than what a B2C buyer faces. Whether it’s up to a group consensus or a single person, you’ll have to be sure that your direct mail piece has enough information that can be quickly absorbed. 

Can the target grasp the benefits of your product or service from it? Is it clear that it solves a problem or addresses a need? And does it do it better than your competition? 

Whoever has the authorization or responsibility for the final decision, understand that your direct mail piece may only be the first step in driving them to choose your product or service. Following it up with additional mailers, email, or a full multichannel experience extends and deepens your engagement, and increases your chances for success.

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