What Direct Mail Looks Like in 2021 and Beyond

To say that 2020 threw a wrench in most B2B and B2C marketing campaigns would be an understatement. Companies have pivoted their strategies, and while a vaccine is offering hope for a return from the “new normal,” the way that business is conducted is uncertain and will continue to be well into 2021.

But there is good news.

According to research from the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 43% of consumers viewed brand communications as reassuring during these troubled times, with just 15% saying they would rather not hear from marketers.

Many marketers turned to digital channels for communication, which makes sense given the wide adaptation to a remote work environment that has most of us checking email more frequently. Yet the proliferation of electronic communications also produced a certain feeling of annoyance — and the delete button became all too available.

The solution? Direct mail.

The physical mailbox is an unsaturated environment with less competition, and 37% of people surveyed said they look forward to receiving mail each day. Another study found that direct mail campaigns generate purchases five times larger than email campaigns. On top of that, direct mail has staying power, now more than ever. While emails are here and gone, the average lifespan of a direct mail piece sticking around is 17 days.

When combined with other digital marketing efforts in a cohesive omnichannel strategy, embracing direct mail in your post-pandemic marketing plan can leverage an even greater ROI. But there are challenges — we are in a pandemic, people are working from home, and businesses are facing different challenges than they did before. However, while there are some differences between the approach for B2B and B2C, the best practices below will get you started on the path to success.

Find the Right Address

One of the biggest challenges of B2B direct mail in 2021 is the fact that people are working from home and not in their physical office. So how do you get their home address in order to send them your mail? There are a couple non-intrusive ways to go about doing this, the first being the use of sales development representatives (SDR) and/or business development representatives (BDR).

They’re most likely already in discussion with prospects as they go through the sales cycle, so adding in the step of asking for their preferred mailing address won’t sound out of left field. You can even ask them to use public online sources to find home addresses and ask for confirmation, adding in an explanation as to what the address will be used for so it doesn’t feel intrusive. For example, “I’d love to send you some samples of our new product to enjoy.”

Another way to find the right shipping location is to collect addresses as part of an existing B2B marketing automation campaign. For example, because in-person events are being cancelled, perhaps you run a campaign that presents the opportunity to deliver unused swag originally purchased for these events to those already on your marketing list. Again, you’ll want to make it clear you’re going to send something to the prospect, so they aren’t confused when you ask them to complete a form.

Lean on Data and Promotions

During these unprecedented times, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing efforts. One way to do that is to use the data that you already possess. With that information, you can use segmentation and personalization to make sure you’re reaching your target audience with your direct mail efforts.

For example, for B2C marketers, instead of focusing on income in the coming months, net worth might be more valuable in judging who will have higher levels of discretionary income in 2021, keying you in to who might be your best customer. In addition, knowing details like age, gender, industry, etc., can all help pinpoint which products you should be promoting to which B2C audience.

Speaking of promotion, consider leveraging that as a tactic with both your 2021 B2B and B2C direct mail marketing campaigns. People are still spending money, but even the most affluent customers are aware of economic uncertainty and will be looking for the best value when spending their money. Now is the time for brands to use promotions to drive sales, as customers are going to be on the lookout for deals more than ever.

Be Sensitive To the Message

Regardless of what kind of mail you send, it’s of the utmost importance that you convey the right message with your marketing pieces — sensitivity is key. When it comes to images, avoid people engaging in what is now considered to be unsafe behavior, whether that’s not wearing a mask and not social distancing or people in large groups and events.

That also extends to your messaging, which should also avoid words that convey touching or closeness and instead focus on educating, entertaining, or inspiring. In general, people have been feeling less inclined to spend on items they consider frivolous or unnecessary and are instead focused on what’s essential to them. Avoid any message that might be interpreted as capitalizing on the global pandemic — such as a COVID-19 sale, which is tacky — and instead talk about how your product or service can help the consumer.

In addition, add in how your company is protecting employees or helping out. A survey found that 56% of respondents said they like hearing about how brands are aiding their communities. Above all, even though the end goal is a conversion, be empathetic and let your prospects know you understand what they’re going through while also adding in optimism for the future.

Direct Mail Marketing In a Work-From-Home World

Due to the pandemic, many will be working from home full-time for the foreseeable future. They’re seeking comfort and familiarity in what has become an unpredictable environment, and this should be taken into consideration when creating your 2021 direct mail marketing activities — for both B2B and B2C.

Direct mail is an effective way to build those relationships and connections. Brands that can successfully play to their strengths, apply ingenuity to their customer outreach, and reach their ideal prospects in creative ways will be the ones that come out successful at the end of adversity.

Sarah Mannone is the Executive Vice President of Trekk, a tech-driven creative services agency. She works with Trekk clients to develop strategic marketing plans and craft measurable programs that span print, web, social, and mobile. As part of the Trekk management team, Sarah is involved in the decisions and strategy around adopting new technologies and applications to meet the current and future needs of Trekk clients. Sarah is a member of the Forbes Agency Council and a frequent speaker at marketing industry events.