To achieve maximum results from your B2B direct mail campaigns, it is vital that you have three elements properly covered:

  • Your list
  • Your offer
  • Your creative flair

Get this right and the success of your B2B direct marketing campaigns will be all but guaranteed.


Your list

Unlike mass media advertising, direct mail enables you to target your prospects with pinpoint accuracy. Working with the right data list will enable you to eliminate virtually all advertising waste. To make sure your list is accurate, it should have undergone sufficient analysis and cleansing and have been regularly updated. 

Data lists generally comprise information gathered from diverse sources including trade directories, surveys, conference delegates, trade shows, exhibition attendees, etc, etc. Lists may be rented as a whole, or they may be segmented to target specific prospects. If, for example, your perfect B2B prospect is an SME electronics manufacturer who employs from between 500 and 3,000 people with a South East England postcode, it should be perfectly possible to obtain such a list. 

Obviously, the more specific you become with your requirements, the shorter the list will become, but that’s not always a bad thing because it means you are only targeting viable prospects. This is why it is so important to profile your best existing customers: the more you know about them the better able you are to obtain data lists to successfully target future customers. Your aim when profiling should be to clone your perfect customer.

However, as with any unfamiliar purchase, buying data can be fraught with pitfalls. What are you buying? Is it all that it’s cut out to be? This is why it is critical that you find a bona fide data provider with a proven track record. A good data provider will also give you their honest judgement to save you from making expensive mistakes. 

Tell them as much as you can about the service or product you want to market and they’ll recommend or compile a relevant, current data list which exactly matches your needs. A legitimate provider will also be able to tell you how and when the data was gathered and give you a full break-down description of the list content.


Your offer

You can have the best data and creative in the world, but without an effective offer, your mailing is destined to underperform.

So what makes for an effective offer?

First, you must bear in mind that a successful B2B marketing offer can be a lot harder to achieve than one aimed at consumers. B2B decision-making processes are typically more complicated and decisions are seldom made on the spur of the moment.

You may be selling a great product or service at an amazing price. But presuming that people will be persuaded to buy or switch suppliers on this basis alone can be a serious mistake, as many fledgeling marketers find out at their expense.

Of course, most business buyers are hard-wired to save money, but they seldom buy on price alone. There are very often other factors at play, such as customer service, supplier loyalty, brand familiarity, reliability, spare parts, hidden charges, suspicion of the unknown, etc. The list goes on. These are all variables that can be difficult to overcome on the strength of a single mailing, especially if you are selling big-ticket items with complex buying cycles.

Before you can be considered as a serious contender, you will need to engender trust. In such circumstances, it is important that you look towards building a relationship – if only subconsciously. This involves sending your prospects a series of phased communications over a sustained period, each time coming from a subtly different perspective, while all the time driving home your offer. If your offer is properly researched, the enquiries will begin to happen.

Another way of kick-starting relationships is to offer your prospects a free white paper, technical report, etc, (downloadable from your website) in exchange for signing up to a mailing list, newsletter, blog, etc. This can be a very effective way of persuading people to engage with you over the long term. But bear in mind that what you are offering must be of pinpoint relevance, of excellent quality and be perceived by the recipient as being of genuine value to their cause, otherwise they will feel cheated and the exercise will work against you.

The irresistible offer

If your B2B product or service is relatively inexpensive and you’re going for the instant sell, then your aim should be to make your offer so compelling that people would be silly to not take you up on it –in other words, you make it irresistible.

An irresistible offer doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. In fact, the simpler it is the more effective it will be. For example, none of us can resist an old-fashioned money-saving two-for-one offer or an outstanding ‘no-brainer’ bargain. B2B marketers frequently use this strategy as a hook to entice people to pull out their credit cards. 

It’s known as the loss leader principle, and, with a little imagination, it may be adapted to virtually any type of product or service. OK, you may lose money on the initial deal, but, if you’re doing your marketing right – i.e. cross-selling, up-selling, etc – once you’ve broken through the trust barrier, a predictable percentage of these customers will go on to spend more money. Like so many aspects of marketing, once you get your offer right it becomes a numbers game.

The main thing to remember is that, whatever your offer, it must be based on an intimate knowledge of your marketplace. What buying hooks are your prospects likely to respond to? If you’re unsure, it’s vital that you do some research and try testing your offer before you roll out your main campaign. Don’t just presume, test!


Your creative flair

Here’s the AIDA formula for writing a successful letter:

  • ‘A’ for ATTENTION
  • ‘I’ for INTEREST
  • ‘D’ for DESIRE
  • ‘A’ for ACTION

1. Attention

The Attention portion of the formula is your headline – it is the ‘ad for the ad’. If it fails to capture peoples’ attention you’re sunk from the outset.

When writing headlines, always bear in mind your prospects’ default mindset:

“What’s in it for me?”

Your headline should identify your ideal prospect and speak only to them. It should also offer a BIG promise or self-serving benefit:

E.g.: “Business Owners! Discover How to Halve your Mail Delivery Costs Overnight!”

Answer the question everyone has on their mind, “What’s in it for me?” and your ideal prospect will give you their attention. Curiosity is a powerful emotion. Your headline should inspire the reader to continue reading. News is also a good attention-getter. Everybody likes to stay current with new developments, improvements, procedures, etc:

E.g.: “Veterinary surgeons: announcing a breakthrough in-room sterilisation technology!”

The promise of a quick and easy result can be irresistible, but be careful to make the claim believable. And never use double meanings or obscure references in your headlines. These belong in the realm of brand advertising, not direct mail.

2. Interest

OK, so you’ve succeeded in grabbing your reader’s attention. Your task now is to maintain this attention long enough to be able to deliver your message.

Write to one person

Visualise your ideal prospect as you are writing and direct your message exclusively for them. Use “you” and “your” liberally. Focus on them not you or your business.

Use compelling subheads

Subheads function like mini-headlines. Use them to break up large bodies of text and to bring readers back into the body of the letter. Subheads should contain a complete selling message by themselves. That way even people who only scan your letter can be sold to.

Write as you would speak

Use plain, easy to understand English; use contractions – e.g. you’ll, aren’t, I’ll, etc. Be friendly, warm and informal in your tone.

Avoid ending a page at the end of a sentence

Give readers an incentive to turn the page and keep reading.

Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Sentences can be as short as one word. E.g.: “Guaranteed!” Paragraphs should never be longer than 5 or 6 lines. Keep your writing easy to read with plenty of white space. Long blocks of words are off-putting. Paragraph breaks do not need to be governed by content. The purpose of your first sentence is to make people want to read the second sentence. And the purpose of the second sentence is to make people read the third sentence, and so on.

Read your copy out loud

A critical test when writing copy is to read it out loud. You’ll immediately identify any trouble spots and places where you could lose the reader.


3. Desire

Be certain that you’ve located your prospects’ resident emotions.

What does this mean? Begin by asking yourself the question: “What am I selling?”

You’re a vacuum cleaner seller.

What are you selling?

You’re not selling vacuum cleaners. You’re selling a cleaner, safer home. So you focus on people’s desire to live in a clean, safe and healthy environment.

Decide which resident emotions are the strongest, the most compelling and most dominant in your prospects’ lives and address those benefits in ways that keep these emotions working with you – and never against you.

Emotion is the most potent motivator known to man. Time and again, direct mail results prove that emotional appeal will outsell logical argument alone.

Use testimonials

Whenever possible, use verifiable testimonials from people who’ve bought your product. There are few better ways of gaining credibility. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Don’t take my word for it listen to these people.”


4. Action

Finally, you want to move your prospect to take action – NOW! If for any reason they feel they can safely put off making their buying decision until a later date, the chances are you’ve lost them. Failure at this stage means your entire letter is wasted. So you need to prompt that action. You can frequently increase response by inserting a deadline or a discount for a quick response. Your aim is to create a sense of urgency.

Additional Inserts

Depending on what you’re selling, additional inserts can increase response. Consider including a reply-paid card, an order form, a page of testimonial statements from your clients, mini case studies, product leaflet, etc.


The end result

If you successfully manage to stick to these main three points, then your b2b direct mail marketing campaign should show positive ROI and be a worthwhile investment. 


Related Topics: Business Data & Lists