After hours of answering email and listening to voice mail messages, opening an envelope might almost feel like a treat.

In some cases, for instance, you won’t know exactly what the envelope contains just by looking at who sent it. Sure, it might be an estimate or an invoice, but it could also be something much more interesting. And if nothing else, opening an envelope can at least be a break from looking at yet another screen.

Canada Post conducted some neuromarketing research to see what happens to the human brain when we look at direct mail. It found integrating direct mail and digital campaigns created a 10% higher brand recall and 5% more arousal (interest in the content) than single media campaigns.

This was based on a survey of consumers, of course, but those working in B2B are still human beings with similar tendencies in a professional context. Although sales and marketing have largely moved towards digital methods of attracting and converting customers using tools like Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud, it’s worth thinking about how direct mail can augment and even improve the results of their efforts across other channels. Just ask yourself a few questions:

What Will They Want To Hold In Their Hands, And When?

Other than audio or video content, almost anything you offer to prospects and customers through digital channels could also be sent via direct mail. The key is thinking about where the recipient is in the sales and marketing process and the outcome you want to achieve. Here are some examples to get the thinking process started:

  • Executive summaries: If you have research or survey data that would help raise awareness about a product or educate your target on how your product aligns with their pain points, sending it out via email or social is a logical place to begin. If your  open rate or click-through rate is low, however, or if they fail to respond to the call to action (CTA) about setting up an appointment, consider a follow up in hard copy form through direct mail. It can be a helpful reminder of something they just glanced at in their inbox or feed and forgot about. You can easily include an email address, phone number or link to drive them back to the same CTA.
  • Infographics: A visual representation of information about a certain kind of product or service, insights about an industry or other topics make for content that’s easy on the eyes. The impact might be even greater, though, when it’s taken out of an envelope and unfolded in a format much larger than what might be seen on a screen. This could be a gentle way of nurturing a lead soon after acquiring their contact details, or as a follow up to an initial meeting.
  • Event invites: If you’re going to a conference or trade show, chances are your customers and prospects might be heading there too. Something as simple as a postcard could be used to make them aware of your booth location, a room where you’ll be offering demos or meet-and-greets. Think about how you could do more than just promote yourself, though -- if you’ve been to the event before, for instance, give your take on the keynotes or sessions you’d recommend based on the data you’ve gathered through Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.
  • Spec sheets: Direct mail isn’t only useful for early stages of the buying cycle. When customers are getting more serious about a purchase, they’ll want to see more information about packing and pricing, and maybe even comparisons with competitors. Data sheets of various kinds are usually available for this middle stage, and there could be several people on the buying committee who need to review them. In addition to emailing them out, however, consider the effect of having them printed off and sent to a key influencer in advance of their next buying committee meeting, so they can be passed around.

How Do You Effectively Drive Back To Digital Experiences?

Direct mail can be a refreshing change of pace for a buyer, but most firms will be focused on making sure whatever arrives in an envelope takes customers and prospects to their website, social channels or other area where they can collect more data. A few tips here:

  • Make the trip quick and easy: Direct mail pieces with long URLs won’t get any kind of response. Many URL shorteners are available for free online. You can also consider bar codes or augmented reality applications that let people scan a piece of paper with their smartphone to visit a digital property.
  • Offer a value exchange: Nobody does anything for free, but just as marketers and sales pros have learned with digital channels, a little incentive can go a long way. If you’re asking someone to subscribe to your email newsletter, show what a sample issue looks like in the direct mail piece, and throw in a free eBook with even more helpful information. If you’re asking them to follow your firm’s social media account, give them VIP access to a webinar, industry event or even some images of the kind of content they can expect to see in their feed if they accept. Too many firms just include an email signup URL or social media buttons and expect customers to play along. Direct mail gives you real estate to show, rather than just tell.
  • Look across the entire customer lifecycle: Direct mail can not only be used in the early, middle and closing stages of the sales and marketing process. It can also be a component of a rich customer service experience. Send them a printed version of troubleshooting FAQs they can post on their cubicle wall, for instance, along with an invitation to an online customer community with even more advice from their peers.

What’s The Most Direct Route Direct Mail Can Take?

In sales and marketing, it’s all about knowing your audience as thoroughly as possible. Just as you wouldn’t want to spam a customer or prospect with too many newsletters, invites or other email messages, sending the same direct mail piece to all your key contacts in an account doesn’t make sense.

Instead, take advantage of the data in Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud to identify the decision-makers or influencers who would make an ideal recipient for each piece of content and personalize it as much as you would any other piece of marketing or sales collateral. That way you’ll know for sure that when they open the envelope, they’ll be glad they did.