Archives For direct mail

How social is forcing Demand Gen to evolve.

Evolution is a remarkable thing. It sharpens yesterday’s skills to help us survive in tomorrow’s world. If you look at Demand Generation as a skill, you can trace it back to Direct Marketing, which in turn came from Direct Mail, which itself was an attempt to scale and automate Direct Selling.

Just as human evolution bred out things we no longer need (gills, for example) and enhanced things we found useful (opposable thumbs, anyone?), you can still see the core DNA of Direct Selling in a lot of what we call Demand Generation. In particular, the reliance on The List, which became so fundamental, it spun off it’s own evolutionary branch in the mid 1980’s (Database Marketing) in response to the new environment of personal computing.

So what happens to Demand Gen, and The List in particular, as it responds to the seismic shifts of, say, social media? Nobody’s entirely certain, but plenty of scientists are experimenting.

Your social behavior puts you on a list.

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

The likes of Kred and Klout are analysing social data to try and attribute a numeric ‘influencer score’ to individuals, ranking them in order of their ability to influence other people within certain communities or areas of interest. The obvious next step is to use these scores to create a ‘hit list’ of individuals you might want to include in a social outreach campaign, for example, and this has been marketing’s primary use of influencer scores to date, but the leap to a prospect list is still tenuous.

The list becomes a timeline.

 What if we took the same principles and tried to use them to create other predictors? Such as a ‘Propensity to purchase’ model? Or a ‘time to purchase decision’ estimate? Instead of using social as a way to decide who to contact, there is potential to use social to tell us when to contact, by listening for data points that signal where on the ‘road to purchase’ someone might be. Can their ‘social signals’ tell us whether a prospect is browsing, researching, comparing or looking for a deal? The next step from here is to look for patterns over multiple engagements, to build a model that starts to predict actual timelines: real-time ‘GPS for the buyers journey’ that locates a buyers’ proximity to a decision.

The list becomes a network.

networks

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

All this is ‘social scoring’ is fine in theory, but is based on the traditional B2C belief that purchases are made by an individual. The B2B world is more complex, particularly at the ‘big end of town’ were buying decisions are made by a group, operating within a hierarchy and often including people who aren’t the actual buyers. This is where the ‘network’ aspect of social networks comes into play: discovering and defining the membership of and connections within groups is the untapped data goldmine of platforms like LinkedIn. Several publishers in the B2B world are starting to mine their readership data to create ‘small world network’ models, which could be used to define these ‘buying cells’ and indicate which topics are on their collective agenda.

 So, social is the new list, then?

Social is getting a lot of airplay play right now. That’s partly because it’s a shiny new toy in the marketing playpen (I wrote about this in a recent post) but mostly because it’s where your audience is spending a lot of their time and energy, in a very visible, reachable and trackable way. That fact alone should stir something in the limbic system of most marketers: you fish where the fish are.

But it doesn’t mean The List is dead. Quite the opposite: The List is evolving. There are an increasing number of increasingly sophisticated ways to build, manage, mine and generate demand from The List. And a lot of those ways are yet to be discovered, let alone perfected, which I can’t help but find exciting.

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Part 3 of: B2B Marketing – four creative opportunities for 2012

Here’s a turn up for the books: during 2011, we got some very good results* from good old-fashioned, big-box, dimensional, high value direct mail. We followed a lot of the old-school discipline, including ruthless segmentation to keep the mailing list as short as possible, clear call to action and high perceived value of the DM piece itself. But we also discovered why Direct Mail is now the digital marketer’s secret weapon.

But first, here are some simple truths about DM, and they are as as truthy now as they ever were:

1. Nothing is as important as the list: do your research; do your due diligence; check all the names; check the spelling; do some propensity modelling; do some pre-campaign opt-in work; don’t just buy a list; and the list (see what I did there) goes on and on.

2. Watch the budget: Although this sort of material can be very expensive to produce per piece – particularly if you are building something bespoke, printing your own boxes or having an item properly branded or personalised – the total campaign costs can be brought under control by limiting the list to truly high-value, high-propensity prospects. Don’t skimp on delivery – courier or hand is usually worth the extra investment. Also, get yourself on the seed list so you can experience the delivery process first-hand.

3. Three Dimensional value, not 3D puns: for a creative, the real joy in this kind of marketing is working out how you’re going to spend a hundred bucks per pack on your idea. Just make sure that the audience can see where the money went as well. Don’t send them a hand-carved hour-glass to tell them “time is running out”. A headline and a stock shot could do that job, on a 90-cent postcard. Good DM follows the same reach & frequency model as media, except the target’s desk is the media space, the number of office colleagues who notice it is the reach and the number of days before it gets binned is the frequency.

4. Offer up: If you are going to the trouble of putting together a high value pack, make sure the offer or the follow up is also of value. Don’t use it just to drive to the same, publicly-available, easily-googled web page that anyone else could get to. Try to ensure that the human element (a follow-up call, a sales visit) is introduced to the contact strategy very quickly after the pack lands, or the impact (and connection to your brand) may be lost.

5. Watch the time: these packs generally take a long time to produce and, towards the end of the process, everyone is keen to simply ship the bloody thing and be done with it, particularly if it has taken longer and cost more than initially scoped. Wait.  The B2B calendar moves to it’s own rhythm, and there are definite no-send zones, some unique to certain industries: the lead-up to major holidays; end of quarter; end of financial year; stocktake periods; reporting season; the introduction of new legislation, regulation or compliance; major sporting events (eg: rugby world cup and investment banking).

Keep these factors in mind and you can dramatically improve your DM response rates. If you’ve got the list right, you should see ROI that will make the average email campaign weep. Speaking of email, here’s the secret behind DM’s new-found old-school B2B success:

Everybody’s office inbox is rammed full of crap, but their letterboxes are wide open for business.

 

Next up: social media is used to the spotlight, is it ready for the spreadsheet?

Missed the earlier parts of the series?

Part 1: See why Content is the kingmaker, not the king>

Part 2: Platform thinking sees creativity and automation software on the same page>

* In the spirit of full disclosure, it’s fair to say we got some pretty poor results as well. But at least we know why. Test, learn optimise, right?