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INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

Meet the Mailers: Trends in B2B Direct Mail

In this episode, I chatted with Mike Gunderson about what works in B2B direct mail and why VACTA is a powerful technology for mail.

In this episode, I chatted with Mike Gunderson, Founder and President of Gunderson Direct. Gunderson Direct is a full-service direct mail marketing agency that helps businesses drive new leads and close more sales through traditional offline channels.

He discussed his background in marketing and how he grew his company. He also talked about – and shared – Gunderson Direct’s Happier Holidays Mask mailer that won USPS’s 2021 Innovative B2B Campaign Award (among others).

Gunderson talked about several trends he’s seeing in B2B direct mail currently:

How do I get my mail to the decision-maker within a company? That can happen through your data partners … If you’re a customer, if you have a customer database out there, now’s the time to ask for that home address.

Mike Gunderson Founder
Gunderson Direct

Some of the other topics we covered:

  • His background in design and starting a successful DM agency
  • What formats work best for B2B mail
  • The surge of mail with QR codes
  • Why Voice Activated Call To Action is a powerful technology for mail
  • The value of direct mail in scaling marketing campaigns

BONUS! Mike also made a special offer to viewers of this interview. His agency’s 36-page book provides tools and tactics you can implement—right now—to improve your direct mail program. Look for details near the end of the interview on how to get your FREE copy.

Here are some questions and answers (edited for clarity and space):

  • [S]omething maybe you could talk about a little bit is the interactivity of mail and having an action device of some kind in a direct mail piece that engages people in a physical way besides in a tactile way, instead of just visual. I’m sure you’d agree that there are instances where it can be really useful in driving a response.

Every restaurant you go to now, especially at the height of the pandemic, QR codes came back in a big way to do ordering at restaurants. Just doing touchless tech in general was pretty important for everybody to stay safe and so we also developed a technology called Respond Fast a few years back that allows you to respond to these direct mail pieces.

In fact, even on this holiday mailer, we put it right on the inside there. What that allows us to do is to get people to interact with the mail piece in a whole other sense. So now we’ve got sound, we’re able to bring in another brand element in a sense. So not only are you seeing it and you’re touching it, but now you’re hearing it. And then from that interaction, you can actually respond to a piece like this or a client’s piece, and actually get a text message with a link to continue the transaction.

So a really neat way to bring your direct mail to life with having some voice interaction around the direct mail piece.

  • Speaking more generally about trends [or] things going on in direct mail that you may have seen, in B2B mail, maybe mail used by software as a service companies. Is there anything that really pops up as something that’s cool or innovative or different that seems promising?

We’re seeing a lot of B2B mail come back, obviously right at the height of the pandemic, all that stopped. And we have big mailers doing big mailings within the office for a lot of our customers and they basically didn’t have anybody to mail to and we didn’t have home addresses to send our mail to a lot of these business contacts.

So, first thing first is trying to figure out how can we connect the business addresses with the home addresses and so working with our data partners and being able to create mail lists that can be appended from those business lists has been super important for our business, and continuing the mail and getting it to the right people. So that’s number one. So the trend there is figuring out how do I get my mail to the decision-maker within a company? And again, that can happen through your data partners, which is awesome. If you’re a customer, if you have a customer database out there, now’s the time to ask for that home address and see if they’ll give it to you, because it can be a really great tool to break through the clutter. So having a physical address to your home address and your business address can be really great for direct mailers to contact you and engage you.

Another thing that we’re seeing a lot of in direct mail, which is probably not a surprise, but we’re seeing just a lot more, even in B2B, we’re seeing a lot more postcards.

Obviously inexpensive, easy to test, easy to mail out…You know, the other thing is, is obviously, trying to drive them to a QR code is a good way for attribution, for obvious reasons. Apple, about a few years ago, made the QR code scan native to the camera. It kind of changed the game a little bit. So now everybody’s able to interact…that coupled with the pandemic, QR codes have just been a really great tool.

For B2B, it’s always kind of a challenge to get people to take action.

And as you work with small businesses all the way up into SMBs and enterprise – each one of those had to take kind of a different approach from a strategy perspective. So postcards work really well for small businesses. If you have a strong value proposition and a well-targeted list, this works well all day, every day. You include a strong offer or a free trial …Those can work really well in getting people to engage and take action.

  • What direct mail formats work well for B2B?

One thing that we like too is self-mailers. As you know, in direct mail, we have a little bit more time if we can engage them right off the bat and then get them to read more about what’s inside – this increases conversions 1X-2X, than what an email would do, right? Because if I respond to this at a 0.5% or 1%, but I know exactly what I’m responding to, you’ve informed me enough, that conversion rate goes through the roof. And so we’ve really liked direct mail for that reason.

And just going back on format – this is the one we’re doing for ZipRecruiter here – this is what we call a branded snap pack. Now we all know snap packs work well. The biggest complaint I get with a snap pack, however, from brands is that “oh God, you know, we just don’t like deceiving our clients or our potential customers who are going to respond. It looks all official. Then they open it up and they kind of have a bad taste in their mouth. They feel like they got deceived”.

So we’ve put together this branded snap pack which is essentially a snap pack and even though it’s branded, it feels official still and so it gets a really good open rate. People just want to interact. They want to tear it off. They want to read more. This is fairly inexpensive.
And then there’s always, the old school [check letter] still works today will always work for small businesses until they completely get rid of checks.

But the check letter is always a big one. This is for small business financing. You get this, you’re looking for checks as a small business. Or you’re looking for funding … if your targeting is on point, so many times your audience doesn’t feel deceived by this because you are offering something good to them or something that they’re on the lookout for.

  • You’re actively integrating Voice Activated Call to Action in your campaigns … what industries may benefit from this technology?

Five years ago, I was pretty blown away by the capability. So I was thinking how there’s gotta be a way that I can connect my direct mail clients to the smart speaker. And I just assumed there would be an easy way to do that. And then in my research though, I found that nobody was doing it.

And then we went to work to build out the technology with a partner of ours and then being able to deploy that very early. And right about the time we deployed it, the USPS offered a 2% discount for one of their promotions. And so we started getting some interest from clients to try it out.

Not only because they thought it was an exciting new way to connect with their customers, but also because that 2% discount in large quantities pays for it over and over again. So it’s really good for both. And the USPS has been an awesome partner.

A lot of the clients that we have brought onto the platform are FinTech and financial clients. I see more growth in retail and in QSR (quick-serve restaurant). I think this is where it can really come alive. But I will say that the success that we’ve seen in FinTech and financial has been really great. It’s just, again, one more way for the consumer to connect.

So far, so good, really loving where this technology is going.

Now, what’s exciting about next year is USPS has offered a 3% discount. 3% is a game-changer. So we’re really excited about hopefully having more mailers on Respond Fast and continuing to grow. The more people that are utilizing the technology, the more we can see consumer behavioral shifts and be more comfortable with that technology.

  • [H]ow about Informed Delivery? Are you doing campaigns using that?

When the USPS came up with Informed Delivery a couple of years ago, I loved it then, but I felt like, you know, it’s like any new technology … it takes time to get consumers comfortable with the idea of something new. And with Informed Delivery, the numbers at the beginning were so low that it was really hard to encourage marketers to utilize this within the marketing mix, even though it was free, even though it was a digital touch as a ride along with your direct mail package, and even though you could actually take advantage of an offer before you even received your mail. But I think consumers love the idea that they know what’s in their mailbox before they get it.

Now, two big, main selling reasons we love Informed Delivery for our clients:

One is that they have a clickable digital message as a ride-along to their direct mail. That’s pretty fantastic. And because the audience has grown so much, this is a good thing for direct mailers;

Two – if you add Informed Delivery, if you add the big image and the small image at the bottom, or even just a small image at the bottom, you automatically get sorted to the top of the pile of that Informed Delivery digest. So here you have an opportunity to not only promote your brand and get people to respond before they even received a direct mail – now, we all want to be at the top of the pile. So this is a benefit for marketers to get top of the pile, get the first impression.

So I have two opportunities. I can either sell to people that were really interested in a promotional offer and then I can hopefully sell to people that are very good at sorting what they think is direct mail and junk mail out and get them to dive inside the envelope and learn more about the offer.

The technology is only growing, the audience is only growing and I’m excited that we can start opening this up to B2B.

  • What do you ultimately see as the value proposition of direct mail? Why does direct mail still work?

I get that question all the time. There’s nothing that warms my heart more than, um, the Morgan with a digital SAS company or FinTech. And them coming to us asking about direct mail. Doing a pilot program for them and seeing it work well.

As you scale direct mail, as you go from 200 to 500 to a million pieces, you’re actually getting a lot of efficiencies in that scale. I’m supposed to just postage and we can optimize postage to a certain degree, but that’s kind of its cost. But as we buy more data, as we buy more production printing, and as we get more efficient on the agency side, we’re actually driving down the cost per impression, as we scale the direct amount. Now you take a digital program or a social media program and you start to scale that, and actually, it gets more expensive. You start to compete with more people, you compete with larger audiences and you actually start to spend more per impression as you scale.

Once you get to a point where you can actually hit the CACs that you’re looking to hit your cost per acquisition and you’re kind of at a scale where you’re feeling pretty good about continuing your mailing. It’s very consistent.

The other thing I like about it is, especially during the pandemic, the amount of digital noise it’s around us, whether that’s your podcasts, whether that’s your email inbox…even Google, they automatically take all your promotional mail and just put it in folders for you. So the chances you’re even going to be looking at that are very slim.

I think that social media and Instagram and influencer marketing is awesome and I’m going to be the first one to say that I’ve bought many things off of Instagram. It gets me, I like it. And the algorithm is fantastic. But from an actual targeting perspective where I can actually target somebody with that household income that has those buying preferences, that owns a home, that needs my product or service… getting that to them proactively, without spending a lot of money on media, direct mail is still one of the best ways to get that brand out there, get a notice and get people to respond and buy your products and services.

That coupled with the fact that it’s physical and now with Informed Delivery, where you do also get a digital touch. By the way, everybody goes to their mailbox to get their mail. So you are always touching direct mail. It is interacting with you, even if you quickly throw it out and you say “I’m not interested”, – you are actually getting an impression every single time.

So that’s one and I guarantee, that if you’re an Informed Delivery client, so if you’re getting Informed Delivery – guaranteed you’re looking at Informed Delivery every single. So if you’re taking advantage of Informed Delivery, and even if you’re not taking advantage of Informed Delivery, now the mail is not only giving you a physical impression, but it’s also giving you a digital impression.

It’s pretty fantastic. And I feel like as we move forward and as this technology gets even better with Informed Delivery, it’s going to be a really great asset for marketers to start tapping even more into the benefits of direct mail.

Here is our conversation. We’ve added timecodes for your convenience.

Thanks again, Mike, for an interesting and informative chat! To learn more about Gunderson Direct, visit www.gundersondirect.com.

Your comments and ideas are very important to us in making your Who’s Mailing What! experience even better for you. Through these engaging and informative talks, we hope you’ll take away practical tips, insights, and stories to inspire and build your own success.

If you have any feedback — or are interested in being an interview star yourself — please reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you!

Direct Mail Evangelist

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