As the pandemic has altered how and when businesses make purchasing decisions, so must B2B marketers rethink their strategies to reach buyers at the right time and place. And while many marketers continue to hone in on a digital mindset, human connection can often get lost in online interactions. To understand the future of marketing and how direct sending can help marketing, sales and customer success teams build genuine relationships with their prospects and customers, I connected with Kris Rudeegraap, CEO of Sendoso, and Bill Macaitis, Sendoso Board Member and former CMO of Slack and Zendesk.
For those who aren’t familiar with Sendoso, the company helps marketing and sales teams build relationships with prospects and customers. Sendoso customers have used the company’s platform to drive virtual event attendance, build relationships with prospects wherever they are in the world and engage employees remotely.
After diving into Prosper Insights & Analytics August findings, I spoke with Bill and Kris about the perception and influence of direct sending, trends and how a distributed workforce will affect marketing strategies in the future.
Gary Drenik: Bill, many people see direct sending as an antiquated marketing practice, yet approximately 1 in 5 business practitioners (18%) say direct mail influences their daily purchases, narrowly beating out social media at 16%, a popular marketing tactic today. Why is there this misalignment between public perception and proof of influence/ROI of direct sending?
Bill Macaitis: The perception of direct sending is that it’s an old-school marketing tactic no longer needed in the digital age. But nothing could be further from the truth! Even prior to the pandemic, opportunities for brands and customers to connect in-person have been dwindling as the world increasingly moves online. Yet, as individuals, our desire for authentic connections still remains. Sendoso and their Sending Platform are bringing relationship-building back into the marketing equation. Direct sending isn’t just a postcard or letter in the mail anymore. Sending baked goods, branded swag, eGift cards or even making a donation to the recipient’s charity of choice are all viable options with a Sending Platform.
It’s a powerful experience to know a brand cares about you. Getting a physical gift in the mail creates a positive memory and forms a personal connection with the brand. In fact, consumers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value.
Especially in the B2B realm, your average sales price can be upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, meaning the ROI from sending succulents, a digital gift card or a piece branded swag that sits on someone’s desk is incredibly impactful. One final reason why marketers may have stayed away from direct sending in the past is that it can be incredibly difficult to do on your own at scale. However, over the past decade, we’ve come so far in terms of what marketing technology can achieve. Automating your direct mail sends, integrating with customer relationship management systems, keeping track of receipt and seeing the impact of your send has never been easier to do at scale than with Sendoso.
Drenik: Kris, what trends in direct sending are you seeing? What’s popular or most effective?
Kris Rudeegraap: Direct sending is taking off lately. Our research found that the total amount that companies are sending on a monthly basis increased 36% from 2018 to 2019. This is likely because people are starting to see direct sending not just as a tactic in marketing, but in sales and customer experience as well. This lends itself to this idea that we’re moving beyond a marketing-centric approach and moving towards an account-based everything strategy. Account-based everything allows marketing, sales and customer experience teams to collaborate on a cohesive strategy to build relationships with customers and prospects.
In terms of which items are most commonly sent, custom-branded “swag” bundles are by far the most popular physical gift; the branded items in these bundles can range from socks and tumblers to eco-friendly tote bags and reusable straws. However, eGifts are taking off as well. In fact, the number of eGifts sent nearly doubled in 2019, with Amazon and Starbucks gift cards proving the most popular. Not only are these physical and digital sends a great way to build relationships, but they prove real ROI. Twenty-seven percent of senders said they’ve experienced increased close rates from sending, and 64% said they’ve experienced increased campaign ROI from sending.
Drenik: Nearly three-fourths of business owners (73%) and close to two-thirds (63%) of adults say they would prefer working remotely even after the pandemic is over. With a distributed workforce on the horizon, how will this affect the viability of direct sending as a long-term marketing/sales tactic?
Rudeegraap: If anything, a distributed workforce means there is an even greater opportunity for direct sending to move the needle than ever before. Given geographic distance is no longer a substantial barrier to hiring or working, decision-makers will be increasingly spread out. This will impact attendance to in-person events like trade shows, customer roundtables and sales meetings, making it more difficult to have direct interactions with targeted accounts. As a result, revenue-generating teams would be prudent to incorporate direct sending into their regular repertoire of tactics, having yet another arsenal in their toolkits to build meaningful relationships. However, sending a gift to sit in an empty office space won’t do the customer, or your budget, any favors. So, it’s important to ensure you have your recipients’ correct address, and there are tools to help make this a seamless process, like our own Address Confirmation.
Additionally, direct sending has some great use cases for HR, employee engagement and maintaining a connected company culture. As business leaders, we need to prepare to engage all employees — regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home — because chances are a hybrid work environment will be our new reality. Using a Sending Platform to express appreciation or celebrate important milestones shows (not just tells) your employees that you truly appreciate all that they do for your organization.
Drenik: According to Prosper data, 62% of business purchasers say they believe the pandemic will change their purchasing behaviors in the future. With this in mind, Bill, how are marketing strategies changing amid Covid-19? What advice would you give to marketers trying to boost results with a reduced budget?
Macaitis: In a typical year, the average B2B marketing organization allocates 34% of its budget to events. Obviously, that’s out the window for this year and likely next, so think critically on which alternative efforts will enable you to interact with your customers. COVID-19 is entirely changing the game when it comes to field marketing, and its impact will be felt for years to come.
My advice for marketers is to invest in personalized marketing, because that’s where the world is headed. More than 80% of B2B organizations currently operate on an account-based marketing model, known as ABM for short, which involves tailoring all messaging based on the specific attributes and needs of the individual account. I encourage organizations to push the boundaries of ABM and personalization even further. Customers have more choices, content and digital noise in their face with every passing day, making it difficult for any individual brand to stand out. SaaS marketing technology companies are enabling marketers to do more with less and are delivering on ROI. The ability to personally target and engage buyers will be the key to closing more deals and boosting results.
Drenik: Thanks, Bill and Kris, for your insights into the future of direct sending and marketing tactics post-pandemic. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out in the next few months and where direct sending fits in.
Complimentary Coronavirus/Covid-19 findings are available at AWS Data Exchange. To learn more, click here: Strategic Insights: Coronavirus Covid-19 Consumer
To read my previous Forbes articles on changing consumer behavior, predictive analytics, machine learning, data privacy and more, please click here.