For many, lead generation and sales letters haven’t worked well in the past. Some companies I talk to share stories of mailing letters and getting no reply at all. A common theme is they like the idea of direct mail, but aren’t sure it has a place in the modern world.

Direct mail isn’t a good fit for all companies, but it’s a great option for many who unnecessarily overlook it. Especially in B2B complex sales, direct mail is as relevant today as it has ever been. Those who badmouth direct mail, saying it’s all SPAM and doesn’t fit in a permission marketing world, miss the point — relevant business communication is always welcome…in every form.

Twelve ways direct mail can fail

There are a number of reasons a direct mail campaign can fall short of expectations. Here are 12 common things I look for and more often than not find as the reason for underperforming direct mail:

  • The open rate is low — the envelope isn’t doing its job
  • The read rate is low — the letter is too hard to read or doesn’t grab the reader’s attention before the urge to throw it away
  • The offer is wrong — the offer isn’t compelling or of interest to the addressee
  • The offer is weak — the offer is vague, implied or confusing
  • The timing of the letter is wrong — the letter is OK, but it’s arriving outside of the addressee’s window of concern or interest
  • The addressee is wrong — the letter is sent to the wrong person, someone without the ability or interest to act
  • The wrong person sent the letter — the letter is OK, but the addressee doesn’t recognize the sender as a peer worthy of responding to
  • The letter looks like junk mail — too many font changes, bold print, highlights, etc.
  • The letter doesn’t have all of the necessary elements — something is missing: valued benefit, meaningful difference or not enough reason to believe
  • The call to action is wrong — the letter asks the addressee to do too much or act too soon relative to the addressee’s purchase cycle, this is especially common in complex sales lead generation
  • The letter isn’t compelling — this is generally found when the letter is artificially cut short or is unnecessarily long
  • The letter is cheesy — the letter doesn’t read or present as professional as it needs to be to get serious consideration

If you are chasing named accounts or have a list of companies fitting a defined profile, direct mail is an excellent tool to open sales opportunities. In fact, when working with defined markets and named accounts, direct mail is one of only a small number of ways you can proactively engage with a prospective client and open a sales opportunity – cold calling and email being common alternatives.

What is your experience with direct mail in B2B complex sales environments? Any success or horror stories to share?


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