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Do you personalize your marketing approach?

Does direct mail still work?

This week on the Explicit Content Podcast, your hosts Katie Martell and Lindsay McKinney discuss content mediums that work and the “what’s old is new again” approach.

Marketing concepts such as direct mail are resurfacing with clear effectiveness. First impressions are vital in today's market: especially when it comes to building new clientele. Many companies bombard the prospective client with mass e-mails. Today’s target demographics expect a personal approach.

On this week's episode, listen to a lively discussion regarding what's old is new again and the revival of adding a personalized touch in a market that is often overshadowed by technology.


Katie Martell: Hi everybody, and welcome to another episode of Explicit Content. My name is Katie Martell, and I am here with Lindsay McKinney for another episode of Truth, Lies, and Digital Marketing.

Hey Lindsay, how's it going?

Lindsay McKinney: I'm great, Katie, how are you?

Katie Martell: I am so, so good. It's a little rainy here in Boston, but all the more reason to stay, you know, buckled down and have a conversation about content vehicles that work, and I'm excited to talk to you today about a what's old is new again approach.

And Lindsay, I'd love to hear your take on this because truth be told, this was your idea.

Lindsay McKinney: That is true, it was my idea and we'll see. We'll see if I'm crazy at the end of this. But you know, it really resonates with me, what's old is new again, because gosh, your email box just gets inundated with someone else wrote a new whitepaper and it ... You know, it's great.

But let's be honest. I read whitepapers when I edit them, but not when I'm trying to buy anything. I saw research-

Katie Martell: It's so true. It's true. I saw research that recently said that chief executive officers, you know, the big CXO, read whitepapers and thought leadership four hours per week. It was a study by Edelman and LinkedIn, and I remember reading that stat and thinking, who are these people? Who are those people? I want to sell to those people. Where are they?

Lindsay McKinney: Well, I don't know and I've never met one of them. So you know what's interesting? I ... Whitepapers, you know, I like quick, digestible content. Everyone does. It's trendy, we all know that, but really has been ringing true with me, and maybe I'm just a sucker, maybe I'm just a girl from the Midwest that just likes a letter, but what's old is new again for me is really the personalized, you know, plain text email maybe something that's sent to me. That resonates with me. So it's something that I know my colleagues and I have been testing, and I'm glad we're all sitting down.

But it's been working. And we get responses. And we're like well, direct mail ... I remember interviewing somebody for a CMO job years ago, like one of those panel kind of things, and this guy came in and his whole thing was yeah, what's old is new again. And we should really start thinking about direct mailers and whatever. And a 20 whatever year old me was like, yeah, right. This guy doesn't get marketing.

And now I'm like, I wonder where he is and what he is doing, and how successful he must be at this moment.

Katie Martell: I know, really. I think part of the reason for the resurgence in direct mail, and I think that's a place we should start is direct mail, is account-based marketing. And I think a lot of times companies are now wondering how to break through to, you know, targeted accounts.

It's having a renaissance, and a lot of vendors like PFL for example, I think Sendoso, right, I think they're in that space too, are promoting these direct mail to break through and, you know, create door opener campaigns with target accounts because they're high value, it kind of has reframed direct mail to actually be worth the cost.

Are you guys doing any over at Ext in the ABM?

Lindsay McKinney: Yeah, absolutely. We do, gosh, I would say that we are ... I don't want to say we are over indexed, but we are hypersaturated on ABM, and we really realize that people are human, right?

So if you ... If these accounts are already engaged with us and we can be more hypersensitive, we know something about them, we're relatable, and gosh, it's handwritten notes, right? I mean, it's like, it's not just that even if it's just something that's templated.

I think there's a higher chance of response, and when you get those responses from those folks, they're so much more engaged. They're hand raising. They're actually doing something that isn't replying, hitting one button and replying. You know, they're taking the time to reach out with whatever the CTA is on the card or the letter or whatever, so those are high value, high engagement moments. And they're the moments that matter.

And they're usually in those accounts where you're not really sure how things are going, and we don't really have that kind of insight, but that actual, physical thing is a major trigger these days, and I love seeing it coming back in vogue. And I can't tell you how these numbers have really made us kind of just stutter stuck because they really are that impactful.

Katie Martell: Can you tell me, and everyone listening, what exactly you're sending? And I'll tell you why I'm asking this question. I'll just preface it by saying, in a way I don't buy that direct mail is back in vogue. I just think it's-

Lindsay McKinney: Yeah?

Katie Martell: -creating more bad behavior, but let us know what's working for you first, before I go on my little rant.

Lindsay McKinney: Yeah, for sure. I can tell you what we're not doing, but I'll tell you that in a minute.

So the stuff that we're actually seeing work, and people interacting with, are things like Grow With Us, so we'll send little discs of dirt that you put the seeds in and you put them in these cute little planters, so they're real things that maybe like, oh, I should plant this. This is a real thing. I can't just throw this in the garbage.

So we're seeing people engage with that where they actually have to take action to do something that, you know, I do want basil, you were right. What's not working, and what we do not do are like, here's a water bottle. I can't tell you how many water bottles I have. I know you do too, Katie. I get it. You guys want interaction, you're worried about me being hydrated. I'm already hydrated. I'm good.

But we're really seeing the stuff that, you know ... The other thing that I love that we did is we did a branding and a rebranding campaign, and we did monogrammed stamps. And it was just ... They're just special touches. They're things that, you know, everyone maybe at one point in time as a kid had one, and if you're like me, you were an Emily poster. I've got one, but come on.

You're not going to go out and buy a, you know, an embosser for yourself, but it's a special touch and it's out of the norm and that's the kind of stuff that actually matters.

Katie Martell: It certainly does. And I love the green thumb by guilt's approach. And you said you tied it back to a larger campaign with a tagline of Grow With Us?

Lindsay McKinney: That's right.

Katie Martell: What happened after they got you know, the soon to be basil plant, or whatever it was?

Lindsay McKinney: Yeah, yeah. So people want to know, because we did tie it ... They want to know what they can do next, they want to know, like, what do you mean, grow with us? Like, what are we ... What am I ... What other large campaign am I a part of? How am I going to be a disrupter? What does this mean for me?

So, we really tied it back to ROI statements and other customer case studies, things that are really short little quips that would pique people's interest, but that was an accept, to reach out and try to understand a little more about what this meant for that person in their role.

And it was really engaging, and it's easy and it was like, little. You know, we aren't trying to move mountains here with multi step, multi touch direct mail campaigns, but just, you know, to be relevant.

Katie Martell: It's so true. And not only was it relevant, but it was clever. And it was different. And I think the average person in an office, you know, with an office email address, or a corporate email address, gets 121 emails every day on average. I sure thought that number was low, but only a handful of packages. And I love that sense of, you know, treating that package like another opportunity.

And my qualms about direct mail is that marketers, as we are prone to do, are hearing that it's now the en vogue place to be, and so we're just kind of turning the spam can ends that way, right, and we're kind of just saying, okay, [inaudible 00: 07: 46] the email or sorry, direct mail, over our accounts, more crap. I actually ... I give marketers a lot of credit, and I hate to tear down colleagues. But I'm going to do it, fair warning.

I recently was at a client office, and they ... Somebody at their ... Software company, so a lot of marketing tech tried to get into them. They're mid sized, they're in the perfect sweet spot, right? They got a package from a vendor and I'm really sorry if that vendor is listening. I will offer you me and Lindsay's time for free to come up with something more creative. I just whored you out, Lindsay, I'm sorry. [crosstalk 00: 08: 21]

They sent this box, and inside the box, I mean, as you do, right, people are intrigued, okay, I want to know what's inside of it, there's this like anticipation. And it's like, oh, what's in the box. You open it. What's in the box? Immediately I was so disappointed.

It was a metaphor. And the metaphor was peanut butter and jelly. And they were talking about two departments working together like peanut butter and jelly, I won't say what it was to give the vendor away, but the idea being that somehow this vendor could help drive that alignment. And the jelly was this little tiny airplane jar of jelly. The peanut butter was like a ketchup packet of peanut butter, and it was like 2 1/2 Saltines, because half of it had already broken off in this box.

The rest of the box was this like, useless, you know, the packaging crap, and then like a product sheet for the vendor. And I'm like, somebody paid money to send the ... I was so uninspired. I just thought, what a wasted opportunity. It wasn't meaningful to the account. It wasn't even customized to the fact that they were a software company. It was a stunt done cheaply.

And again, apologies to the vendor if you're listening to this, but I just think that's a missed chance when you do have the buyer's attention to go ooh, package. Take that and run with it. Make the most of it.

Lindsay McKinney: Sure. Well, it's got to be polished, you know. Peanut butter and jelly? First of all, we've been making these analogies forever. So there's no value statement there, like, we've all had the peanut butter and jelly analogy. That's just not your best foot forward. So I'm with you.

The other thing, it's one thing when we talk about direct mail and B2B, it's different when you talk about it in B2C. And you know, I think a lot of that will keep you warm all winter long.

But there are some things you can do in B2B, right? I mean, you're trying to build people's careers here, you're trying to line your own pockets, so if you're not thinking in a mutually beneficial fashion, it's not going to work. And no one wants broken Saltines in the mail. No one wants broken Saltines ever.

So just ... Dig deep, people. Just like you would do with your new basil.

Katie Martell: Exactly. And I feel like by the time the basil actually sprouts, it's probably about the time your sale's like, go close this, right?

Lindsay McKinney: That's ... Well hey, there's no harm in that, but yeah. But see, it's the gift that keeps on giving. That's the real thing.

Katie Martell: That's so true. Pesto. No, and I ... You know, the same client actually, well, we were in the room talking about what kind of direct mail they could then use for their own ABM efforts, and they brought in this example that the vendor had sent them as an example of what they did not want to do. And let me tell you what we did instead. Because I love what we ended up doing, it worked really well for them.

They had done this original research report for the industry. They're a commercial real estate property management software, and that industry in commercial real estate tech is burgeoning, I'll say. It's starting to explode. So there's a lot of kind of technology, lack of technology awareness, and so this ... There's ample room in that space for education.

And so they did this great benchmarking study, with beautiful, glossy report, you know, you've all seen this done but it worked really well in this industry.

What we did was we had the top 50 accounts, we segmented them out. We said what portions of this report are most valuable for these 50 accounts. It took time, right? But we had a very custom ... You mentioned a letter, right? We just sent a little Post It Note. We said, from the sales person, this section of the report we think applies best to you know, your company, Acme Co, love to chat about ways to address this. Bing, bam, boom, put it in the mail, done.

And it was highly relevant, by taking that extra step to highlight this certain part of their report, and it was completely new. It was something they hadn't seen before, full of research they could benchmark themselves against.

And that's the thing that I've done at previous companies in different spaces. But for this space, it was so different than what all of the other vendors were sending.

Lindsay McKinney: Sure.

Katie Martell: That's something that I feel like doesn't make the buyer feel bribed, like you know, when you do like a here's a cut out, a die cut of an Apple watch, take our demo and you'll get an Apple watch.

I think that's cheap, I think that's a gimmick, I think you need to send something that's going to make someone go, you know, this is actually useful. Thank you.

Lindsay McKinney: Oh for sure. Well, I think the other ... There's another difference here. I think everyone's an influencer, right? So if I'm going to send a piece of direct mail, I would send that same thing to you, Katie, right? Like it's nothing ... I wouldn't send something that's so gimmicky or isn't going to be valuable to you as someone who is in my network and I trust and respect and would want you to have, right? So I kind of use that in the back of my mind.

If I open this box, if this is my, you know, tada moment, is this something that I would want to open? Is this something that I would want you to open, and just ... You know, I try to kind of anticipate, if this person, or this person will be, one of my influencers when we convert them, what is the mindshare that I'm making and creating and maintaining? Is this ridiculous? Is this ... Who am I?

What is this reflect on the brand and the relationship that I'm trying to cultivate? So, I kind of use that as my bar.

Katie Martell: I love that bar. I love that as a golden rule, and I'm going to use that, and now I'm going to apply that to those plain text emails you mentioned.

Lindsay McKinney: Yes.

Katie Martell: I agree with you that they are, you know, they're coming back, they are a great antidote to like the templated, header image, sidebar cli ... totally looks like a personalized email. But here's my problem with that-

Lindsay McKinney: I get ripped for this all the time, Katie.

Katie Martell: Oh, girl. It must be that you're doing it right if people are actually like, supporting you doing it internally. You have to apply that same, like, discernment to your plain text emails.

I'm going to blame Martek. I just love to blame Martek because I've been in it for about my whole life, so I can blame my own industry.

Lindsay McKinney: They have it coming.

Katie Martell: Companies like ... Everyone's trying to get rich off the marketer's dime and they're not making things anything better. TowtApp. Outreach IO. Reply IO. Prospect IO. These companies have great potential to drive efficiency, right. To make sales people more efficient.

Instead, they are automating the worst kind of repetitive, persistent, annoying sales emails.

Lindsay McKinney: Yeah, for sure.

Katie Martell: Agree or disagree?

Lindsay McKinney: Totally agree. It's tel ... It's bad behavior, especially, you know, I ... I'm not going to make friends with this one, I will not respond to your email if there are spelling mistakes, if you clearly are templating me, if it's ... I mean, TowtApp. [inaudible 00: 14: 44] Used TowtApp for years, years ago. Love it.

Katie Martell: Great tool. Great tool.

Lindsay McKinney: Great tool. And I get it. You know, I ... You can see what's real and what's not, but sometimes some of these messages are actually ... Somebody out there is ... Some 20 year old kid is doing their homework enough to engage me in a plain text email that I thought, okay. And I only respond to the ones where I think maybe we'll both get something out of this.

I don't respond to the ones that someone should have spellchecked, or realized that you know, I'm not in marketing operations, whatever. I don't respond to those. But the other ones, at least I'll give you a leave me alone. And maybe that's also because I have data anxiety, and the little notification anxiety that you get on your iPhone, so I'm not leaving those things untouched.

If they're great, I'll respond. If not, you're gone. But I do respond. But I do respond.

Katie Martell: I think that's so rare. Lindsay is a rare ... the elusive marketer that actually responds to email. I think that's amazing. But I also think it's a function of the fact that now that all the marketers that we know have access to these tools, and the last five years, I think the adoption of these kind of automated sales outreach emails, you know the prospectors that keep sending until someone responds, because everyone has those tools, there's just ... It's inundated inboxes with plain text emails, and everyone still's trying to kind of like, out-clever each other.

And you have things like the baby subject lines. We are meeting. There's no meeting. It's a bait and switch. And it actually ... My point in all this is to your point earlier of a golden rule, are you proud to show off that email? Are you proud if somebody screencasts it, or screenshots it, and puts it on LinkedIn and blurts out your name like we see happening all the time.

Lindsay McKinney: Oh so true.

Katie Martell: Public shaming of these emails. I mean, you have to stop and think if everyone else is doing this, if I'm learning about this from seeing it done, is it really the best use of my limited, you know, first impression with a buyer?

I think if you're using gifs in the email, the ones that are like, here's a sad puppy. If you don't answer, he'll be sad. I not only want to never respond, I never even want to think about doing business with you. I mean, the way that you're utilizing-

Lindsay McKinney: And I don't know how we stoop so low, right? How do we stoop so low to these points that now we're just starting to guilt people into responding? I also don't like the ones that yeah, we're all busy, and I've seen your three emails, oh you must be busy. Can you just introduce me to someone else? No. I'm not putting anyone else ... I don't ... Yeah, I'm not subjecting them to this.

Let me think. Who don't I value that I would like to burden with your crap email, and nothing in the rest of the body of that message hasn't changed. So I totally hear you. I just think that that's absolutely, you know, it's bullshit at this point in time. Like, it's not fair to those marketers out there who really deserve their moment in the sun.

And you know, there's this one guy who's sending these repetitive emails. I don't care about your short subject lines, I don't like your ... Those responses, Katie, I had steam blowing out of my nose when you said that. That's the stuff that really gets me where it's also like I just said, you know, you get the response anxiety and you're like oh, I didn't respond?

Oh, you're conning me. You're gone.

Katie Martell: And it's worse. And you feel trapped. And I think ... We've spent a lot of time talking about what's wrong. I'd love to talk about what works. I think that there's some, again I love stats, and I have a collection of stats.

75% of buyers choose the vendor that was first to provide value and insight in the deal. And that's not something that will shock anybody, but that's the golden rule we're talking about here, it's ... people are open to engaging with these emails when you're addressing something new and unfamiliar to them, it's ... You're touching on something that's risky to the buyer, and you're providing something that will educate them about maybe a plan of action to move forward, or what they can kind of expect from doing business with you.

I mean people say, add value. Those words have become meaningless, but I think you basically can use the rule of what is this buyer ... What haven't they considered about our space? What we're talking about, what the problems are that we're solving? What can I send them in a one sentence? Maybe a link to a blog post. Maybe something so short that just tells them hey, sorry for the interruption, but here's something helpful, and then back off.

That honestly outperformed anything we've ever done with any of my clients. It's a gentle touch, it's a helpful touch, and it doesn't rely on gimmicks so that that salesperson can hit their number.

Lindsay McKinney: And you get one crack at the bat at that, right? You only need one crack at the bat. When you're actually providing value, you don't get into these multi touch, what have I done wrong, I wonder if there's a different way we can engage with this person.

If you're valuable out of the gate, there's a really good chance that I'm going to start really rallying around your brand. And that's ... I know I keep coming back to this influencer thing, but gosh, people just don't think. They think about this flash in the pain sale loads. Flash in the pan like, I had a moment where you're moving me through the sales cycle. Well great, I got my credit for that, moving on.

These people are truly ... oh, here comes a marketing buzzword ... customers for life. They really are. I hate it but it's true, right? Like, I know, and Katie, I don't know if this is the same for you, but I know that there are brands that still have an affinity towards, you know, from the early 2000s-ish that, you know, it's coming up through the ranks at Martek where I was like, you know what, I respect your brand because I had a great interaction with so and so, in this one interaction, or these handfuls of interactions.

But it lives, right? That's what they do with our mindshare. They take it-

Katie Martell: It definitely does. It definitely does.

Speaker 1: We want to thank Rev.com for being a sponsor of the show, and helping us bring transcripts and captions to the enterprise marketer, and explicit content podcasts shows. For more information about Rev, and to get $10 off your first order, visit emktr.co/rev.

Katie Martell: I think we're coming up on the end of our time here, so I think to recap, you know, please don't be gimmicky. We can all send a ton of emails, it doesn't mean we all should. We all are now using direct mail again, so you really need to be creative in how you're ... what you're sending, as Lindsay said, you only get one crack at a first impression.

So think about what that impression is when they're opening the box. Think of everyone as a possible influencer. I think that's important because you never know who's going to influence the deal either now or later. And the impact of lazy outreach is long term. It has dangerous impact.

Did I forget anything besides the fact that Lindsay will respond to your email if you cold call her in a way that is creative and relevant? Go sell to Lindsay. I'm standing by.

Awesome, well thank you so much everyone for listening. Lindsay, thank you for the conversation. Everyone make sure that you subscribe to the podcast and leave a review.

This has been another episode of Truth, Lies and Digital Marketing.

Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to the Explicit Content Podcast. For more information, check out Enterprisemarketer.com.

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