Are Your Mailings Irrelevant or Just Plain Stale?

Lately I’ve noticed I’ve been getting repeat mailings from large B-to-B office suppliers — and they all look the same. It probably doesn’t help that Office Depot, Staples and OfficeMax have similar corporate colors. They all seem stuck in their “10 percent or $10 off” offer, or some version of it. To make matters even more boring, the mailings always seem to be in one of two or three standard formats. You know the ones: large postcards, #10 solo or folded flyer.

You look at them and say, “Oh, that again,” and toss it. It got me thinking about the opportunity we as B-to-B mailers have to vary our offers and presentation based on what we know about our customers. I believe your offers will go farther with more of the following:

1. A mailing that recognizes I have a purchase-channel preference. When I buy office supplies, for example, I like to visit the nearby Office Depot store. When I buy music or movies, I do it online.

2. A mailing that recognizes I’m a small-business man and don’t have a large need for certain products. I recently got a 200-plus-page, hard-cover catalog from Peachtree Business Products. As vice president of a condo association, I purchased some parking tags from this company more than a year ago. It’s unlikely I’ll ever buy anything else.

3. A mailing that recognizes what I buy repeatedly. It would be nice to be reminded what fax toner, laser toner and photographic paper I buy when I’m about to run out (based on my past purchase frequency) so I don’t have to remember that stuff myself.

4. A mailing that doesn’t call me a woman. Yes, when you have one of those names that either sex can have, like Terry, you’d be surprised how many times I get called a girl. Not very appropriate. That’s why I always use Terence when buying direct. But even that doesn’t work all the time for some strange reason. Wouldn’t it be nice if places where I shop could remember I’m a guy!

5. A Web site that allows me to customize the homepage based on what I want from that company. I’d want to know what I’ve purchased before, how much I’ve purchased in total (American Airlines acknowledges me every time I sign on to its site for flying a zillion miles in my life).

6. A company that keeps all my personal imprint information — logos, artwork and photos — and reminds me it has them periodically, so it’s easy to order greeting cards, business cards, stationery and all other personalized items.

7. A mailing that informs me of new products, content, trends, etc. — but only the stuff I’m interested in. If a multichannel merchant looks at my past purchases, it’ll see what kind of business I’m in and could surmise how it might help me.

It’s not too much to ask, is it? Can’t we use our data to create real intelligence and personal, relevant and well-timed marketing communications? Please let me know if you agree or disagree.
Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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