It’s not unusual for businesses to lump sales and marketing together—particularly when they ask personnel to wear multiple hats. And while sales and marketing are related—and should work together—they are two very different things. Understanding the difference is important for succeeding in both. And that has an impact on how a company engages in direct mail.
Marketing is about clearly identifying an audience: detailing that audience’s wants, needs, personality, struggles, pain points, etc. Marketing then looks at a company’s offerings (products and services, pricing, expertise, capabilities, etc.) and formulates a clear message that effectively communicates how those things work together to match the needs of the defined audience.
It’s marketing’s responsibility to get potential customers in the marketplace to identify themselves and “raise their hands” (engage with the company) to say, “I’m interested in what you have to offer!” Those individuals are leads—and marketing further cultivates those leads to determine which ones are most likely to make a purchase.
At that point marketing turns these cultivated, qualified leads over to sales. People in the sales department can then follow up—knowing that there’s a better likelihood of success (that is, completing a sale). Sales then closes the loop with marketing—giving them feedback about how well prospects are prepared to buy and if there is more information they should have before being asked to make a purchasing decision.
So where does direct mail fit into all of this? Direct mail is primarily a marketing activity—not a sales activity. The purpose of direct mail isn’t to get someone to buy—it’s to get someone to identify himself as a potential buyer. In past years, direct mail was used to pass on a lot of product information (features, benefits, testimonials, pricing, etc.). But printing, mailing, postage, and processing costs have made it financially impractical to include so much information. On top of that, potential customers have their own questions they want to ask. They want to find the information for themselves.
That means the role of direct mail has changed. It’s still a good way to engage people and to generate interest. Its physical presence is a reminder to individuals to act. But direct mail is no longer as viable a vehicle for going into detail about products and services. It is, however, still a great vehicle for pointing potential customers to the place where they can get as much information as they want: a company’s website.
What’s the take-away from all this? Your company needs to have a solid marketing strategy that includes direct mail as part of the process. But it’s important to remember that direct mail isn’t (generally) an ideal sales tool—it’s an effective way to move potential customers to a place where they can qualify themselves as good leads by their engagement with a company on that company’s website.