As we come to the end of another year, it’s natural to look ahead. As marketers, we start to plan for the coming year and map out our strategy. We analyze marketing trends and look for patterns to inform that strategy. But after a year like 2020, how can we possibly know what’s coming next?
By looking at data.
Back in July, PFL released the 2020 State of Multichannel Marketing report in partnership with Demand Metric. To develop this report, we spoke to nearly 600 marketers about their multichannel marketing strategies, experiences, and results. We also looked at how things changed from 2019 to 2020 — and how they stayed the same — which can help us understand what lies ahead in 2021.
Following are some tips based on the key trends we anticipate for the coming year. Keep these ideas in mind as you plan your 2021 multichannel marketing strategy.
1. Leverage data to create true personalization.
Notice I said true personalization. That’s because marketers often confuse “automation” with “personalization.” Inserting the contact’s first name in a campaign doesn’t count.
Today’s customers and prospects demand more. They expect brands to understand their unique needs and preferences and to customize their experience accordingly. The best way to introduce real personalization into your marketing mix is by using intent data, data-based insights, and trigger-driven campaigns.
Intent data — typically collected through direct interactions and online browsing behavior — can help you understand your prospects’ plans to purchase a given product or service. Applying this unique data to your marketing campaigns through Tactile Marketing Automation can increase your brand’s impact and improve audience engagement.
Imagine a shopper browsing a retailer’s website. They place an item in their cart but don’t immediately make a purchase. Their online activity triggers a direct mail piece promoting their selected item along with a 20% discount coupon. That’s true personalization. And that’s just the beginning.
Our 2020 State of Multichannel Marketing research validates these ideas. When asked to name the most important factors in multichannel marketing success, survey respondents put “data accuracy” and “understanding audience needs” at the top of the list.
2. Coordinate online and offline channels to elevate your campaigns.
Finding the right mix is among the biggest challenges of any multichannel marketing strategy. Too few channels, and you risk oversaturation and missing out on large swaths of potential buyers. Too many channels, and you’re likely to overextend your resources, leading to a disjointed customer experience.
According to the 2020 State of Multichannel Marketing report, marketers achieve their best results when their campaigns use a combination of four to six channels.
Of course, true success depends on more than just having the right number of channels. You need to use those channels to create a relevant, meaningful customer experience that’s reinforced at every touchpoint.
For example, say you engage with a prospect at an event. The interaction triggers a direct mail follow-up, including some branded swag and collateral related to the conversation you had. When the package is delivered, the delivery notification triggers both an email to the prospect and an alert to the sales rep with all the context they need for a meaningful phone conversation. You can even loop in some targeted display and social ads to round out the experience. That’s four to six channels, tightly orchestrated, to deliver a remarkable brand experience.
3. Take a fresh look at direct mail in today’s remote world.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a massive shift to remote work for employees across the US, and surveys indicate this trend is here to stay. Regardless of whether employees are located at home or in a physical office, direct mail is one of the most effective channels for reaching target audiences.
What’s more, direct mail saw a significant year-over-year gain in reported effectiveness (82% in 2020 vs. 78% in 2019), despite this year’s shift to remote work.
As the lines between work and home continue to blur, we need to find ways to meet our customers and prospects where they are. Marketers may be hesitant to send direct mail to a home address, because it isn’t something they’re used to doing. The truth is, B2B customers and prospects are receptive to receiving direct mail at home — and many actually prefer it.
Finding home addresses may seem like a tall task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can use simple, effective tactics to collect and confirm a contact’s address, and our Preferred Address Capture solution makes it easy to engage your contacts with a remarkable brand experience.
4. Use tactile experiences to create human connections
While working from home has its advantages, it has also increased isolation and created a sense of digital fatigue. Digital overload is real.
Smart marketers have long understood the importance of making real connections with their audience. In today’s world, that means cutting through the digital clutter and bringing customers and prospects back into the physical world.
Tangible, tactile materials create a sensory experience that digital touchpoints simply can’t match. Studies have shown that physical touch leaves a deeper footprint on the brain and triggers a greater emotional response.
Including direct mail in your multichannel marketing mix can help to create immersive brand experiences across every stage of the customer journey. In fact, the vast majority of respondents in our 2020 State of Multichannel Marketing study report that direct mail improves multichannel campaign performance.
5. Don’t miss the boat on ABM.
Account-based marketing (or ABM) has quickly become one of the leading strategies for engaging audiences and driving business results. A 2020 Demandbase study found that ABM budgets have grown 40% year-over-year, and more than 90% of large companies have adopted ABM to some degree.
The fact is, if you’re not on board with ABM, you’re likely to be left behind. And one key component of great ABM is direct mail.
That’s because ABM focuses on connecting with prospects through personalized, targeted, and impactful experiences — just like good direct mail strategy. Don’t forget, direct mail is the #1 most effective channel for audience engagement! So as you build out your ABM strategy, incorporating direct mail is a smart move.
Need more convincing? The same Demandbase research found that, among companies with strong ROI from ABM, direct mail is the top channel for increasing investment.
6. Make sure you stand out from the crowd.
One last thing to think about…if you’re trying to reach the C-Suite with your 2021 campaigns, you’re not alone. According to our research, company executives are the most sought-after audience for multichannel campaigns. A full 55% of survey respondents named this group as their top target.
So how can you stand out from the competition and catch the attention of these busy decision makers? Direct mail is the best place to start.
Whether you’re trying to book a meeting or simply getting a foot in the door, direct mail can deliver memorable moments that are personalized, timely, and relevant. (And if you need some ideas to get you started, check out our Tactile Marketing Automation Idea Book.)
As marketers, we know the only constant is change — we’re used to adapting to new challenges and making adjustments on the fly. But that doesn’t eliminate the need to plan ahead. And relying on data to make sound, strategic marketing decisions is always a smart play.
I hope these tips, along with our 2020 State of Multichannel Marketing report, can help to equip you for success in 2021!