Want to win over new clients for your MSP business? Don’t overlook the power of direct mail. I’ve built a career on successful direct mail campaigns, and I’m sharing my tried-and-true secrets here.
Often, when MSPs first start seriously investing in marketing, they’re quick to assume it’s the digital channels they should be focused on — Google ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, etc.
Those channels can certainly yield results, but the truth is they take commitment. Dipping your toe in the water and jumping right back out typically isn’t effective. You’ve got to have enough budget that you’re willing to set aside for meaningful trial and error, and you’ve got to be okay with the fact that you may not see immediate results.
That’s why, when MSP partners come to us looking for marketing advice, we often ask them if they think they’ve pulled out all the stops with their non-digital efforts first. Specifically, are they doing everything they can to hone and formalize their referral marketing strategy? And have they seen any success with direct mail?
That’s right. Direct mail. Aka snail mail. Scoff if you will, but the fact is despite prospects being inundated with all things digital in this day and age — or perhaps because of it — the effectiveness of direct mail marketing is at an all-time high.
Don’t take my word for it. The response rates to direct mail are the highest they’ve ever been since the Association of National Advertisers started gathering this data in the early 2000s.
In fact, direct mail garners more responses than any of its direct digital marketing counterparts. On average, direct mail response rates are anywhere from 5x to 9x higher than those for email, social media, and paid search.
Close to 80 percent of consumers say they rely on direct mail when it comes time to make a purchase — making it one of the most trusted advertising channels.
In short, all hail snail mail.
But before we get carried away, a few caveats. As with any marketing effort, the channel is only part of the equation. You also need to make sure what you’re sending is the right thing, to the right person, at the right time. When done right, direct mail works for many reasons. It’s different, it’s tangible, it’s personal, and it’s engaging. It gives you an exceptional opportunity to stand out and get noticed, but not if you’re sending out the same boring brochures or flyers.
How do I know all this? I’ve built my career marketing for B2B technology companies and am now serving as the VP of Marketing here at NinjaOne. I can tell you from personal experience that direct mail marketing works. If you steal these secret tricks of the trade, you can make it work for your MSP, too.
First Things First: Set the Stage for an Effective Direct Mail Marketing Program
Like any marketing project, there are a few things you need to put in place up front to make sure your direct mail marketing campaign is as successful as possible.
Step 1: Develop an ideal customer profile
Let’s get started with the fun stuff — thinking about your ideal customer!
With the right prompt, this step is relatively easy. Just ask yourself: “Who would I love to work with?”
These are those customers whom you feel your service was made for. Customers you’d look forward to working with. Customers you’d feel lucky to land.
This is called an ideal customer profile (ICP) and should describe an ideal company partner, not an individual buyer or user.
If you’re having trouble fleshing out a profile of your ideal customer, here are some key characteristics you may want to consider:
- Industry and/or vertical
- Employee headcount, both company-wide and in relevant departments
- Budget for services like yours
- Geographical location
- What technologies they’re already using
- Their level of technological maturity
Step 2: Decide on your target companies and identify key contacts within each
Next, create a list of companies that tightly align with your ideal customer profile.
Then, within each of these companies, identify individuals who have sway in the technology buying process and — here’s the tricky part — who are likely to be receptive to marketing mailings.
This step will require the most research (think social media profiles and mutual connections), but it’ll be worth it to create a super-specific list that doesn’t waste your time or money when it comes time to send out direct mail.
Step 3: Determine how you’re going to monitor progress
Even before your direct mail is shipped off, set up a system for keeping track of all your hard work!
If you aren’t already using relationship management software (we do recommend a basic CRM for keeping track of interactions with customers and leads), keep it simple and start with a spreadsheet. This will help you keep track of what was sent to whom and when — and any results you may have observed.
Because direct mail campaigns tend to be pretty low-volume yet high-impact, it shouldn’t be a major undertaking to monitor results and progress.
Step 4: Set a schedule for follow-up
One of the biggest secrets to success in almost any marketing campaign is the follow-up. Again, it’s easy and actually preferable to keep this step as simple as you can.
Ideally using the same program or spreadsheet you’ve already set up for monitoring progress, plan out points at which you’ll check in with direct mail recipients.
These checkpoints may include phone calls, emails, secondary mailings, and other actions that help support and empower your primary direct mail marketing campaign.
Steal These Ideas for Killer Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns that Work
Direct mail is an excellent opportunity to get your MSP noticed, but to take full advantage of its power you need every single piece of promotional material to be relevant, strike a chord, and surprise and delight.
Remember that whatever you send is going to directly reflect on you and your business — for better or for worse. If your direct mail is off the mark or forgettable, what impression will that leave about your company?
It’s important that you put thought into your promotional materials. Going even just the smallest step above and beyond will put you miles ahead of the average junk mail they typically receive, so don’t hold back. Have fun and get creative thinking inside the box.
Need help getting the creative juices flowing? Try any one of these direct mail tactics to make a big impact without wasting hours of guesswork.
Idea #1: Make it personal
I’ve learned that the most effective direct mail is personal. But how do you get personal with someone you don’t know? By using what you learned when you conducted research that led you to choose them as your key contact at a target company.
Hop on their social media or into your notes, refresh your memory on some of their unique characteristics, and try to imagine what they’d be surprised and thrilled to receive in the mail. Here are some popular options to get your gears turning:
- Favorite food and/or drink
- Swag from their favorite sports team, band, TV show, etc.
- Something that ties into a recent life event — For example, we send NinjaOne onesies to customers and prospects with a new baby on the way.
That said, just be careful to avoid some of the ways going this route can backfire:
- Don’t cross the line by going too personal with references that can make you come across as a creeper (ex: “Thought you would enjoy this aloe for that sunburn you got on vacation in Hawaii with your wife last week!”). Rule of thumb: If it’s on Twitter, LinkedIn, or in an online/print publication (ex: the individual was featured in the news or receive an award), that’s typically fair game. But you should be careful referencing things you see on Facebook and Instagram. Those platforms should often be considered ‘do not enter’ territory, especially if the individual isn’t posting about work-related things.
- Sending something that requires a specific size, like a T-shirt, can be complicated and even offensive if you guess the wrong size
- Not everything needs your logo on it; rather than ruin a hat or jersey by putting your logo next to their favorite team’s, just send a nice, personalized note along with it
- Be aware of shipping costs and logistics, it can all really add up
- Avoid shipping something that can break or leak; don’t even get me started on that time I was sent local honey that broke in transit, leaving my hands sticky and turning my opinion of the sender from sweet to sour...
Idea #2: Make your contact the most popular person in the office
I love sending promotional materials that make my contact the person to talk to in their office. These are items they can share, pass around, or place on their desk for other people to come up and enjoy.
In addition to making the recipient feel great — and feel great about you as the sender — it also gets them talking with everyone in the office about you. “What is that?” is quickly followed by “Who sent it?” and “What do they do?” That’s more brand awareness bang for your buck!
Here are some promotional items that can make your contact’s desk a popular stop for their coworkers:
- Edible items that can be shared such as customized baked goods, candies, etc. (I’ve been successfully direct-marketed to with cupcakes. I’ve also used Baked by Melissa to send personalized goodies on behalf of NinjaOne.)
- Better yet — local edible items. I’ve always had good luck finding a local bakery or brewery that will fulfill a custom order and even deliver it for me. For MSPs targeting other small businesses, this is a good look.
- Engaging (and branded!) desk-friendly games like mini Jenga, a Rubik’s Cube, brain teaser puzzles, etc. There are hundreds of companies that offer custom-branded items. I like 4imprint for promotional merchandise and Custom Ink for apparel.
Idea #3: Make promotional materials worthy of display
If you want promotional materials to have a bigger impact, make sure they look good enough to warrant a prime spot right on the recipient’s desk. Nothing beats having something your prospect will remember you by sitting right within eyesight every day.
Here are some items that are easy to design and even personalize to make them display-worthy:
- Desk accessories such as pens, business card holders, pen cups, “catch-all” trays, stress balls, etc.
- Drinkware and accessories such as tumblers, coffee mugs, coasters, etc.
Idea #4: Make it family friendly
Making your direct mail recipient a hero in the office is great, but so is making them a hero at home!
Send something that your contact can share with or give to their kiddos. Score them some extra parent points and they’re likely to thank you for it.
Here are some affordable gifts that will please your contacts as well as their children:
- Toys related to your direct mail campaign theme or your brand — I’ve personally sent stuffed animals, branded LEGOs, cardboard VR headsets, and Nerf toys (parents must really love me for that last one!)
Just be careful to avoid these major missteps when it comes to kid-friendly gifts:
- Don’t send anything that’s inappropriate for the child’s age (if you’re able to deduce that information)
- Make sure your promotional items can’t potentially present a hazard
Remember: you don’t have to go all-in on every tactic or promotional idea mentioned here. To get the best return, keep reading to learn how to tailor your direct mail program to fit your unique needs.
Tailor Your Direct Mail Marketing Program to Fit Your Means
Pro tip: The best direct mail marketing program is the one you can effectively manage.
Depending on where you are in your MSP business and how much of a priority marketing is, these next tips will help you tailor your program to your means — and show you what to do next when the time comes to scale up.
If your marketing program is its infancy
Say you’re a Chief Everything Officer and don’t really have any help, but you still think you could realistically set aside one day a quarter to devote to direct mail marketing.
A simple and low-cost way to dip your toe in is to forget the “mail” part altogether.
When you’re looking at a low volume of target companies, it may be easier to drop by in person. Walk into their place of business and greet the office manager with the following:
"Hey, I’m Frank from Acme IT Services. I don't want to interrupt anyone’s day, I’m just here to drop off these hot, soft pretzels for your team. There’s a note in the box about the kinds of stuff we can do for companies like yours. If you guys ever need any help, here’s my business card. Thanks!”
This is an affordable way to try out different promotional materials. If you find something that gets particularly great responses, then you can start investing in packaging and shipping.
What to do when your marketing program is ready to walk
For MSPs that have enough techs to allow them to spend more time on marketing and business development, I’d recommend choosing 10 to 20 target accounts and launching a small direct mail campaign that includes a few additional, non-mail touchpoints throughout.
Send all your contacts the same promotional material, but include personalized notes on custom printed cards that feature your logo.
Don’t forget to set up a simple process for keeping track of your progress and results.
How to improve upon direct mail when your marketing program is fully up and running
If you've got employees who are dedicated to sales and marketing and you’ve already invested in a CRM — it’s time to beef up your direct mail efforts.
Try sending your promotional material to contacts who are in different phases of the sales cycle (cold, later stage, re-capture, etc.). Ramp up your personalization and ship one-off mailings directly to specific individuals.
Since you’re already tracking campaign performance, start making iterations here and there to improve your results. Work on optimization, making your process more efficient, and bringing down your costs. If you have the budget and implementation bandwidth, there are also software companies out there who specialize in precisely this, so check out Sendoso or PFL if you are ready to run!
I really hope this article has given you insight into the mind of a marketer — and the confidence to steal some of my ideas to create a direct mail campaign that works for your MSP business.
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