How to Build a Highly Targeted B2B Direct Mail List

Regular SBBM Podcast listeners will know that I maintain a boating showcase website as part of a portfolio of sites. The site mainly generates revenue through advertising and lead generation for businesses in the marine industry.

One of my biggest challenges is attracting advertisers. The online marketing campaigns I’ve tried just haven’t been cutting through, so recently I decided to attempt a direct mail campaign.

If you’ve investigated direct mail as a marketing channel for your business, you’re probably aware one of the challenges is finding an affordable and highly targeted list.

Following is a simple method I used to build a list of businesses who I know spend good money on marketing and advertising.

Collect Industry Expo Event Guides

The next time an industry expo comes around, go along and pick up a copy of the exhibitor guide. You don’t even have to walk in the door  – you could probably even contact the organisers and ask them to mail you a copy of the guide.

These guides usually include a directory of all the exhibitors in the back pages. The exhibitor information often includes:

  • Business Name
  • Contact Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • Website
  • Email

Now, if you’ve done any direct mail campaigns before, you’ll know that having a contact name significantly increases your open rate. And not only do you get physical addresses, you might also obtain exhibitors email addresses to boot (we’ll be using that at the end to significantly increase enquires from your normal DM campaign).

When you get back to the office, cut out the directory pages from the expo guide. Then use your fancy multi function office printer to scan the pages and save them to your computer as PDF’s – preferably using some sort of OCR software so that the text can actually be copied and pasted from the PDF doc’s once scanned.

Send the scanned pages to your assistant (virtual assistant, outsourcer, mum, etc) and get them to copy and paste all the data into a spread sheet.

Voila! One highly targeted mailing list full of businesses you know are willing to spend $ on their marketing because they’ve just spent $5,000+ on exhibiting at an industry expo.

Sending the Direct Mail Campaign

Depending on the size of the industry expo you’ve attended, your list may not be overly large. It might be anywhere from 100-500, which means most mail houses won’t want to know you.

You have a couple of options:

  • Do a mail merge using Excel and Word, print it on your own printer, fold, stuff envelopes, address them, attach stamps… the thought of all this makes me shudder.
  • Find a convenient service that will do small runs.

I recommend the latter. I use Send Out Cards (aff) to create an attractive looking greeting card with a photo, as opposed to a stale black and white A4 letter.

Printed on the cards, I actually used a photo of the entrance way to the expo as I thought this would grab the recipients attention given they’d just finished exhibiting when they received the card.

Follow up with an email

This final step significantly increased my response rate to this campaign…

I  emailed each of the people on the list, approximately 4-5 days after they received the greeting card. My email subject line simply asked, “Did you receive my card?”, while the copy reiterated the offer and asked them to repsond confirming they had received the direct mail piece. The email also linked to a page on my website which once again, reiterated the offer and allowed the prospect to either contact me or signup.

(Full credit to Pete Williams for the email follow up tip)

You could take it one step further and follow up with a phone call. Given that the prospect has already been introduced to your offer, the introduction will be a little easier.

What were my results like? I had about a 5% conversion rate, this was without jumping on the phone.

Let us know your thoughts, comments or questions below.