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Know Your Audience: B2B vs B2C Direct Mail Marketing

November 15, 2017

Know Your Audience: B2B vs B2C Direct Mail MarketingAs you’re probably well aware, the strategies and tactics used in B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing vary in just about every way -- the messaging, design and offer, to name just a few variables, are largely dependent on this categorization alone. To be effective, marketing has to get inside the mindset of whomever your product or service is trying to reach, a best practice that’s no different for direct mail campaigns. We’ve talked before about the continued relevance of direct mail and direct mail postcards, even with millennials that are often categorized as the “digital generation.” Direct mail is here to stay, and can reap huge ROI for both B2B and B2C companies.

Once you’ve decided to include direct mail in your marketing campaign, the next steps are the logistics of what your mailer should say and how that message and offer should be presented. To have impact, it’s important to take a step back and think about the people that drive your business.


It’s often assumed that B2B marketing should be largely unemotional, appealing to the analytical, rational side of human decision making. The business buying cycle is, after all, much longer than that of the consumer buying cycle, often has to go through multiple decision makers and can negatively impact the company’s reputation and bottom line if things go wrong. Research by the CEB’s Marketing and Leadership Council and Google found, however, that emotional connection played more of a role in B2B than it did in B2C. Of the hundreds of B2C brands studied, brands incited an emotional connection with between 10 and 40 percent of consumers. The majority of the B2B brands studied passed the 50 percent mark.

Turns out, the high stakes at play in a B2B purchase decision actually require a significant emotional connection, or the buyer won’t take the risk. Appealing to the right emotions is the key. Decision makers in B2B are more likely to buy if the purchase provides personal value, like the opportunity for a raise or promotion.

As such, the messaging for B2B customers in direct mail should appeal to emotions of trust, reliability, credibility and a sense of partnership. The design of direct mail pieces is less about brand storytelling, which is so paramount to B2C marketing, and more about proving that your product or service does the job it’s supposed to do well and is absolutely necessary for business success. Images that feature people will provide a human touch, but be careful not to go overboard. Sadness or want -- and, on the opposite end, humor -- are often not the emotions to play to in B2B direct mail.

The offer in a B2B mail piece should not be centered around a sale, which might convey a sense of cheapness and a nondurable product or service. For example, the call-to-action for a B2B tech company could be for the customer to visit your website to download educational information or news about the industry, or simply learn more about the featured product online. Use a personalized URL to create interest and track results.

Of course, the direct mail campaign approach your business uses will depend entirely on who your company and target customers are. Some creative elements will be far too much of a risk for certain businesses, but keeping in mind the proven value of the right emotional appeal in B2B will help your company move past the idea of a purely rational approach.


B2C is the playground for a a variety of emotions in your direct mail campaign. The B2C buying cycle is quicker than B2B, as consumers are more likely to make an impulse decision when the risk will only affect themselves (and B2C products often include easy return policies.) As B2C marketing often plays to the customer’s lifestyle, messaging that appeals to a sense of status, desire and identity is common. Strong branding and brand storytelling is important in B2C, so design choices in your direct mail piece should be consistent with the rest of your company’s marketing efforts. The copywriting in your mailer can often be less formal and more personal than is typical of B2B messaging.

Unlike B2B, which must play to both the emotional and rational sides of human thinking, B2C direct mail pieces are often all about the impulsive now. The shorter sales cycle in B2C means that the call-to-action can be much simpler -- a sale or similar incentive will often do the trick.

A few ideas for offers to include in your B2C direct mail piece are:

  1. An added bonus, like points or a free gift.
  2. An online sale that is only accessible through a code provided in the mailer.
  3. A coupon that can be used in-store to save money on a product.
  4. A sample of your product.
  5. A deadline or expiration date associated with the bonus, sale or coupon, which appeals to the compulsiveness of B2C by encouraging the receiver to act quickly.
  6. A guarantee. As mentioned, the low risk factor of B2C is part of the equation that leads to a purchase. The promise of satisfaction guaranteed and free returns could give your customer the extra push they need to buy your product.

Audience First, Always

Remembering your audience’s motives and reasons for purchase will affect every aspect of your business’s direct mail postcards approach. As always in marketing, think of your audience before making any move. Catering your design, content and offer to a targeted mailing list will increase your chances at a successful direct mail campaign that will increase ROI (return on investment).

To learn more about the types of mailing lists available on QuantumPostcards and which is best for your business’s direct mail campaign, read this next: Discover the Right Kind of Mailing List for Your Postcard Campaign.