In the last 20 years, there have been significant, technology-driven shifts in B-to-B direct marketing that have affected traditional postal marketing communications. In the 1980s, for example, the evolution of the fax as a relatively cheap and easy tool for the delivery of documents and text became the first viable competitor to postal delivery of direct marketing pieces.
E-mail Enters the Mix
The explosion of the Internet and e-mail communication in the 1990s had an even more dramatic effect on B-to-B direct marketing. In fact, during the tech boom that started in the late ‘90s (and continues to the present), list professionals and B-to-B list owners have seen postal list rentals fall off a cliff, predominantly as a result of e-mail’s exceptional response rates, which offered marketers returns that were too good to ignore. As e-mail list rentals soared and response rates continued to be strong, vendors in the B-to-B market settled into a state of “marketing nirvana.”
This, of course, was helped by a strong economy, dot-com mania, and a general sense that e-mail marketing would continue to sustain levels of response not seen since the earliest days of direct marketing. It began to seem as though postal list rentals would go the way of the buggy whip.
However, as a testimonial to the rapid rate at which technology can affect the less technical practice of marketing, e-mail marketing has gone through an entire cycle, reaching a mature stage in a relatively short time. The economy and the world are different than they were in the heady days that preceded 2001, but factors such as the evolving nature of e-mail, the proliferation of spam, and the rise of search-engine advertising options are beginning to have their effect, and the resulting decline in e-mail response rates is fueling the reemergence of postal B-to-B direct marketing.