Marketing pundits have been proclaiming that direct mail is making a comeback ever since I first cut my teeth in direct marketing back in the late 80s. I can only report that whereas the heady days of mail are long gone, far more B2B clients are utilizing direct mail today compared to say, five years ago. Spam may have all but killed email as an acquisition vehicle, but direct mail is still a viable outbound lead generation device for the right audience.
Still, mail has its disadvantages — first amongst them: cost (comparatively, anyway) — and secondly, responding to a direct mail campaign via the Web is clunky at best: go to the PC (assuming you’re not reading your mail at your desk), type in the URL (avoiding typos), and fill out the form. Hardly the kind of immediate, instinctive response we direct marketers look for.
Sure, you could mail CD-ROMs that launch automatically and connect the user to your Website, but that’s so 1990. That’s why I was intrigued to learn of a new product, USB INSERT, that claims to “combine the touch and emotional appeal of print communication with a direct bridge to the digital world.”
Essentially, USB INSERT is direct mail that you plug into your PC. Or more precisely, it allows you to combine any kind of printed collateral (a self-mailer, for example) with a detachable Web “key” that, once inserted into a USB port, drives the customer to a designated Web page.
Just insert Direct Mail A into Slot B.
USB INSERT can be used to drive traffic to exclusive Web content (say, a customer-only site) or a campaign-specific microsite. Each key is coded to enable precise campaign tracking. You choose the URL (up to 250 characters) and the key directs users to that address via a secure server. The key can be used in conjunction with direct mail, brochures (for example, as a trade show handout), or magazine inserts. The company behind USB INSERT, US Branding Group, says that initial response has been overwhelming. (I’m still waiting for my sample – I’ll report later in the comments with the live experience.)
For B2B marketers, particularly technology companies, USB INSERT could be a novel way – one might even say a “key” ingredient – to make their direct mail stand out from the crowd.