In an earlier piece, I looked at the rise and possibly the decline of email marketing due to the sheer overload of business emails currently being sent and received each day. When companies begin to experience flat sales, they start looking to change methods and one thing they’re beginning to eye again is a quaint tactic that had previously fallen out of favor: direct mail.

Direct mail satisfies several criteria email no longer can—the ability to stand out from the competition, create a personal relationship and make a compelling offer. According to Target Marketing Magazine and Experian, 70 percent of Americans say that physical mail is “more personal” than email.

Although direct mail once was viewed as the industry scourge, we’re seeing it start to capture the attention and imagination of marketers. Millennial marketers, in particular, seem enamored of the creativity that goes into mailers. And, with its reliance on data to target, reach and engage customers, it still feels familiar. When on the receiving end, 30 percent of millennials said direct mail was more effective at getting you to take action while 24 percent said email.

The old tenets of direct mail still ring true. Success is 40 percent list quality, 40 percent the offer and 20 percent creative. And, companies combining direct mail with online marketing achieve higher brand awareness and recall and an increase in ROI. In fact, marketers at companies with greater than $200 million in annual revenue reported nearly a three times higher effectiveness of their multichannel marketing efforts versus those with non-integrated campaigns, according to direct mail company PFL in its 2018 Multi-Channel Marketing Report.

The buyer’s journey is changing

Direct mail is one way B2Bs are addressing the fact that so many people are tuning out of email marketing. Another is adapting to ways in which the buyer’s journey is changing. From research firms like Forrester and SiriusDecisions and our own experience, we know buyers want to do self-directed research and are loath to talk to a salesperson or be offered a demo too early in the process. Yet, in our quest to send out emails with a compelling offer to achieve downloads and form fill objectives, how many of us are guilty of doing just that?

“Empowered buyers prefer to self-educate, gain third-party validation and rely on peers to learn about new products,” according to Forrester. This desire for third-party validation is swinging the pendulum back to “credibility marketing.” Buyers are seeking proven, trusted, credible sources who aren’t trying to sell them overtly.

Building credibility and third-party validation used to be the bailiwick of public relations, and it still is.

Just because PR doesn’t work the same way in the digital world as it used to doesn’t mean it isn’t vitally important. The holy grail of PR used to be landing coverage in a national publication. Now, savvy companies are no longer relying on a publication to produce an audience. They’re taking the publication content, and their own, and putting it through other channels.

In 2014, NewsCred and Redshift Research surveyed consumers to find out if content can help financial services companies gain consumer trust. The study found that only 20 percent of respondents would trust content written by representatives of their bank, while 53 percent would trust content written by objective journalists with expertise in finance. American Express’s Open Forum editorial strategy is an example of this. It’s designed to help small business owners grow their business by providing insight and resources. And, it leverages outside expertise to build authority.

Open Forum is considered the gold standard of this brand of journalism, and while there can be lead generation elements to some of these types of sites, they aren’t focused on the number of downloads or form fills. They’re publishing and curating content for the benefit of their audience, building community and establishing credibility.

Certainly, marketing automation and email campaigns aren’t going away, nor is a marketer’s need for quality data. Marketers who see the big picture and apply data and new digital tools along with old-school practices like direct mail and PR will set their company on the path to success.

This article was originally published on The Connector and reprinted with permission.