The Direct Marketing Star of 2009

Direct mail and websites must be consistent. Especially if the consumer receives direct mail and decides to go online to respond.

But in 2009, I think you have to identify whether it’s direct mail, or your website, that plays the starring role. Only a few years ago there was little question that direct mail was the “center of the direct marketing universe.” But I think that is rapidly changing. Online is rapidly becoming the “direct marketing center of the universe” with its unique ability to support inbound marketing efforts. Not long ago, I would have said that a website supports direct mail. Today I think direct mail supports a website. I’m not sure you can “integrate” direct mail and your website, but there certainly must be continuity and consistency of offers.

That having been said, demographics of your customers must be considered. The parents of Baby Boomers tend to be readers and, I believe, will continue to read direct mail. They aren’t known to be web-savvy so they may rarely consider using the web to conduct additional research and transact business.

Baby Boomers are more likely to blend direct mail and the online experience. But I think there should be a huge concern to anyone using direct mail who is pushing response to a website. When a consumer reads direct mail, and you point her to your website, she might research other offers for identical products using keywords and key phrases that organically bring up competitive offers. If the direct mail offer didn’t sell her on doing business with you, she might find a competitor online, who has optimized their website, and get a better deal than you were offering. Which begs the question: if you are using direct mail, do you really want your customer to go online when they can be so easily distracted, and through organic search easily find and buy from your competition?

And the younger the individual, in their 20s and 30s, the more likely the web is where they go for community, social interaction, shopping, and entertainment, and research before they buy something offline. Any of us with teenagers or twenty-somethings see them mostly ignoring direct mail-and even e-mail solicitations. All they need comes from a computer screen, speaker and keyboard or, more and more, their cell phone they’re using for texting and surfing the Web.

Online search, cutting across most age groups, is where the marketing action is to find your website. If your website isn’t optimized, you might as well not exist. If you’re not capturing email addresses for email marketing, you’re leaving money on the table. If you’re not adding content every week, your organic website rankings will slowly sink. If you’re not thinking mobile technology, you’re missing lots of young people. If you want to keep your customer or donor plugged into your company, you need to do so with blogs and social media. And by all means, get Google Analytics tracking what’s happening on your website so you can see your results. It’s amazingly sophisticated and useful in its reporting, and it’s free.

The rules of direct marketing engagement have shifted. While direct mail and websites can, and must, co-exist, their roles are different today as consumers migrate more and more online. The economics of marketing online, and the desire of consumers to do business online, have, in my opinion, permanently shifted how we will market this year and beyond. It’s less and less of us pushing our wares to consumers and businesses. It’s more and more consumers and business searching for what they want, and that means as marketers it’s essential to get smart quickly about inbound marketing methods-positioning ourselves to be found-and the online experience.

Direct marketers that don’t recognize this fundamental shift now risk lagging behind when the economy perks back up. It takes months, even years, for search engine optimization techniques to grab a foothold. And, tomorrow’s strategies may be different from today’s, as that world is evolving quickly. So your challenge as a direct marketer is how to manage that shift so you retain your position in the marketplace and not let it be eroded by some smart Internet-savvy upstart who outmaneuvers you.

A Brief History of Direct Marketing and Its Application For Business Owners

Most people think they know what direct response marketing is all about. When you say the words ‘direct marketing’, most people don’t even heard the word marketing. Instead, they hear the word mail, as in direct mail, junk mail, or just plain old mail marketing. But direct marketing is much more than the tangible material used to make the marketing piece. It’s a way of marketing that’s measurable, accountable, and trackable.

Direct mail has been the workhorse of the marketing world since Montgomery Ward launched its first catalog in 1872. Back then, the idea of offering a world of goods through the U.S. Postal Service was revolutionary. To our farm dwelling ancestors, for whom shopping was a three-day trip with wooden cart and horse over rough terrain, ordering coal burning stoves, ice boxes, dresses and harnesses through the Montgomery Ward, Sears, and other catalogs was a blessing.

What helped the start of the direct mail industry? The U.S. Postal system, with its ability to reach nearly anyone, anywhere, was the catalyst for the direct mail surge. The growth of mass-produced items, America’s rapid expansion and reconstruction period after the Civil War also helped fuel the rising middle class and their appetite for newer, better and more fashionable things.

Direct mail continues to rise in prominence, supported by the famous catalogs. Direct response print ads soon joined the world of direct response. Print ads captured the imagination, attention and wallets of people for decades. Direct mail letters, with their classic Johnson boxes, postscripts, and multiple inserts also made their debut in the 20th century, followed by the ubiquitous donation requests and credit card offers of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Direct response television, in the form of infomercials and commercials for products, added demonstrations of products to the direct marketing world. With the advent of cable and satellite television, channels solely devoted to direct marketing products, such as HSN (Home Shopping Network), QVC and others bring beautiful, useful products into our homes and follow all the basics of direct response marketing.

Today, the growth is online. Although initially getting a bad rap thanks to spammers worldwide who send us such gems as advertisements for medications, drugs, and sexual enhancements, email marketing is now a respected player in the world of direct response. Display advertising, surging ahead of the older banner advertising, remains a prominent means of capturing attention and click throughs, especially when it’s placed next to relevant articles and content.

The latest tool added to our direct marketing toolkit is the use of keyword searches, both natural and paid, to enhances responses and online marketing. Measurable, accountable and trackable, keyword marketing is the latest interactive marketing technique to help businesses worldwide acquire, retain and create loyal customers.

Some marketers lump social media marketing and web 2.0 technologies in with direct response marketing. While these are valid forms of online marketing and can prove quite effective, they are not pure direct response marketing. It is difficult to quantify the exact return on investment (ROI) of Twitter, Facebook, and other social marketing campaigns. It’s also nearly impossible to track responses from each so-called campaign. Social networking is more about making connections and fostering relationships. Like trade show and event marketing, it is about reaching people and starting or cultivating relationships rather than marketing activities with measurable outcomes.

Key Takeaways

This brief history of direct marketing and its current status clarifies the changing world of direct marketing. Examining the marketing mix, managers need to ask the following questions to determine if a direct response campaign is the right tool for the job:

o Will we gain by understanding exactly where our responses come from?

o Will it benefit my company more by cultivating relationships with many, or dialogues with a few?

o How will we use customer data Secure it? Manage it?

o If we gather the data from the campaigns, will we use it?

The marketing mix is often a blend of various tactics to reach many and converse with a few. Direct marketing of one type or another is usually part of the marketing mix. Deciding how much of a part is predicated upon how much one needs to cultivate actionable, measurable transactions with customers.

How to Choose the Best Direct Marketing List Broker

Whether you are looking to do a mail out, a telemarketing campaign or wanting to reach prospects by email, direct marketing is an effective and affordable way to reach out to potential customers.

The lists you use will determine the success of your direct marketing campaign. Determining who to target the list is a crucial process and establishing your criteria will help you get the best results.

You may want to find a list of consumers or businesses who have purchased products or services similar to yours, or who fall into the demographic profile or income range you are trying to reach.

With thousands of direct marketing lists to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Evaluating list suppliers and finding the right direct marketing lists for your particular campaign can be over whelming.

A direct marketing list broker represents all available lists in the direct marketing industry. they will help you find the best list by understanding your target market. The brokers serve as your guide, providing list recommendations for your marketing efforts.

If possible, look for a list broker who has experience working with clients who target the same type of customer you’re trying to reach. If you are trying to fund raise look for a broker with experience with working with non-profit organisations, or if you are looking for to market to other businesses, look for a brokers with B2B experience.

Is the list broker accessible: Do they call you back? Do they answer your emails in a timely fashion? Do you feel they are trying to build a relationship for future business endeavors? Good brokers realize that relationship building offers other opportunities down the road.

You should ask how the data is compiled and how often it is updated. Ask to see a sample of the data. Before buying the list you should make sure how it looks like, what information is included.

Be aware that good data comes with a cost. Give your budget for the campaign up front so the broker will know if he can accommodate you and your needs.

Also, ask the broker about their customer service and satisfaction policies. A good list broker will stand behind their services, should you get anything other than the list that you ordered, the broker should do whatever it takes to replace it immediately or provide a full or partial refund.

You can search for reviews of the list broker, the internet has no shortage of places to post reviews of customer service. Don’t be afraid to ask for previous customer’s testimonies.

Choosing someone you can trust to do their job well will save you time and money in the long run.