The future has always represented a break from the past, of course, but could that statement be more true than today? For many individuals and businesses, because of the economy, they feel a mixture of dread and uncertainty about the future. Yet for nearly as many, because of our new president Barack Obama, there is also hope in the air for the first time in almost a decade.
Regardless, we know the future will be very different than the recent past, no matter where you sit-copywriter, direct marketer, designer, printer. And don't forget about the prospect, who knows that many things are suddenly different for her and her family-not necessarily better or worse, but often somewhere in the nebulous middle.
So, frankly, the challenges and obstacles are simply too big to not require more radical thinking ... on the behalf of everyone, President on down. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote a Jan. 21 column entitled "A Radical in the White House" that featured a similar theme. He isn't using the word "radical" to indicate a political preference, but rather indicating that Obama must change the fundamental nature of how things are done in government: "This is a radical moment. It is a moment for radical departures from business as usual in so many areas."
Similarly, anyone involved with direct mail would be wise to think about the fundamentals of their business. Then keep the good stuff, jettison the bad and bring in the new! Look at fundraiser Mal Warwick, founder and chairman of Mal Warwick Associates in Berkeley, Calif. and Washington, D.C. Last January he saw the U.S. economy heading south and published a paper entitled "Fundraising in Tough Economic Times." Well, those times have gotten tougher, so Warwick recently readdressed the topic in a new paper in which he lists three possible fundraising strategies: defensive, selective and aggressive.
The latter may be the one that wins, for it advocates increasing donor acquisition activities, even in the face of lower response rates. So constantly innovate, test new direct mail packages and new appeals online, and push hard for more and larger gifts from donors-all the while maintaining the same stewardship policies.
Meanwhile, the DMA just released its first-ever "Future of Direct Marketing" report. Fortunately, DMA research manager and author of the report Michelle Tiletnick was actually reassured after hearing from 35 experts. "The direct marketing community is not alone in feeling the impact of today's struggling economy; however, they have always been resilient. Direct marketing advertising expenditures now account for over half of total advertising expenditures and ... its measurability and accountability ensure that direct marketing is here to stay." Radical resiliency? Try it.