Editor's Notebook: The Rules Have Changed
There's no use denying it: The universe of active direct mail consumers has shrunk. Sure, there's less direct mail and decreased response rates this year because of the current economy, but even if the economy rights itself fully in next year or two, few direct marketing experts expect it to ever return to the days of yore when direct mail was the preferred response channel.
However, these less responsive direct mail consumers haven't stopped shopping or buying. "They have just migrated to online channels," says Michael Bloom, vice president of direct marketing operations for Datran Media. "Great direct marketers are embracing that change, listening carefully to their core consumers and responding intelligently by offering them convenient multichannel options for website engagements."
This major shift in how consumers behave is what provided the impetus for my feature on websites, which all direct mailers must not only have in their arsenals today, but have one that is fully optimized (see page 12). Indeed, if you want to be taken seriously by consumers and prospects, the online marketing arm of all direct mailers must get stronger.
The role of direct mail and its online components-websites, e-mails, landing pages, pURLs-has changed dramatically over the past few years. "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," says Gary Hennerberg, a copywriter and direct marketing consultant. "It's less and less of us pushing our wares to consumers and businesses. It's more and more consumers and businesses 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 who don't recognize this fundamental shift now risk lagging behind when the economy perks back up, worries Hennerberg. For example, 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 the online world continually evolves and rapidly at that.
Hennerberg views 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, web-savvy upstart who outmaneuvers you. Old dogs can learn new tricks, right?