List View-A Targeted Direction (651 words)
Consumers are tuning us out. Now What?
by Jeff Hellinga
No Matter Where they turn, today's consumers are bombarded with advertisements and promotions. Marketing messages are everywhere: in mailboxes, on TV, from telemarketers and on computer screens. The fight for consumers' attention is getting fiercer, and it's forcing many marketers to increase their efforts any way possible.
The most common solution historically has been for marketers to increase the size of their lists. After all, a bigger universe means more targets. But when hundreds of direct marketers expand their universes, the result can be overwhelming: According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. consumers were swamped with nearly 1 billion direct mail solicitations in the second quarter of 2000—the highest since tracking began.
Consumers may have hit a saturation point in their tolerance of unwanted messages. At best, they're tuning us out; at worst, they're generating a backlash against the industry. Time magazine reports the nationwide response rate to direct mail is at an all-time low. An ABC News opinion poll reports that more than ever, people believe the government should pass laws about how personal information is collected and used.
We're at a Crossroad
We can continue with business-as-usual, exhausting list after list in hopes of finding a few new customers—and further threatening consumer confidence and privacy. Or we can take a new approach, one that reviews the entire marketing program: sources of our lists; the offers and analytics we provide; and the measurements we use for success. And we can mend the consumer/marketer relationship.
From my perspective, the future of direct marketing is clear: We need holistic solutions that address the entire direct marketing program, including our lists, messages and measurement tools.
In an age when consumers are inundated with phone calls, direct mail and electronic spam, we need to be focused in the way we target our customers. Moreover, new privacy regulations are forcing change in the direct marketing industry. We must recognize these trends as an opportunity and a wake-up call to not only work harder, but smarter. Are the lists you use current? Are they comprehensive? Do they accurately reflect the target audiences you seek? Bigger lists will only increase your universe. It takes better lists to improve your targeting.