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.
Relevance and Value
A well-honed list is only part of the solution. We need to be sure the offers we provide have relevance and value to the audience we're trying to reach.
Conservative estimates have the average consumer seeing or hearing 1 million marketing messages a year, or almost 3,000 per day! With so much clutter, only the most accurate and desirable messages are going to hit their target. With the capacity to identify different audiences, direct marketers need to segment their messages even further to ensure the right message goes to the right audience at the right time.
Finally, don't underestimate the importance of accurate measurement tools. Too often, incorrect methodologies result in incorrect conclusions, poor forecasting and unrealized opportunities. By refining the way we analyze results, marketers can better identify the clearest path to new customers and increased profits.
Of course, the ultimate goal of these tasks is to create targeted, relevant, highly valued communications with consumers. When we target better, customers are more receptive. And when customers are more receptive, they invite you into their private lives. This is how we overcome the privacy issue.
Better lists, better offers and smarter measurement lead to solutions that allow direct marketers to achieve the financial rewards and positive public image we deserve. In this new era of marketing, it may be the road less traveled, but it's the journey we need to take.
Jeff Hellinga is general manager of PerformanceData, a full-service provider of individual, household, neighborhood and market-area level data for database marketing and direct marketing applications. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, (800) 626-2341.