Message & Media: Marketers, Ask Yourself: Are You a Real Direct Marketer?
Recently, I've heard from colleagues wondering what the future holds for direct marketers. Some fixate on whether or not they should have a Twitter account or Facebook page. Others say they are still "doing direct mail" in hushed, almost embarrassed tones.
I say, lighten up! In spite of the economy, rising costs and the ever-changing world of social media, direct marketers are well positioned for whatever the future holds.
That is, real direct marketers.
Real direct marketers aren't driven by any one type of media, award-winning messaging or misgivings about changes in technology.
As Larry Kimmel, the new CEO of the national Direct Marketing Association reminded members in his first official communication: "For years, we (direct marketers) knew that leveraging behavioral data and quantifiable results information was a superior go-to-market strategy. Now virtually all of marketing is direct or is becoming direct. We are well positioned to lead the business world again in the creation of even more effective and efficient technologies and techniques."
Here are other truisms about real direct marketers. Which apply to you?
• Real direct marketers know direct and direct marketing are not synonymous with direct mail. There's more to the media mix than just mailing lists.
• Real direct marketers don't stop using a control without first finding a proven replacement. Related to this, real direct marketers wouldn't stop using a proven email, mailing, space ad or landing page just because they were "tired of seeing it."
• Real direct marketers don't identify with only one type of media. They test to find the most cost-effective media for communicating successfully with their targeted audiences.
• Real direct marketers equate new technology with new opportunity because changing technology has always fueled direct marketing growth.
• Real direct marketers pay attention to details. For example, the United States Postal Service was recently named "Most Trusted Government Agency" in a national survey. Eighty-seven percent of Americans surveyed ranked the USPS No. 1 over 75 other federal agencies. That means there's a sense of security and privacy surrounding your mail piece when it's delivered by a uniformed USPS carrier. How are you capitalizing on that?
• Real direct marketers aren't reluctant to learn about new things such as Twitter, Foursquare, mobile advertising, QR codes and text messaging, whether or not they use it.
• Real direct marketers know that people buy, not companies. And people buy from people, not companies (which is why the experts at MarketingExperiments recommend you include the name of a real person with a real title in the "from" line of emails you send to your customers).
• Real direct marketers know what sells, why it sells, who buys it, and when and where they buy it.
• To a real direct marketer, all customers are not equal. Those who buy more often, spend more and have purchased most recently are more valuable than the other 80 percent and are treated accordingly.
• Real direct marketers agree with David Ogilvy, "If it doesn't sell, it's not good advertising." While awards are nice, actual sales and bottom line results are the true measure of direct marketing success.
• Real direct marketers are grounded in reality vs. perception. For example, according to a DMA study, direct mail and catalogs currently drive more than $556 billion, or one-third of direct sales, in the U.S. annually. In contrast, direct response advertising on the Internet, including search and combined with email and mobile marketing, currently makes up less than 30 percent of total direct sales. While the reality is digital channels are growing rapidly, the perception is direct mail and catalogs are dead. But they aren't.
• Real direct marketers solve problems with confidence because they test, track and measure results. Have a low average order? Test offers to increase it. Have a product priced too low with margins too small to sell in single units? Test bundling. True direct marketers love a challenge.
• Real direct marketers also know that while direct marketing has rules … rules are to be broken. However, you owe it to yourself and your business to understand the rules before you start breaking them.
• Real direct marketers understand the difference between features and benefits. They understand successful messaging answers the customer's all important question, "What's in it for me?" Benefits seal the deal.
• Real direct marketers know direct marketing isn't something you do once a year or once a quarter. It's the heart of how you do business.
• Real direct marketers take customer-generated test results over focus group findings any day of the week.
• Real direct marketers understand the offer is more than just free shipping. They understand it's everything you are willing to give in exchange for response to push people over the edge of indecision.
• Real direct marketers have a natural curiosity about what works and what doesn't. And they eagerly learn from both.
• To a real direct marketer, a postcard isn't just a rectangular piece of cardstock. It's a tactile mini- billboard that's an immediate read and, once in-hand, has the recipient's undivided attention.
• Real direct marketers don't stop mailing catalogs unless they are 99.99 percent positive catalogs are no longer responsible for driving online, phone or in-store sales.
You get the idea. Direct marketing is more than direct mail. Paper and postal rate increases won't kill it, because it cuts across all media and because it's accountable. CFOs love it as much as CMOs.
When you're a real direct marketer, you know how much money you make for every marketing and advertising dollar you invest. You know what works and what doesn't. In the best of times and the worst of times, you have a competitive edge. And that now matters more than ever before.