Thursday, April 21, 2005

Direct Mail is Far from Dead

Tara Smith challenged the readers of Marcom Blog: "Given the obnoxious amount of spam out there and low e-mail click-through rates…is it possible direct mail will make a comeback?"

Perhaps I am running counter-culture. I never noticed direct mail disappearing. While it is now surrounded by email and other electronic media, DM remains an essential part of the marketing mix; as essential as advertising, public relations, email, the corporate website.

What should be dead is not the medium, but the poor use of the medium. DM like many other communications media is sorely abused. When that happens, the message hits the trashcan within 2 seconds and we have then wasted our marketing budget.

The important thing as marketing counselors is to help our companies know when to use what mix of communications media to achieve the goals within the budgets. Direct mail plus telemarketing has always been a powerful one-two punch.

Regrettably, much of it is poorly conceived and poorly targeted with totally irrelevant messages and offers that would inspire no one to take action. The challenge we all have is to master the combination of techniques we have at hand, do them exceptionally well, make them contextually relevant and, when possible, entertaining or informative (or both).

I think as counselors we should be very, very careful before we knock any communications medium — even if we don’t like to get them in our mailbox or on our TV or radio. Just make the message contextually relevant to a precisely selected target audience and the medium will perform.

It is one of the reasons I have challenged Jackie Huba at Church of the Customer not long ago on the issue of pre-movie advertising at theaters. Jackie, and many others, felt the theater is one place we go for entertainment. We paid for our seat and deserve not to be pitched while sitting there. My perspective is that it is no different than driving down a highway, turning on a radio or TV show, renting a movie, or opening the mailbox. All are legitimate media.

Now, at the same time, I will profess, and profess loudly, that opt-in media are far more effective. The targeted customer has agreed to accept our messages. If we become non-relevant or if we lose our focus on serving the customer, then the opt-in invitation will be removed. So it keeps us much more centered on the customer's perspective.

But whether intrusive or invitational, I hope we as marketers can see the value of all media to help our companies sell the goods and services we offer. The right target profile. The right message. The right offer. The right touchpoints with the right media mix.


At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Direct Mail is for sure making a charge for new life. The advent of advanced technology on the commercial printer's end will help push the medium forward.

I've worked for numerous print shops the last couple years and graduated with a degree in marketing a year back, and I find the current marketing landscape interesting. How will Variable Data printing and direct mail marketing affect a business? Right now, the response rate for personalized Direct Mail is much higher than the shotgun approach.

With the horrible environment email has become, I'd except the personalized direct mail marketing route to gain in popularity. But then again the whole personalized direct mail approach will succumb to SPAM and junk I guess. Oh well :)


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