Monday, January 09, 2006

Context is a Direct Marketing Strategy

I talk a lot about context and a lot about direct marketing. Context is simply a qualifier for direct marketing. Skip the context and direct does not work as effectively.

More clearly context is not a mass marketing technique. You cannot develop a context beyond a fairly tightly defined customer persona. To reach to the masses is a mistake because the message must be watered down so much that it is no longer contextually relevant to but a few within the mass audience. Direct lets you get more relevant.

Contextual direct marketing is a simple concept. It takes information and analysis to make it work.

Most marketers are unable to capitalize on the concept because of several barriers; customer ADS being only one of them. The barriers are all executional.

Cultural Difficulty in Dropping Advertising

Changing what you have been doing and doing something new always meets resistance. I watch one marketer after another find excuses to keep using mass marketing ... they are really clever at holding on to a strategy that cannot any longer deliver as effectively as direct. The world has fragmented, but they want to run ads. Ads make them feel good. But the returns will not be there. Every dollar spent on mass marketing at the expense of direct marketing is setting you back.

Lack of Understanding

Some managers who use direct marketing as an important tool think they are already doing it. They have not yet grasped the subtle shifts from optimizing response rate to optimizing relevance which in turn optimizes response rate.

Lack of Information

Chances are you do have enough information to get started but you don't have the technology or analysis capabilities to get at the right information already existing in your company. Gartner supports this conclusion, saying typically there is more data available than anyone is actually able to use.

Higher Cost of Execution

Yes, contextual direct is more expensive than mass communication. But the return over time will more than offset the initial and ongoing expenses. The higher cost makes the decision to go contextual more difficult. Ads are so cost efficient. With direct, you need new technology, new staff resources, a new messaging approach, even new creative people who can deliver compelling creativity in a different medium. But the bottom line is that customer conversion will improve.

Success is At Hand

Management culture can be overcome only by clear and powerfully leadership. You need to integrate and balance all the marketing functions: Organizational Commitment, Strategy, Data, Analytics, Messaging, Touchpoint Delivery, Creativity to impact customer needs and interests and to market directly at these consumer-centric qualities.

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