“Direct marketing is the most efficient way to reach a defined audience.”—Sylvia Nash
Many MarCom experts are convinced that direct marketing is dead. Sadly for them, that’s just not the case. According to a 2016 Benchmark Report, direct marketing still accounts for five of the top nine lead generation channels.
In 2016, advertising and marketing spending rose 6 percent from the previous year, reaching more than $347 billion. The cause of this growth is data and a lot of it. There is more than $11 billion being spent on data to support direct mail, email and display advertising and direct mail made up the largest portion of it with $8 billion.
Our technologically driven society has created a unique position for direct marketers. The combination of print and digital tactics is allowing direct marketers to deliver content straight to customers in more ways than ever before.
Direct marketing: What exactly is it?
Defined as, “the business of selling products or services directly to the public,” “direct marketing” has been a vital part of every Chief Marketing Officer’s strategic plan.
Instead of waiting for customers to do research, find your marketing content and fill out a form, direct marketing allows you to bring your organization’s message straight to the customer. There are several ways marketers can deliver content to the customer’s doorstep and into their pockets, including email, direct mail, catalogs, content marketing, mobile, social media and search (among others).
The direct impact of digital
We are in a state of relentless innovation that is dramatically changing consumer behavior. From artificial intelligence (AI) to robotics, the world around us is becoming more digitally focused each day. In fact, by 2021, robots are projected to have eliminated 6% of all U.S. jobs.
AI is expected to disrupt the MarCom industry more than any other innovation. This is because AI allows us to better anticipate a person’s needs and provide a highly customized user experience. Improvements to customer research will make direct marketing efforts more intuitive.
According to the Direct Marketing Association Fact Book 2017, there are several ways technology is disrupting traditional methods of direct marketing.
- Identity management—We are seeing the number of devices an individual has rise to nearly 5 per person. This is prompting marketers to invest in identity management solutions as the number of avenues through which customers can be reached exponentially increases. With more customers drawn to organizations, identity management solutions will help marketers understand and retain existing customers.
- Offline vs. online no longer exists—Gone are the days when customers disconnected. With business cycles running 24/7 and individuals carrying their lives with them in their pockets, marketers have more time to reach customers than ever before.
- Channels, channels and more channels—Technology is changing more rapidly every day. With improvements in the Internet of Things (IoT), new channels to reach customers are popping up everywhere. Currently, there are 8 billion connected devices globally – a number that is expected to rise to over 28 billion in just five years.
Print’s not dead. It’s changing.
It may be 2017, but don’t be too quick to count out print. Direct marketers have seen a jaw-dropping year-over-year increase of 43 percent in customer response rates to print marketing content.
However, there’s more to these numbers than meets the eye. There has been a major shift towards pairing print with digital content. Direct marketers have found that pairing mailings with digital intelligence technology has made their efforts more accurately targeted and timely.
For example, let’s say that your organization sells different forms of soil to nurseries and gardening stores. Your customers love receiving your direct mail content, but most of the time you seem to be a little off the mark when it comes to timing or the needs of the customer. Using digital intelligence methods, such as haptic research can help the organization’s marketing department understand and anticipate the needs of the customers.
But what makes print so valuable? Its physicality. People are able to easily navigate content when it is presented in a physical manner. Furthermore, research suggests that reading on paper uses less of a person’s cognitive abilities.
If that’s not enough to convince you, a recent survey found that 56 percent of customers think printed marketing is the most trusted of all communication channels.
Direct marketing is clearly not dead. Companies like Blue Apron and Stitch Fix have seen major subscription growth thanks to implementing direct marketing tactics as a core business component.
Technology is enabling cost cutting and convenience to be the new norm of our consumer society. By strategically combining new technological innovations with proven methods of the past, direct marketers can help ensure that their customer needs are met quickly and efficiently.