Note from Jim: Originally written for All About ROI, the newly branded and revamped Catalog Success Magazine.
As we near the end of the first decade of the new century (time flies right?), the direct marketing business is caught in a war that’s being played out on many fronts.
Let me put this in perspective for you: If you study history, you’ll see that at the turn of every new century comes great change. However, great change is often preceded by great turmoil. Whether it was the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century or the buildup to World War I and the Great Depression in the early 20th century, change, as they say, is gonna come.
The goal of my newly branded column — in this newly branded publication — is to help you drive as much high-quality return on investment (ROI) as possible. I’ll examine ways to do this in the ROI channels and mantra (retail/catalog, online integration) from our magazine’s tagline. I’ll also talk change on a continual basis so you can adapt and thrive.
The point is, we face several threats, many of which are actually opportunities in disguise. And the opportunities are considerable:
* Social Media: You must adopt social media as a tool for engaging your customers and prospects alike, both from a marketing and customer service perspective. New customers are just, if not more, as likely to seek out information from peer groups as they are from product research. This column will discuss strategies for blogging, message boards, video, Web site product reviews, Twitter, Facebook, and more going forward.
* Direct Mail (part 1) — Push Me, Pull You: The chatter I hear every day is that direct mail is dead. Mostly, this is perpetuated by pure-play Internet folks who believe marketing is all about “pull” rather than “push.” I recall in the not too distant past when direct marketers were looked upon by brand marketers as the redheaded stepchildren of the marketing community. Of course, the Internet leveled this playing field, and now all marketers need to be direct marketers to survive. Curiously, the next generation of marketers — weaned on the Internet — see us much the same way.
Funny how things turn. For without the principles of direct marketing, these same Internet marketers would’ve gone the way of the dinosaurs (oops, I meant sock puppets). For a direct marketer to drive consistent ROI, all marketing channels must work together. I’m a big fan of “why can’t we all just get along,” and will go to considerable lengths in this column to create synergy in all channels and with all people.
* Direct Mail (part 2) — Let’s Get Personal: Also part of the chatter I hear is that the death of direct mail has to do with the process itself. Technology exists today to use personalization to increase engagement and, in turn, response rates and ROI. But is it being used? Sadly, many companies aren’t adopting technology. I’ll delve further into personalization, segmentation, PURLS (personalized URLs) and landing pages in this column.
* Direct Mail (part 3) — Revenge of the Tree Huggers: More and more the direct mail industry is being attacked by environmentalists who believe direct mail destroys trees and the planet. Activists are trying to get “do-not-mail” bills passed on a daily basis. Most of these people have no clue about the actual impact of direct mail on the environment (or lack thereof as the case may be) and are just jumping on the bandwagon because it seems like the right thing to do (or they hate junk mail). Our goal as direct marketers, both offline and online, is to mail to relevant customers and prospects. I’ll address how to mail smarter in this column, and you can bet that I’ll loudly voice my opinion against anyone who says the wrong thing about our industry.
* And Then There’s the Economy: People are sitting on the sidelines and not buying. Spending habits, especially around credit purchases, are changing rapidly. I’ll discuss how this affects your business and how to market smarter in troubled economic times. Here’s a hint: People are still buying! Find them, and coddle them. Hint No. 2: Many companies have made fortunes in bad times. You can, too!
* And Lastly, Mobile: Are you prepared for the next channel to open and open big? Over the next few years, mobile will need to be harnessed if you plan on surviving.