Is it Time to Rename Direct Marketing?

September 19, 2012

Ginger Conlon, editor-in-chief of Direct Marketing News and a respected journalist who has been at the helm of venerable customer relationship and marketing publications such as CRM magazine, 1to1, and Sales & Marketing Management, recently asked me to spar with Tim Suther, the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer of Acxiom, a marketing data company. She wasn’t asking me to get into the boxing ring with him, though I’m a tough Polish girl from Reading, PA who rarely backs down from a fight. Instead, she presented the opportunity to contribute to one of my favorite DM News columns, “Gloves Off,” a regular feature where two marketing professionals provide very different responses to the same question. The question Tim and I debated was whether it is time to do away with the term “direct marketing.”

I encourage you to read Tim’s complete response, but it came down to him seeing “direct marketing” as a channel: direct mail. And he suggested replacing “direct” with “data-driven” to acknowledge the supremacy of data in effective marketing. I don’t disagree with the importance of data to planning, managing and measuring marketing success, but I see direct marketing as much more than direct mail.

I recently read a Target Marketing interview with Larry Kimmel, the former CEO of the Direct Marketing Association. Something he said rang true: “There are three components that are revered in contemporary marketing: data, customer-centricity, and accountability. That’s what direct marketing has always been.” The interview with Kimmel is an excellent read, and I encourage you to do so.

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Marketing has become highly targeted.

Marketing is perceived as strategies and activities designed to gain penetration in a “market.” Those are broad and general terms, just like when mass marketing was broad and general. Marketers and consumers have become more sophisticated they have become increasingly segmented. Add to this the narrowing of media consumption and the wide adoption of social media – admit it, even your mother is on Facebook – and the art and science of marketing had to adapt. And it has.  Marketing has become highly targeted. “Direct” was marketing’s first nod to data. The ability to deliver addressable marketing materials (or activities, such as in a call center interaction) have expanded with both upgrades to “hard” technologies (variable print and address code labeling, for example) and “soft” (the Internet paved the way for mass email and got regulated into more personalized email).

I think few people today would argue that direct marketing isn’t just direct mail and that its scope crosses many channels—so many that it’s hard to keep up sometimes for those of us in the field. What seems equally important is to recognize that it’s essential to integrate our marketing efforts for best result, and to ensure that we have the cross-channel analytics in place to evaluate what parts of our strategies are working and which aren’t. It’s a bigger challenge today to do direct marketing—however you (re)define it—than ever before.

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Cross-channel analytics allows you to evaluate what’s working and what’s not.

Direct isn’t a bad word. It was direct mail marketers who really understood the value of segmentation. And to this day, they are the ones who really get the power of “one,” whether it’s through email or some other direct means. So maybe we should respect the direct marketing legacy for having been a catalyst for where the power of the Internet, marketing automation, and mobile communications is taking us. I say we keep the old standard in homage, if nothing else.

Ginger seems to have decided in my favor (yaay!), writing that direct marketing is “the same as it’s always been, when it’s at its best: targeted, relevant, and engaging—and supported by data. It’s a practice; not a channel. So, whether marketers are focused on email or search or digital, or their work is primarily on integrated programs, if they’re using data to inform their decisions, to segment their customers, and to make continuous improvements, they’re applying the principles of direct marketing. So we say embrace it, proudly.”

 

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The Best-Case-Scenario for Social Media

August 19, 2011

A few humor blogs are passing around a story today about a hungry businessman who received a free porterhouse for taking the time to tweet a joke. In case you missed it, the short version is that businessman and Twitter icon, Peter Shankman, posted a tweet to Morton’s restaurant before getting on a flight that would delay his dinner. Shankman said he was starving, and asked Morton’s to meet him at the destination airport with a steak. For almost any other restaurant, that would be the end of the story, but Morton’s was different.

Looking for my driver, I saw my name, waved to him, and started walking to the door of EWR [Newark Airport], like I’d done hundreds of times before.

“Um, Mr. Shankman,” he said.

I turned around.

“There’s a surprise for you here.”

I turned to see that the driver was standing next to someone else, who I just assumed was another driver he was talking to. Then I noticed the “someone else” was in a tuxedo.

And he was carrying a Morton’s bag.

Someone at Morton’s had seen Shankman’s tweet, and sent a driver 24 miles to Newark Airport to deliver a porterhouse steak, colossal shrimp, potatoes, bread, and silverware.

A few minutes late, and the whole thing would have been a waste of time, but as it happened, Morton’s walked away with huge publicity…..for the cost of a single dinner.

This is the way that social media should work, but the reality is often very different. It was only a happy set of coincidences that led to the “miraculous” story above. Someone managing Morton’s social media happened to notice Shankman’s tweet, and a restaurant happened to be within driving distance of the airport. Unless you are willing to pay someone to monitor your incoming tweets 24-hours-a-day, your business will not likely see a similar event, and in any case, it is too late to be the viral sensation Morton’s was.

However, it isn’t too late to make sure that your social media efforts are designed for the purpose of listening to your customers, and responding to them. Social media is as much about responses as it is about marketing, and too many brands seem to forget that. Think simple: post a poll asking for your followers’ favorite menu items, and then put those on special the following week. Ask what coupons your customers want to see, and then deliver them. Showing your customers that you care about what they are saying will do wonders for your brand, and you don’t even need to drive thirty minutes to hand-deliver a porterhouse steak.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


How Starbucks Finally Won at Viral Marketing

August 12, 2011

Viral marketing campaigns are the holy grail of internet advertising. A campaign that takes off on its own, spreading organically from consumer to consumer, with little to no effort from its creator. After a history of notoriously clumsy attempts, Starbucks may have finally knocked one out of the park.

Earlier this week, news sites started promoting an already popular story: Mobile App Consultant Jonathan Stark released an image of his Starbucks digital payment card on his blog. The idea was that anyone that wanted coffee could use his card, free of charge, and that good Samaritans could make donations to refill it, should it go empty. The stunt was described as a “social experiment,” and was intended to show that there was still good in humanity, despite outward appearances.

Early cynics called Stark out, already smelling the tell-tale signs of forced viral marketing. Stark denied any connection with Starbucks coffee, and the public happily ran wild with the story. Now, one determined blogger has unearthed the ugly and more realistic truth. It seems that Mr. Stark’s employer lists (or rather, listed, since it has recently been removed) Starbucks as a client company. Is it coincidental? Perhaps, but most feel that the curtain has been thrown back, and Starbucks has been caught red-handed.

Whether or not Jonathon Stark is actually involved, the campaign has been a huge success. The card built up a balance of $3,651 from the starting balance of $30 (As of this posting, the card account has been emptied). A popular Twitter feed was set up to monitor the crowd-sourced card’s balance, and plenty of people enjoyed free Starbucks coffee. What happens now, remains to be seen, but few can doubt that Starbucks is laughing all the way to the bank.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


Are Your QR Codes All Bark and No Bite?

August 5, 2011

Over the past year, the marketing industry has fallen head-over-heels for QR codes. We have done a piece or two about them in the past, but it is time to take a more critical look at this newest campaign must-have.Time Magazine Cover, From Mashable.com

Many marketers seem to throw QR on everything, without logic or reason, resulting in too many companies including the codes in marketing materials in which they are completely unnecessary or out of place. This Mashable article details five examples of truly baffling logic, where it is obvious that the QR code is included just because it can be.

It is true that, when handled well, a QR code can become a convenient call to action that bridges web and print campaigns. However, marketers need to start taking the time to question if the included code is adding any value to the campaign. There is little available real estate on a piece of print marketing, and an unsightly black-and-white square can easily detract from an otherwise successful campaign without providing any value in return.

Marketers need to ask 5 big questions when considering QR codes in any campaign:

  1. Does this code add anything to my campaign that simple text or a URL cannot achieve?
  2. Will this code be located in a place/way that will make it easy and inviting for consumers to use?
  3. Is the code linking to something that provides a reward to the consumer? Will they appreciate the time they spent visiting the linked content?
  4. Are the targeted consumers likely to have smart phones, and Wi-Fi or 3G access, when they see the code?
  5. How much of my campaign am I willing to hide from those consumers that do not have a smart phone?

At the most basic level, marketers should be asking, “Is this code a waste of time for me, my target audience, or the brand I am promoting?”

Some marketers are probably only including QR codes on their campaigns so that they can add another bullet point to their portfolios, and that may be fine for the lowest denominator. Those that really want to be putting together truly memorable and successful campaigns, though, will take the time to question the value of the marketing industry’s new toy.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


Internet Tracking (Again): What’s the Big Deal?

July 29, 2011

When we last wrote about Internet Tracking about 5 weeks ago, we figured it would be our last word on the subject. Legislation was being passed to require online data-farmers to provide clear “opt-out” options, consumer awareness was growing, and things seemed to be improving.

Since then, absolutely nothing has changed. Actually, that isn’t really true, they have gotten worse.

News sites continue to write sensationalist stories suggesting that internet marketers are waiting like ravenous dogs for every scrap of information you leave online. Buzz words like “Threat,” “Invasive,” and “No Privacy,” crop up over and over again. People are desperate to find any way they can to surf the internet anonymously, leaving behind no trace of their habits. We think it is time to be a little more realistic.

1. What is Internet Tracking Really Doing to Harm You?

When you click onto a site – any site – you leave behind a cookie, which is simply a piece of data equivalent to scratching your name on the wall of a building. Companies that make money off of data like this are only interested in one thing: what do you click on, and why? Trackers want to follow you from one site to the next, trying to find a pattern in your browsing. That information helps them build and sell models for better online advertising; essentially they want to find a way to make their clients’ products more interesting to you.

In general, people using cookies aren’t hunting for your specific home address, phone number or daughter’s Facebook profile. They just want to know where you are shopping, and what got you there. Have you ever taken a survey where you told a store or website how you found out about them? It’s quite literally the exact same information. True, these companies are not asking for your permission, so you could argue that this is an invasion of privacy, but surely there is some exaggeration going on. If a marketer were sitting outside of a public mall, making note of which stores people went into, would you file a lawsuit against them?

2. By Going Online, You May Soon Waive the Freedom to Privacy.

On July 28th, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation requiring all Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to track and store data of every single thing you do online for at least one year. Any word you type, link you click, image or video that passes over your monitor will be tracked, saved, and analyzed by your ISP. Honestly, the vote wasn’t even close, with 19 out of 29 representatives in favor of the bill. In truth though, even without this bill, ISP’s still monitor data usage and addresses frequently visited by users.

Internet trackers and internet users are both trying to accomplish the same thing. Trackers want to make advertising that is less irritation and more inviting, and users want to easily find things they are interested in and want to buy. We can’t see a loser anywhere in this equation.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


Are We In a Direct Mail Renaissance?

July 22, 2011

With all of the attention paid to social media, mobile technology, and advancing tech integration, it is easy to forget the power and success of a simple direct mail campaign. That isn’t to say that print numbers have dropped – they have been rising slightly thanks to efforts by the USPS to simplify and internalize the process – but they have become something of an invisible entity.

For many marketers, direct mail is simply another step to be ticked off on their strategy checklist. Consumers, meanwhile, are still skilled in the art of blindly tossing out those half-hearted attempts at mail advertising. Now, a few enterprising companies are making an effort to return to the kind of eye-catching direct mail pieces that can turn a faltering campaign around.

This blog, describing the Birthday-like joy of an unexpected package from Hendrick’s Gin, is a testament to the power of tactile response. For many consumers, physical objects contain a level of sentimentalism that no electronic mailing list can ever reach. Something as cheap and easy to produce as a notepad can endear a customer to your company for life. Most of us hate junk mail, but everyone likes presents.

But, what about younger generations?

It is easy to dismiss the youth of our culture as tech-obsessed kids who will scarcely recognize a stamp in ten years, but that is perhaps an unfair judgment. A new online service, Snail Mail My Email, has been widely popular with everyone from teens to boomers. In fact, the free, volunteer-run service has had to stop taking orders due to a massive response. Snail Mail will take any email, and handwrite it on nice stationary, before putting it in a custom envelope and dropping it in the mail box. Of course, there is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek sense of antiquity to the whole thing, but still, the service shows that paper letters will never go out of style.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


MarketingBench™ Webinar Recap

July 15, 2011

Over the past few weeks, we have been pointing out some of the problems unique to marketing in the franchise industry. Some of the worst of these are:

  • Little to no control over corporate brand
  • No central database for franchisees to access marketing collateral as a ‘self service’ tool
  • Level of knowledge on the franchisee side of how to execute a integrated direct mail campaign
  • Tracking capabilities and ROI measurement to the franchisee level
  • Marketing vs. Customer Service – little time to market
  • Consistency & Repeatability vs. Localization & Customization
  • Marketing comes in many shapes & forms

These problems are all compounded by the fact that any marketing for a franchise is divided into three conflicting groups of problems.

Three Factors of Franchise Marketing

So how do you resolve this conflict?

WebbMason MarketingBench™

Marketing technology is designed to meet a specific set of needs. This technology automates and organizes the system, offers opportunity for self service, allows for collection of information, allows marketing process to be done online, allows for control of access, speeds time to market of your message, and allows for targeted communication and better execution. WebbMason’s MarketingBench™ is a proprietary single-source marketing platform to manage all aspects of your marketing strategy online. It adapts to any sales channel model, and gives you more control over your inventory and brand.

WebbMason MarketingBench™

For more information on MarketingBench™, click here.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


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