Let's Go All the Way Back to Basics
The base for this article comes originally from my early experiences in direct marketing. Going back to the 1970s and '80s.
Then, not long ago, a happening of long ago was recalled. A one time common experience was repeated. And I was reminded, as we kiss the 21st Century, of just how far the Direct Marketing industry still needs to go.
I was attending a small conference. And met a young public relations freelancer. She asked what I did. And I responded (hey, that's what DM is all about - response!) I'm in the direct marketing business. As a partner in an agency that stages seminars, does marketing programs and consults with businesses.
Her immediate reply was "Oh, you're the guys that send me all that 'junk mail'". A statement ... not a question.
When I said "No," there was a puzzled pause on her face. She, and still scores of thousands of others think Direct Marketing is the adult word for direct mail. Which it is not.
Which is why these words from the past are being sailed in your direction again. Greatly revised from the original, still foundation thoughts.
There are a handful of direct marketing "tactical" tools. Let's look at each, one-by-one.
To begin, may I share with you my definition of our industry: Direct Marketing is a process using various media to affect a measurable response in a specific marketplace.
Okay, what does this say? What does it mean. As with the disciplines of public relations, advertising, sales promotion and merchandising, more than one avenue is walked to achieve a marketing objective.
And yes, direct mail is one of those tools. Frequently still the largest, certainly the best known. It's been around the longest.
In fact, rarely in my experiences with clients has a program been developed where direct mail did not play some part. Small or large, some part.
Mail is being used to generate the first action - a lead, traffic to a site, a phone call ... something. Mail is being used to handle fulfillment of literature, brochures, sales materials. Mail is the means to deliver the product. By mail your customer receives a confirmation of an order, a "thank-you", an invoice.
Direct mail has been, is and will continue to play a major role in direct marketing. It is a factor for a number of reasons.
Direct mail allows you to target a specific audience. That is easier today than ever, yet still not always "clean". And obviously the single most important factor in direct marketing - getting your message to the right audience.
With direct mail you can reach your best prospects and your best customers. You can talk to only a specific type of client. Along with your advertising and PR you can build on the image, awareness, position and interest levels of your companies products and services.
Direct mail is a superb tool to gain a lead for your sales reps or telemarketing team. It is a wonderful way to build traffic at your trade show stand, special fair, local store or shop.
When I was formally introduced to what direct mail can really do it was by guru Bob Hemmings. Bob called mail "the assistant salesman". Meaning it can be there when your sales rep cannot. Covering for you. That concept is alive and well today. It is still true today.
Direct mail asks your marketplace to allow your sales people to give a demonstration, to make a presentation. It follows up with details. It confirms the next step, and the trans-action. It says "thank-you".
So yes, direct mail is a key player - still today! - in the direct marketing success story.
Another media tool often used by direct marketers is print. Newspapers and especially highly targeted, vertical magazines. Publications with a specific purpose, aimed at a specific audience.
Speciality magazines are an excellent way to talk to a special audience. The last 3 decades of the 20th century saw this portion of the industry grow like a weed - up and out and in every direction. If there is a group there is a newsletter, a magazine, a newspaper to serve that group. Which can be "heaven" for a direct marketer with a product or service for that group.
Combine a magazine message with direct mail fulfillment, add a toll-free number and you havethe base of direct marketing growth, expansion, success.
There are those who say the credit card, the telephone, and overnight delivery service are what allowed direct marketing to succeed.
Well, I won't argue ... yet, the credit card and delivery service companies would have nothing to do without mail, print and phone (and today the World Wide Web) to generate action. Last time I checked the card and delivery industries reach me by mail more often than any other way ... even today as we walk into the new millennium.
And then there's the telephone. It's been around since 1876. And yet it wasn't until the end of WWII that it began to become a true marketing tool.
Yes, in the 1890's (I did say 1890's!) John Patterson and his NCR team used the phone as a marketing and sales tool. Yet, it was not in wide use until the 1950's. Since that time it has been almost "automatically" included as a part of every direct marketing program.
The telephone works because it allows for 1:1 personal and instant communication - and feedback. You talk with your prospect and customer, AND you know immediately - really immediately - the situation. Zero waiting time.
Today, even with all the electronics, most of which has been a boost to better communication, nothing is as personal AND effective AND instant as the telephone. Note the explosion of cell-phones to meet the communication demand we have created. And demand is the word. Around the world.
Murray Roman, the "George Washington" of what we now call the TeleMarketing/TeleSelling industry, made it legitimate for businesses to phone their prospects, as well as their customers. You call to present an opportunity, to follow-up on a request, to provide more information following the sales call.
Outbound calling is now a standard for scores of consumer and B-to-B companies on every continent.
Inbound calling, too. Where your prospect calls you. To talk to a sales rep, request a demonstration, to place an order. And for service, too. The toll-free exchanges, now inexpensive and common, have opened marketplaces never before available.
A twist on the telephone is facsimile - fax. The true base for fax is not the telephone ... it is the telegraph. From the railroads of the mid-19th century. The 1840's.
Although formally introduced by AT&T at the 1939 World's Fair in New York, it did not become a true player of any consequence until the 1980's.
Still today fax-marketing is being used more than ever. Which is somewhat of a surprise, with electronic communication so common. My read on this is management wants - feels they need - hard copies of almost everything. They print-out web site and E-mail pages to "keep" - the fax does it for them.
Another set of reasons fax marketing has grown is paper and color. The "cheap" black/white roll paper fax has given way to full color single sheet "presentations". Well, that might be stretching the quality - yet, fax today is certainly at a higher level than just a few years back. And a serious consideration for any DM program. Consumer as well as business.
Broadcast is the next arena of direct marketing success. Radio and television. Radio less so - it a tougher measure.
Yet, so called "drive time" radio (catching people in their cars going to and from work) and "talk radio" (stations that are all talk) offer increased options for direct marketing. And produce results.
Television has been a direct marketing medium from the beginning. The earliest programming carried response commercials. Today TV runs everything from 15 second to 60 minute product specific offers. And of course, 24 hour shopping networks have become increasingly profitable.
Most television is pure advertising. Some is audience directed and target directed. Very little is designed to get a response.
Of those that are the vast majority are product offerings for the consumer. The target is you and me at home, vs. the office. The hook on this is many more people now have an office at home. If not full time, part-time. Thus, the opportunities are greater.
Next are sales support materials, collateral, brochures, literature - a collection of words all meaning the same thing. I feel they should also be included in the direct marketing mix.
Why? Well, because since age 12 I've been ringing door bells. Making an effort to sell something to someone. And these paper tools (they are usually paper) help. It's as simple, as black and white, as just that. Support tools help get the order, the response.
Almost every company has rather decent sales, and sometimes, technical support materials. And almost every company has rather lousy direct marketing brochures!
Here's why I say this; time after time when I've been involved with a program that needed a brochure, or at least it was desirable, one of two things happened;
... an already existing flyer of some sort, designed for an entirely different purpose, was called into action and used - to save money, or
... the brochure created was compromised to the point of saying little to nothing - so it could be used over and over again and again, to continue to say nothing.
The major fault? Failing to AFTO - Ask For The Order. In direct marketing AFTO is not an option ... as it may be in other disciplines. It is a necessity in DM. Which means your collateral and support brochures must also let your prospect and customer know you want to do business with them.
One more thing on brochures; a minute ago I mentioned black and white. Saying having a brochure is a black and white issue - you need one. Now I'm going to tell you they must have some color.
We live in a color world. The world expects color! It is really not an option. And your DM literature is no exception. Black and white (or black on a color stock) is cheap ... not inexpensive - cheap!
How many colors is a decision to be made. Having color is not.
One more topic. The amazing world of electronics also offers direct marketing prospecting, selling and service opportunities. The World Wide Web and electronic mail (e-mail) truly exploded during the last half of the '90's. Into a real marketing set of tools.
My "E" experiences began in 1989 - with an opportunity from Prodigy. By the middle of the decade http://rayjutkins.com was up. E-mail as a business communication avenue - and now a marketing mainstay - are as common for me and my very small company as the telephone, the fax, having marketing/sales literature and the use of direct mail. "E" is part of the mix.
Because E-commerce and all the strings dangling from it are so new, whatever I write today could very well be outdated tomorrow. So I won't say much here - see elsewhere in my writing collection for Web Marketing concepts.
What I will share with you is the WWW and E-mail are direct marketing tools - and thus opportunities - for you. No more, no less than any other medium.
Which means some of you reading this should NOT have a web site! Just as some of you, like me, do not use broadcast as a marketing too, the web is wrong for you, too. This is not necessarily good, nor bad. It is "fact".
Yet, on the other side, if you are in business you must have an E-mail address. Just as you have a telephone number you have no option but to have an E-address. Without it you are not offering your prospects nor customers what they expect. Don't even thing about NOT having E-mail - it is not optional in the 21st century.
Last "E" point: you may feel the web is going to replace many, if not most, of the "old" marketing tools. Not so. Not in your lifetime. Probably not in your grand children's life time.
Change - absolutely. Replace - no way.
You undoubtedly know the turtle and hare story. Fast and slow are relative - it is the end of the game that is important.
So, enough. A collection of old thoughts brought up to date. Hope you enjoyed.
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.