NORWALK, CT – In a two-part YouTube webcast produced by 1to1 Media and Peppers & Rogers Group, a management consulting firm out of Norwalk, CT, four industry experts explore the changing landscape of direct marketing and its impact on businesses and marketers today.

This post is the first of the two-part series and features the following industry experts:

  • Doug King – Marketing Specialist for Catalog and Direct Mail for the United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • Cat Moriarty – Advertising Specialist for the United States Postal Service.
  • Lois Geller – President of Lois Geller Marketing Group
  • Dave Frankland – Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

There are many valid points brought up in the webcast.

There are a lot more direct marketing channels available than ever before that are addressable. Nowadays, along with traditional marketing channels like direct mail and email that use a mailing list, there are new mobile PDA phone devices with their own visual operating systems and applications like Blackberry, iPhone and Android. Also competing for users’ attention are social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. All of these channels are addressable, but they are all working to capture huge chunks of users’ attention.

Today’s Customer Participates on Multiple Channels

Today’s customers are engaged and involved with all of the available marketing channels and they expect marketers, suppliers and businesses to engage them on these same channels in return. Users today do not respond the same as they did in the past when there wasn’t an Internet or World Wide Web. Direct marketers can no longer simply mail a direct mail piece to cold names and expect the same returns as before.

Users today are engaged and involved in social media, email, entertainment media on television and online. There is a culture that expects involvement on the part of the promoter. Users are savvy. They won’t simply hand over their money to a vendor in response to an ad or direct mail piece as they did in the past.

Today’s Direct Mail is Not Your Momma’s Direct Mail

Users are more likely to toss away a direct mail piece unless they have established a relationship with your brand and the mailing piece is a personal follow-up. It needs to be meaningful and expected because the user has had some prior personal contact with your brand via social media, email or other channel.

In the webcast, Lois Geller makes the very important statement, “Direct mail can still push the marketing machine.”

If a business were to use its address list in an effective, coordinated direct mail campaign that ties into the newer electronic and online channels, a world of success would be open to it. This is how to use direct mail in today’s economy. It can be more effective than ever when used accordingly.

Plus, if the user does respond to an offer from your mailing piece then the user’s experience has to be positive. The follow-up to the offer must deliver exactly what the user expects. If the user calls or visits your place of business with offer in hand, then your business can’t be floundering about and wonder who is supposed to handle the customer or what to tell them. The response to the offer must be definite and effective and address the customer’s needs exactly as promised in the offer or else you will lose them and the entire effort will have been a waste.

Today’s Marketing Must Be Holistic

Today’s marketing must be holistic in nature and must work in a coordinated manner. It used to be that direct marketers would have to reach out and start the conversation with the customer. Nowadays, the reverse is the case. Customers are now starting the conversation with the marketer and it is up to the marketer to find out where the customer wants to go and continue the conversation.

As far as strategy is concerned for direct marketers, it is important to bear in mind that the fundamentals that we already learned many years ago still apply in the current market. For example, we know that if we have a plan with objective strategies and tactics and that we have an offer that is really compelling and it is going to the right marketplace, then it doesn’t really matter – a marketer or business who does this will have the edge.