I went to see a good friend participate as a panelist at a local direct marketing association HVDMA business lunch today. I was a member of the association for a number of years and generally enjoyed seeing and talking with my fellow direct marketing professionals most of whom specialized or still specialize in direct mail. I was reminded that at times people use the terms direct mail and direct marketing interchangeably. Let me make it clear that for the purposes of this lost direct mail is mail. This means anything picked up, or dropped off and then mailed by the USPS or some other provider like Fedex, UPS, DHL, that might arrive in your mailbox. Everything else that constitutes direct marketing is non-mail.
Having plied my trade for more than twenty years in direct marketing (many years primarily via direct mail) I want to make this clear. I LOVE direct marketing. Yet I rarely do any work in direct mail and so far in 2015 I haven’t had the opportunity to employ direct mail for any of our client’s campaigns.
Many of the professionals I saw at the event today are longtime experts in direct mail. I find that these pros while often sporting some grey hair, have by osmosis a deep and thorough understanding of internet marketing. Yet in many cases they continue to work in direct mail since apparently it’s in that area that opportunities are most prevalent for them. It’s not that they are uninterested in search, display, content, native, and social media marketing.
The best digital marketers as I’ve said before, are the best direct marketers. If you found yourself nodding and thinking ‘well that’s obvious’ you’d be surprised how many people miss that point – both on the provider side as well as the client side. The buzzword and acronyms associated with digital marketing can be a bit intimidating. Terms such as DSP, DMP, MSP, SSP and RTB (to note just a few) can make older eyes roll back in their heads. I know how this feels. Yet to have all that talent and experience on the sidelines because of a lack of deep understanding and recent experience in new channels and techniques is such a waste.
Whether companies are in start-up mode (as most are) or around for awhile but in the process of adapting to the rapidly changing e-commerce marketing landscape, consider talking to and working with a direct marketing and even a direct mail expert. Great direct marketers are almost always at ease with math. Why? Because they, (as my partner Nader says), “measure the snot out of everything”. And he’s 100% correct.
What I’ve found in my process of focusing on digital marketing (as direct marketing), is that I regularly employ almost all of the techniques I’ve learned along my path from direct mail.
In return for receiving my endorsement of direct mail professionals, I ask that as a group the question of ‘is direct mail dead’ be dead itself. Direct mail is not coming back to what it once was ever again. Ever. I do like to think that marketing professionals will continue to employ direct mail in appropriate circumstances (I still love the smell of ink on paper as old habits die hard) particularly for B-to-B efforts as well as more expensive consumer products (and those with higher LTV’s). There will be some to point out that overall direct mail is growing year over year as did Bruce Biegel of Winterberry in his annual remarks to the DMCNY this past January. But keep in mind that postage continues to rise and there are more people in the United States every year. The days of mass mailings are long since past. Let your guide be the shrinking amount of printers, mailing houses, direct mail list and other service providers as to whether direct mail is somehow going have some sort of renaissance.
Not every business is constructed with the principles of direct marketing at its core. But with so many companies involved or becoming involved in e-commerce it makes good sense to talk with experienced professionals who have a deep understanding of direct marketing.