A Case for Analog in a Digital World
True, the world has gone digital. But that doesn’t mean customers no longer want to hold a catalog in their hands! Here’s another compelling argument for integration; specifically, keeping print, and tried-and-true DM techniques, a part of your marketing mix.
I believe that most direct marketers will find the following to be a reasonable modern definition of our profession: Direct marketing is “the monetization of data in a privacy- compliant manner.” My argument for the continued use of analog direct marketing techniques follows from this premise. (It’s still the data, stupid!)
I grew up in an analog world. I remember shared telephone “party lines” and black-and-white TV. As a direct marketer, I remember an era before PCs, when a mail order was really an order placed though the mail.
Today, most of the articles in print and online are about the importance of having a “social media strategy.” That is the world of direct marketing in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.
But I will argue that direct marketers who ignore print and the tried-and-true techniques like recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) analyses are leaving money on the table. Consumers who buy direct have shifted how they buy (more online and less by phone or mail), but not what they buy. And they still want to have a trusted relationship with companies and buy products and services that are relevant to their own unique lives.
Print and RFM still work
Direct marketing has always been about monetizing data by targeting customer preferences. RFM still works – digitally and in print. Case in point: I mailed a small catalog, with an equally small circulation (30,000) this past fall. The response rate was off the charts. And the results were as predicted by our RFM analysis: The most dollars came in from the most recent buyers, followed by the multi-buyers and finally customers with the largest prior purchases. The catalog, with fully loaded costs, generated a
handsome profit. True, more customers ordered online than in the prior year, but I am certain that, without ensuring those customers had a catalog in-hand, the total profit would have been less.
Why? The slim-jim sized book, with a compelling cover, got the attention of a ready buyer increasingly deluged with online offers. The catalog stood out from the crowd as something concrete the customer could hold in his or her hand.
For that reason, I am of the opinion that adding mail offers to your marketing mix can actually get your products or services more attention these days.
Should you add print to your mix? Test it and see.
Should every direct marketer be in print today? Probably not; however, I would argue that most should – and you will never know whether you should mail until you simply test it.
And that doesn’t have to cost you too much. Printers are creating more ways to make ink-on-paper competitive with other ways to reach customers. Co-mailing alone has made it possible to put more catalogs in the mail profitably.
Finally, here’s a strong argument for testing a print run: Even Amazon and Google – who are no-doubt the most successful of the pure-play digital marketers – are testing print.
Multi-channel becomes omnichannel
The most successful direct marketers understand that you must meet your current and prospective customers where they are. And there are customers who still prefer to view products and services in print, even if their preferred ordering vehicle is online. There are buyers who would prefer to speak with a live, knowledgeable customer service representative before placing an order, and finally, there are still people who will send in a mail order. We must not ignore these individual preferences!
I am a big champion of social media, and agree that direct marketers who ignore that important vehicle do so at their peril. However, I’m also convinced that ignoring traditional direct marketing practices will result in lost profits.
Consider expanding your multichannel marketing to embrace some tried-and-true direct mail practices. The results could surprise you – in a very good way.
Bob Allen is President/CEO of the WindhamFoundation (www.windham-foundation.org),based in Grafton, Vermont. The foundation has two operating businesses: The Grafton Inn and The Grafton Village Cheese Company. Bob retired in 2005 after 25 years at The Vermont Country Store. In 2010, he served as Interim CEO of the Direct Marketing Association in New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.