By Dave Gurney, Operations Director, Alchemetrics
Direct marketers are experts at many things, not least in marketing themselves. And by this I don’t just mean in selling the obvious benefits of a data-driven, direct approach.
As an industry we excel at sharing and discussing the techniques – trusted or cutting edge – that can help to evolve and enhance the marketing campaigns we work so hard to create. It is this drive and ambition that has helped our collective innovation and ongoing success, and that has been instrumental in keeping the principles of good, data-driven, direct marketing relevant in today’s competitive marketing environment.
But, I fear we are missing a huge opportunity, not least as the latest Bellwether shows spend dropping in the face of recession, and no doubt as a casualty of the media’s current obsession for prophesising doom and gloom for businesses and the global economy.
Specifically are we, as marketers, not marketing ourselves effectively enough to brands and businesses that either operate outside of the industry and therefore have never embarked on anything like a direct marketing campaign, or are simply deemed too small with too limited budgets to be worthy of our attention or guidance?
There are anywhere between four and five million businesses classed as SME in the UK, and even if a tiny percentage of these could be communicated to, and encouraged to see for themselves the benefits of true direct marketing, we could in an instant tap into a vast prospect pool for our own new business efforts.
Crucial to persuade any of these businesses to invest and experiment is overcoming the lack of understanding that exists of what good direct marketing actually is. Let’s face it; the majority of SMEs are likely to assume direct marketing is direct mail, or more likely junk mail.
As a result their instant response will default to ignoring what they perceive to be an outdated, annoying and environmentally unsound way of soliciting business from their customers.
But good direct marketing has always been about targeting distinct groups, and connecting with them in a way that helps to bypass this kind of apathy. If we can communicate the principles that drive what we do; understanding and maximising customer value; the merits of a clear data strategy; the need to identify segments of customers to target with specific messages; best practice when building up a target audience; advise on the most cost effective channels to use in terms of execution and response rates, we can meet this challenge head on.
Targeting these potential customers with these messages to reveal the potential value they have sitting in their customer database will be a fundamental first step in helping them to embark on their own direct marketing journey.
And could direct marketers even help the economy to stabilise by supporting the SMEs in their marketing effectiveness, championing good marketing which has a positive effect on their bottom line, and by default that of the wider economy?
The job of educating small and medium sized businesses in the ways of direct marketing is no small task, especially as these companies face tough conditions, and are often run by time poor managers struggling with the myriad of other pressures a business faces daily.
Yet it’s a challenge that arguably only direct marketers can meet, not least when the rewards for us, and for them, outweigh the difficulties.
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