Direct Meets Digital: How Direct Marketing Has Evolved With Technology

Direct marketing has gone through a number of transformations over the years.

And while certain aspects have changed, strategically driven direct marketing is still as viable as ever in helping businesses attract today’s discriminating customers and meet their high demands.

With the advancement of technology---in particular the Internet, Social Media, smartphones and other mobile devices---direct marketing has taken on a digital component. As a result, marketers can focus less on appealing to the masses and more on modeling and optimizing advertising to target individual prospects and customers. Here’s a look at some of the ways that direct marketing has evolved with technology.

Digital Tools  

Through the use of various mailing preparation solutions, marketers can ensure that their direct mail promotions are delivered to the right people at the right address. And better database technology allows for better tracking, segmenting and targeting. Knowing that their campaigns are reaching the correct target audience, marketers can test new mailing campaign ideas and get more accurate results as to which ideas work and which ones don’t. Accurate, up-to-date contact information also allows marketers to establish better relationships with customers by keeping communication alive and focusing the discussion on the customer’s specific needs and wants.

Offline Meets Online

The rise of the Internet ushered in the era of Online Marketing. This game changing direct marketing channel put the power in the hands of consumers, allowing them to seek out, research, and order products over the Internet with just a few clicks on a personal computer.

As the popularity of Online Marketing exploded it was predicted that traditional direct marketing would soon become extinct. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Boasting the best response rates and content ROI of any marketing channel, direct marketing is a proven and powerful tool that businesses and ad agencies can use to drive customers to digital channels and offerings. The key with direct marketing is to deliver the right message and offer to motivate customers to go to a website for online shopping. Today’s digital printing technology is also a plus, as it allows for full four color variable printing to make each promotional piece uniquely targeted to an individual with both text and graphics.

The merger of offline and online strategies is synergistic, as it gives marketers a multi-channel approach using the Web, email, print, and marketing automation to create campaigns and winning outcomes that exceed the sum of their parts. Thanks to the integration of offline and online tools and strategies, all marketing can now be considered direct marketing.       

The Rise of Social Media

Social media has had a dramatic impact on direct marketing, to the extent that Social Media Marketing has become a strategy on its own. While direct marketing campaigns carry targeted messages to the mailboxes of consumers, social media has the potential to spread the marketing message literally all over the world. Using social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, organizations can engage and interact with current and potential customers on a personal level and in ways that traditional direct marketing just doesn’t permit. It’s about reaching out to consumers not just where they physically reside but where they “live” and hang out virtually on the Web. The key to effective social media marketing is providing content that is fresh, current, and relevant, the type of likeable content that users will want to share with others in their vast social network. Organizations that focus on providing a consistent outflow of relatable quality content will be rewarded by the constant inflow of new qualified leads.   

Integrating direct marketing with social media marketing has a number of advantages. For starters, while direct marketing can come off as being blatantly self-promotional, social media marketing is more customer centric, as it encourages the exchange of ideas through two-way conversations. Social also provides a forum for customers to voice honest feedback regarding the product or service for good or bad. As a result, the brand gains trust and credibility, at the same time attracting new customers as loyal followers who become strong brand advocates share quality content. Finally, unlike direct mail marketing campaigns that carry significant postage and printing costs, social marketing campaigns are extremely cost-effective, as those hard expenses are completely eliminated.

Marketing Meets Big Data

Technology has ushered in the era of data driven marketing. With the aid of Big Data analytics the union of direct and digital marketing provides a wealth of information and insights---the kinds of actionable insights that marketers can use to drive decisions and improve their campaigns. For example, Google Analytics reports and other metrics can yield important insights as to what content gets the most “shares” and “likes”, which social platforms yield the best results, and what strategies are maximizing conversions. And with the proliferation of mobile devices, geo-location and big data technologies now make it possible for marketers to deliver highly targeted and personalized messages directly to consumers in real time and in context.

Clearly when it comes to direct marketing, technology has spurred both an evolution and a revolution. Going forward it is those organizations that successfully merge direct and digital marketing tools and strategies to create and execute more personalized and targeted campaigns that will enjoy greater profitability and competitive advantage.