Building Direct Connections

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Robert Yallen
Robert Yallen

As more B2C brands build direct connections with consumers, how will this affect direct response strategies?

Advertisers today—whether B2C or direct-to-consumer (D2C)—must build a robust connection directly with prospects by developing a comprehensive, integrated branding and media approach. Simply building a direct connection with consumers through communications about a product's attributes, or sending prospects related electronic coupons or texts, is not my definition of using a direct response (DR) strategy in the B2C world.

The first stage of formulating the most effective DR strategy is typically split along two parallel paths: how to best integrate appropriate DR tactics within existing creative and media executions.

From a creative messaging standpoint, the goal is to craft copy that is compelling and motivating. For D2C companies, the call to action should result in a direct sale, or prompt further research—preferably by the prospect visiting the advertiser's website—that will lead to a sale. For B2C companies that have additional channel considerations, such as retail, the messaging also can direct prospects to a brick-and-mortar location to complete their purchase.

From a media standpoint, the goal is to reach the highest number of qualified prospects, with sufficient frequency, at the lowest possible cost. This is an area where direct response applications clearly have a positive impact.

Additionally, when a DR campaign is planned and tracked properly, marketers can collect a wealth of media and consumer response data to analyze and apply. Continuous, timely optimization of the main variables—media placement, creative messaging, options, and response channels—will result in ongoing campaign refinements that increase ROI.

The media marketplace

Of course, constructing a well-targeted media campaign is a crucial step in any program's success—but it can be challenging in today's evolving media environment.

It's more difficult than ever to reach prospects cost-efficiently. Rates for direct response mass media vehicles have escalated, even as the proliferation of TV and radio stations have amplified audience fragmentation. Audiences continue to shift their attention from print to digital, while printing and mailing costs remain on the rise. New categories of advertisers, such as traditional B2C brands, have begun to try DR media strategies, like DRTV, thereby increasing demand and elevating rates even further.

For many advertisers, these dynamics add up to higher CPMs and lower response, an unsustainable formula. So, it's become critical for an advertiser to quickly understand the most applicable direct response strategies to test and evaluate, and the best methods to ensure that they pay out, whether there is one or multiple channels of distribution.

Why direct response?

Despite potential pitfalls, B2C marketers can effectively use DR strategies in multiple ways, especially when a response mechanism is built into the messaging. First, DR can be an excellent way to introduce a new product or service. A highly targeted media buying strategy—where reach and frequency goals are secondary to cost-per-attainment metrics—can achieve an advertiser's goals at a fraction of the cost of its general media counterpart. Additionally, since direct response by definition is interactive, a marketer can build on each prospect's initial response through targeted follow-up strategies and customer retention programs.

Of course, this strategy is not recommended for every B2C advertiser, especially if its product or service only appeals to a very narrow segment of the population, or the products are not the type that typically fit into the DR ROI model.

Marketers can also use DR strategies to launch new brands, even without realizing immediate ROI. This means using cost-efficient DR media and the wealth of data insight to gain a secondary goal, such as retail distribution.

A third path is to make DR a component of a brand marketing strategy. This growing hybrid media strategy uses DR rates to deliver media weight inexpensively to build awareness and image, and ultimately sales, via extremely efficient reach and frequency attainment. Though not a launch strategy, this approach is used by mature brands.

Finally, orphan brands, or fledgling products that might have been dormant or off the shelf for years but retain a recognizable brand name, can use a DR strategy to bring life back to the brand. This is similar to using the hybrid strategy as detailed above—but, depending on the type of brand and product category, direct channel sales have the potential to become profitable.

Ultimately, the biggest advantages to integrating a DR approach are media cost efficiency and the ability to analyze consumer feedback. When these two elements are incorporated, an advertiser receives the dual benefits of more powerful media delivery and campaign optimization, and therefore, a stronger position for success.

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Robert B. Yallen, InterMedia Advertising

It's no surprise that Robert Yallen was a collegiate All-American sprinter. Keeping up with him today is definitely a challenge. As president and CEO of the InterMedia Group of Companies, he oversees 12 different units that all operate individually, but can also synergistically combine to offer a variety of services to the company's clients. The cornerstone of the company's business has been blending direct response advertising with general market resources and techniques. Yallen was one of the first to perceive the value of direct response advertising—which requires a toll-free number and/or website call-to-action—as a cost-effective marketing strategy. He thought that traditional advertising failed to ask for the sale in strong enough terms and that direct response could be adapted for major advertisers.

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