Luring customers with content

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Joe Pulizzi, founder, Content Marketing Institute
Joe Pulizzi, founder, Content Marketing Institute

I recently received a US Postal Service direct mailer on variable data printing (VDP). It's a nice piece. It had my name all over it, very personable. The only thing: Iwas bothered by a bit of the copy.

The last line read, "As a large business looking for new ways to appeal to customers, personalization may be the exciting new temptation you're looking for." Irun a small business, but still the question begs: As marketing pros, do we look for "new temptations" to reel our customers in?

I'm no direct mail expert; my expertise is in content marketing (custom media). But it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that VDPwill become the standard. Direct mail, both in print and online, that isn't personalized, will be perceived as spam. Some argue that this is already the case.

But VDP isn't enough. Two things complicate the issue: Buyers are smarter, and they're inundated with marketing clutter. These facts make legitimate marketers cry as even their most sophisticated direct mail programs show low response.

Temptation isn't enough. It's not about how we tempt customers to open a letter or e-mail or anything else. It's about how we as marketers can deliver ongoing information to our customers that make them more intelligent. It's about tearing down the decades of organizational interruption-style marketing practices that most of us are used to, and creating a singular focus on delivering quality content in multiple formats. Our goal is to help customers do their jobs better, or lead improved lives.

The future of marketing is not about tempting them or conning them into buying more; it's about communicating a message that says, "Regardless of whether you buy from me or not, you need this information. Enjoy!" Smart marketers are doing this today via every medium imaginable, including direct mail.

There will always be a place for direct mail in the years to come, but personalization without valuable content will be destined for the trash. Those brands that take the high road will find profitable customer relationships that drive business success.

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