Merging Traditional DM, Interactive

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It's an old but true aphorism: When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem you see tends to look like a nail. This witticism extends to the way that many marketing companies have approached interactive marketing in recent years, even when results just didn't pay out.


Companies and interactive divisions often executed the same creative across multiple media instead of realizing that the value of interactive is the integrated approach it offers.


Hoping they had stumbled upon the Holy Grail of marketing, firms erroneously viewed interactive as an end-to-end media (from lead generation to fulfillment to conversion). This view ignores decades of human behavior. Consumer relationships often dictate the brand, and we must realize that consumers often dictate the path between the marketing they receive and their eventual purchasing decisions.


Certain products mandate a hands-on experience. One would be foolish to expect to generate direct Web-based sales of high-end audio components from leads sourced by rented e-mail lists or banner placements. These audio products are sold largely on user experience. Any campaign that ignores this behavior, hoping that pure interactive would make sales more convenient, cost-effective or easily tracked, is doomed to fail.


A more thoughtful approach to an integrated campaign would be to apply the media and tactics across the components of the campaign where they would drive the most efficient results.


For example, we all know that keying data from business reply cards is a time-consuming, error-prone and expensive necessary evil. This is a perfect opportunity to filter interactive elements into your traditional campaign. From a traditional compiled list, a recipient gets a traditional direct mail piece, but in place of the BRC is a call to action to a related Web site. By driving the potential consumer to the Internet, you not only get quicker, more accurate results, but the information is keyed in for free and, if desired, directly into the primary marketing database.


This is one of the more obvious examples, but other areas where interactive has found a happy marriage with traditional direct include:


Microsites for customer service representatives to close the sale via phone. Anyone who has run broadcast media will tell you that leads driven to toll-free numbers respond in greater quantities than leads driven to the Web.


However, inbound CSRs are not the only cost of a telemarketing response device. There's also the cost of establishing external processes to handle separate data processing and fulfillment systems for the telemarketing-sourced orders, when often these functions already exist on the product's primary Web site.


In these cases, if the primary Web site already has hooks into fulfillment, credit card processing, order tracking or account creation systems, there's no need to duplicate effort. Staffing CSRs at Web-enabled terminals with access to work in the same pre-existing systems that support the client's Web site can be a cost-efficient solution while still letting the consumer interact with the marketing in his preferred manner.


Quick creative testing in e-mail campaigns prior to rollout of print/mail production. Recently, focus group testing and internal research for a large financial services client deadlocked over the nature of the target audience. Two creative approaches were devised. The client loved both. So how to determine which was the control and which was the test? Print equal quantities of both and run an A/B split prior to rollout? That's what we might have done in the past.


Given the vast demographic shift online over the past five years, the audience for our client's database was diverse enough to use as an online sounding board. Creative was retrofitted to work as HTML e-mail, and the testing was conducted purely online, sparing the client needless production expense and providing real-world response data to guide the decision for the offline campaign.


Inexpensive e-mail loyalty campaigns for offline products. One of the world's largest media brands recently founded a continuity club. Soon, the active member base grew to triple-digit thousands, all making their requisite purchases from the pool of available product.


This audience, though sourced offline, had grown accustomed to receiving monthly reminder cards and notifications via HTML e-mail. This vast, receptive audience couldn't have been more prequalified. Already we had a full database of information, in addition to knowing that they had online access, were comfortable transacting on the Web and were involved in our client's product.


It was simple from there to develop upsell and cross-sell opportunities via e-mail that would promote our primary client's business unit within the larger framework of its parent.


Though the sea of hype surrounding the new economy drowned more people than it buoyed, our country is becoming a wired (and wireless) nation, and to ignore the opportunities this presents is perhaps as foolish as to be oversold on the potential.


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