Direct Marketing's Renaissance

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Digital marketing has deep roots. Learn how the best practices of direct marketing have evolved and shaped today's DM practices. Behavioral data helps marketers target with increased precision. Read how founding practices are still part of best practices in Bader Rutter's direct marketing update.

A century and a half after Aaron Montgomery Ward's disruptive move to send a catalog of his products directly to consumers in their homes, core principles of direct marketing have evolved to become the foundation of the digital marketing landscape.

Direct marketers can now measure and leverage behavioral metrics that weren't available prior to today's technology and have more opportunity than ever to use their well-honed skills. 

In fact, three key direct marketing practices of the past have solidified their role in marketing's future, amplified by access to behavioral metrics and contemporary platforms and their possibilities.

1. Targetabililty

Individual targeting has been supercharged with the explosion of digital and social communications. These channels offer sophisticated tracking methods that enable marketers to track consumer behavior online or on mobile devices. Facebook has mastered the deep degree of targeting available to marketers today by offering data on users' past purchase behavior and life events. Then add the platform's ability to leverage hyperlocal targeting and users' self-selected and tracked interests, and marketers have the opportunity to expose their message with near surgical precision.

Programmatic ad buying is one of the best examples of how targeting has evolved and changed the marketplace. Rather than find the right publication to reach a specific audience, advertisers can enter a marketplace where publishers sell inventory through various programmatic platforms and buyers can focus on targeting by audience, not outlet. For example, we can reach 18- to 34-year-old women through a range of media outlets. Through the programmatic system, the technology optimizes the mix of ads the target sees based on their behavior. And the ad can be kept in rotation with others that specifically speak to similar behaviors and needs, creating a holistic mix of advertising designed just for the target, optimizing ad performance.  

To make the most of great targeting options, marketers should consider what behaviors they'd most like to be associated with. Because a channel can provide data about times of day a user regularly accesses a site, for example, marketers should consider messages that not only align with their target but also align with other behaviors consistent with that time of day. Amplifying the message by using behavioral data as well as the characteristics already identified about the target means you capitalize on the buyer's identity as well as their real-time actions.

2. Personalization

Personalization once meant reading your name instead of “current resident” on a mailer. Now, beyond location, marketers can insert a personalized experience based on a relevant message delivered in any platform — all because of a measure of a user's past purchases or interests. Relevant copy and graphics are deployed to users based on who they are and their digital footprint — women may see women in their ad graphics or items similar to those they've shopped for recently are part of the ads presented to them.

Tools like in-app mobile messaging can capitalize on online purchases to target users where they use the products. Buy a sports ticket online? Find yourself with a mobile alert at the concession stand offering you a discount on nachos and beer. Near-field communications (NFC) deliver promotional materials and interactions to the consumer in real time. As shoppers wait in line at the meat counter, they could get a new pork recipe pushed to their phones while they decide on what to order for dinner.

Marketers are challenged to ensure such personal touches with their targets provide valuable content and useful information to alleviate the feeling of surveillance. To create the appearance of serendipity in  consumers' digital worlds is an ultimate, and effective, goal. Striking a balance between giving consumers personal attention that they welcome and abusing your insights such that your marketing becomes a creepy invasion of their privacy is important.

3. Calls to Action

This used to be a singular metric for your targets — did they or didn't they accept/click/return/purchase. Now, measuring what saying “yes” means can be optimized with behavioral metrics like how much time they spent on the site, how much information they shared, whether they returned to it later and more. As a result, our calls to action have become more sophisticated.

One benefit of digital functionality is its ability to provide a seamless experience with no interruption between the reply and delivery.

This allows the browser to get information — and more of it — faster.

Mapping a content stream is essential. Marketers must prepare their content for interested users: If they demonstrate interest, make content readily available for them to continue down the funnel. Equally important is that marketers not challenge users with too much gated content. Asking a single question at a time, or “progressive profiling,” is a more effective way to provide value and earn the customer relationship.

In display ads, sequential ad serving allows for a series of messages and different calls to action to be sent in sequence depending on the behaviors or speed of someone researching and clicking. Retargeting content based on past use is one of the most successful advances in direct marketing. Knowing which pieces of your content arsenal have already been presented to your targets and knowing, based on accumulating data about their visits, what they'd likely turn to next means you can always provide them value.

This intricate understanding of your targets and what makes them click means marketers are beholden to providing ample quality content that keeps users clicking through the funnel.

Behavioral data has revolutionized direct marketing. The very digital capabilities that bring us this rich data are the same capabilities that have grown the channels users are now exploring.

Direct marketing practices created the foundation for interacting with customers based on available data. Now, every channel our targets connect with provides them value while simultaneously collecting data marketers can use to build effective relationships.

Want to learn more? Download Bader Rutter's Direct Marketing Renaissance ebook here

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