Roots of DM know no bounds

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Last week, I left behind New York's cold weather to enjoy the tropical temperatures of an island off the coast of Central America. While I missed out on some scarf and glove wearing, I did not suffer for lack of good direct marketing examples.

Despite minimal hot water availability and no Inter­net service or cars, the unpaved roads of the village were rife with data collecting, affiliate offers, word of mouth promotions and customer retention efforts. Relationship marketing's pivotal role is very much evident in a small village. For example, because most of the island's inhabitants worked at more than one establishment, word of mouth and good customer service became the key to getting your breakfast cli­ents to patronize your bar or club later that evening. Clearly, good DM is universal.

The underlying logic and precision of good messag­ing and product or service positioning with strategic follow up is evident regardless of whether you're on an island of more than 8 million or just shy of 1,000: Get your target customer in a trusting, one-to-one conversation. What varies by location is the tech­nology or preferred customer access point. And of course, best practices can be a struggle to define and agree upon – especially as technology changes.

The current US environment is rife with new chal­lenges surrounding emerging technology and the boom in digital, such as: “How can you optimize lead capturing on mobile phones or social networking sites in an unobtrusive and transparent way?”; “What level of control should the customer have in what data is used for behavioral targeting or paid search ad strategy?”; “When undertaking viral campaigns using blogs and unvetted media, what precautions should marketers take to protect brand image and ensure honesty in marketing messages?”; “Is Twitter an effective way to communicate offers and drive impulse buying?”; or “What role can content play online, and what level of disclosure of authorship is necessary to maintain authenticity?”

Faced with this, it's not surprising that the National Advertising Review Council has recruited more executives to its board, as Chantal Todé reports on our cover this week. More telling is who they've cho­sen to add: key leaders from direct marketing's ranks such as ERA CEO Julie Coons, DMA president John Greco and the IAB's Randall Rothenberg.

Direct marketers have a lot of advice and experi­ence to give to brand advertising counterparts about conversational marketing that doesn't compromise but instead enhances meeting sales objectives. As marketers in the US look to make the most of their resources while optimizing new technology oppor­tunities, they will have to get more creative. I expect future self-regulation to look beyond the surface problem of technology changes to the roots of DM building trust and enthusiasm.

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