Traditional and digital marketing thrive in tandem

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Roundtable

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Direct and digital marketers today are tasked with defining and refining the optimal marketing communications strategy based on audience and objectives. That often includes marrying both traditional direct marketing and digital media channels, whether the marketer's goal is customer retention or new customer acquisition. Direct Marketing News convened a diverse group of marketing executives in March for a roundtable, sponsored by Kodak, to discuss this topic, including marketing integration challenges and opportunities; the role of print and direct mail in the overall marketing mix; how best to deploy behavioral targeting that is both meaningful and relevant; and the importance of content in engaging customers. Participants also discussed the role and merits of social media in the marketing toolkit.


Direct Marketing News: What role does print and the traditional direct mail channel play in your larger multichannel marketing strategy?


Jim Kabakow (Media Horizons): I don't think the effectiveness of the offline channels like print, direct mail and inserts have changed. What's really happened is digital has become another effective marketing channel. If you look at the overall spend, digital, on a push media basis is still relatively small compared to the other channels. Digital has given a place for consumers to interact and transact, even if they're driven to a website by an offline channel. 


Tom Fenske (Fenske Media Corp.): Mail is the closer. The other media work hand-in-hand, opening the door: radio, billboards, newspapers and the Internet. As we track every mailing, we see direct mail bringing high response rates. The other channels are valuable to the mix, but mail pays the bills. 


Peter Westerman (Ziff Davis Enterprise): Most of the revenue that we drive in our business comes from digital media. Probably 85% of the company's revenue at this point is from digital, but 90% of the names that we acquire come in through our print publications. We've started thinking about print vehicles almost like traditional, postal direct mail. That's the way we're creating our relationships with our customers. We monetize through our digital events and through lead generation activities. But all the research that we've done internally and that our clients have shared with us specific to print as a medium show that it's still very strong [as an information vehicle].


Bryan Trainor (Bulbs.com): We don't use any print. We don't use any traditional channels. We are growing right now and testing a lot of different online programs. We're doing a lot with paid search, as well as free targeting and behavioral targeting. We're significantly growing within e-mail. 


A lot of our marketing focus right now is organically trying to build our marketing e-mail database. We're not in the position to buy a lot of lists, but we have a 16-person internal sales staff that is constantly working leads. I'm putting all my money towards online because it's getting me the best possible ROI.


Larry Kimmel (Direct Marketing Association): It's very different by category. We just ran an event for the nonprofit community. In the fundraising world for nonprofits, it's about 95% mail. You've heard about some success in mobile, but that's not scalable. In other categories, like online commerce, it's the converse. We see significant lifts when direct mail is combined with other channels.


Stacy Braun (AXA Equitable): We're marketing to the financial adviser or to the broker, as well as marketing directly to the consumer to help create brand awareness. That way, when they have that interaction with the intermediary, they're familiar with our product line. 


With our captive agents, we've created a program where they can select the direct marketing piece that they want to use with their clients and customize it. Some of the products that we sell, we sell them once. It's something that they buy for the future. We really need to use direct mail as a way to retain [them]. Retention is a very big part of our business. 


Direct Marketing News: One of the biggest challenges for marketers is marketing integration. How are you solving that? 


Debbie Roth (Japs-Olson Co.): The integration really ties into what is your core. The core for so many marketers continues to be direct mail. Your arm cannot work without its connection to your body. The nice thing about the core is that it is one of the easiest ways to get measurable results. You can measure it a lot easier than so many of the other channels.


Westerman: We would never lead with something like postal direct mail as the first element of the campaign. It's expensive, and the cycle time from production to testing to feedback is much longer than our business can tolerate. We're going to always use digital first. We're always going to use channels that are "free" to us before we spend a considerable amount of money on something like direct mail. 


When we look at product launches now internally, the first things that we do are all digital because they're relatively cost-free. When we send e-mail or telerecruiting for something, or somebody's tweeting about something that we're doing, we get pretty instantaneous feedback. It takes too long to gather that through traditional direct mail. 


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