Access is king, not content, in changed marketing landscape: DMA chairman

WHITE PLAINS, NY — The direct marketing landscape is changing dramatically and fast. Historically, change brings on challenges. Marketers who embrace the changes, rather than turning away from them, will be successful. Those who don’t will not be successful.

Marcus Wilhelm, chairman of the Direct Marketing Association board of directors, made that forceful point in his keynote address yesterday at the 33rd Annual DMI Client Conference and Co-op held at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel.

“There are new ways to reach customers and marketers are now thinking up new strategies,” Mr. Wilhelm told clients and prospects of list services firm Direct Media. “New players, new channels and the shift of power from marketers to prospects are the big changes affecting the industry.”

Mr. Wilhelm said Google today is the nation’s largest direct marketer and now that online and offline integration has gained momentum, expect to see the search giant try to tap into the offline marketing sector.

That said, search will become even more important, he emphasized.

Mr. Wilhelm spoke about the opportunities social networks bring to marketers. Social networks such as MySpace and Facebook give users the ability to interact with others with similar interests.

“There has been an integration of existing channels,” Mr. Wilhelm said. “Direct mail, radio, television, search — they are all coming together and the multichannel effect will be a dramatic one.”

Prospects have more power now than ever, and this is actually a challenge to marketers, he said. Permission-based marketing also gives consumers power. They can now decide how they want to be reached and where.

Mr. Wilhelm predicts more rules, but adapting to them will be a challenge.

“Marketers, you need to be ready for this,” he told the attendees. “Play a role in the process to help shape the new rules.”

Spam, privacy, environment and do-not-mail legislation should be on everyone’s mind.

Mr. Wilhelm forecasts that the CAN-SPAM Act will definitely be used more often in the near future.

“Self regulate, don’t wait for the government to step in,” Mr. Wilhelm said, repeating an earlier call he made to direct marketers at a previous DMA event.

Interestingly, it will be easier for big companies to adapt to the changes that are going to happen, Mr. Wilhelm said.

“Disruptive players, those who do things first, will rise to the top,” he said. “Access is king, not content, and that’s why Google is at the top and not Time Warner.”

Magazines, newspapers and television are in trouble because the Internet is eating into advertising budgets, Mr. Wilhelm said.

He believes that mobile technology will rule, since it already does in other countries such as Japan and China.

Also, word of mouth has become more important than ever, so it is important that customers have a good opinion of the marketer since they can make or break the brand.

Finally, “broadband has exploded and there are new devices abound — take advantage,” Mr. Wilhelm said. “Remember that today’s consumers do a lot more online because they have less time. Relevance is key to breaking through.”

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