Blending Direct and Digital Marketing

With hundreds of new television channels – not to mention the Internet, mobile phones, e-mail and new technologies such as digital video recording devices and commercial-free satellite radio – reaching the target audience can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Nielsen Media Research’s fall sweeps ratings from last year showed that men ages 18-34 watched 20 percent less television, particularly fewer prime-time shows. Men in this age group appear to be moving toward media they can control and access where they want and when they want, such as video games and Web sites.

It also has been reported that of the 11.8 hours the average Internet user spends online weekly, more than half is time previously spent watching television.

The TSN Media Intelligence/CMR’s 2004 Forecast projects that Internet advertising will rise 12.1 percent this year versus last year. But Internet ads alone might not be enough to reach that key 18-to-34 male audience.

These statistics make clear that though traditional mass media is an integral part of any communications plan, today’s fragmented media landscape makes it less cost efficient. It is increasingly difficult to reach the audience and make an impact. For many advertisers, the days of “casting a wide net” with general advertising or using a “blast” approach for digital marketing are over.

We all know the basics of customer relationship marketing: identifying customers, differentiating those customers by values and needs and then interacting with them effectively and cost efficiently. With the continuing fragmentation in the marketing climate, simply identifying customers has become a challenge. Marketers must look at how they can creatively blend existing media channels to complement existing strategies.

The blending of direct marketing and digital disciplines and techniques provides a powerful approach to marketing. Alignment is a marketer’s dream – where time, place, message and the right customer meet. The right combination of direct and digital makes it possible to reach the right customer with the right message at the right time to strengthen customer relationships and sell more effectively.

Why does it work so well? Let’s start by defining the advantages of direct and digital.

Direct is one-to-one, targeted communication that uses database marketing techniques to identify consumers’ willingness to buy and reaches them at the point of awareness. This “push” of information targets messages to the right individual. Direct gives marketers the chance to zero in on the audience most likely to be receptive and responsive to the message. This prevents them from wasting time and money on an irrelevant audience.

Digital, in the form of Web sites and opt-in e-mail, can be considered a “pull” medium because its interaction with the customer begins with self-selection. Web sites provide an easily accessed, actionable means to get consumers to make decisions at the point of consideration. This opportunity to make immediate, in-context and “trackable” decisions often helps raise response rates and lets marketers learn more about customer behavior.

The combination of direct “push” and digital “pull” allows for a more customized, relevant and effective alignment.

Digital also can be used as a tool to better target direct mail. By tracking customer clicks from an e-mail newsletter, marketers can customize subsequent newsletters and direct mail pieces. This concept can be taken a step further. By sending customers who get a certain piece of e-mail or direct mail to a specific landing page on a Web site, marketers can track the success of the campaign as well as customize Web site information by customer.

It all comes down to reaching the customers, and as their attention continues to fragment, marketers may have only one chance to get the message across. n

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