Online and Offline, The Key Is Integration

Established direct marketers have figured out that it is essential to be online, and most are in various stages of expanding their businesses into e-commerce. The most successful companies realize that they need to stick with what has proved to be effective and use the new technology to expand their business model, not completely redefine it.

The road to adding a new channel of distribution demands strict adherence to the path already paved with established direct marketing disciplines and attention to the details of a company's existing core business competencies, especially in the areas of targeting, acquiring and retaining new customers.

E-commerce, specifically e-mail marketing, is just another channel added to the mix. The direct marketing industry has always been dynamic with the current channels of today expanding into new media of tomorrow. Each new media introduction brought with it new parameters, regulations and format uniqueness that typically were not mutually exclusive.

Stay focused. The last thing you want to do is build parallel systems to accommodate the new interactive media. Stay focused on the existing systems that work for you. Do not set up separate customer service, fulfillment, accounting or, in some instances, even separate resources that can add duplication to the already established pool of knowledge and expertise that exist in your organization.

It is an absolute necessity to have back-end systems in place; make sure information is feeding into the same receivable system, analytical system, accounting system, etc. You must be able to fulfill your orders, have up-to-date promotional and historical databases and customer service programs active to accommodate the customers channeled in from your interactive campaigns.

Use your offline tools. The same rules of marketing apply for interactive marketing as for any new campaigns, new product launches, new offers or, in the case of e-commerce, new media. You must know who your target audience is and understand how to present your offer based on the product or service and the media.

Target your audience. When it comes to list selection, you should be disciplined and effective on how you contact customers. Just as in offline, online lists should be available with recency, frequency, purchase behavior and circulation accountability.

Whether the list is a rental or self-generated, it is important to understand the detail of origin and development. An online list needs to be built with the same standards as in traditional list development. The relative value of a buyer list versus an inquiry list is the same online as offline, and investments of time and dollars should be allocated proportionately. Those investments are better spent in qualifying the list's hotlines, frequency and customer purchasing habits, e-mail, phone and mailing addresses.

Select ability is just as important online as offline. Just because it is less expensive to send an e-mail offer, it is not in a marketer's best interest to blanket a list. If a list is blindly promoted, it will become diluted, it will opt-out quicker and your efforts become less cost-effective.

Test! Test! Test! You have heard it before … at the end of the day, it comes down to testing. Test one variable at a time. Test the offer using price, term, premiums, nonpremiums and contests. Test the copy and length of text. The headers and personalization are extremely relevant in online marketing, so test different subject lines and “from” lines for effectiveness. Test the creative using color and animation. And when testing the list media, test different targeted segments such as gender, 30-day hotlines and other selections.

Privacy. There are very different privacy issues associated with e-mail marketing, but that should not scare anyone away. It is important to build the models within those issues; it is no different than telemarketing in that sense.

Each type of media has unique privacy requirements that must be respected and at the same time make a campaign work. The savvy marketer is sensitive to how the industry has changed and adjusts to take advantage of new parameters.

These successful marketers have vision and know that they must move with the market or the competition will move without them. Yesterday the phone, today the Internet, tomorrow … we will see! Whatever it is … be sure to integrate.

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