Put Mojo Back in Your DM, Baby

Have you noticed, direct marketing is cool again. That's right, cool, hip, the place to be. Take a look around. All the hip companies in Silicon Alley, Silicon Valley and the Digital Coast are talking about direct marketing now. Some of the best are even offering new direct marketing services. Top Net companies are acquiring traditional direct companies and implementing new DM strategies. There's even a whole new crop of DM conferences and media outlets.

There's a new DM in town, but this time it has a lot more sass. It has it's “Mojo” back, baby! Traditional direct marketing as we know it has fallen by the wayside and is being replaced by a powerful new DM called dialog marketing. This new and improved Y2K version of DM is driven and fueled by new technologies and guided by the consumer's interests and needs. It is based on customization and personalization, and a foundation of trust, responsible marketing and privacy.

Direct marketing and permission-based marketing are both powerful marketing devices, but they are only components to a complete marketing matrix online. Dialog marketing uses elements of direct marketing and permission marketing, but focuses on a process where trust, value and the long-term relationships are most important. It is concerned with engaging people in an ongoing dialog, not just getting permission from them. This cool new evolution of DM moves away from mass marketing, toward customization, personalized value and trust.

How can you put the Mojo back in your DM you ask? How can you achieve shagadelic results online? Combine direct marketing with online promotions baby! Many companies are using sweepstakes, contests, points, coupons and other loyalty programs and integrating them with traditional direct marketing concepts to improve results online.

Here are 12 essentials for more effective online promotions that will help make your direct marketing initiatives more cool. Yeah, baby!

Target online. Develop online promotions that offer prizes targeted to the demographic you want to attract. Create promotions targeted to the interests of your audience. From the beginning, the whole promotion should be strategically planned to meet the needs of the targeted audience to better accomplish the goals of the campaign.

Simplify. Make your promotions clear, fun and easy. Incorporate your traditional DM expertise to help simplify the options and create a call to action. Less is often more online, so keep it simple.

Be clear. Clearly define the rules of each promotion and make them easily accessible. Stay away from hokey fine print. The new DM is about offering real value, not misleading your potential long-term customers.

Timeliness matters. Promotions are more effective when they are relevant and timely. Promotions surrounding holidays, special events and themes work best. Remember to design the promotion around times important to your audience, not necessarily your marketing calendar.

Be strategic. Drive participants to your promotion using compelling graphics; make sure the look and feel of the promotion matches the wants and needs of the target audience; unify your text and visual messages.

Ask the right questions. Maximize the registration form to gather important information. Don't ask too many questions and don't get too personal before you establish trust and credibility. With dialog marketing, there will be future opportunities to learn about the promotion participants.

Maintain a dialog. Dialog means two-way conversation. Use the power of the Internet — interaction — to engage participants. The whole promotions process should provide options to continue a dialog. One example is offering the participant to opt in for a regular newsletter. Another is to invite participants back frequently to play your promotion and ask new questions each time. It's important to enable participants a way to respond and continue the dialog with you.

Opt in only. Build trust by adopting a 100 percent opt-in policy. Always ask participants what they want, don't make assumptions and never send Spam.

Protect privacy. Develop a clear privacy policy and make it available to participants throughout the promotion. There are many best practices, established guidelines and important standards designed to establish credibility with consumers. A well-developed privacy policy should be a first step.

Be legal. Make sure that all promotions are legal and ensure prize fulfillment is timely.

Integration. Make your online promotions more effective by integrating them with your other offline and online marketing efforts. Use your traditional DM campaign to promote your promotion and bring targets online to interact with your brand.

Think like the participant. Be the participant. Play and test your own promotions. Are they easy to understand? Do they provide real value? Are they fun? Many marketers develop initiatives targeted to their own business needs. What is often most important is to consider the needs of the consumer first to see if you are even ready to engage them in a dialog.

Be careful, because online you're lucky if you get one chance to strike up a conversation and show them just what a cool cat you are.

Unity Stoakes is director of marketing and communications at Webstakes.com, New York, an online promotions firm. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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