ROUBAIX, France – Direct marketing has become relational marketing, moving from a discipline that focused on a group of techniques to a more strategic approach. Here are a few thoughts on how DM agencies in France have evolved over the last 20 years.
From a practitioner who mastered the creative techniques indigenous to direct marketing, the manager of client relations has become an architect of interactive solutions.
In 1980 interest in DM campaigns grew during a period of economic difficulties because it allowed some mastering of costs and analysis of output. Agency creatives were geared to the needs of mail order houses.
During this period direct marketing was used largely in prospecting for new clients and was linked closely to a company’s commercial operations.
At the same time advertisers began to take an interest in client databases, with banks taking the lead in developing computer systems centered on managing client portfolios.
Starting in 1985, several pioneers followed the evolution they saw take place on the other side of the Atlantic and began to take an interest in building customer loyalty.
To continue motivating client files, the interaction among various tools such as mailings and the telephone began to accelerate.
Telemarketing started to develop much more fully, even if it was a more quantitative development dependent on the hard sell than on any qualitative approach.
The beginning of the relationship era came in 1990 because pioneering agencies succeeded in showing clients and distributors that when direct marketing was adapted to client expectations companies could more easily differentiate themselves from their competition and enrich enhanced marketing values.
Cutting edge agencies developed two kinds of skills, one creative and the other computer-based involving data analysis, recovery and storage.
Independent agencies built on those two skills with enthusiasm. Communications companies threw themselves vigorously into a course of external growth that allowed them to respond quickly to the growing expectations of their clients.
The idea of the “gold” customer began to show up in all sectors of this industry beginning in 1995. Know your best clients and develop a dialogue with them became a major objective in executive suites.
Lower communications costs, consumer maturity and enhanced offers were some of the reasons behind the explosion in customer relationship management.
Customer loyalty programs are now at the heart of French marketing strategies, while data analysis and customer segmentation are the new skills DM agencies who have succeeded in connecting what the added value chain can offer their clients.
The last two years have seen the technological revolution. The evolution of computers and telecommunications allowed development of the new interactive channels.
Design studios that specialized in creating Web pages and Web sites flourished, without, however, integrating CRM into their approaches.
Only a few companies have understood that the new media are only supplementary media, more powerful, certainly, than the old, but whose underlying logic remains the same as that practiced by CRM professionals.
It will be up to the market of tomorrow and its new marketing insights to bring DM agencies in France to the point where they can make it work.