Insights / advertising

What digital marketing can learn from direct mail

We digital marketers are pretty cocky these days. We have all sorts of cool tools and even more jargon to baffle ‘them’ with. And we are justifiably proud of our ability to target and test in real time, or on highly compressed cycles. Today it’s all about analytics, the conversion funnel and cost per conversion. Now every serious marketer demands proof of performance through objective measures.

For those of us who cut our teeth in the Direct Response business, this is “déjà vu all over again.” The language of DR has always been A/B splits, Beat the Control, Cost per Inquiry, Cost per Conversion and Lifetime Value of Customer. And all of that implied careful measurement and feedback for optimization. So, what can we apply from this past experience to today’s digital focus?

Mason’s past partner in its Direct Marketing subsidiary was Lois Geller – still doing amazing work out of her Hollywood, Florida office. She taught us that success is defined by three components in Direct Response: 1.) The creative approach – do prospects notice and engage, and is the message relevant and specific to them; 2.) The quality and efficiency of the list, or database; and 3.) The perceived value of the offer.

Shouldn’t this be a checklist for our digital programs as well? Is our creative highly specific and relevant, or a shotgun fired in the dark? With programmatic we can get very granular in terms of delivery, but it takes some work to optimize the message for each micro-cell. Creating this kind of targeted relevance is what separates an engaging message from spam.

Also (and this is a big one), what is the offer? So often today we see general or weak offers that give no compelling reason to act now. We are all consumers, and everybody responds better to what they perceive as a good deal. And yet, our experience has been that many digital marketers treat the offer almost as an afterthought, whereas this may ultimately be the single biggest determinant of success. Spend the time and testing effort to get the offer right!

Digital marketing represents an amazing evolution in direct response. It is highly targetable, easy to test options, fast to deploy, trackable to conversion and doesn’t require the high cost of printing.  But in final analysis, it traces its DNA back to Direct Marketing. The same principles apply, and there is a lot to learn from those decades of experience.