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Direct marketers refine time-tested tactics

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While emerging interactive media channels, including mobile and video, generate a lot of buzz, most direct marketers continue to focus on time-tested programs to drive revenue.

The numbers speak for themselves. A recent Forrester Research study that found interactive marketers are not reinventing the wheel when it comes to committing dollars. The survey, “Interactive Marketing Channels to Watch in 2009,” which polled 204 interactive marketing professionals online in March, found that more than 90% are clinging to direct-response tactics such as e-mail and search, while online video showed no growth from last year.

Forrester Research also recently released “U.S. E-mail Marketing Forecast 2009 to 2014,” projecting that spending on e-mail marketing in the U.S. will grow steadily to $2 billion by 2014, almost an 11% compound annual growth rate.

This growing reliance on a proven direct-marketing channel is driving organizations to place a greater emphasis on the optimization of their e-mail programs. Direct marketers now have the ability to automatically track potential customers to better understand exactly what each individual is doing when they visit a Web site, where they came from, the amount of time spent on each page and any content viewed or downloaded.

These “digital biographies” have dramatically enhanced marketers' ability to optimize their programs.

E-mail communication can be faster, more economical and more focused than most direct-marketing channels. And, while the digital age has changed the face of direct marketing in general, the tried-and-true principles of direct marketing still apply today—with the added benefit of more timely and detailed information.

Consider these tips for refining your direct marketing program:

Segment in real time. By driving prospects to the Web and segmenting them in real time via automation, a company can match customer interests and demographic profiles to segment customers instantly for immediate follow-up.

Personalize with intent. The days of getting a prospect's attention merely with a salutation and a first name embedded in an e-mail are long gone. Personalizing with intent, where an e-mail's subject line, message, tone and call to action all fit an individual prospect's role and digital biography, is much more likely to get the desired response.

Generic messages, by contrast, scream junk mail, prevent viable prospects from taking the next step and often encourage higher opt-out rates.

Keep information relevant. Focus on many small but relevant touches to build your credibility a little at a time. Keep prospective customers engaged with information that is fresh and useful.

Use Web site visits and demographic information to tailor each message to a specific need or pain point and target appropriately. Get more specific over time by including fewer options in the form of information or links. This will allow prospects to focus, and empower you to build credibility and a better understanding of each of their needs.

Impressions. Direct marketing requires the right mix of need and frequency of touch points to create the necessary awareness to yield a sale.

Consistency with continued refinement will mature your campaign and your customer at the same time. A common practice is to e-mail once every 10 working days as a starting point for b-to-b communications. Increasing the activity level automatically based on the depth and intensity of a prospect's engagement with your company allows you to accelerate the sales and marketing process only when a prospect is ready.

Remember, content relevance, quality and frequency are the key influencers over a prospect's decision either to keep listening or to opt out.

Jim Meyer is VP, eTrigue Corp. (www.etrigue.com), based in San Jose, Calif. He can be reached at jim.meyer@etriguecorp.com.