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Reaching customers the right way

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`You can't do in subject lines what you can do with imaging and direct mail packages," says David Hughes, manager of database marketing for Canon USA.

Hughes, who is quoted in this issue's comprehensive Direct Marketing Special Report (starting on page 24), is one of those marketers who embrace traditional direct mail, finding it to be more popular and effective than e-mail. Another nugget from this special report: "Fifty-six percent of marketers report they intend to increase spending on direct mail this year, beating out search engine marketing, print advertising, e-mail and e-newsletters, according to a direct marketing trend survey published in late September by Kern Direct, a direct marketing advertising agency."

Meanwhile, online advertising continues its double-digit growth, as Senior Reporter Kate Maddox reports in her story about last month's Interactive Advertising World (page 12). Internet ad revenue reached $4.6 billion in the first half of this year, up 39.7% over the first half of 2003, according to a report conducted for the Interactive Advertising Bureau by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

OK, both offline and online techniques work and have their respective adherents. There's really no surprise here.

The bigger issue, as I see it, is that marketers and their agencies too often base their choice of marketing medium on a) cost, b) tradition or c) current skills ("We're really good at online"). That is they don't take a fresh look at research, they don't conduct some testing and, worst of all, they don't ask their customers about their messaging preferences.

It's worth underscoring this last idea-taking the time to listen to the preferences of customers and prospects.

Take Canon USA. Its choice of direct marketing tactics is dictated by what customers and prospects say, based on quarterly polling, focus groups and even biofeedback. When's the last time you asked your customers how they'd like to hear from you before bombarding them with messages?

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When your November BtoB arrives, you'll certainly notice a difference. November's issue unveils a front-to-back redesign, our first since Business Marketing was relaunched as BtoB in March 2000.

We believe this brand new look, which comes on the heels of our BtoBonline.com Web site relaunch in September, presents our content more clearly, with an eye toward emphasizing what's most important to our readers so they can find exactly what they need quickly.

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