Direct marketers optimistic

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As the immediate shock of the events of Sept. 11 recedes, businesses are starting to resume their direct marketing activities.

"No one really knows what the effects are, but for right now everyone wants to get back to business as normal," said Michelle Feit, president of ePostDirect Inc., a Pearl River, N.Y.-based e-mail marketing firm.

Feit said that during the week of Sept. 17 several clients of ePostDirect sent out e-mail marketing campaigns that they had held the previous week. Meanwhile, companies that sent out e-mail marketing blasts the Monday before the attack resent them the week of Sept. 17. "No one cancelled," she said. "Everyone just postponed and redid it this week."

Bob Hacker, CEO of The Hacker Group Inc., a Bellevue, Wash.-based subsidiary of advertising giant FCB Worldwide, L.L.C., said, "Most of our clients are continuing to market despite the inability to deliver some e-mails."

E-mails disrupted

Not only offline mailings, but alsoe-mail marketing missives were disrupted by the attacks, especially in New York. "Some of our clients have decided not to market in the New York area for a while," Hacker said.

To ensure that prospects in affected regions receive their e-mails, companies should resume direct e-mail campaigns only after doing thorough testing, said Ruth Stevens, president of New York-based direct marketing consultancy Emarketing Strategy Group. "I would divide it up, and start testing small portions of the mail plan, especially in e-mail, where you can get results in 72 hours."

Agencies can prompt cautious clients to resume direct marketing operations by giving them incentives to do so, said Jim Hathaway, director-business development at GraficaGroup, a Chester, N.J.-based marketing agency. In the week following the attacks, GraficaGroup offered its services at cost to clients, he said.

H. Robert Wientzen, president-CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, said b-to-b direct marketers will return to normal operations sooner than their business-to-consumer counterparts. "The people who are involved with b-to-b tend to be more fact-based and less emotional," Wientzen said. "Unless theres a new incident that rivets the American publics attention, well start to see normal patterns emerge."

Proceed with caution

Experts recommend that companies proceed cautiously for awhile when direct marketing in New York. "Were emphasizing that anybody whos communicating to people in the New York area really stay away from unnecessary communications," said Jeanniey Mullen, general manager of Grey E.Mail, a unit of New York-based Grey Direct. "A lot of people, especially downtown, dont have access to information systems."

Unreceptive clients

Another marketer said potential clients in New York and Washington might not be receptive to marketing messages in the near term. "In New York and Washington, theres going to be a distraction level, and it will be very hard for people to be focused on getting back to business when something like this happened so close to their lives," said Bill Babcock, chairman of Babcock & Jenkins.

The attacks have disrupted offline mail delivery, and some experts said this could mean, at least in the short term, a boost for e-mail marketing. It might also prompt marketers to start an integrated marketing strategy sooner than they might have otherwise, said Grey E.Mails Mullen. "People are going to be relying on e-mail in the short term, and then moving toward an integrated strategy," she said.

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