The Changing Face of the Direct Marketing Company

2013 is over and with it should go many of the standbys of the direct marketing company. The fake free magazines, the advertising postcards and impersonal cold calling tactics, that once were used everywhere, it seems experts agree should go by the wayside.  When looking at the direct marketing trends in 2014, one thing that seems to be agreed on is that companies need to narrow their focus and target groups more effectively. Whether that is to focus on retaining current customers and regaining lost ones, or creating a more personal advertising campaign and target new customers that can afford the products being sold.

Lois Geller makes a crucial point in her article when she argues that, “direct mail has always worked best when it’s personal and targeted to the right person…” Everyday, people are loaded up with advertisements and sales offers that don’t interest them. They will sift through them for the few that they may use and discard the rest. While it is impossible to personalize advertisements, by only sending mail to those who would be interested in the product being sold, it saves the company time and money and the receiver from advertising burnout. A direct marketing company is in the business of making money for themselves and their clients and this is one way that might save advertising costs while increasing revenue.

Another area that both articles above discuss is online presence. Geller talks briefly about the online advertising as an alternative to traditional television marketing but doesn’t go into much detail other than stating that “Online is great…but we know there’s a lot of business that online can’t get but direct mail can.” This statement does tie into what Russell Parsons discusses in his points on the potential for Internet use standardization across the European Union. Specifically, the General Data Protection Regulation’s stance on consent “and a consumer’s ‘right to be forgotten’”. While it is not yet law, this bill could have a large impact on any direct marketing company that specializes in online advertisement. Many companies, including Facebook and other social media sites, generate profit through advertising revenue, they are able to garner this revenue because they are able to have advertising that is personally relevant to the user that views it. They are able to do that because of software that tracks the type of music, movies, and activities that the user likes and generates a profile for them. While Facebook may not be affected by any regulations, as its users must agree to a legally binding contract in order to use the site—what Parson’s calls “explicit consent”–, this may impact other sites that use banner advertising or a person’s search history in order to target ads to them. Like radio advertising and television commercials, with the changes that digitalization have brought—and the new legislation, as well—even Internet advertising will have to change in one form or another.

The other trends that Geller discusses are targeting “older people” and men. Geller argues that older people not only have more money to spend then younger ones but also are the audience that are more likely to respond to direct mail rather than online advertising. Men, too, she believes are prime candidates for direct mail and are something she expects to be “trending any day”. While both these trends may prove to be on the ball, they are examples of what both articles discuss in terms of audience targeting. Direct marketing companies have known for years that certain demographics are more likely to respond in certain ways than others. Rural residents tend to be more conservative than urban and younger people tend to be more progressive towards technology than older generations are. Like any advice or trends it is usually best to take it with a grain of salt.

2014, it seems, will be a year of challenges. Whether it is diminishing returns on traditional mass direct mail strategies and cold calls, or potential legislation restricting Internet use and advertising, a successful direct marketing company will have to adapt with the times. Whether this is rebranding themselves or changing strategies to employ a more focused marketing campaign or creating a more personal approach that targets those people that are specifically interested in those products, thee will be many opportunities to be creative.