Friday, May 8, 2009

Direct Vs. Online Marketing, Closer than You Think!

Since my frame of reference is direct marketing I’ve been thinking about what similarities exist between direct marketing and marketing in a Web 2.0 world. Here's what I've come up with so far.

Search engine optimization to my direct response eyes looks like the list business. People who respond to snippet copy in search results are similar to responders on a rented list of names that share an affinity. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s national parks. When people express their interests by subscribing to a certain group or magazine, those list procurers are harvesting that information and putting those individuals on certain lists. It’s similar to when people search online using “key words” (like national parks or cooking utensils). They are looking for information, or items or services of interest to them and that interest defines them as desirable or undesirable customers.

The Johnson Box, that's the copy block and offer at the top of a sales letter - Direct Mail’s “Johnson Box” lives in email snuggled up against many people’s preview panes. Some research shows more people are using preview panes, and some even read their entire email within the preview pane and never open the email to full screen. Long live the Johnson Box.

Measurement is another similarity. Thanks to analytics, we can measure a customer’s activities like click-throughs and time spent on the site and where they drop off in the shopping process. All this is comparable to direct mail or DRTV where we’re measuring responses, eligibility and actual products purchased.

Testing is also on the list. Real direct marketers never stop testing. So it isn’t a surprise that when confronted with an online campaign we seek ways to test one approach over another. Especially with email, we test subject headers, different offers and the same offer but with different copy. Online, we test one video against another like we do off line or one landing page against another. And even when we launch the best of all the testing, we’re probably running some type of small test inside that launch. It’s obsessive, but we’re direct marketers after all.

The challenge for me right now is getting my head around, when and how to effectively utilize these new technology channels like Twitter and YouTube, for example. But again I am reminded that in direct we’re always charting the customer’s activity, from the time and place they become interested in our offer through the sale. So the solution lies in focusing on the customer’s activities and their level of online sophistication. 

We need to first know our customers and look for ways that they want to be engaged by us … online.  The answer is in the customer experience and part of that in today’s world means building a conversation that turns into a trusted relationship.  Anyway, that’s my two cents. Have you thought of other similarities? Let me know!