Time to stop the target practice

Having worked in direct marketing for 15 years, I’m now seriously wondering whether the most economically viable, productive and sensible path might be to outlaw all except permission-based DM in future.

Our industry has shown that on the whole it is incapable of targeting mailings to any useful degree. Marketers have had access to demographic, financial and other pertinent information for years, but the majority of companies still don’t – or can’t – target their mailings effectively.

So perhaps it is finally time to give up on targeting. It sounds

great. It’s an extremely neat theory. It should work, but in real life doesn’t always appear to, despite the fact that the marketing press and senior industry members continue to trot out targeting’s case on a regular basis.

Our household joined the Mailing Preference Service six months ago. This is a sad indictment from a long-serving, affectionate industry member – but we had received nothing but junk for several years. The problem is, while we don’t miss receiving the junk, we would actually like to be sent mail about things we’re interested in. And nobody knows what we’re interested in better than we do ourselves, so why not ask us?

If, for instance, some clever centralised outfit sent a questionnaire that was easy and fun to fill in (unlike national shopper surveys), we’d choose to receive direct mail about a plethora of things. Just off the top of my head, there’s gardening; art and craft material; IT; computer music technology; historical places to visit; mail-order clothing; special offers on UK hotels; art gallery listings; clubs, festivals and dance music events; animal charities; local events; antique fairs; raku ware, Linthorpe and Jema art pottery; and home-working. No doubt there’s loads more.

Over the years we’ve made it obvious by our buying habits and general financial and social behaviour that we’re actively interested in these things. But nobody in direct marketing ever took our heavy hint and mailed us about any of them.

Isn’t permission-based direct marketing, despite being something the industry has fought off and been terrified of for so many years, now worth reconsidering? Asking people what they want to receive is the one relatively fool-proof way of making sure your targeting works… and of finally ditching that awful “junk mail” label.

Kate Naylor




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