2010 presents opportunities for the willing

“It’s the economy, stupid” someone once answered in response to what matters to voters. It remains a truism likely to sway the outcome of this year’s general election. It is also likely to shape the year ahead for all direct marketers.

Those long hoped for green shoots are starting to emerge, but it will still be another year when marketing budgets are likely to be under intense scrutiny. Another year, then, for direct marketers to fight for their slice of what could continue to be a smaller pie than those gorged on in the early to mid-noughties. It’s a chance for direct marketers to push the case for well-targeted DM campaigns with measurable ROI against the pricey bombast of unfocussed mass media activity.

This is an argument that could be strengthened come the spring for those that took advantage of the “DM Sale” launched by the Royal Mail in the final quarter of last year.

It will be interesting to see what the affects of the discounts – a 20% saving offered on new and additional mailings sent next March and April – are. Despite Royal Mail protestations to the contrary, it is difficult not to join the dots between the discounts and last autumn’s industrial action.

The strikes caused severe disruption to companies’ direct mail campaigns as well as tainting the Royal Mail brand and, crucially, leaving direct mail looking like an unreliable and outdated channel in the eyes of some. With this in mind, the DM sale should be the beginning of a concerted effort on the part of Royal Mail to boost the channel this year.

Another development likely this year is the continued union of digital and traditional channels. Integrated campaigns using digital channels such as online and mobile will be increasingly teamed with more traditional print and mail executions to link the on and offline.

As customers continue to shop, research and consume more and more online, using appropriate and innovative methods to move the consumer offline into a digital environment will provide a challenge to direct marketers. However, it can also provide spectacular results as RNLI will testify after its recent campaign saw 12 DM packs led to more interaction with more than a million people.

So, for the glass half-full direct marketers (and the Royal Mail), 2010 will be a year to bring the channel to the fore, to demonstrate its worth and demonstrate that the discipline can be an equal partner with digital technology and not the most likely to be replaced.

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