DM intact after tough 09 and ready to grow again next year

Robert Keitch, chief of Membership & Brand at the Direct Marketing Association, looks back at a tumultuous year and forward to 2009 in the hope of better times ahead.

Robert Keitch
Robert Keitch

In a year that will go down as one of the worst in this country’s economic history, it’s hardly surprising that the direct marketing industry was dealt a harsh blow in 2009. Unfortunately it does seem to be the trend among, shall we say, less enlightened companies that when it comes to reducing operating costs the marketing budget is often the first to suffer. It’s a trend that we’ve seen over the past 12 months throughout the private sector, and regrettably it looks as though it’s spreading to the public sector as well. Regardless of the outcome of the next general election, it’s probable that COI’s budget will be cut in 2010. As the UK’s largest buyer of direct marketing, this will have a pronounced effect on the industry.

In spite of the doom and gloom that’s shrouded much of the industry, there have been the odd glimmers of hope for direct marketers. As marketing budgets contract, so too do appetites for expensive mass media campaigns. Many brands are now switching their restricted budgets to direct marketing because of its cost-effectiveness in specifically targeting those consumers that are most likely to be converted into customers. Its measurability makes it an attractive proposition for marketers who are placing increasing importance on demonstrating ROI.

So, what does 2010 promise? There have been some major casualties this year as a result in the downturn in business, and it’s highly likely that we’ll see many more to come. However, I don’t think this will deal a fatal blow to the direct marketing industry. Brands should be looking to take a long-term, so over time they will start to reinvest in marketing.

For its part, the DMA will be focused during 2010 on providing practical support and thought leadership in a number of areas. In January, the DMA will launch DataSeal, its data security private performance standard. During the year, the DMA will also establish the Digital Marketing Congress think tank to map out the strategic direction of the digital marketing sector. The DMA will continue with its ongoing programme of giving direct marketers the tools and guidance it needs for sustainable development. And finally, as the industry faces the prospect of assuming ever-greater responsibility for its activities, the DMA will undertake a number of initiatives to maintain the industry’s framework of self-regulation.

These, and the DMA’s other initiatives, will help to ensure the direct marketing industry continues to receive the support it needs to grow its way out of the recession.

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