DM hits the target

Mark Thomson, media director at the Royal Mail argues that the recession has highlighted the need to improve targeting and demonstrate better ROI.

Mark Thomson
Mark Thomson

If I had a pound for every time my contemporaries in marketing mentioned they’d had a conversation with their financial or managing director about getting more from their spend, I’d have been able to retire years ago.

But with the pressure on marketing budgets in the current economic climate, we are all having to work harder than ever before to prove the accountability of each penny spent. Whatever our line of approach, we need to ensure ROI is as transparent as possible when those who ultimately hold the purse strings come knocking.

After all ROI is king like never before: the ultimate barometer of campaign success. Gone are the days – to a large extent at least – when ad gurus the world over dined out on high-ticket creative that won a lot of awards but didn’t necessarily reel in the punters.

And if we are talking about providing clear ’line of sight’ to ROI from marketing investment, I believe direct channels are leading the way in providing conclusive proof of what really works.

While I would never claim measurement of any media campaign is as simple as getting out of bed in the morning, it’s a fact that response is easier to measure when you know exactly who is being targeted with a campaign, rather than taking a scattergun approach.

If someone opens an envelope addressed directly to them, and responds to a call-to-action to contact the brand either through the post, call centre, SMS or online, more often than not there is a transparent path from execution to enquiry. In this way, direct marketing holds the key to providing clear ROI for an overall campaign.

Furthermore, Royal Mail has conducted research through global media agencies that shows direct mail stands alone as the only channel to have demonstrated consistent growth in effectiveness over each of the last four years; it has improved by 80% in that period, according to a response performance index measurement. The same study revealed direct mail to be the single channel recording an uplift in response rates during 2009.

That’s not to say that marketers aren’t experimenting with newer forms of advertising, such as paid and natural search; and nor should they avoid doing so. Digital channels, with their associated detailed analytics and ability to piece together the bones of marketing’s mythical ’long tail’, provide an end-to-end view of campaigns, from each execution going live to ROI measured in enquiries or hard sales. Often using a combination of channels, for example search and direct mail, can bring about even greater returns through a significant uplift in sales.

Significantly, targeted techniques – whether traditional tactics like direct mail or newer channels like granular search – are the ones showing the most growth in major studies of marketing budgets, such as the most recent IAB/PwC report.

With the advent in digital and innovation in mail solutions, direct marketers have a wider range of media at their fingertips than ever. The trick they need to pull off is figuring out the best way to target the intended audience to provoke all-important response and, ultimately, provide evidence of return on investment that the boardroom demands.

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