Lofty proclamations that the future of all marketing is direct regardless of the medium aside, the key takeaway from a recent gathering of the great and good of the DM industry was
a truism that is ageless: myopic marketing for short-term gain will damage your brand over time.
At a recent Direct Marketing Association (DMA) event in London speakers from brands such as Sony Ericsson, digital agency LBi and Virgin Atlantic declared how digital channels previously seen as the antithesis of DM were its future.
Any dissection of advertising mail’s place was absent, replaced by talk of how technology had led to social media, mobile marketing and other digital channels fast adopting the attributes that have been used to sell DM for time immemorial: targeted and accountable campaigns.
The time to allow social media the chance to develop without any eye on return appears to be over. Digital is direct and direct is digital. Not sure where the rush to establish DM as the most relevant marketing channel of the 21st century leaves physical mail, a thing of the past?
As interesting as these themes were, it was the opening remarks of DMA chief executive Chris Combermale that echoed loudest.
Combermale warned that the rush to acquire customers is ignoring what should be a fundamental for most brands: 20% of customers account for 80% of business.
It was argued, convincingly, that a focus on short-term offers, measured by standards such as cost-per-click may look good in the next quarter but will do nothing to nurture the 20%.
By prioritising short-term gain, brands are not finding who the 20% are, where they are or what they want and, subsequently, not efficiently investing to keep them.
His argument is sound, particularly given the discount frenzy we are witnessing in the age of austerity. A mailing or email offering half off might lead to an incremental increase in sales but it is only attracting the bargain-hungry price-sensitive who will switch as quickly as the offer changes. Only by long-term investment in developing the 20% will a brand truly flourish.