Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Direct Mail Starting To Show Signs of Life

Great post from Herb, direct mail is not dead, far from it. It is finding its strength again in both traditional and new verticals, supporting the multi-channel marketing world we live in.

If the first two weeks of 2010 are any indication of what is to come, direct mail might just find its way off life support.

In the past few weeks my mailbox has been overflowing with direct mail—an increase in credit card offerings, mortgage re-financing offers, home improvement offers that actually have my name on them, and of course, some catalogs.

However, the majority of the direct mail we've received has been from national retailers and restaurant chains. These are two categories that picked up their direct mail presence in 2009 and it appears that the trend is continuing into 2010.

They are using direct mail to drive store traffic. Plus, they're employing a multitude of direct marketing tactics to capture consumer information to further CRM initiatives, both through direct mail and online. Companies like Target, Publix Supermarkets, McDonald's and Chik-fil-A are putting a high level of importance on being able to continually communicate with prospects and customers to drive in-store traffic. Frequent communication is essential in this tough economic environment. Lifetime customer value has become an important part of their marketing strategies.

These retailers/restaurant chains have been amassing a considerable amount of consumer data that will continue to drive their marketing strategies. For example, consider how Chik-fil-A continues to grow in today's tough economy.

Their advertising campaigns are creative, witty and cutting edge. Their direct mail initiatives are specifically designed to drive store traffic. They have chosen to stay with their core competency…serving delicious and healthy chicken products in spotless restaurants with exemplarily customer service. And through these tough economic times they have not resorted to price reduction promotions to drive traffic. Applying consumer psychology, they count on their product and customer service reputations for increased customer visits. And it works—here in the greater Atlanta area, Chick-fil-A at dinner time is quite considerably more busy than competing fast food restaurant chains. Each individual store is actively involved in their community and that sense of community participation is widely accepted by their customer base.

If we go back about 10 years or so, direct mail was predominately the domain of "traditional direct marketing companies" like catalogers, publishers, financial services firms, insurance companies and continuity clubs. Now with the new decade upon us the landscape has changed.

There is a whole new spectrum of companies applying direct mail, and direct marketing initiatives. As we all seek continued growth it is time we step outside our comfort zone and embrace the opportunities available. It may require research and learning the marketing strategies of a new industry but the effort will be well worth it. Direct mail is showing signs of life once again.

Herb Torgersen is president DirectInnovations Inc., Suwanee, GA(htorgersen@directInnovations.biz).

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