The Future of Direct Marketing: Five Thoughts from DMA2012

Last week, Aimée and I attended the DMA2012 Conference in Vegas. Touted as a meeting of the best marketing minds on Earth, we had the pleasure of learning about the latest direct marketing weapons, heard case studies from great minds like Facebook’s David Fisher and ate tons of tasty food, including the monstrosities passed off as breakfast at the world-famous Hash House A Go Go – like this hearty day-starter:

Besides remembering that I should bring my big boy pants the next time I indulge in Vegas, what useful knowledge did we bring back from DMA2012? Well, read on, marketing rock stars, as I recap what direct marketers are saying is the future of direct marketing (and save the $6K we spent on conference registration):

1 | Lesson #1:  Big Data is today’s marketing currency.  There’s tons of data out there just waiting to help marketers talk to consumers individually, one-to-one. It’s never been easier to use data to learn about your customers’ purchasing habits, but wading through piles of data to find the key pieces can be daunting. (See Zettabytes.) Today’s marketer is a scientist, a statistician, and a data analyst in one cute package.

Take-aways: brush up on Statistics 101, become an Excel ninja, use CRM if you aren’t already, test religiously, and let go of your one-size-fits-all marcomm plans.

Our take: as direct marketers, we’ve been using data for years to help our clients’ brand connect with their audiences. Success stories abound. As data grows larger and more complex, marketers will need their agency partners to truly understand data – and harness it for brand growth. Us data geeks shout, “Can’t wait!”

Threats:  Privacy legislation. Direct marketing drives 9% of the US GDP and accounts for over 1,300,000 jobs. Marketers rely on data to contribute to the economy. The FTC wants consumers to believe Big Data is infringing on privacy, even though the DMA supports legislation that protects consumers’ privacy while allowing marketers to connect with them using relevant and high-value marketing communications.

2 | Lesson #2:  Social is a tactic, not a strategy.  Every marketer, everywhere, wants to be in on the social media game. Social media marketing is more about content, interaction and conversation than it is about getting likes. Your CMO should be more interested in social media than your 22-year-old marketing intern.

Take-aways: treat social media marketing just like any other channel. Have a goal, measure and analyze, test, and be sure it makes fiscal sense. You wouldn’t send out a postcard without a call-to-action, so why would a Facebook post be any different?

Our take: social media is here to stay. Marketers, we’d better all be doing more with it than just posting pics of our lunches.

Threats:  too much of a good thing. So what, you have a Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, Pinterest board, Google+ account and Blog ‘cuz they’re free. Creating awesome content for all those channels takes time and effort – but it’s the secret to engaging customers and building brand-consumer relationships. Better get good at being interesting; your best competitors already are!

3 | Lesson #3:  Search engines rule.  Organic and paid search have long been core digital marketing strategies. With Google’s recent algorithm updates – namely Panda (good content is key), Penguin (quality links rule) and Venice (local search is important) – the search space is evolving and competition is fierce. Want more quality visitors on your site? Start with search engine marketing.

Take-aways: your SEO and PPC campaigns should work together to maximize each one. If you’re not optimizing your site, or if you’re not using paid search methods like Adwords and retargeting, you’re missing out on today’s biggest revenue opportunity.

Our take: we focus on three core influencers of search: building proper site architecture, continually creating awesome content, and building authoritative links.

Threats:  the ever-changing search landscape. Search is not DIY. There’s too much at stake to be on page 2. Get an SEO/PPC strategy and partner now or risk losing potential customers.

4 | Lesson #4:  Good content is king. Good content gets read, shared and acted upon. It heavily influences search rankings, too. It starts a conversation with your brand, educates and informs your audience, and sets you apart as someone who knows what you’re talking about. Crappy content does none of the above.

Take-aways: write blog posts, design infographics, shoot videos, create whitepapers, share case studies, give online demos – then promote them across multiple channels: website, blog, email, social media, print, mobile. Get your brand content out there and make it awesome. People love awesome and toss away boring.

Our take: if you don’t have time to create awesome content, hire someone that does. Not everyone has what it takes. Content development is an ongoing commitment and requires smarts. Consumers love information. Give them want they want.

Threats:  being boring. Sporadic content creation. Forgetting to optimize content for search and social. Misspellings.

5 | Lesson #5:  We’re going mobile. Mobile marketing is huge. 82% of all consumers use smartphones, tablets and e-readers to connect with brands on a daily basis. Your customers live in the mobile space; does your brand?

Take-aways: make sure your website is mobile ready and user friendly. Banish Flash. If you sell online, make sure you have an m-commerce strategy. Don’t have an app? What are you waiting for?

Our take: Mobile isn’t going away. It’s growing. Look at all your brand communications from a mobile perspective.

Threats: Clunky mobile websites. 3,000+ mobile device types. Online retailers that haven’t considered mobile commerce (d’oh: it’s a $101 billion industry). The general misuse of QR codes.

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There you have it: the DMA2012 in 900 words. Hopefully I gave you something to chew on while you’re cruising Facebook on your iPhone. Read. Now re-read. Be brutally honest with yourself. Pull out that 2013 marketing budget you put together last month for the CFO. Make sure your plan includes strategies for data, social, search, content and mobile. If it doesn’t, call us. We’ll help you figure it out. If it does, call us. We’ll help you get it all done.

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