Do Seasoned Direct Marketers Bring Anything to Online Marketing?

Here are some wise words from an unnamed direct marketer as a response to one of Bob Bly's posts dealing with whether "old school" direct marketers know how to use direct marketing techniques successfully online.

“I don't believe that ‘old school Direct Response’ has lost touch with the new world. It's the other way around.”

Many younger marketers today cut their teeth on new media without the benefit of the rigorous testing that defined best practices for direct marketers. What impact will our direct marketing ideas have on these individuals when it comes to leveraging social media, twitter or even spam weary email environments?

Direct marketers will impact the effectiveness of online marketing only when the technologists and general marketers begin to understand the DM skill set.

I believe direct marketing skills take years of testing and hands on experience to learn. I also believe that such knowledge transcends the medium used. Media expertise does not equate direct response know-how.

Young online marketers often not well grounded

Many young direct marketers are not receiving the mentoring or education today they need to master the direct marketing strategy.

In the absence of direct response knowledge, they rely upon their misguided instincts and platitudes about what motivates people to respond.

We've seen terms like Web 2, Web 3 and will probably read about Web version 9 soon. Then we also hear new terms for old tactics like "squeeze pages" that traditional marketers know how to do better than inexperienced marketers.

A "squeeze page" is nothing more than a way to filter out hot prospects from the mass of visitors to qualify them for the next commitment step. Seasoned direct marketers call this "lead qualification" and it encompasses far more than rudimentary "squeeze pages."

Some people would have us believe that this is something new! Give me a break.

New terms do not mean new thinking

These new terms may work for suppliers trying to differentiate themselves in an ocean of competitors. Some of them even claim that their particular brand or ideas will revolutionize the marketing world.

In my view, these new terms display an ignorance or disregard of the hard earned body of learning that already exists in the direct marketing community.

This is not to say that the Internet has not written a new chapter in direct marketing.

I see online marketing as an extension of our capability to engage new markets and reinforce existing relationships rather than a replacement to the rich body of pertinent direct marketing knowledge that already exists. New marketers need to study direct marketing principles now if they want to do great things with new media.

Successful direct marketing strategies essentially leverage a tested body of knowledge about what people respond to.

Environments change, people don't

In my opinion, the environment changes continually, but people have not changed for thousands of years. What held true in 3000 BC does so in 2008. People’s need for security, hope, fairness and desire to be treated as someone special always remain.

Great offers will always drive response. And so long as we understand this by testing offers and learning more about our target audiences, then we will continue to make money for our companies and clients.

Getting too wrapped up in the technology is a big part of what happened in the bust. The technologist ran the show rather than experienced marketers. (Admittedly, there were some additional things at play to cause this bust).

But note how even today, web site design agencies build web sites that look good to the client and those few visitors that manage to find it. They do so without any thought about how the search engines “read” and rank websites. This demonstrates not only poor direct marketing, but a lack of general marketing knowledge.

Strong direct marketers do not fear the Internet age, they thrive on it. The challenge for them has always been the wide held belief that the Internet changed people’s behaviors so much that past testing and experiences bear no value.

The truth is that people created the Internet for themselves. This new medium is Nirvana for direct marketers. Interactivity and CRM can now attain it’s full potential.

I view the Internet as yet another medium that adds a “new” tool to my portfolio. It compliments traditional media rather than replaces it.

Posted on August 28, 2008 and filed under Online Marketing.