Integrating Direct Marketing Know-How with Digital Marketing

Have you ever written something and thought, "I wish I had written that?" Well that just happened when I found this perceptive and well-written post by Craig Dempster, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Merkle. 

His article, entitled Applying Traditional Direct Marketing Principles to the Digital Age provides an excellent analysis of some parallels between the digital marketing world and well-developed direct marketing applications.

He concludes that traditional direct marketers need to get up to speed on the growing array of internet tools available to them while criticizing new media mavens for thinking that they invented Internet marketing applications that have existed for many years in the direct marketing world.

I agree with Craig's conclusions in principle. But just how do highly experienced direct marketers break into the digital world? How expert should they become in a single medium like the Internet? That's the $64,000 question.

Strong direct marketers are lifelong learners and read a lot to keep up with the changes that were always a part of direct marketing. They also routinely use the Internet in the marketing mix. So most of them understand how digital media contributes to the overall strategy. They see the big, strategic picture and the tactical options. 

But just as direct marketers have used analytics and lettershops to implement their strategies, the majority knew better than to attempt to become overnight statisticians or experts on postal regulations. Suppliers provided the necessary detail expertise. 

In the same way, why should a direct marketing digital practitioner feel compelled to become an SEO, PPC and social media hands-on expert to become a respected digital marketer?

From the digital marketer's perspective, why should (s)he want to seek the advice of a direct marketer? 

In my view, this is the real obstacle. Some digital marketers do not think direct marketers bring value to their programs.

Could it be that digital media "experts" quickly develop tunnel vision tempting them to think they own the solution to all marketing problems and never recognize the need develop the breadth needed to look at all of the alternatives?

I think that is what Craig was alluding to when he wrote:

And while the digital folks believe they are creating brand-new marketing techniques, a close look reveals that most of the ecosystem is just an updated version of the way the direct and database marketing industry grew—with a series of data compilers and aggregators, analytic services providers, service bureaus, database managers, and lettershops.

My question remains unanswered. How do digital technologists and seasoned direct marketers combine both worlds to help companies achieve their sales and profit goals?

The first step is for both camps (and this includes clients, hiring managers and CMOs) to realize that they both have something significant to bring to the table. 

How would you propose integrating the skills of both experienced direct marketers and digital marketers? How do direct marketers demonstrate their unique and critical contributions to any direct response Internet program? 

Posted on December 20, 2012 and filed under Direct Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing.