Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Online mediums 'becoming more credible for direct marketing'

I came across this article claiming that online channels such as email marketing were now becoming credible enough to rival offline channels like direct mail. There may be some merit to this observation, but there is one critical component that will always cripple email marketing when compared to offline mediums like direct mail, and that is the ability to get a list.

In direct mail, marketers have always been able to purchase a variety of mailing lists from brokers and other list owners/providers. Direct mail marketers never had to contend with the problem of developing or building a list every time they wanted to do a campaign outside of simply purchasing the correct list from someone. If they purchased a list they never had to worry if everyone on the list was "opt-in" or all the legal problems that were caused by the idiots in our Congress with the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 that did nothing to stop really egregious spammers, but added all kinds hurdles for small businesses to overcome.

However email marketers have all of these problems and more to deal with. First, they have to actually build a list name by name of opt-in subscribers. Now to be fair, some magazines will send out email marketing messages to their subscribers on your behalf, but they will never give you those names to mail your campaign to as direct mail list providers do. Therefore, while you can technically still do a campaign without building a list first you are severely limited in your control over how the piece looks and works. This of course takes a lot of power out of how well an email marketing campaign can and should work.

The second problem you face assuming you can get a list from anyone is to know if the entire list is really opt-in. If you fail to do this and someone that gets your email marketing messages files a CAN-SPAM complaint against your company you could be facing some stiff fines and penalties and possibly even criminal charges.

Therefore, it seems to me until a source of 100% verifiable opt-in lists can be purchased from a source and you can send your email message directly to the user rather than through a proxy and not have to sweat out the heavy hand of government coming down on you every time you send a campaign then email marketing will never be as accepted or as easy to perform as direct mail.

Email marketing has wonderful advantages in terms of customization, branding, speed, tracking, and response that direct mail will never be able to rival. Unfortunately, the problems with SPAM, morons in Congress and technical limitations will always keep email marketing a second tier marketing option unless you build your own list to market to or the laws and technology make it more feasible.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Email and Direct Mail Marketing - Weak Combination

I read an article today where an expert claimed that combining email marketing and direct mail could be very beneficial for a business. You can read the full article here. I found this combination of channel marketing very weak.

First, with direct mail you never know how many people actually received your piece and what the response rate was unless you have some type of unique offer and can track when people call or respond in some way to that offer. If after mailing out a piece like this you then follow it up with an email you have some fundamental problems...
  1. Opt-In: Is the list you are emailing to 100% opt in email addresses? If not, you are breaking the law. Unless you are mailing to your own customers and/or opt-in list the email portion is probably not opt-in.

  2. Spam Blockers: You are going to have a portion of your messages sent via email shaved off by spam blockers. Therefore, you have no concrete way of insuring that everyone gets both pieces from your campaign and hence is responding because of receiving the 1-2 combo piece.

  3. Measurable: If someone responds to either your email or vice versa if you do it the other way around, how do you know that they are responding because they received BOTH pieces; hence being rewarded for combining channels. You may just as easily won that customer with only one of the pieces.

    To accurately measure this type of campaign you would have to know for certain the prospect received both pieces and responded after receiving the second piece. This would be very hard to guarantee with a campaign and channel choice like this.
A vastly improved model is using direct mail or direct response ads and driving the person to a web site. Once the person receives the mailing if they then click through and go to the web site you can be assured they performed that action because they received the post card. If the portion of the site you direct them to is a specialized landing page you can track the entire encounter and measure how many people converted from your landing page. This would be completely measurable from beginning to end and work better than the proposed plan above.

An alternative of my strategy is using email (from a 100% opt-in list) and tracking how many people clicked through to a specialized landing page and eliminate the direct mail component entirely.

Combining email and direct mail will not achieve the results this expert claims. It is filled with a variety of problems and will most likely be a large waste of money.