Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Debra Ellis and originally published on the Multichannel Marketing blog, which I can’t recommend enough. It is reprinted here with permission.
An open letter to direct marketers…
There are those who say that direct marketing is dying. It is being replaced with a new “unmarketing” philosophy embraced by consumers and forward thinking companies. There will be no room in the future for the tactics that used to motivate people to respond to corporate messages.
The opposing viewpoint is that social media is a fad that will disappear like pet rocks and the Macarena. This group argues that most of the people tweeting, linking, and nudging are kids with nothing better to do. Before long, we’ll be back to normal.
Which side is right?
Neither. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The report of direct marketing’s death has been greatly exaggerated.” If you dig deep into the stories you’ll find that most of the people calling for a memorial service don’t understand direct marketing. And they definitely don’t know how to use it to grow a company.
Direct marketing works. Whether it is catalogs, postcards, letters, or email, it generates revenue. And, any tactic that delivers a return on investment will be used. When someone tells you that your marketing is dying, you know better because you see the results every day.
Social media works, too. It’s different from direct marketing, but every bit as effective because it humanizes companies. Customers get to know the people behind the products and promotions. It creates a connection that won’t be broken by lower prices. It makes your company more attractive to your competitors’ customers.
What happens if you ignore social media?
If you think that I’m going to say it’s the end of your world, you’re wrong. It’s not (at least not today.) But, it is the start down a slippery slope because social media is here to stay. The platforms may change, but the concept and ability to really connect with your customers won’t.
Ignoring social media will put you behind any existing competitors who are embracing the channel. Even worse, it allows new companies to build relationships with your customers, charming them away from you.
Social media is the venue that changes the world’s marketplace into corner stores.
Imagine that your company has a store in a small town. A new fellow comes into town and introduces himself to everyone. He attends functions with a smile and helping hand. He seems to be everywhere; chatting with your neighbors, leading fundraisers, and offering information. Everything seems harmless enough, helpful even, until he announces that he is opening a store as your competitor. He has clearly established credibility and your revenues will suffer.
The same thing will happen to the business you are managing today if you fail to join the social media world. People who are in it now are looking for opportunities. You will provide them one.
You have an advantage, if you choose to use it.
You know direct marketing. You know how to plan a campaign, test variables, and measure the results. Social media marketing isn’t that different. It requires a different tone and focus, but it still needs planning, testing, and measuring.
The combination of direct marketing and social media is what we have been seeking for so many years. We wanted the ability to connect with our customers, learn from them, and provide exceptional service. The new platforms provide the tools to do just that with customers around the world. It is hard for me to imagine why everyone in the direct marketing industry isn’t jumping for joy.
Instead of elation, there is a lot of explaining why social media doesn’t work.
“My customers aren’t involved in the social media scene.” (Have you looked at the demographics lately? You may be surprised.)
“I don’t know what to do. “ (Let someone teach you. There are plenty of us around who understand social media and a few who understand how to make it work with direct marketing.)
“It takes too much time.” (In the beginning, it is time consuming but it is manageable. When you are established, it saves time and money because you can resolve issues quickly and economically.)
“I don’t see a return.” (You will. It takes time to build relationships. Once established, your customers’ lifetime value increases.)
Social media matters to you whether you accept it or not. It has the potential to move your company to new levels up or down. You choose.
Note: If you aren’t sure where to start or you’re not seeing progress with your current social media strategy, check out my new guide “Social Media 4 Direct Marketers“.