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As the economy sputters and marketing dollars come under the microscope, digital marketers face a real threat. A threat that I believe we are better suited to handle in this economic downturn versus the dot com bust of 2000.
Remember 2000? When everyone questioned the marketing value of the Internet and Digital budgets disappeared faster than a bowl of Cheesies at a five year-old’s birthday party?
The big question being asked of marketers today, no matter what their background, discipline or channel of expertise is, “How effectively is marketing spend being turned into new revenue and profit?” or “What is the ROI?”.
This is where Digital has an advantage – especially when approached from the discipline of Direct and Database Marketing.
Direct and Database is an area of marketing that speaks the same language as the Finance department (yes, that’s a good thing.) Over a decade of working at one of Canada’s largest Banks, I learned that the financial custodians understand the “science” of marketing better than the “art” of marketing. Quantifiable projections and results (response rates, conversion, sales, analytics etc..) tend to get them listening and onside faster than discussions about reach, awareness and propensity. If there was ever a time to defend budgets based on hard numbers that resonate from finance to the C-level, it is now.
So, here is the first in a series of reasons why the Digital and Direct connection will produce winning results in tough economic times:

Relationship Building with Data:
Digital is the perfect medium for collecting data. Direct Marketing at its core is an information-driven discipline. While there are many ways digital marketers can collect and track information, both at an aggregate and an individual level, the connection I want to make here is building one-to-one relationships using digital and data for the purpose of targeted direct marketing.
It all begins with obtaining consent. When collecting a first/last name, postal code and email address in order to build the foundation of a valuable customer contact asset, permission is the gold standard – especially online.
Done properly, it serves to drive increased response and conversion rates. Why? Well, simply because the audience consists of those who have raised their hands to receive marketing. It is the difference between speaking to those who are interested versus those who could care less from the outset.
So, do people actually provide permission for marketing? Yes, they do. Individuals will “opt-in” for marketing when given a good enough reason (content, special offers, loyalty programs etc). There is a trade-off where contact information will be given when the perceived benefit is worthwhile. So, the promise of what they will receive in exchange for providing permission must be compelling.
A large part of the trade-off is the promise of how you will treat the data and address privacy concerns. A Privacy Policy is a must have from a legal and compliance standpoint, but it is much more palatable when positioned as a Relationship Promise. Not only does it sound better, it speaks to the overall brand experience. Ask yourself what you want from a friend, a policy or a promise?
Of course, we marketers want to sell stuff. Consumers know that. They are not stupid. David Ogilvy famously said “The consumer isn’t moron, she is your wife”. When we are smart with the collection and use of data the trade-off makes sense for customers.
Over time, data facilitates value to both parties and creates an on-going dialogue. And, allows for more frequent and meaningful contact – especially if customers can control how often they want a company to be in touch. For marketers, it is a platform providing an increased ability to learn, evolve and improve response and grow profit. For consumers, they see themselves being treated as a unique customer where their relationship is understood to the extent that they receive relevant communications and offers, tailored to their unique needs. It is win-win.
Brands that invest in building customer and/or prospect profiles as a long term play are on the right path to relationship development. It is a strategy that pays dividends over time. But be wary of abusing the power of your data. Unfortunately, many marketers erode the long term potential when they give into the urge or pressure to deliver short-term results. Quick hit revenue grabs should be avoided as they often serve to destroy the relationship that has been carefully nurtured over time.
So, there is a wealth of opportunity to use data to build relationship and better manage the direct contact marketing cycle. I‘ll leave you with this point from the late Peter Drucker, “The Purpose of marketing is to KNOW and understand a customer so well that the product fits him/her and sells itself”.
Google knows the power of data and how the principles of direct marketing work. It is really not the evil conspiracy you have been led to believe.
I’ll be back with other parts in this series that speaks to connecting the power of Digital, Direct and Data – the 3D approach to today’s new marketing.