Is direct marketing about to be reborn?
Direct marketing was the mainstay of fundraising in the 1980s and the early 1990s. The tools of our trade were direct mail, inserts, press ads and telemarketing. Our business was built on the back of the mail order catalogue sector which had created the universe of ‘mail order responsive’ lists that formed the backbone of our multi-million volume direct mail campaigns. Our media channels were selected based on sophisticated socio-demographic and lifestyle profiling which were mainly post-code based.
The subsequent demise of direct mail in particular is well-documented, replaced with street and door recruitment methods. Inserts have held up in small carefully targeted volumes, but press ads rarely work outside emergencies and child/animal sponsorship. Direct marketing has been dying for some years – but is it about to get a new lease of life?
Quite recently I was talking to my clever digital colleagues and I had a sudden revelation. They showed me a website which compiles highly detailed information about millions of people who are active online. Demographics, lifestyle, interests, issues, affiliations – and all of it information directly derived about each individual. I was astonished at the incredible wealth of real data that is out there. So much more precise and so much deeper than we have for print-based direct marketing; instead of having to extrapolate information from postcodes, we have people putting the minutiae of their lives on social networking sites, and blogging for all the world to see about what interests them.
What a fantastic targeting opportunity this offers us. The key to direct marketing is the ability to target your offer directly at the recipient. You need to know their name and how to contact them, but also you need to know enough facts about them to be sure that they are likely to be interested in what you have to offer. As print-based direct marketing fades, digital direct marketing is being ushered in, beginning to offer us a wealth of targeting information that makes this old direct marketing heart beat faster.