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March 7, 2007
More and More, Marketing Means Marketing Directly

There are two kinds of advertising. Unlike mass advertising messages, where one size fits all, direct marketing is a way to make an offer that is tailored to customers’ needs, delivered to them directly, with the customers' responses measured quantitatively. Today, with sophisticated data management and multiple communications channels to choose from, direct marketers want to give you the exact information you want, exactly when and how you want it.

Marketing is about building long-term relationships by creating value that matches customers’ needs. Direct marketing’s extensive reliance on testing and measurement makes it the perfect process for achieving this goal.

Change is driving significant growth in many aspects of the direct marketing process. While direct marketing continues its tradition of generating and tracking measurable response, the Internet has turned direct marketers into interactive marketers, and interactive marketers into direct marketers. The digital world is leading all marketers to think about new ways to engage customers and measure their responses — across multiple marketing channels, simultaneously. This new discipline is continually evolving as marketers search for just the right mix to deliver the best results.

Deploying a consistent message to customers across a spectrum of marketing media — including mail, email, the Web, search, branded entertainment, interactive television, mobile technologies, and others — builds an information dialogue with customers and increases sales.

Today it is easier than ever for customers to get information and make purchases with many options readily available — over the phone, by mail, in the store, and especially online. This is a challenge for marketers who need to understand what stimulates a purchase and how to replicate it, over and over again, in the future. Only through measuring responses can that answer be found, and that’s the real strength of direct marketing.

Once, in a simpler time, a merchant would know that a particular family was good for credit and would extend it to them on sight. Today, trust is more essential than ever for both merchants and customers. DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice helps maintain that trust with 53 separate articles setting industry requirements for fair and honest advertising, marketing to children, use of marketing data, email marketing, teleservices and fundraising.

Also in that simpler time, a shopkeeper with 50 primary customers would know exactly what those customers wanted because of their direct personal relationship. But with the coming of the Internet and the expansion of global markets, marketers are faced with trying to understand and relate to 50 million customers or more.

Direct marketing is the process that enables this exchange of information between marketer and consumer, providing lower costs and efficiencies for both. While direct marketing has changed, the fundamentals remain the same — targeting good prospects; testing and tracking effectiveness; generating immediate, measurable results; and building lasting personal connections with customers.

As more channels become available for marketing, the need to analyze and understand customer response data — and to take strategic actions as a result — has never been greater. That’s what direct marketing brings to the table. Many people within all kinds of organizations, business and nonprofits alike, are beginning to realize just how important it is to be marketing directly to their donors and customers.

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Alan Kuritsky is vice president, marketing and communications at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) in New York City and serves as DMA’s Chief Marketing Officer. He brings more than 25 years of experience marketing B-to-B and B-to-C products and services. He has experience leading the marketing, sales, and operational divisions in Fortune 100 corporations as well as mid-size public and private start-up companies. He brings comprehensive perspectives on the direct marketing issues various companies face.

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