Direct Marketing Goes Digital: Addressability Matters More Than Ever

Updated: January 14, 2010

Direct digital marketing is not designed to replace tried and true, established marketing methods. Traditional direct marketing is still thriving and effective. The personalization and targeting capabilities - from inserting the name of the recipient in the creative to targeting a specific zip code - make direct mail a relevant tactic now and for the foreseeable future. However, while the consumer still has a physical address, reaching them at home is no longer the most efficient or effective method of meeting sales and marketing goals. The modernization and mobility of the consumer has forced the discipline of marketing to innovate.

There are several key differences that highlight the separation between direct digital marketing and traditional direct marketing.

First, direct digital marketing offers enhanced accountability - in real time. An email send provides click through and conversion data instantly, keeping the marketing manager and the board room equally satisfied. A common and useful measuring stick for direct marketing is cost per sale. An email campaign gathers and computes both sides of the equation - the cost to send the campaign and the total sales from the campaign - easily and instantly. A traditional direct marketing campaign using direct mail cannot measure any results in real time, and frustrated marketers sometimes struggle to determine a reliable sales figure from the campaign.

Second, direct marketing's hallmark is targeting, but direct digital marketing takes targeting to a completely new, microscopic level. For example, a traditional direct mail campaign focuses on targeting to a specific zip code. If the campaign objective requires a deeper level of targeting, the cost goes up. With direct digital marketing all types of targeting and segmentation have the same cost - no matter how specific the target gets. Also, the opportunities for targeting are vast. While direct marketing targets primarily on geographic and demographic data, direct digital marketing goes much further by targeting on very specific data points like recent purchase history.

Third, modern consumers demand relevant communications, meaning the message must both appeal to the consumer and be received at the right time. Not only do statistics show consumers are more likely to make a purchase when the marketing content is timely and relevant to their specific needs, sending a consumer content that is not relevant damages a potentially profitable relationship. Sure, sales figures improve with relevant content, but the cost of irrelevance is high.

Last, direct digital marketing offers a more pleasing return on investment. Message relevance demands more versions of the creative, but the cost for developing more versions of the marketing content for a direct digital marketing campaign - even if a new version is needed at the eleventh hour (as usual) - are often less than changes to an offline piece of content. Marketers also have the flexibility to be as specific as they would like to be when targeting a certain group, while the cost for micro-targeting through traditional channels is so high that it becomes difficult to incorporate into the campaign strategy.

Direct digital marketing takes many of the core components that make direct marketing effective and significantly extends them. While it is tempting to list the pillars of marketing's modern medium - email, Web, and mobile - under the old and trusty direct marketing name, it is a misnomer because direct digital marketing offers so much more than traditional direct marketing. The promise of enhanced accountability, the tremendous targeting capabilities, the ability to create relevant content, and the reduced cost of designing and executing a campaign make direct digital marketing ideal for addressable online communications. Marketers must begin thinking about "online marketing" the same way they think about traditional marketing. Online offers opportunities for mass marketing with display and banner advertising and search, and addressable marketing in the form of direct digital marketing.

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