5 Ways Direct Marketing Companies Shoot Themselves in the Foot

Ladder to the SkyBefore you aim that revolver at me and start shooting, you should know that I love direct marketing. My career began in the direct mail industry. It was love at first sight and I’ve never looked back. Of course back then we proudly called ourselves catalogers or direct mailers. Things have changed.

Today, catalogs and direct mail have been marked for extinction. Surveys show that businesses are reducing their budgets for traditional marketing and expanding into new media. While some of the surveys may be self-serving, one fact remains: the way we communicate with our customers is changing.

On the surface, we seem to get it.

We have changed our name to multichannel marketers and dabbled in some of the new media. If a rose by any other name is still a rose, then a cataloger by any other name is still a cataloger. We don’t need a name change, we need a paradigm shift.

There is a world of opportunity waiting for us and we are letting others leave us behind. The basis tenets of direct marketing provide a perfect foundation for capitalizing on the new channels that are appearing daily. We know how to attract customers with eye-catching graphics and hypnotizing copy. We know how to engage people with stories about our history, products, and services. And, we know how to deliver on the promise quickly, efficiently, accurately, and profitably. So, why are we not leading the pack in social media and mobile technology?

I kept watching and waiting for a brave soul to step up with a call to arms.

Since no one appeared, I’m accepting the challenge. Here is your call to action. Stop shooting yourself in the foot and take your appointed position as leader of the new marketing world. To get you started, here are 5 ways direct marketers shoot themselves in the foot:

  1. By thinking that decreased response rates are due to the economy. Yes, the economy is challenging, but it isn’t the only reason your customers aren’t buying. They have a global market to shop. Before you cry, “loyalty is dead”, ask yourself if you do anything to inspire loyalty. Sending 100’s of emails promoting one sale after another doesn’t inspire loyalty. Anticipating your customers’ needs and fulfilling them does.
  2. By dismissing social networking as a passing fad. Yeah, MySpace seemed to rocket to the top of the charts and then fall over the edge but that doesn’t mean that the concept is dead. It isn’t. Every second, people are chatting online about companies and products. There are stories to be told. Are you standing by while your competition engages your customers? Or, are you going to share your story with the world?
  3. By believing that interruption marketing works in social media. The social media world is about telling your story while helping others. It seems that when companies that thrived with traditional marketing jump into the network, they post one sale or promotion after another. This approach may work with your existing customers, but it won’t attract or engage new ones. Your company has a unique culture and history. Tell us about it. We need to see your human side.
  4. By expecting the business model that built your business to grow it. There comes a time when companies have to evolve to remain successful. In the past, the evolution was from entrepreneurial to structured management. It was charted territory so you could follow the path forged by others. Our world is different now. There isn’t one way to success. You have to create the model that works best for your customers, employees, and company. It is simultaneously scary and invigorating. I know you can do it. Start now.
  5. By maintaining silo management of marketing and operations. The push and pull relationship between marketing and operations has a long history. It is time to end it. Where the customer is concerned, there isn’t a break between marketing and operations. It is one. The best marketing is fulfilling the promise to the customer. If you aren’t working together as a team, you will fail. It is time to integrate departments, divisions, and channels into one seamless customer experience.

I wish that I could tell you that making these changes is easy. It’s not. It requires planning, moving out of your comfort zone, and perseverance. You have a choice. If you choose to change, your future is bright. If you don’t, then not so much.

The good news is that direct marketing is not dead (contrary to the opinions of new media advocates.) It is evolving. When the leaders of our industry flex their minds, we will have new business models that include the best of direct mail, catalogs, email, social media, and emerging channels. I can’t wait. How about you?

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