Direct marketing innovations help brands build better relationships

1st September, 2014 by Lucy Purdy

Sophisticated multi-media campaigns and subtler uses of data are helping brands to communicate with customers in ways that that benefit both parties.

From multi-media campaigns enlisting the cream of Britain’s creative industries, to more effective targeting of data, brands are finding smarter approaches to direct marketing – to the benefit of companies and consumers alike, say experts.

“It comes down to a balance of trust and a value exchange”, says Mike Lordan, Director of External Affairs at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

For brands, this means the focus needs to be on the value the campaign adds, and not simply on sales: “Consumers today expect that if they give a brand their details, they are going to be used appropriately and they will get value back. We are seeing very much more sophisticated methods of direct marketing and companies are targeting much more effectively in order to meet their customers’ needs.”

While consumers today face an unprecedented barrage of marketing messages from a proliferation of channels, they also want to find the latest products, get the best deals and maintain a relationship with brands they like. The triumvirate of permission, reward and control are key in forging lasting relationships, says Lordan.

“The companies that are thriving are the ones talking to customers in the way they want to be talked to: using not too much information, and in relevant and timely ways.”

Some 23% of UK sales are generated by direct marketing, according to 2011 figures, and almost three-quarters of UK business engage in some form of direct marketing. Marketers are increasingly taking time to hone their strategy and target thier audience before rolling out a campaign, saving money and often energy in the process by reducing paper and postage or cleaning up data. Direct marketers can use suppression files to bring their databases bang up-to-date.

Richard Owers, Director of Pureprint, observes, “Using more accurate and more targeted data for printed direct marketing campaigns means that we print less and our customers get higher response rates. Less waste and a lesser use of resources means that better data is greener data.”

For Lordan, there are also obvious commercial benefits in using data more wisely.

“Blanket emails to people who might not have an interest in your products are more likely to illicit unsubscribes than positive actions”, he argues. “It’s a case of giving customers good deals, being reliable, transparent and contacting them in a one-to-one way so they don’t feel they have been mass marketed to.”

Moreover, he adds, good marketers are being scrupulous in attaining the customers’ permission too: “The use of people’s data shouldn’t be hidden away on page 63 of the terms and conditions, but visible and clear. We don’t approve of pre-ticked, opt-in boxes. If customers want to opt in, it should be a positive action on their behalf.”

Lordan cites the example of supermarket reward card schemes – a loyalty-based marketing programme – as one notable success. Shoppers get discounts while the supermarkets amass information about their customers’ preferences. In general, DMA research shows that email and brand websites are the most effective channels for information exchange.

Cost is a driver too, with brands keen to maximise the return on their investment in financially straitened times. Here, creativity is king.

Leading environmental paper manufacturer Arjowiggins Graphic launched its 100% recycled Cyclus paper range with a nine-week campaign in June. Childhood was the focus, and specifically children’s education, through a link-up with charity SOS Children’s Villages France. Targeting potential customers in 36 countries, the campaign comprised 56,950 mailers, a notepad, brochure, web banners, adverts and a dedicated website, and, for each free Cyclus notepad ordered, Arjowiggins Graphic committed to pay a child’s school fees. Included in the mailer was an origami fortune teller, inviting people to “step back within their childhood” and have fun personalising it with their own text.

“We wanted something the recipient could interact with, a feel-good factor”, said Angela De Vorchick, Operational Marketing Manager at Arjowiggins Graphic. “We thought this had universal appeal. Marketing now needs to be something which resonates with your audience and really captures their attention.”

As the DMA’s Customer Acquisition Barometer 2014 reads: “Consumers will forgive brands knowing a lot about them, as long as they get something back.”

It seems that the more marketers can take the customer along with them, and the more each side understands the other, the better for both.

Pureprint is a Forum for the Future Partner. www.pureprint.com

Photo credit: LDProd/iStock/Thinkstock

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