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News & Views from Alchemis

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Is this the death of traditional direct marketing in Britain?

I’ve read numerous articles in both the marketing and national press this week about how social media marketing is powering its way up the slippery ladder of “brand medium of choice” at the cost of direct marketing. Some of the stats mentioned in the articles may give great cause for concern to people working in “traditional” direct marketing – like 66% of marketers will be investing in social media marketing activity over the next year and as many as 40% said they would be using their DM budget to do so, cutting spending on DM by a fifth.

Now, if anybody read my previous blog about CRM, you may have surmised that I can be a bit picky when it comes to data integrity. So, a few things I should point out about these stats, before any traditional DM agencies start to beat their chests in self-pity whilst wailing “we’re all doomed”.

Firstly, all these articles appear to have stemmed from the same source (the Alterian 7th annual survey).

Secondly, this survey questioned 1,068 professionals worldwide, but of these only 42% were actually marketers (the rest were agencies, service providers, systems integrators and “others”).

Thirdly, only 36% of respondents were from Europe as opposed to 62% from North America and 2% from Asia.

So, I would imagine from this that the real sample size of British marketing decision makers who are actually in a budget holding position is unlikely to be more than a few hundred.

That said, there’s no denying that social media is a very attractive option for marketers. It’s relatively cheap, leaves less of a carbon footprint in these environmentally-conscious times and campaigns can be created and turned around so quickly that marketers have the ability to act almost “up to the minute” with current trends and events.

However, it’s not necessarily going to reach all demographics across the board. The weighting is far heavier at the younger end of the scale so for the foreseeable future the “older” generations (and I’m not just talking about pensioners here) will still be a very safe bet for traditional direct marketers.

On top of this, an ever-growing number of DM agencies have integrated digital and social media marketing offers as well now which, when considering the vast amounts of personal data gleaned from online campaigns, raises opportunities to tailor highly personalised specific direct marketing campaigns to potential customers with a higher degree of accuracy than ever before. Don’t forget, traditional direct marketing doesn’t just have to be in the form of a letter – I’ve heard of all manner of objects being sent in order to elicit a response (including a crowbar on one B2B campaign).

This blog is obviously focused on the reports that DM could lose revenue, but most meetings we attend across all disciplines talk about social media. Is it also the death knell for traditional PR agencies or advertising agencies? Social media is no longer the jewel in the crown of just the digital agency fraternity. It has and will become a part of all marketing be it PR, DM or even research and as such agencies need to develop their offers in that area.

It’s true that some traditional direct marketers may have to raise their game and “work smarter” to keep it an effective medium. But those who do will reap the rewards.

What are your predictions for the future of direct or social media marketing?

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