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Has Direct Marketing Gone Indirect and Irrelevant?

Aug 12, 2013 12:00 AM


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LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue says direct marketing ranks high on the endangered species list and well on the way to extinction. But before you take this industry insider’s word, you’ve got to look at other side too. Yes, direct marketing does have its flaws. But is there really such a thing as a perfect marketing channel? Come on, anyone can easily find a mountain of evidence that shows one approach works (direct marketing included).

So in this article from Forbes, Blue cites direct marketing’s inaccuracies and pitfalls as the main harbingers of its own death. At this rate, he predicts that direct marketing is going to inevitably outlive its usefulness and go the way of the dinosaurs.

Truthfully, it’s hard to say whether Blue is right or wrong. His prediction is set some place real far into the future: 15-20 years he says. That leaves a lot of room for anything to happen.

Looking at the present alone, you see a wholly different picture than what he’s painting. The article already mentions the DMA’s findings on the $169 billion spent on direct marketing last year and the $2 trillion in incremental revenues that it generated. That’s roughly 9% of the entire U.S. economy.

Other sources support direct marketing’s place in the multichannel mix. Recent data from HubSpot shows the significant contribution of direct marketing channels on overall results. For B2B lead generation, email marketing is the number 2 source of prospects (12% of leads generated), while telemarketing and direct mail each accounts for close to 10% of leads acquired by companies.

Numbers from InsideSales.com agree with these figures. In their study, outbound marketing takes credit for almost 40% of B2B lead generation results. By comparison, social media is only able to produce 5%, making it the worst platform. Think of that as the number of opportunities you would have lost if you ditched your direct marketing strategies.

See, underneath the data, direct marketing still shows several key strengths that keep it useful. That goes for not just now but even well into the future:

Precision – There’s no other style of marketing that can take you one-on-one with your prospects.

Personalization – With the right data, it’s easy to come up with and deliver marketing messages that your prospects actually care about.

Speed – Channels like email and telemarketing allow you to engage with leads at or near real-time.

Measurability – Direct marketing inputs and results can be accurately traced and gauged, making them easier to manage.

Again, 15-20 years will leave a lot of room for the field of direct marketing to advance. And given its current track record, it’s also just as reasonable to think it’s still going to be part of the multichannel marketing toolkit for quite some time.