Beyond Mass Mailing - Direct & Interactive Marketing Today

With products like iPhone, Facebook, and Youtube, it should be clear by now that what people want is more than a mere purchase. Consumers want an experience. According to Martin Baier, direct/interactive marketing is "a philosophy and a process of marketing that has at its heart the needs, the desires, and the expectations of customers.”(WVU, 2011). In an interactive and digital age, what could be truer about the way human beings communicate with each other on a daily basis? Our hearts and desires and expectations have everything to do with our own interpersonal communications. 

Generation Jones and younger (i.e., everyone under the age of 50) increasingly prefer, and in some cases demand, personal interactions with brands.  This is one major reason for the rapid growth of direct/interactive marketing; how, when, and why we communicate with our consumers is utterly intriguing to me for many reasons.  First of all, it is the basis of an IMC approach.  Secondly, it allows us to get beyond a product design or brand management or big fancy PR campaign and enables us to get into the human psyche and build relationships with people. “…direct marketing quickly is becoming a way to develop a more personal relationship with target customers through customer relationship management. (Hammond, 2008). 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been described as, “there are better coders out there, but Mark understands how people think.” (Time, 2010).  Think about that for a moment.  An interactive medium has changed the way we live and interact with each other as humans.  Not as Americans or politicians or college students – but as humans.  And it’s not just Facebook.  With the evolution of things like Google TV, QR Codes, and RFI television ads, direct/interactive marketing will most certainly continue its growth. Moreover, it will continue to progressively change not only the way marketers reach targets but how human beings reach each other.

Building mutually beneficial relationships is something that direct marketers should take very seriously.  I spoke a lot here about social media and television, but relationship building should be fundamentally important to anyone implementing a direct/interactive strategy as well.  In both B2B and B2C environments, my philosophy is that we should be engaging with our audience – literally – whenever possible.  For example, in my city (Wheeling, WV), there is a weekly after-hours at a local sports bar.  I have been told by everyone from advertising executives to bank presidents that they close more deals and do more business at that after hours than anywhere else.  Why? Because they are not merely selling something - they are building long-term relationships.

For direct/interactive marketing to be sustainable, we must understand all of the different facets that are contained in its make-up and then learn how and when to effectively apply each.  Social media, television, direct mail pieces, and yes, even happy hour, provide us with opportunities to engage our customers and win them for life. 

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