Websites used to be an accessory for most direct mailers, functioning almost like electronic brochures. Sometimes they looked good, but they didn't have a lot to say and most fell well short of what should have been the ultimate goal-sell a product, get a donation and further the customer/donor relationship.
Times obviously have changed, radically. People now live part of their lives on the web; they read the news, pay their bills, correspond with friends, book their vacations and buy things, many things, there. They also waste a lot of time surfing, searching and scouring for anything remotely related to their interests at that moment.
Until recently, people used to spend considerable time with their direct mail, sifting through attractive offers from magazines and travel merchants, browsing retail catalogs and investment newsletters, choosing insurance plans and cable TV packages, etc. Now much of that time (and eventual money), even if it still starts in the mail, ends up being spent on the web. Today the website is an essential component for every direct mailer precisely because it does so many things well-in some cases complementing the best of direct mail and in other ways simply doing work that the mail cannot do.
"In 2009, I think you have to identify whether it's direct mail, or your website, that plays the starring role," asserts Gary Hennerberg, a copywriter and direct marketing consultant. Online is quickly becoming the new direct marketing leader with its unique ability to support inbound marketing efforts. "Not long ago, I would have said that a website supports direct mail. Today I think direct mail supports a website," says Hennerberg.
Either way, few direct mail pieces, no matter how brilliant or previously successful, and the companies behind them can afford to be without a comprehensive and, ideally, coordinated multichannel marketing plan-with the website being a major part of it all. "The goal of every marketer in our rapidly evolving direct marketing landscape must be to deliver speed and convenience to consumers by enabling them to engage and transact easily via the channel they are most comfortable with," reveals Michael Bloom, vice president of direct marketing operations for Datran Media.
For many, that inevitably, usually sooner than later, involves the website, perhaps moments after prospects get the mail piece. Here are six ways to get ready.
1. Dig the Demographics
"Demographics of your customers must be considered," urges Hennerberg, who believes parents of baby boomers tend to be readers and will continue to read direct mail. Meanwhile, they aren't known to be web-savvy, so they rarely may consider using the web to conduct additional research and transact business.
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