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Does direct marketing have a place in today’s digital world?

direct marketing

Long gone are the days where our high streets were brimming with a host of individual independent retailers. With sky rocketing costs it now a rarity to find an independent brand with a bricks and mortar shop, instead they compete for an ever smaller slice of the pie online as the market becomes saturated with an ever increasing amount of competition. With this in mind does direct marketing have a place in today’s digital world?

You work hard to create your brand, your identity. Choosing colours, fonts, designing your logo, building your product range and launching your website but what then? How do you get your product in front of the right people? How do you convince them to purchase from you and once they have how do you keep them coming back for more?

Not only you have to think about SEO, from creating new and exciting content, to which social media channels suit your business and what tone of voice you should use, you also have to think carefully about the marketing rule of 7. That is; to gain enough confidence and trust from a prospective customer to convince them to purchase from you, they need to see your product at least seven times. 7 times!

Now, factor in that believe it or not the average reading age of an adult in the UK is 9 (The Guardian newspaper, for instance, is written for a reading age of 14) and you begin to realise the importance of pictures. As it has been said many times before; a picture speaks a thousand words. But you then find yourself coming back full circle to the how to get the images in front of the right person at the right time.

So what do we do? We open social media accounts, we work on building our email lists and then wonder why we aren’t gaining followers. And why our engagement levels so low? The truth is, in this digital world we are constantly bombarded with information. Have you ever done your daily commute only to arrive at your destination and all of a sudden realise that you can’t remember the actual journey? It’s the same with digital marketing, our brains are so constantly bombarded with information that we can‘t process it all. In the end only a small percentage actually sinks in.

According to MailChimp the current average open rate for email marketing in the home and garden sector is around 24%. Great, that’s 24 people actually looking at your email for every 100 you send. Two things immediately stand out with this statistic: Firstly, what happened to the other 76? And secondly, you will need quite a substantial email list if you are going to generate enough sales from only one quarter of your list. To make matters even worse the average click-through rate is only 4%. So for every 100 emails you send only 24 people open it and of those 24 only 1 (yes one) person will click through to your website. So whilst email marketing has its place and every brand should allocate time to it, it is certainly not a quick fix. It requires time and effort to build a list before you can start to enjoy the rewards.

The other way we might attempt to get straight in front of our customer is to pay for ads. Be it Google Adwords or Facebook Ads, this is another way to promote our brands and raise awareness. I’m sure we are all aware that the top 3 places of organic search are the place we need to be, but what if you’re number 6 for your chosen keyword? Your piece of the pie is tiny compared with spots 1 to 3 and so we resort to Adwords. It’s a sure fire way to increase brand awareness or so we are made to believe. But, with anything above a 2% click-through rate considered good it can be a costly mistake. Not only is the conversion rate poor but it can adversely affect your organic listings too, by increasing bounce rates up to 70–90%.

Facebook is also always changing its algorithm to stay one step ahead of brands as they try desperately to raise their engagement levels. Meaning, more and more companies resort to tracking campaigns and boosting posts in the hope of getting in front of the customer. Even if everything does come together and you are seen by the perfect customer, what if it’s at the wrong time? What if you actually manage to enter the feed of an ideal customer but they are just taking a quick peak and don’t have the time to engage with the post and click through to your website. Unless they actually take a screenshot or bookmark it, chances are it will have disappeared from their feed when they come back to look at it later. Or, worse still they will have completely forgotten about it.

So what is the answer? Taking into account the rule of seven in all honesty, it’s important to do a little of everything. But there is another way to get in front of your customers that many brands no longer take advantage of. Some may think it’s old-fashioned, but you really can’t beat paper. There’s nothing more satisfying than turning a page (an actual real page) especially if it’s your favourite magazine. You build time into your day, whether curled up on the sofa with a cuppa or relaxing in a bubble bath, to read it. And this is an ideal time to be in front of your customer. They are relaxed, open to ideas, ready to identify and connect with brands. Whilst all brands would like to feature in magazines, it can take a while for journalists to start seeking you out, but don’t give up. Once one journalist picks up a brand and runs with it, others will follow. In the meantime, whilst you’re waiting for your big break, why not create your own magazine experience with a brochure, catalogue or a lookbook?

All three options are great way for brands to enter the homes of potential customers. They are a fabulous and cost effective tool for bridging the gap between online experience and high street presence. Not only do they build confidence in a brand, but they are so exciting to receive in the post, and far more personal than an email. After all, you can’t display an email on your coffee table!

Many of the larger independent brands know the power of the catalogue and create the most fabulous A5 brochures which are directly delivered to your door. Take a look at Rocket St George, Loaf and Graham & Green for example. Each one of these retailers started off online, each has grown to be household names and each one promotes their latest brochure on their homepage. Research shows that “58 percent of online shoppers get their ideas from browsing catalogues, and nearly 90 percent bought items they saw first in a catalogue”. According to Rocket St George, their Christmas lookbook helped to increase their sales turnover by 20%.

So the question remains: Does direct marketing have a place in today’s digital world? I hope you agree that yes, it does. And, its importance as a marketing tool shouldn’t be underestimated or dismissed completely. Catalogues, brochures and lookbooks have an extremely valuable place in the marketing mix, don’t you think?

Written by Rachel Edmonds

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