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B2B DIRECT MARKETING
Political stalemate in the nation's capital is causing business uncertainty and restricting marketing growth, a gathering of direct marketers were told last week at MeritDirect's 14th annual Business Mailers' Co-op and Interactive Marketing Conference in White Plains, N.Y.
“There's great growth in the financial markets; unemployment is down; the housing market has improved; and there is more confidence among consumers,” said keynote presenter Bruce Biegel, senior management director at consultancy Winterberry Group.
“The country is doing pretty well, but it's subject to what they do in Washington,” he said. “Unless there's a change in gridlock, there's no real growth ahead because it's holding people back in making decisions in how they go to market.”
Biegel said spending on mobile marketing—estimated to increase 19% this year—is driving the shift to digital channels. Further, he projected that this year will be the first in which spending on digital marketing will outstrip direct-mail spending.
“But direct mail still works,” he said. “Even as the volume of mailed pieces shrinks, the less mail in the mailbox the better because people still like to read mail.”
Biegel said the rise of local search, now accounting for 20% of all queries, represents a “sea change” in search behavior that's “creating a huge amount of data for retargeting.” Programmatic ad bidding and placement is driving display advertising growth, expected to rise to 16% of digital spending by the end of this year from 6% in 2011, he said.
In a conference session titled “Marketing in a Complex World: How Marketers Are Solving Today's Vexing Issues,” multichannel, integrated marketing programs were deemed essential, but for various reasons.
“We are focused like a laser on multichannel marketing, and that's how we see our growth in the next decade,” said panelist Tom Slavin, director-circulation and operations at Staples Inc. “We have a whole agency making sure our brand is consistent across channels and the customer experience to build brand loyalty.”
Panelist Barry Gold, managing director at database company Venture Development Center, said multichannel marketing functions for his company are used largely as a source of information.
“Data from the social and search realms is an indicator of people's interest and purchase behavior offline,” Gold said. “What people are planning to do tends to reveal itself via their digital behavior. We see this as an opportunity to use these digital signals to recalibrate traditional marketing programs.”
The synergy between in- and outbound marketing was addressed by panelist Robert Cameron, director-corporate marketing at industrial supplies company New Pig.
“We see 65% of our first-time orders come in via the Web, yet we still get orders coming in by phone after customers visit the website and even put items in their [online] carts,” Cameron said.
“The integration between inbound and outbound has gotten more complex,” he said. “You can't have silos between prospecting and inbound. We have boosted our e-commerce and promotional email activities while working with the inbound customers as well.”
Slavin said Staples' outbound marketing efforts entail “anything that works,” including search engine optimization, display ads, direct mail, catalog mailings and telephone outreach.
“Telephone sales are geared toward a select universe of prospects we feel aren't yet ready to go to the contract shelf but who deserve more than an 800 number or the Staples.com experience,” he said. “We're always testing and retesting concepts, revisiting ones that stopped working and trying again.”
Cameron said one concept Big Pig has revisited is outbound faxes.
“We've tried it and surprisingly it's a license to print money,” he said. “It works. We're trying to append fax numbers in all those states where we're allowed to market via fax.”
In a session titled “Maximize Your E-marketing Game,” marketers grappled with the shift of power to customers.
“It's keeping me up at night,” said panelist Sal Abramo, director-marketing operations at Thomson Reuters. “Many deals start with Web searches and word of mouth, and 50% to 60% of customers already have their minds made up before making a decision. The complexion of the entire sales cycle has changed. Buyers are looking for ROI upfront. The whole concept of customer self-service has to factor in to what we're doing.”