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Why Not to Abandon Direct Mail for Social Media

Date: August, 2011 --

Everywhere you look Social Media is being touted as a must-have, critical element to the success of any marketer. Moreover, who can blame you for getting caught up in the craze when even major direct marketing membership organizations seem to have all but abandoned more traditional marketing mediums for the latest, what some would call fleeting, trend of the moment.

While we ourselves have certainly embraced all forms of social media, and (while we’re eagerly awaiting the opportunity to unveil a company page on Google+) would be thrilled if you “like” our Facebook page or followed @DataServicesInc on twitter, we’re not necessarily convinced these positions aren’t overstated, upon closer inspection, usually by those with a financial interest in your usage of the medium.

So, acknowledging that social media does and should have some place in your marketing mix, here’s why we think your focus should move back to the direct marketing tactics that helped build many a business over the years, more than likely yours included:

What social media can’t do:

We agree that social media are providing some useful new tools and insights about consumers.  But we were impressed by a short piece we read last week which listed the five things that social media can’t do for you: make you cool (everybody is on social media), create great products and services (done off-line anyway), stop criticism (in fact, it enables it), provide free marketing (someone has to tweet/blog/link etc.), or improve customer service (although it can be a good way to say,”Whoops. Very stupid of us. Sorry.”)

Social media may or may not be something your business needs to invest in. Every business is unique and has a unique set of products and a unique customer base. It turns out that social media can be a terrific market research device for consumer products. The brands do this all the time.  You can learn quickly whether your customers will like a yellow version of your product, or a bacon-flavored version. 

Competition is swift.

You can use social media to get a leg up and compete.  Remember “United Breaks Guitars”, the YouTube song by a musician whose guitar was allegedly damaged by United Airlines?  United was tongue-tied, but not Taylor Guitars, the makers of the violated instrument. Within hours of the song going viral, Taylor put out a home-made video with Mr. Taylor himself telling watchers that airline passengers had an absolute right, set out in the Federal Aviation Authority rules, to carry their guitars onto the aircraft! Who knew? 

What can you do with a letter? 

Like Mr. Taylor, you can educate.  And you can do it at length with polished language and appropriate art. Moreover, you can provide much more detail and treat at length the complexity of your product or the problems it solves. A letter is not spontaneous, like social media. It’s a calculated set of intelligent choices.

You can inspire and be invited to stay

Carefully crafted words that speak to your target’s needs, feelings, moods, wants or dreams are the most powerful tools in the marketer’s toolkit. Words that live in the letter that your prospect or client puts aside to read again the next day, or files away in the “To Do” folder, or sticks to the refrigerator door with a magnet have a much greater impact that can be hoped to be gained from 140 characters amidst the noisy, cluttered world of social media.

You can tell the whole story

Remember The Wall Street Journal’s control letter for some 15 years was over 6 pages long. It couldn’t be any shorter because the whole story would not have been told, and the sale would not have been made, over and over. Nothing on the Internet is even vaguely this effective.

You can include a gift

Gifts still work, be they little notepads or medals or Post-its or calendars or any of the myriad of devices available. Additionally, that tangible object remains there on the desk or next to the phone or on the refrigerator door as a constant reminder of your company and its product. Bits of stuff can be picked up; bytes cannot.

And be accurate

Increasingly we find that marketers are struggling with where new online customers are coming from, and where they are, when they are acquired online. The promises of SEO, affiliate marketing and all the other tools are still being realized. But with letters used skillfully in tandem with healthy lists and databases, the demographic analysis is much more straightforward, provided of course that the data is accurate. 

So use Data Services to help you acquire that peak level of accuracy that makes your marketing hit its targets and enables more accurate list selection. Also remember that physical addresses acquired online were put there by human beings who make mistakes as easily with keystrokes as they do with pens! Regardless of whether the address in question is postal or email, US or International, Data Services’ has the tools to ensure its accuracy!