Building on a one-to-one relationship between the prospective customer and the marketing organization, direct marketing can be regarded a sub-discipline of marketing.The Institute of Direct Marketing defines it as “The fusion of creative thinking with customer knowledge and the latest technologies to generate customised communications and business solutions, across a mix of media.”
Direct marketing traditionally focused on personalized letters and mails as well as telephone calls. With the ushering in of an information revolution and the growing outreach of the internet, direct marketing has taken new forms and is seen to possess an ever-widening scope.
Creative thinking and an advanced understanding of customer behavior have resulted in the creation of new means and modes of direct marketing. Here’s tracing recent trends in the domain of direct marketing.
Telemarketing of Insurance
Regulators the world over are coming down hard on companies selling insurance through unsolicited phone calls, yet telephone retailing appears to have a bright future in insurance. According to management consultancy firm Watson Wyatt, which specializes in the insurance business, direct marketing through telephones is turning out to be the third largest alternate channel for insurance companies.
“In the UK and Australia, telemarketing and the Internet are the dominant channel for distributing non-life insurance products. Telemarketing is already significant for some companies in Asia and there is rapidly growing interest in this channel,” said John O’Rorke Managing Director, Distribution Consulting Practice, Watson Wyatt.
Companies are looking at in-bound customer calls to sell insurance in many markets, O’Rorke said.
Companies would either run an advertising campaign inviting callers to phone in or they would attempt to cross-sell to customers who had called in with some other enquiry.
For insurance companies, which have traditionally been selling their products through agents, any other sales channel is described as an alternate channel. Among these, bank assurance is the most dominant followed by telemarketing.
Marketing Through Associations
Marketing through associations remains one of the most underestimated form of direct marketing. Since the magazines and newsletters of associations are not the mainstream prospecting tools of most marketers who market through more traditional channels association publications receive just a fraction of the press releases and promotional articles that go to major publishers.
Yet the comprehensive lists of over 23,000 associations go astonishingly deep in most major and minor markets. In addition, association publications are usually well regarded and lend excellent credibility to the firms that get ink in their house publications.Marketing to – or through – associations may turn out to be a key component of your campaign. The foremost goal of most associations is to educate their members – might as well have them educate their members about your products and services.
Academics and industry researchers are working on a number of next-generation technologies that will make the envelope even more versatile and powerful. Electronic ink can turn envelopes into tiny billboards. Imagine receiving an envelope that shows you an image of a product and then switches to describe its features and benefits.
Memory spots can store information on a document or envelope. With this technology, a photograph could interface with a computer to deliver an audio message from the person in the picture. Or, a company could attach a memory spot to an executive summary, so they need to mail only a small portion of a report while the remainder could be transferred to a PC.
Radio frequency identification chips embedded in an envelope could offer a better tracking system or more secure transaction, ensuring that the recipient received the product, whether it is medication or a new credit card. The face of mail is going to change dramatically as these technologies are refined and deployed. The envelope is positioned to go high-tech, offering the potential for direct marketing to become more personalized.