Window on Direct Mail Media

While researching a column on the direct mail industry for B2B magazine, I talked with Rosalind Resnick, CEO of NetCreations.

She said “e-marketing” is becoming just “marketing,” so e-marketers must add postal addresses and phone numbers to their lists if they are to remain relevant.

She was hopeful on this point, confident that with email addresses in hand it will be easier for her to augment her files than it will be for postal list brokers to add email addresses.

But she was also aiming toward a larger point. There’s a big industry called direct marketing out there, with databases that have been aged for decades (longer than the finest of scotch whiskeys). Most of us have been ignoring these folks for too long. Consider this column a window on that world.

DM News has been serving the industry in print for 21 years and is now heavily pushing an online weekly. (It also publishes a daily email, iMarketing News Daily.)

In fact most of the stories I saw featured on its home page recently were Internet stories. This is not true for the printed magazine. Just as we’re rushing to print, the print people are rushing to the web. Just as our efforts look a little primitive, those of DM News look like the stories I wrote in 1995.

In contrast to DM News, Direct magazine posts the content of its print edition online.

A survey conducted by that magazine last year shows that it’s just as panicked about the bottom line as you are. Profiling and regression analysis are out, wrote Richard Levey. Cross-selling and upselling are in. (If you understood those last two sentences, you’ll do fine in the direct mail world because you’re fluent in the language.)

The most interesting of the direct mail publications may be Inside Direct Mail, featuring a lovely column called “Mailing of the Month.” The January edition of the column features a mailing piece from a fashion company designed to look like a little paper purse.

The entry of the direct mail industry into our space is a double-edged sword. The paper mailers bring a lot of expertise in database marketing to the party, along with financial heft.

They also bring some baggage, particularly an arrogant assumption that they know what’s best. The Direct Mail Association still doesn’t understand the spam issue, and the paper mailers represent the backbone of its membership. We’ve spent years trying to educate these people, it seems, to no avail.

I have also noticed some control issues in researching these publications. Inside Direct Mail, for instance, uses technology to stop incoming links that don’t go through its home page. I knew that was clueless five years ago.

The point is we have a lot to offer the direct mail industry, and we shouldn’t be shy about saying so. If you’re in email marketing, you’ve earned your spurs as a direct mailer. You can play with these folks, despite their money. Go in without fear.

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