10 Marketing Strategies For Growth in 2009, and 10 That Will Hurt

Savvy direct marketers can take advantage of a historic opportunity to increase sales and market share in 2009.

The sagging economy is driving some advertisers to increase spending to bolster sales, while others are reducing their promotional budgets or employing questionable tactics that will hasten the demise of their companies.

Here are 10 proven direct marketing strategies to help your company grow and prosper in recessionary times:

1) Test, Test, Test. You might want to take a critical look at your control package, whether you are doing e-mail or postal. New creative may outperform what worked when times were good.

2) Maintain robust and timely communications with your customers. That’s why it makes sense to keep your house lists squeaky clean and to learn as much as you can about what is characteristic of your best customers. Building reactivation and trend models can help you leverage customer relationships and market changes.

3) Ask your vendors for advice on improving your e-mail, postal, and online advertising tactics. A good list broker, for example, is not only a purveyor of data but also can tap into years of experience in your market to help you maximize results. If they are clear about your objectives, you can rely on your marketing partners for new ideas that have proven successful for other endemic mailers.

4) E-mail is a great cost-effective tool for maintaining relationships with your customers. A caveat: E-mail may not work as well for consumer prospecting unless the sender is familiar to the recipient, you provide a highly promotional and timely offer, and you can use high volume to drive down CPM.

5) Consider lead generation programs where you pay for results, not just idle clicks.

6) Do not forsake direct mail, particularly when there will be less mailbox clutter next year. As mail volume continues to decline in 2009, there will be an unprecedented opportunity to get attention for your offer, which will translate into sales and higher response rates.

7) Take advantage of lower-cost insert media, where you can ride-along with others who maintain relationships with customers in your marketplace.

8) Ask for better deals on your list rentals. For example, aside from requesting favorable net names arrangements, consider a lower base rental fee or waiver of selects. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

9) If you market online or utilize print or insert media, ask for remnant pricing. If a publisher or insert media program manager has not sold out on a particular day or month, that inventory is lost forever. This creates a unique opportunity for you to fill in holes in your marketing programs and do some testing at a fraction of the street price.

10) Plan for success. Don’t wait until the last minute to approach your vendors for help on your campaigns. You’ll save money and meet critical deadlines.

But those 10 tips may be moot if you don’t avoid these 10 direct marketing strategies:

1) Relying on internally sourced names to sustain your company when sales are down.

2) Failure to periodically test new creative, along with triggers and seasonality.

3) Assuming that response rates are declining when the culprits may be channel creep and/or keying errors at your call center or at point-of-sale. There are a range of solutions, from “back-matching” to “PURLS,” that will help make better sense of your actual campaign results.

4) Employing a single “name brand” vendor for your e-mail or direct mail list needs when others may deliver comparable or superior value. No vendor has a monopoly on good ideas.

5) Ignoring the hygiene of your house file and rental lists. NCOA and ECOA are only the beginning. Overlook DMAchoice or Catalog Choice at your peril.

6) Arbitrary reallocation of marketing dollars to online media, just because it is popular.

7) Elimination of prospecting efforts. That’s the quick route to a business failure.

8) Reliance on a single marketing channel versus testing a multi-channel approach.

9) Not paying close attention to changes in the marketplace and customer preferences.

10) Ignoring successful direct competitors and what is working for them.

Remember the often-quoted observation “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?” For present success, avoid strategies with a history of failure.

Now is a great time to reassess how your organization is allocating its direct marketing dollars in the coming year. Some mailers are increasing their marketing budgets in 2009, others are scaling back or “staying the course.” One thing is sure: This period of economical uncertainty affords savvy advertisers an opportunity to increase market share at the expense of weaker competitors who are either “following the herd” or “ducking for cover.”

Some companies and non-profits will survive this recession; others will be out of business. Don’t be a recession victim. Be a recession victor. Remember: “To the victor goes the spoils.”

David Kanter (david@acculistusa.com) is president and CEO of AccuList USA.

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