A view from Chris Evans

Opinion: Digital won't kill the direct mail industry

The credit crunch has got some marketers running scared, with many considering moving budgets towards digital to ease their concerns.

Digital is seen as cost effective and providing rapid results. However, even in times of financial pressure (and on squeezed budgets) it would be dangerous for marketers to rely on this media in isolation.

Digital advertising space is getting scarcer and it is increasingly difficult to gain the optimum page placements. Demand is high because people rely on the internet for the vast array of quick and easy information.

Online media owners can demand large premiums for the best spots and this means that clients might need to go for a less than ideal place to stay within tightening budgets.

Direct mail may not be quite as sexy as digital, but the proof is in the response. Recent studies have found that digital campaigns supported by direct mail drives 40% more traffic online.

Let's also not forget that in terms of predicting likely campaign success the influence of data targeting is approximately 80% while creative effect has been shown to be around 10%.

However beautiful, sexy or original the creative is, it won't mean a thing if it isn't targeted, and to do this properly on or offline, marketers need good levels of consumer insight.

Simply put, the amount of insight needed for effective online targeting just isn't there yet.  Typically there are around 15 million prospect email address records for the UK and around 44 million postal address records available.

Email addresses can't provide even a fraction of the insight about a prospect as a postcode and house number. This is why door drops, traditionally one of the least sophisticated marketing methods, are still valuable in order to drive people online and build awareness.

Digital in isolation still won't communicate with all segments of the population. Personal preference along with other factors such as internet ownership means you can't speak to all segments of the country online. However, using a full media mix ensures you can reach all target demographics through the most appropriate and therefore most responsive channels. 

Quite aside from budgets being strained by the downturn, the industry has to contend with other pressures. Impending Defra targets for example, may be another factor in increasing digital marketing spend.

But the most important thing for marketers to do is to be strategic about campaigns, and to target their audience with the most relevant channels and not necessarily the ones that suit the marketer. In that way, they can ensure their response rate is high and the client gets the utmost possible success from their marketing campaign.

In this time of financial pressures, it is more important than ever to consider all of the tools available. Marketers should remember that the most important thing is targeting, which not only saves money but also means that the company will be more green.

It's not a bad thing to revert back to old, slightly "less sexy" methods such as DM to use along with the more creative methods of speaking to prospects.  There needs to be a good balance so that all target prospects can be engaged.

Chris Evans is head of online services for EuroDirect.