Are you a digital marketer or a direct marketer? Perhaps you make the reasonable assumption that there’s not too much difference between the two. After all, leaving out the finer points, both deliver a targeted offer to their audience in hopes of generating a direct response. So how different could they be?

In fact, digital and direct marketing are quite different. The best marketers in each discipline currently take almost opposing approaches to customer communication.
Traditional direct marketers usually start with an offer and then ‘cut a list’ most likely to respond to that offer. And the list gets smaller and more select with smaller budgets, more expensive offers and more costly mailings. In fact, with all due respect to creative development and drop management, the key driver of direct marketing success is usually list selection.

Successful digital marketers take the opposite approach. They start with the list – the bigger the better – and then do their best to match individual offers/content/creative to each individual on the list. Because the cost per contact online is effectively negligible (measured in tenths of a penny), digital marketers can profitably send almost every campaign to every zip code, DMA, Simmons segment, Personicx cluster, every single valid address not opted-out.

The key to good digital marketing is good offer selection. And the most successful digital marketers design programs where individual customer attributes and preferences determine content. In fact, the traditional marketing concept of a campaign is almost losing its meaning online as dynamic content technology allows a single e-mail or Web page to deliver multiple offers specific to each individual – rather than specific to the campaign.

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