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Commentary & Analysis

Marketers Aren’t Always Using the Most Effective Channels, Even When They Know What They Are

According to new research from Printing for Less (PFL) and Demand Metric, marketers are not always using the most effective channels, even when they know what they are. Instead, they use the channels they know and are most familiar with. A look at some intriguing data on channel use and channel effectiveness, including types of direct mail.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: March 18, 2020

Sometimes human behavior defies common sense. Marketing behaviors are no exception. According to new research from Printing for Less (PFL) and Demand Metric, marketers are not always using the most effective channels, even when they know what they are. Instead, they use the channels they know and are most familiar with. If you can’t understand why certain clients don’t use this or that channel or channel combination, even though it got a terrific result last time, maybe that’s why.

First, which channels are marketers using?

Channel

Usage

Email

91%

Social media

81%

Events

73%

Display advertising/remarketing

60%

Direct mail

56%

Search marketing/PPC

51%

Outbound BDR/SDR

47%

Content syndication

35%

Other (text/SMS, web chat, broadcast media, partnership marketing)

5%

Source: “2019 Multichannel Marketing Study” (PFL/Demand Metric 2019)

The most commonly used channels are email and social media. No surprise there. These channels are ubiquitous, inexpensive, and easy to deploy. But which channels do marketers feel are most effective at reaching their target audiences?

Channel

Overall Effectiveness for Target Audience

Integrated, Branded, Personalized Direct Mail

78%

Outbound BDR/SDR

71%

Search marketing/PPC

73%

Email

68%

Display advertising/remarketing

63%

Content syndication

63%

Direct mail

61%

Social media

55%

Source: “2019 Multichannel Marketing Study” (PFL/Demand Metric 2019)

The line-up is quite different. Let’s look at the two categories, usage and effectiveness, side by side:

Channel

Usage

Overall Effectiveness for Target Audience

Events

73%

83%

Integrated, Branded, Personalized Direct Mail

N/A

78%

Search marketing/PPC

51%

73%

Outbound BDR/SDR

47%

71%

Email

91%

68%

Display advertising/remarketing

60%

63%

Content syndication

35%

63%

Direct mail

56%

61%

Social media

81%

55%

Source: “2019 Multichannel Marketing Study” (PFL/Demand Metric 2019)

Isn’t that fun? The most effective channels and the most used channels are quite different.

Here’s what the report has to say:

Common sense suggests that when comparing the effectiveness data to the usage data, the most effective channels are also the most used. Our research found that this isn’t the case. Only events occupy a top three ranking on both lists. Marketers are not consistently using the most effective channels.

This is the case even when effectiveness is being assessed by the marketers themselves. The report goes on to say that it “seems apparent” that marketers tend to use the channels that are the easiest or more familiar, not necessarily those that work best.

This inconsistency extends to direct mail types. Here are the types of direct mail that marketers use most compared to those that they feel that are most effective at representing their brand:

Format Type

Usage

Effectiveness in Representing the Brand

Postcard

53%

60%

Oversized postcard

29%

67%

Letter

52%

63%

Oversized letter

9%

75%

Dimensional

42%

89%

Source: “2019 Multichannel Marketing Study” (PFL/Demand Metric 2019)

Postcards, the most used format, actually rank the lowest in terms of perceived effectiveness. Dimensional mail, which is seen as the most effective (89%), is used by less than half of marketers (42%).

Regardless of format used, 52% of respondents report a moderate to major improvement in campaign performance when direct mail is one of the channels.

How Well Direct Mail Improves Multichannel Campaign Performance

No discernible improvement/I don’t know

20%

Major improvement

14%

Moderate improvement

38%

Slight improvement

28%

Source: “2019 Multichannel Marketing Study” (PFL/Demand Metric 2019)

Respondents know this because two-third are using moderate to complete integration of their direct mail into their technology stack. (“Moderate” is defined as being able to push lists from one system to another. “High” is defined as direct mail sent by a core marketing technology, with measurement being separate or not available. “Complete” is defined as the sending and measuring of direct mail being an inherent part of their marketing technology.)

So what’s the takeaway? Like kids looking down at the vegetables still sitting on their plates, just because we know something work (or is good for us) doesn’t mean we do it. In this case, marketers with the technology to track their channel effectiveness know that direct mail works and makes a significant difference in their campaign response rate and ROI, yet they aren’t always using the formats that work best for them and deliver the best results.

Tsk! Marketers, eat your vegetables.

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

 

Discussion

By Gerhard Maertterer on Mar 18, 2020

Heidi,

That’s exactly about what I am evangelizing since HighSpeed-Inkjet is able to print HighQuality. With seminares, speeches, a magazine called „ONEtoONE Programmatic Printing“, with Newsletters and a Pre-Drupa Trend Congress in Dusseldorf me and my partners intended to bring together marketers, advertisers and printers. We wanted to start in April this year – reaching our first point of culmination in June at Drupa with Guided Tours on all 12 Drupa days.

Due to Corona-Virus we now will change our approach to the decision makers in marketing. Starting in April with online tutorials, web seminars and spreading our messages by supplements in marketing journals in german and english language.

 

By Robert Lindgren on Mar 18, 2020

Heidi...

Really interesting data. The challenge that we face is that so many marketing people are glued to their cell phone and live in the social media world. That's what they're familiar with and use. They don't see the necessity of getting the target audience's attention which works best with an image on paper. I also agree with Gerhard's observation about the ability of high speed ink jet to give print new life in the marketing arena.

 

By Chris Lynn on Mar 23, 2020

The report - clearly designed to promote the direct mail industry - is fatally flawed by its failure to explicitly consider cost-related metrics. "ROI" is mentioned in the report but never quantified or explained, and "effectiveness" seems to be subjective. "CPM" is - amazingly - NEVER mentioned although it is the primary metric for comparing effectiveness of marketing campaigns. And there is no acknowledgement that, for example, dimensional mailers are more expensive than postcards, which are in turn much more expensive than email, PPC, etc.

It's not that marketers are not eating their vegetables, Heidi - they are just selecting the most nutritious for the least money...

 

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