The future of content marketing: thinking about direct mail

If you know anything about digital marketing, you’ll know the big trend of the day is content marketing. I’ve been content marketing for the last decade in one capacity or another, however it’s only in the last few years that I’ve learned to call this part of what I do content marketing. The problem is, everyone else has learned to do it and every man and their dog is content marketing their socks off!

The main issue surrounding every business out there carrying out a content marketing campaign is we’ve forgotten why content used to be successful. People turned off from pure marketing messages online; instead they went looking for information, either through Google or through their social media accounts. But now they’re getting bombarded with content marketing tactics in the places they went to block out pure marketing messages and they’re getting wise to our techniques.

This is resulting in more companies producing more content as content become less effective and this reminds me of the start of my career. When I started working in marketing around 13 years ago, most marketing agencies were still off-line centric and the agency I joined focussed on direct marketing (DM) by sending out targeted post. At the time we talked to clients about a conversion rate of 2% however 20 / 25 years earlier direct marketing agencies would have been talking about 20% conversion rates.

So what did we do when the conversion rate of the direct mailing campaigns dropped off a cliff? We just sent more! And the point is; we’re already at the stage of trying to throw so much mud against the wall from an online marketing perspective that we’re not getting the traction we once did. It’s not that content marketing doesn’t work, because it does, and if you’re good at dominating a niche you can grow a huge audience, get your businesses story and point of view across whilst building up your organic rankings and hopefully selling your products or services, but your competing against so much noise now, it’s hard to squeeze yourself into that space and you’re up against business that have spent years learning how to content market in your niche.

The reason the conversion rate dropped off with DMs was due to a number of factors but research suggested the recipients just turned off from it because they’d received so much of it over time – they recognised the technique and learned to ignore it.

In the end though, many companies stopped sending out the junk mail. Many of those businesses have turned to email marketing and other marketing practices such as content marketing to take up the slack and it’s unlikely they will go back to mailing out any time soon. The evidence now suggests the conversion rates for DMs have gone back up for those companies that have stuck out direct marketing and who have become more selective and creative with it.

It seems to me that many businesses will stop content marketing, and the winners will be those that are able to keep content marketing through the content shock and into the new online marketing period. I think those that stick it out will naturally benefit the undeniable SEO value of content marketing again but I don’t know that that future marketing activity is; there will probably be an element of engagement with the customer or supplier in working in a more collaborative approach to develop more targeted unique quality content but I foresee this will make it harder to get a business going online.

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