The Facebook Tornado and Other Threats to a Static Plan

The world of online marketing is in perpetual flux. Anticipating change and being ready to adjust for it is the only way for marketers to thrive in this environment. And this month’s challenge to the digital marketing equilibrium has been the announcement of Facebook’s algorithmic update.

The world of online marketing is in perpetual flux. This constant vertigo is caused by many things, including technological progress, competitive or market pressures, and new consumer expectations. Anticipating change and being ready to adjust for it is the only way for marketers to thrive in this environment. Easier said, than done. And this month’s challenge to the digital marketing equilibrium has been the announcement of the algorithmic update to Facebook.

Facebook is a priority investment for many brands. Marketers have been wooed with flexible and effective consumer access in an interactive environment, with the added appeal that it only partly feels like an ad environment. Because of these benefits, brands have come to invest and rely heavily on this platform they neither own nor can control.

The pros and cons, tweaks and modifications in response to the Facebook changes have been covered fully by many experts by now and should not be a huge obstacle for marketers. Assuming you are on top of the changes and have created an agile team and approach, this latest disruption represents only a tactical change — one in a long line of continuing adjustments to strategy, execution, budgeting and reporting wrought by outside influences.

The interruption of carefully prepared strategies and programs only highlights the value found in a nimble mindset. How do online marketing folks prepare for success?

  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your marketing plans to include many touchpoints across your customers’ journey.
  • Don’t overinvest in any platform or environment that you don’t control. If you are going to play in the walled gardens of Facebook or Amazon or other environments where you have little control, be sure do so with purpose and not exclusively. Make sure you build direct relationships outside of those walled gardens. Capture customer or other critical data in your own environments and use appropriate CRM or other touchpoints to maintain a direct relationship.
  • Continue to test. Use the information return that digital provides to fuel constant optimization.
  • Budget and plan by quarter, if you can. If not, create a process that is change friendly. You can’t predict or plan too far ahead if the short to mid term horizon is shifting.
  • Make sure your brand stays relevant. Even the smartest marketing plan won’t overcome a poorly conceived offering or product. Keep in touch with consumers via research and influencer or advocate relationships to understand your brand’s current place in their (also) shifting lives. Checking in frequently will provide you with an early warning system for any dissatisfaction or shift in interest.
  • Use all your levers. You have more variables to test and change then just where to advertise or how to advertise. Think about sales distribution channels, pricing, product bundling, product variations like packaging, size, flavors, colors, etc…
  • Use each environment for one or several particular purposes creating a portfolio approach that covers all your needs. Measure each according to the particular objectives and the whole of your portfolio of marketing investments according to your overall goals.
  • Track competitor spending, messaging, activity and trends. See what they are testing and watch their progress. Social environments offer an open lab rich with insights.
  • Stay in touch with the broader world trends that are siphoning consumer attention. Choose your opportunities to either compete with world news and events or sit on the sidelines to avoid wasting money or connecting the brand to unrelated or unwelcome events.
  • Look for efficient media forms. Being able to choose CPA or bid pricing models gives you some certainty that will help your budget. However, the media cost is a meaningless metric without the cost per conversion or other performance measures that tell you the true cost of your effort.
  • Don’t jump into long term media contracts without aggressive out clauses or performance guarantees. Things change too fast to make that a good bet. This is putting the premiums of sponsorships and other time-based visibility options in question.
  • Look for opportunities to test out new stuff and stay ahead of changes that will impact your business. Dedicate resources or create a lab environment that rewards internal innovation.
  • Find great partners. With so much to know and keep up with it is helpful to have talents outside of your own team’s expertise. Great partners will help educate you and your team and extend your value.

Brand Strategy Beats Price Tactics

My nose may not have been bloodied and my body dragged off a plane, but I faced my own travel crisis this week. And that experience proved that one company’s ongoing, consistent brand message — embedded deep in my psyche — was about to finally pay off.

Enterprise brand strategyMy nose may not have been bloodied and my body dragged off a plane, but I faced my own travel crisis this week. And that experience proved that one company’s ongoing, consistent brand message, embedded deep in my psyche, was about to finally pay off.

It all started at the airline check-in counter. Delta, an airline that has never done anything to endanger my loyalty, presented me with a dilemma: My one-stop flight to Ottawa was in jeopardy because the first leg of the flight was delayed, meaning I would miss my connection.

If you’ve ever tried to fly to Canada, you already know there are limited options. And despite Ottawa being Canada’s capital city, Delta only offers two daily flights from Detroit.

I HAD to be in Ottawa first thing Tuesday morning to help my son move out of his dorm, and make our afternoon flight home. The Delta agent could not have been more helpful as she tried to rebook me multiple ways to get me there. Finally, I agreed to fly to Atlanta, then onto Montreal and would rent a car to drive the 2-hours to Ottawa.

Rearranging my car rental proved to be the bigger challenge.

To be honest, I haven’t been a loyalist to any particular rental company … until now. I typically use a website like Travelocity to compare prices across all brands, then rent from the cheapest option. So, when making my original rental, Budget had won the price war.

So there I was, sitting on the floor at the packed airline gate, my flight to Atlanta about to depart, and I’m frantically trying to rearrange my car rental before my cell phone dies. I call the Budget desk in Ottawa and tell them my dilemma. They suggest I call the Budget desk at the airport in Montreal. I make that phone call but am serviced by one of the most incompetent of all customer service agents.

He speaks so quietly I can barely hear him, so I say (politely I might add) “I’m in a noisy airport and can barely hear you, would you mind speaking up?” Apparently he has no volume capabilities because I continue to strain to hear him.

After explaining (again), that I need to rent an SUV at the Montreal airport and return it to the Ottawa airport, and after he repeatedly says “You’ll return it to the Montreal airport, right?” I ask to speak to his supervisor. He puts me on hold and then — wait for it — after a few seconds I’m listening to the dial tone. Gee, what a surprise.

The gate agent begins the boarding process and now I’m in full panic mode.

I Google car rental options at the Montreal Airport and while lots of options pop up, I see that Enterprise has a 4-star rating (Budget has 1 star). And that’s when the Enterprise brand tag line (“We’ll pick you up!”) quickly translates in my brain to “We’ll do anything for you!”

And sure enough, my Enterprise experience was fabulous … from the minute I got them on the phone, explained my need, to the drop-off in Ottawa. And, they did go the extra mile since their rental desk closed at midnight, and I wasn’t landing until after midnight, they left the rental agreement and keys with at the National car rental counter which was open until 1am. WHEW!

Calm, cool and cooperative during my personal crisis, I want to shout from the rooftops, “Thank you Enterprise, for picking me up when I was down … way down.”

And the company’s long-invested marketing strategy and messaging paid off big time for this customer. Forget shopping for the cheapest option. Forget renting from the Budget folks. Enterprise will be rewarded with my ongoing loyalty.

Small Blog, Big Strategy

It’s incredibly tough for even the biggest brands to master content marketing. So what about small blogs? How are they staying relevant today? Microtargeting and interest-based awareness have changed digital strategy and these tactics are now home to small bloggers.

Kia Street blogIt’s incredibly tough for even the biggest brands to master content marketing. So what about small blogs? How are they staying relevant today? Microtargeting and interest-based awareness have changed digital strategy and these tactics are now home to small bloggers.

Let’s call “small” any blog with more than five active content contributors and at least a few published posts. Sound like you? Keep reading for more of my take on how to amplify your blog’s online presence. If you site has yet to be born, refer to this easy-to-digest explanation on the first steps of getting a website — securing a domain name.

kia street blog graphicDevelop Reasonable KPIs

No matter how big or small the budget, there are plenty of ways to get your content out there. For example:

  • Be at the top of results when users search for you on Google
  • Maximize reach and awareness of new posts immediately after release
  • Drive and sustain website traffic via Twitter and referrals
  • Focus on what is most important to your business: such as user acquisition, overall awareness and user engagement.

This allows you to divide and conquer with paid search, native advertising, social media and affiliate marketing. Consider this perspective when developing your own KPIs.

Aggregate Your Audience Data

What does your audience like on each channel? What do they care about?

Ask your audience data a lot of questions to help you dive further into who your readers are, how they use the chosen platform and what type of content they respond to most. Now see if you can match your blog’s content to the trends found within your audience data. This can help you understand if you’re offering the right content for your audience.

Think of your analysis as instant market research. Your audience data allows you to truly map out your customer’s journey. Some marketers are innovating this concept entirely by creating content paths to match their content marketing goals.

Identify a Content Strategy

Once you’ve solidified your goals and target audience, examine your strategy. Nix any initiatives that don’t contribute to your ultimate mission. What is it that you ultimately want your audience to do? The answer to this question should drive your content marketing strategy.

Experiment With Social Tactics

Experiment with targeted content that is engaging and personalized. Be transparent and interesting to your users. Here are a few simple ideas to make this happen:

  • Host a live Q&A panel on Periscope featuring your editorial staff;
  • Let the audience choose the topic of your next blog post via Twitter polling;
  • Find, attend and capture industry events with Instagram Stories.

Depending on your audience and the theme of your blog, there are many ways of standing out to both followers and non-followers, alike. Play with and test different tactics for best results!

kia blog post chartLearn, Try, Repeat

The best piece of advice for any small blogger is to learn, try, repeat. Here are three principles for riding the trend waves of your industry:

There are tons of sources that can provide you with the training you need to be successful in content marketing. Use them!

You can never go wrong with experimentation, but you can definitely go wrong without it. Don’t be hesitant toward failure.

Digital changes by the second — and so do the needs of your audience. Remember to periodically optimize content to fit the needs of your users.

Learn, try, repeat: It’s the most effective way for small blogs to sustain authority and relevancy in 2017 (and beyond!)

‘Who Moved My’ Multichannel Measurement on a Budget?

There are several great enterprise data platforms that can put you on your way to algorithmic attribution, but many marketers don’t have the budgets to support that investment. So how do you determine which channels are performing best for you without relying on simple but unsatisfactory attribution methods like first exposure, last click or arbitrary weighting?

Who moved my multichannel attribution?[Editor’s note: Chuck McLeester is speaking during a Target Marketing webinar on Oct. 20 titled “Who Moved the Sales? Why marketing attribution is so crucial to track, yet so hard to do.” As a preview, he’s re-running his April blog post, “3 Steps to Multichannel Measurement on a Budget.”]

There are several great enterprise data platforms that can put you on your way to algorithmic attribution, but many marketers don’t have the budgets to support that investment. So how do you determine which channels are performing best for you without relying on simple but unsatisfactory attribution methods like first exposure, last click or arbitrary weighting?

Here’s a relatively easy way to measure the incremental value of each marketing channel to determine which channels are performing best so you can optimize your marketing mix.

First, pick a set of geographically similar markets — one for each channel that you’re using plus one to act as a control cell. Make them as closely matched as you can in terms of size and demography — so don’t mix big markets like Chicago with smaller markets like Waco. You also want to stay away from markets that have competing media — for example, Princeton, N.J., is exposed to both New York and Philadelphia media. Data from the Statistical Abstract of the United States and Census.gov can help you select markets that work for you.

Second, create a test matrix where one of your markets serves as a control, and the balance of your markets eliminate one of the channels you’re evaluating. For example, in the matrix below all channels are used in the control cell, and one channel is eliminated from each of the test cells.

Chuck McLeester chartConduct your test long enough to get a statistically reliable number of responses. With 250 to 300 in each column and each row, you can be 90 percent confident that your results won’t vary by more than 10 percent in a rollout scenario.

Third, examine your cost per response by market in a matrix like the one below. (These numbers are for illustration only and are not meant to reflect actual costs or responses from these channels.)

Cells that have a higher cost per response from the control indicate that the channel you eliminated from that geo area is valuable to you because it was lowering the average cost per response in that cell. In the example below, the geo areas where email, search and social were eliminated had a higher cost per response overall, indicating that these channels were important parts of your media mix. Cells with a lower cost per response from the control indicate that the channels eliminated from those geo areas were increasing your overall cost per response. In the example below, direct mail, display and mobile all had higher costs per response than the control cell which included all the channels.

Chuck McLeester measurement chartYou can do the same analysis on revenue and profit if you are engaged in catalog or e-commerce. The difference in profit between the control profit and the profit in each equally matched geo cell provides the incremental value, whether positive or negative, of the channel that was omitted in that cell.

Chuck McLeester money chartThis experiment has its limitations. Your markets will not be perfectly matched and external factors can affect your results. However, it will provide valuable insight about the interplay among the different elements of your media mix.

Finally, remember that eliminating different channels from your media mix will also have an effect on your response or sales volume. To understand how to best manage volume within your allowable cost per response or cost per order, check out this former Here’s What Counts post.

3 Steps to Multichannel Measurement on a Budget

There are several great enterprise data platforms that can put you on your way to algorithmic attribution, but many marketers don’t have the budgets to support that investment. So how do you determine which channels are performing best for you without relying on simple but unsatisfactory attribution methods like first exposure, last click or arbitrary weighting?

There are several great enterprise data platforms that can put you on your way to algorithmic attribution, but many marketers don’t have the budgets to support that investment. So how do you determine which channels are performing best for you without relying on simple but unsatisfactory attribution methods like first exposure, last click or arbitrary weighting?

Here’s a relatively easy way to measure the incremental value of each marketing channel to determine which channels are performing best so you can optimize your marketing mix.

First, pick a set of geographically similar markets — one for each channel that you’re using plus one to act as a control cell. Make them as closely matched as you can in terms of size and demography — so don’t mix big markets like Chicago with smaller markets like Waco. You also want to stay away from markets that have competing media — for example, Princeton, N.J., is exposed to both New York and Philadelphia media. Data from the Statistical Abstract of the United States and Census.gov can help you select markets that work for you.

Second, create a test matrix where one of your markets serves as a control, and the balance of your markets eliminate one of the channels you’re evaluating. For example, in the matrix below all channels are used in the control cell, and one channel is eliminated from each of the test cells.

Chuck McLeester chartConduct your test long enough to get a statistically reliable number of responses. With 250 to 300 in each column and each row, you can be 90 percent confident that your results won’t vary by more than 10 percent in a rollout scenario.

Third, examine your cost per response by market in a matrix like the one below. (These numbers are for illustration only and are not meant to reflect actual costs or responses from these channels.)

Cells that have a higher cost per response from the control indicate that the channel you eliminated from that geo area is valuable to you because it was lowering the average cost per response in that cell. In the example below, the geo areas where email, search and social were eliminated had a higher cost per response overall, indicating that these channels were important parts of your media mix. Cells with a lower cost per response from the control indicate that the channels eliminated from those geo areas were increasing your overall cost per response. In the example below, direct mail, display and mobile all had higher costs per response than the control cell which included all the channels.

Chuck McLeester measurement chartYou can do the same analysis on revenue and profit if you are engaged in catalog or e-commerce. The difference in profit between the control profit and the profit in each equally matched geo cell provides the incremental value, whether positive or negative, of the channel that was omitted in that cell.

Chuck McLeester money chartThis experiment has its limitations. Your markets will not be perfectly matched and external factors can affect your results. However, it will provide valuable insight about the interplay among the different elements of your media mix.

Finally, remember that eliminating different channels from your media mix will also have an effect on your response or sales volume. To understand how to best manage volume within your allowable cost per response or cost per order, check out this former Here’s What Counts post.

Are You Squandering Your Search Budget?

Google has your site on a budget. This is not just the budget that you set for your paid search ads, but this budget is one that Google controls for your organic search. Unless you are mindful of the ways that Google manages their resources and how this impacts your site, you may be squandering the organic search budget that Google allots your site. If you are dependent on search traffic from Google whether organic or paid, you need to consider how you might get more out of what is allotted to you. This may seem like a cynical view, but it is a reality.

Google has your site on a budget. This is not just the budget that you set for your paid search ads, but this budget is one that Google controls for your organic search. Unless you are mindful of the ways that Google manages their resources and how this impacts your site, you may be squandering the organic search budget that Google allots your site. If you are dependent on search traffic from Google whether organic or paid, you need to consider how you might get more out of what is allotted to you. This may seem like a cynical view, but it is a reality.

Before any traffic can flow to your site from search, your site’s pages must be found in Google’s index. It is Google’s stated goal to index the entire world’s content. This means the search giant must continuously crawl the Web to locate new pages and revisit existing pages to ensure that the index is up to date. With billions of pages already available to index and more being created every day, the task is gigantic. Although the crawl is automated and Google’s bots are very efficient, they must be supported by extensive computing resources. Google has had to develop ways to manage its huge crawling resources. The result is that every site has a crawl budget, just how many resources Google will allocate to crawling your site. It is up to you to optimize how efficiently you use your crawl budget. There are a number of things that you may be doing that waste the crawl budget that Google allocates your site. By the way, don’t ever expect to know precisely what your actual budget is; for it is based on a series of complex mathematical formulas—an algorithm.

A small site that seldom changes poses less crawling challenges than a very large site with thousands of frequently-changing pages. Unfortunately, very large sites often sabotage their crawling efficiency and squander their crawl budget. This can have a substantial economic impact for the site owner. For a large ecommerce site, if areas are not crawled and indexed in a timely fashion, it is as if the site owner turned off the lights and signage for a part of the store.

You can obviously squander your budget by using an SEO-unfriendly product filtering systems that create duplicate content or through a clumsy implementation of a new technology such as endless scroll pages. There are other less obvious, but equally insidious ways. Several years ago, Google made available through their Webmaster Tools Sitemaps; whereby, site owners could indicate for Google what pages they wanted crawled. Today, most sites have automated the submission; however, many have taken a “set it and forget it approach.” If this has been your approach, then put a mark on your search task list to revisit your sitemaps and their performance.

Several years ago, Google announced that site speed would figure into their algorithms. It is a simple logical jump to realize that part of this calculation would include not only how fast you deliver your site to a user’s browser, but also how fast Google’s crawlers could traverse your site. If you focused on this briefly and then put it aside as finished, revisit it now. Just how fast is your site? If you use a CDN to speed your site to users, do not assume that you have optimized your delivery for robots. Robots such as Googlebot must be handled as a separate type of user. Any changes made to your technology or architecture should trigger a review of site speed performance for users and robots. If you optimize performance to ensure that you do not waste Google’s crawling resources, you just may find that your site is fully indexed and will most probably rank higher in the search results.

How Big Should Your Campaign Budget Be?

How do you set a budget for a multi-touch, multi-target B-to-B digital campaign like the one Michelle was describing? The short answer is: Spend as much as delivers your threshold level of ROI. But, in B-to-B, it’s not so simple. Large enterprise sales cycles are long, as much as 18 to 24 months, so sales results won’t be available until long after she needs to make campaign decisions

At the ClickZ Live conference in New York, Michelle Killebrew presented an interesting case study of an IBM campaign called “Rethink Business.” It got me thinking (or, should I say, rethinking?) about campaign budgeting. My question is: How do you set a budget for a multi-touch, multi-target B-to-B digital campaign like the one Michelle was describing? The short answer is: Spend as much as delivers your threshold level of ROI. In other words, if Michelle’s campaign is generating qualified leads that convert to sales at a return that pays for themselves, covers her overhead, plus leaves a profit for IBM, she can keep the campaign running until the cows come home. Or until the campaign fatigues, and dips below the required ROI hurdle rate.

But, in B-to-B, it’s not so simple. Large enterprise sales cycles are long, as much as 18 to 24 months, so Michelle’s sales results won’t be available until long after she needs to make campaign decisions. And some of those results may never be known, since the leads are likely being worked by third party channel partners, who are often reluctant to share sales information.

Plus, Michelle said she had other objectives in mind for this campaign other than leads. She wanted to create digital experiences for prospect engagement, and she wanted to demonstrate the use of IBM’s proprietary marketing tools.

So in B-to-B, budgets are often set at a higher level than campaign ROI. Here are five methods that B-to-B marketers may be using to set marketing budgets.

  1. Percentage of last year’s budget. Take last year’s budget and subjectively add or cut, to arrive at a figure for this year’s budget. Can be applied by periods other than a year, like the quarter. Not based on much logic, but in common practice.
  2. Percentage of sales. Calculate a percentage of expected sales in the coming year; 4 percent is common in B-to-B for large, mature companies. Avoid using last year’s sales volume as the basis for this calculation. If last year was a bad year for your company, you won’t have a large enough B-to-B marketing budget to meet your growth goals in the coming year.
  3. Percentage of selling cost. A variation of No. 2, where the denominator is sales salaries and commissions, instead of revenue. You might see percentage levels like 20 percent to 30 percent with this method. It neatly reflects B-to-B marketing’s role as an efficient driver of sales productivity.
  4. Match your competition. In a high-growth, fiercely competitive stage in the product life-cycle, keeping up with your competitors may make sense. If you can find out what they are spending, which may require some clever intelligence-gathering activity.
  5. Zero-based budgeting. In this method, you determine your specific marketing goals, tied directly to business objectives. Then, you figure out what you need to achieve your marketing goals. For example, say it costs $350 to generate a qualified SMB lead that will convert to sales at 20 percent conversion rate. To bring in 3,000 SMB customers in the year, we need $5.2 million budget ($350/.2*3000). Clear and accountable.

Zero-based budgeting is the best way to go, in my view. You have a firm grasp of the numbers, and you are delivering against business objectives. With this approach, you can take you plans anywhere in the organization, and explain what you’re doing in a way that is meaningful to everyone.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Keep the CPI Postal Rate Cap Alive!

There are no guarantees when “grand” budget and funding bills make their way through Congress … there’s always a chance some horse-trading will be tacked on that undermines the interests of and harms the direct marketing community. That’s why I was more than an interested bystander when a federal budget deal was announced last week that seeks to keep the government funded without another costly shutdown

There are no guarantees when “grand” budget and funding bills make their way through Congress … there’s always a chance some horse-trading will be tacked on that undermines the interests of and harms the direct marketing community. That’s why I was more than an interested bystander when a federal budget deal was announced last week that seeks to keep the government funded without another costly shutdown.

There’s nothing in this bill (so far) that is nefarious to marketers (a vote is still needed in the Senate). In the whole of the budget bill, some fiscal conservatives are not happy—prompt spending controls have been punted, and deficit reductions have been kicked down the road, a reflection of our still-weak economy being the rationale.

But it’s also a reflection of what’s dysfunctional in Washington: A seemingly ever-present readiness and willingness to punt fiscal discipline in more matters than just the federal budget. At least the three-year pattern of budget shutdowns and debt ceilings may be diverted. At least we can hope.

Now to postal reform … which was not part of the budget bill.

We need postal reform legislation—both political parties and nearly all postal stakeholders agree on this, but there’s devil in details in a current Senate proposal to move another breakthrough piece of legislation forward.

The reason for postal reform’s urgency, however, has nothing to do with the annual rate cap on postage increases that is now part of federal law.

Yet this most precious centerpiece for ratepayers of the 2006 postal reform act—the Consumer Price Index-Urban annual rate cap on postage hikes—is dispensed in the Carper-Coburn Postal Reform Act of 2013 (S. 1486) bill now before the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee. Crucially for us, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is leading a bipartisan effort to remove from the bill Section 301 (a Section which would eliminate this rate cap for market-dominant classes, among them First-Class Mail and Standard Mail). If she is successful, the vital rate cap would be preserved. A markup for the bill overall in Committee is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (Dec. 18), so there is still time to voice support for Sen. Baldwin’s effort to amend the legislation and save the cap.

What is urgent, of course, is relief from 2006 Congressional mandates to pre-fund retiree health benefits at a magnitude that was (and still is) wholly unsustainable and has proven to be unrealistic. One might say how ironic it is to have a column praising fiscal discipline bemoan a pre-funding mandate, but this type of mandate is unprecedented, unwarranted and blind to financial facts. The CPI cap, on the other hand, has been an extremely useful tool to USPS and its customers and, arguably, an important driver of USPS management efforts to “right size” USPS infrastructure to today’s mail (and marketing) realities.

Fiscal discipline matters to the private sector, and to all U.S. citizens in our own households and our business affairs. It is shocking (to a layperson, if not Beltway insiders) that such discipline means little to too many policymakers. Price caps are a common-sense, and extremely demonstrable, method for assuring predictable increments in postage hikes which serves to aid businesses and nonprofit organizations in their marketing and media planning. Take these caps away, and we’re back to uncertainty, costs rising unchecked and diverted dollars from direct mail media spending.

Stay tuned to industry organization efforts to see postal reform through—but with the all-important CPI rate cap intact. I’m hopeful Sen. Baldwin has a great week, and so do we.

Paid, Organic Search a Big Part of DM Budgets

This didn’t really surprise me. But it did confirm what I and colleagues from sister publications Target Marketing and Catalog Success have been hearing from readers this year: More direct marketers are shifting marketing funds away from print and to the Internet.

This didn’t really surprise me. But it did confirm what I and colleagues from sister publications Target Marketing and Catalog Success have been hearing from readers this year: More direct marketers are shifting marketing funds away from print and to the Internet.

I’m referring to a recently released response rate report from the Direct Marketing Association, which showed that SEM and SEO combined to account for 33 percent of direct marketing budgets. Paid search makes up less of that 33 percent, however — just 8.2 percent.

This report lets marketers compare their own performance with success metrics for six media — direct mail, catalogs, inserts, telephone, e-mail and paid search.

The report also looks at DM budget allocations by channel and changes in budgets, as well as attitudes toward such new media as SMS (texting), social networking, podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, online video, user-generated content and virtual worlds.

Other findings from the report include the following:
· 35 percent of marketing budgets are allocated to direct mail, although this number will likely shrink in coming years as digital media take an increasing share of marketing spend;
· response rates were higher than in previous years, perhaps as a result of better list management and more sophisticated targeting; and
· the catalog and retail segment outperforms other industries in direct mail response rates.

The report was conducted through a survey e-mailed to DMA members in Dec. 2008; 1,175 responses were received.

I may be biased, given the publication I edit, but this seems like the wave of the future. What about you? Do you find any of these statistics surprising? Let us know. Post your comment below or send it to me at mcampanelli@napco.com.