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Time to upgrade your Marketing, DMA

Last week I returned from the DMA show in Las Vegas (been busy!), which I attended on request from my boss as an opportunity to learn/adapt new technologies and ideas to be implemented back in the UK.

This is purely an opinion piece and one of many future pieces as I strive to offer a more personal touch to this notebook/blog, rather than basic reporting of news and events as they happen.

To me there are 3 main reasons to attend a tradeshow: 1) to get ideas and insights not otherwise accessible by normal media channels or from within your current environment (our situation), 2) to generate sales & leads (via your exhibitor booth), and 3) to target and acquire solutions to address pre-conceived pain points in your business (via an exhibitor’s booth). A possible 4th might be to simply network, but I’d say that’s inherent in the first 3.

After attending all 3 days of the show, in retrospect I can safely say that the DMA show was a poorly chosen one for our current and future needs. This oversight was no one’s fault per se, it simply wasn’t targeted to what we (I) needed to take away from it. I was hoping to find ‘the next big thing’ – the next new, cutting edge digital marketing idea or solution that had the potential to significantly change a part or all of your business. Of course that hope in itself is a bit of a fantasy, and more so considering DMA’s primary audience, but either way when you attend a large tradeshow, it’s easy to get excited.

In reality the DMA was highly disappointing. However it crucially showed me a side of marketing that I thought had gone extinct long ago. Without attending, I never would have noticed the huge disparity between online and direct marketing. What’s interesting to me is that the gulf between the two seems to be as large as it was years ago, if not larger. Shouldn’t this be a cause for concern?

As the name would imply (Direct Marketing Association), the DMA was really meant for those marketers with strong backgrounds in the ‘traditional’ (i.e. offline) marketing arenas, significantly direct mailing, telemarketing, couponing, and many others. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that their discipline of choice makes them any less of a marketer (most of them could probably talk me under the table when it comes to response analytics, branding, direct mail metrics, print advertising, etc.), but the difference is that all of those disciplines are still firmly (and clearly) rooted under a typically ‘old school’ umbrella. Not one of the sessions, booths or attendees truly struck me as a real ‘onliner’ for lack of a better term. Instead there was a very strong feeling that I was, with no lack of respect intended, surrounded by relics from an old, almost forgotten world of marketing. Of course direct marketing will still exist, as will all of the traditional forms that form a greater marketing mix, but of course I am biased as this is my blog, and I’m 100% online-based. So when I visit a tradeshow that has sessions called ‘email marketing boot camp 101’ I think to myself ‘what am I doing here?’

OK, now for the good stuff. What’s this rant got to do with the DMA? To me, my experience at the show not only highlighted the huge growth potential in both the B2B and B2C online marketing arenas, but it also hinted that the current economic conditions are just ripe for online marketing. The DMA attendees weren’t just attending 101 sessions on email marketing, but also SEO, PPC, SEM, social media, and many other channels and methods that me or you might take for granted. This online stuff is really all I’ve known, yet it represents a huge challenge of understanding to these ’old-schoolers’.

Basically, direct marketers are starting to catch on to the theme that online marketing is one of the cheapest, most cost-effective and accountable ways to reach your audience. Almost every channel within the online marketing sphere is cheap to enact and offers a great return. What’s more, with the slow, steady and steam-rolling pace of the internet’s overall penetration, your audience is almost guaranteed to be online now, or will be soon.

Don’t believe me? Here are some basic stats to back up my claim: