“Engagement” is the Grand Emperor for Direct Response Professionals

Editor’s Note:  George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, is a recognized leader in the fundraising industry. Lizama is the former president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington and recipient of its Distinguished Achievement Award. He received the Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership in 2008, in part to recognize his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director. His blog is called Production Interrupted.

I swear!

At least three times a day, I am besieged by email blasts and social media posts of upcoming conferences, summits, events, webinars, lunches, learning sessions and more.  They’re all focused on everything that’s direct response and everything related to direct response, such as the environment, legal aspects, arbitration, the post office, and the SEC. It goes on and on and on and on.

Even scarier is the fact that I have a really tight spam filter and I’m still inundated with promotions and solicitations.

But then I say to myself, “Self, it’s expected because it’s my industry.”

And, in the end, there are good reasons for all of this activity and “franticity.”

Of course, the obvious reason is that every organization I belong to and the reference groups I support want to be relevant by being the “go to” resource for best practices and big ideas for the industry.

All of these groups want to show you that they are very relevant in direct response and customer relationship marketing.

And that means an understanding and a working knowledge of all the growing permutations that focus on one key word: ENGAGEMENT.

Content may be king, but engagement is the grand emperor!

Thirty years ago, direct mail and telemarketing led the market in donor engagement and customer relationship marketing — not to forget that these channels also helped to sprinkle brand awareness here and there.

Today those cinderblock silo walls between direct response, public relations and communications have slowly crumbled to finally… finally… create a team of “super heroes” within an organization bent on cultivating consumer and donor ENGAGEMENT.

Their strategy is to combine offline and online campaigns, and to synchronize messaging, media and marketing.

Successful, robust and relevant organizations knew early on that email marketing had to become cleaner and more strategic; that social media was not going away and was not a hobby; that direct mail was still a workhorse when it came to engagement; and that telemarketing still had a seat at the table!

Thus, the onslaught of invitations to learn more about every aspect of consumer and donor engagement ensued.

Today, direct response professionals find ourselves spinning so many engagement plates in the air that it’s a challenge to keep them from crashing down.

Direct mail, telemarketing, direct response television (DRTV), mobile marketing, email marketing, and social media must be incorporated into a client’s strategy in order to execute a comprehensive campaign.

Strategists have to be media tri-athletes and so do all of us production tacticians!

For production managers, it used to only be about the procurement and implementation of direct mail.  Now we have to manage the deployment of emails, the strategic postings of social media, and working with designers to write HTML versions of the “ask” for mobile marketing.

There are now so many moving parts!

However, one can take solace that 2012 is a year of making mistakes and quickly learning to deploy all of these tools at once and more effectively.

All of us have great power point presentations, but actual implementation and success are still anybody’s game!

So look differently at those email blasts like the ones I’ve been getting lately regarding the Association of Professional Fundraisers, the Direct Marketing Association and next month’s Bridge Conference in Washington. You’ll understand that there’s much to learn and many tools to use.

Don’t just hit delete. Pick your events, your webinars and your conferences. There’s so much to learn.

George Lizama

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