I recently had the pleasure of seeing direct marketing guru Seth Godin in person.  I eagerly jotted down much of what he said, but one particular quote really sparked a connection for me.

“We are leaving an industrial economy and are entering a connection economy.”

row-teamTo me, these words mean that direct marketing is now more important than ever. The days of mass producing for all are in the past. Today’s audience values information targeted specifically to their needs and interests delivered by a source they trust. Gaining that trust requires us to connect with our audience by consistently giving them what they want – relevant information and offers tailored just for them.  And to make that connection really authentic, we must speak to them via the communication methods they use every day, including those sometimes ethereal electronic media channels. For skeptics who doubt that the intangible nature of social media and email has enough power to connect human beings, perhaps a new perspective awaits in some real life examples.

I belong to a local rowing club that has been around since the mid-1990’s. The club gathers contact information and email address opt-ins from all who join, but doesn’t send email communications to past members. I suggested we dig up the inactive lists and reach out to former members. The club planned   a “Reunion Row Month” to bring those former members back into the fold. A snail mail announcement of the event to the entire list was impractical, so we sent emails instead. To my shock, we received very low bounce back and unsubscribe rates, and at one reunion row a very long inactive member even shared stories and pictures with us. He also expressed his pleasant surprise that he was still on the email list and directly credited the email for bringing him to the event. So when we look at email, keep in mind that yes, analytics are important, but we should always consider the significance of human connections made on the other end of the send.

Another great example of intangible communication connecting human beings is an experience that happened with the most avid Tweeter I know — my husband. He faithfully follows celebrities, news sources and so on.  One day, an actor he follows tweeted that he was in the Atlanta area shooting and was looking for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training academy. Well, as fate would have it, a dear friend of ours owns a BJJ training academy in Atlanta, so my husband tweeted the actor the name of the academy. To our amazement, within a couple of hours the actor was training with our friend at his academy!  Yet another example of how relevant, but intangible, messages on electronic media have the ability to connect humans on a physical level.

What does this mean for direct marketers?

Reassurance.  Many of us have spent our lives thinking face-to-face contact or putting something tangible in front of someone is the best way to connect with audiences, but now we can be reassured by examples of genuine connections made through email and social media. These experiences “online” are proof that connections are out there, and we just have to find them.  They also prove that knowing your target audience and tailoring communication channels specifically to them is paramount.

My definition of tangible has certainly shifted. While online communications aren’t perceptible by physical touch, they are mindfully tangible and capable of creating human connection and action. I challenge you to keep Seth Godin’s words top of mind and remember that our intangible words can connect us to tangible results, just as the coxswain connects with the crew in rowing.