Wikipedia defines “channel surfing” as “the practice of quickly scanning through different television channels or radio frequencies in order to find something interesting to watch or listen to.”
The latest DMA survey comparing response rates and ROI for various communication channels brings to mind another facet of marketing today that may also be considered “channel surfing.” The plethora of marketing channels grows exponentially and the temptation to switch from one to the other based on the “latest and greatest” or the “least expensive” is perhaps growing as well. Despite this, Advertising Age’s June 14 article, “DMA Survey Shows Snail Mail, Phone Beat Digital In Response Rates” cites the ongoing success of “old school” channels like direct mail and telephone.
What are we to make of this? There are so many factors that determine the most effective channel in marketing including elements like acquisition-versus-retention objectives, consumer preferences and creative approach. Over time, the receptiveness of consumers to one channel over another can change dramatically. When dinosaurs roamed the earth and email was a new form of communication, people actually looked forward to and read their emails. Now, some consumers are so overwhelmed by an Inbox crammed with solicitations, they provide phony email addresses they never access. The inception of the "Do Not Call" list is an indication of the reluctance of some consumers to be solicited in this channel. Times change, attitudes change, attention spans waver. How interesting then, to see that “old school” channels still work. Sometimes that three-dimensional pop up or special offer in the mail are just the impetus we need to visit the store. Or a call from your car dealership reminding you that it’s time to service your vehicle will be a call to action rather than an intrusion.
So what’s a marketer to do? Per the old proverb, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Leverage the appropriate channel, for the right audience using the most effective creative approach. Listen to your audience and speak to them in the channel they prefer…the one they will welcome and respond to. It may not be the least expensive or the newest, but if it reaches them and they hear your message, you have a chance at a response and ultimately conversion. Better yet, you won’t annoy your customers and prospects! Direct mail and phone may not be the latest and greatest or the sexiest, but for some consumers and marketers, they are extremely effective. Digital channels can make that purchase a click away. And combinations of channels can sometimes be the most effective. One size never fits all. Channel surfing is a great way to test various media, as long as the wave doesn’t carry you away from your audience!