Today’s marketing landscape is constantly evolving. On the one hand, with expanding digital channels and a sea of customer data available, messages and campaigns can be created across channels and be segmented on an individual basis. On the other, this means today’s marketer needs to “re-skill,” and do so quickly. Direct marketing managers in 2013 and beyond must wear many hats. An understanding of all marketing channels, including mobile and social media, as well as analytical expertise, has become expected of today’s marketer.

However, as we know, this has not always been the case, and responsibilities will likely continue to grow as the digital realm expands.

The Changing Landscape

market The Evolving Role of the Direct Marketing Manager

At the beginning of the 21st century, direct marketers seemed to have power over customers/consumers, marketing with the help of segmentation and demographics through a relatively small number of channels. However, the times have changed and now the power lies in the hands of the customers/consumers. For this reason, direct marketers must adapt to meet mounting customer expectations and yield positive results.

Two-Way Conversation

Thanks to the emergence of new communication channels, and their rapid adoption rates by consumers, marketers have the ability to engage in powerful, one-to-one conversations. In the past, direct marketers relied on call-centers, direct mailings/surveys, and tradeshows/events to connect with their customers.

Today, successful direct marketers tap into Facebook’s 1 billion monthly users or Twitter’s 500 million monthly users to create two-way dialogues with their audience. Brand pages on these outlets allow marketers to not only push promotional messages, but to gather instant feedback from users or prospects. Successful direct marketers need to leverage social media as a powerful engagement tool, creating much desired one-to-one communication with customers.

Connecting with “On the Go” Customers

Cross-channel messaging is a must in today’s shifting digital landscape. In fact, Accenture research shows “Nearly three out of four (72 percent) of consumers aged 20-40 in the United States and the United Kingdom use mobile devices while in-store to compare prices.”

While an email or direct mailing may have driven a customer to the store, the job of the direct marketer has just begun. Accenture research also shows “While 60 percent say that online prices entice [customers] to visit a store where they can compare prices and view merchandise up close, 48 percent still go home to buy the products from that retailer online, but 32 percent buy products online from a different retailer.” For this reason, mobile push notifications and real-time messaging are vital components of today’s successful marketing campaigns.

Gathering Useful Insights

With every email and web page clicked, web form completed, and social and mobile opt-in, direct marketers have an opportunity to collect valuable customer data. While this data can be very complex, today’s direct marketing manager needs to have a general understanding of how to create a single marketing of customers that spans multiple channels, as well as how to analyze this data to extract insights that drive more targeted campaigns.

Creating an entity for visitors based on analytics gathered from the web, mobile, or offline channels is essential. “Nearly half of the respondents – 49 percent – are receptive to their favorite stores or brands using their tracking data to inform their future purchases and make them aware of product availability,” according to the Accenture research.

By leveraging this data, direct marketers can ensure customers receive messages and offers from brands through desired channels at the appropriate times (push notifications/real-time messaging), thereby increasing the chance of a sale.

The Direct Marketer’s Job Skills

All of the above aspects of direct marketing are having an impact on today’s direct marketing managers’ job descriptions and responsibilities. Looking at a sample of direct marketers functions and responsibilities on LinkedIn shows concrete evidence of the fundamental shift occurring.

Based on the sample, today’s direct marketer needs to not only have expertise of various channels, including email, direct mail, mobile, and social, but other marketing skills as well. The ability to manage each of these channels as well as incorporate them into and manage within a CRM system is now critical.

At Apple, they not only incorporate analytical expertise into the direct marketer’s responsibilities, they’ve gone to the next level, creating a position labeled as “Direct Marketing Planning & Analytics Manager.”

The direct marketing manager’s role is undergoing significant change in today’s digital landscape. Consumers have more tools and information available to find the best offers at the right time, forcing direct marketers to adapt to their needs. Personalization, one-on-one engagement, and customer analytics have all become necessities within the direct marketing mix.