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A large majority of marketing executives say email, search marketing, and display ads are their company’s top performing advertising channels, and many plan to increase spending on them in 2009, according to a survey from Datran Media.

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Datran’s third-annual survey of more than 3,000 top marketers reveals that an overwhelming majority (80.4%) say email tops the list in terms of effectiveness for their company, followed by search (56.8%) and display (42.1%). These online tactics continue to far outpace offline media, direct mail and mobile as the strongest performing advertising channels.

Correspondingly, marketers say they plan to allocate their available 2009 budgets toward these strongest performing channels: Email, search and display. At the same time, they anticipate at-pace or reduced spending across offline advertising and direct mail, Datran said.

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Most marketers also believe that email advertising helps boost sales through other channels (82.4%), currently employ analytics to evaluate their email campaigns (83.9%) and plan to integrate marketing messages into their transactional emails (69.3%).

Focus on Getting and Keeping Customers

Getting and keeping customers remains a top priority for marketers, the survey found. New customer acquisition and increased customer retention far outrank increasing brand awareness and brand favorability for 2009. Not surprisingly, in order of importance, marketers will reportedly focus on CRM tactics such as newsletters while they also employ behavioral targeting, list growth, ad inventory monetization and affiliate marketing strategies to accomplish customer acquisiton and retention goals:

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The following percentages of marketers plan to employ these advertising tactics:

  • Display advertising (59.2%)
  • Behavioral targeting (65.1%)
  • Audience analytics (76.1%)
  • Targeted email campaigns (80.8%)
  • Ad networks (63.2%)

Other Multi-Channel Trends

Other multi-channel trends that appear to be emerging among marketers are growing interest in formatting messages for smart phones (36.4%) and mobile advertising (34%).

Marketers also are increasingly interested in emerging advertising channels, particularly social media advertising (72.8%), though interest in social media is still greater than marketers’ perception of the channel as an effective advertising medium (49.2%).

When asked what they think is the most important online marketing decision they will make in 2009, the study’s verbatim comments from marketers overwhelmingly focused on the desire to increase cost effectiveness, maximize ROI, and create more “bang-for-the buck” for clients.

About the study: Conducted in December 2008, the survey reached over 3,000 marketing executives across Fortune-500 brands, top publishers and leading advertising and media agencies through a variety of channels, including both the Direct Marketing Association Email Experience Council’s member base and Media Life Magazine’s readership.

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