Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summertime Fresh -- Keeping your Direct Marketing Ideas Flowing

Often, we are faced with a lot of hurdles as direct marketers. It seems like the IT guys, the Leadership Team and the Sales Force just don't seem to understand why we are doing what we do. And, frankly, we get very, very annoyed. We've even tried to help bridge the gap -- by getting different divisions within the companies that we consult with to communicate better, to understand each other's goals, and to just all sing from the same flippin' hymnal. It is difficult -- but it can be done.

In a recent article from Direct Marketing News Magazine, author Raquel Hirsch talks about this conundrum -- and relates it squarely to our responsibility as direct marketers. When I first started to read her article I thought, "Oh boy, this is going to hurt." However, Hirsch makes some very valid points that we all need to keep in mind.

Hirsch points out that we have to constantly be thinking about how our fresh marketing ideas will impact the bottom line. For instance, "How will this investment in “fresh” marketing help the company actually increase revenues and improve profitability? What are the business levers that will be impacted by these flashier online banner ads, novel email campaigns, ever-crazier viral campaigns? Where is the return on investment?" HA! You know this is music to every CEO's and CFO's ears! It's just true -- if we can't quantify how well our DM efforts are impacting the overall business, we may as well just go to Tahiti for an extended vacation. In business today, everything MUST be measurable. Luckily for us, most intelligently executed direct marketing campaigns are quantifiable and measurable. And because of this, we can continually tweak them as we go to make them even better with time.

This is all very good news for us because as Hirsch points out, "Without the discipline to understand how marketing decisions impact the corporate business model, when budget-cutting time rolls around, marketers have no data to defend what the CFO sees as 'the largest pool of unallocated dollars' – i.e., the marketing budget. And when the CEO decides the current ad campaign, the flashy splash page, or whatever, is 'tired' and needs 'refreshing,' marketers have no data to protect the current tactic or strategy."

So, as this Summer rolls along (and we're firmly ensconced in the third quarter of 2007), let's keep in mind the relative beauty of our field. We can measure and report back. We can prove the value of what we do. All it takes is a little forethought and strategic planning -- and mostly just paying attention to the business. When fourth quarter rolls around, the direct marketing team can be the heroes who have taken the business ROI goals to the next level. And as budgets are being planned for 2008, it isn't ours that are getting slashed -- we're getting what we need to do our jobs more effectively. See, this is fun stuff! This is what we live for! That Raquel Hirsch is one intelligent marketer.

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