Thursday, May 1, 2008

Direct Marketing Strategy: Taking the Time to Think Through the Direction

We're big proponents of approaching the marketplace with a focus on the customer. And, we truly believe that you can better target and appeal to the customer if you actually listen to them and use an analytical approach to better understand their preferences. In our view, successful direct marketing strategies are centered around the customer. Those that aren't will never be as effective. Period.

In working with a couple of our clients recently, I got to thinking that for some reason, today it is more difficult to get them to understand this point. Why? Everyone is trying so hard to keep up with the day-to-day, that they aren't truly focused on where their marketing efforts are headed. They are more focused on getting the campaigns out the door. And, we're finding that the results tracking falls by the wayside if we aren't focused on assisting with this effort. Marketers are just trying to keep the calls and buyers coming in. While this is important -- you must take the time to study the results of your efforts. Or, down the road, the phones will stop ringing.

Case in point. We have a very successful customer who has found that advertising works great for them. Therefore, they don't have the time or desire to put together a direct marketing strategy. And, this in an industry where, dollar for dollar spent, it makes a lot of sense to direct market. They have decided to simply depend upon advertising to drive buyers to their events. And to their credit, so far, so good. They happen to have a product that many folks want today. So, folks are lining up at their events to get it.

Here's the problem: they have no idea which advertisement is working well and which isn't. They have no special toll-free numbers, codes or anything to determine which buyer came to their event based upon which advertisement. Further, they don't know if it was a TV ad that got them there or a newspaper ad. They just know that they came, some bought and some didn't.

Well, as you can imagine, this truly just drives us crazy! There are such simple things that could be done to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, and they just aren't doing them. Not only that, if you were spending millions of dollars per event on advertising, wouldn't you think that you'd be curious to see which media, channel, ad, whatever was bringing in the most buyers? We think you would be curious . . . and so are we!

The point is that -- no matter what you sell, no matter what the state of the economy, no matter what your industry -- you must take time to set and review your direct marketing strategy over time. This client may continue to do well for a long time -- and, of course, we're happy for them if they do. However, to us, this is a recipe for disaster. Sooner or later, the buyers will stop showing up, and they aren't going to know why. Oh, they'll guess, they'll have a gut feeling . . . but they won't be able to scientifically say what has caused the shift in attendance.

We're getting close to the half-way point in the year. If you haven't looked at your direct marketing plans since December, take them out and assess just how well they are working. Look at your metrics . . . are you tracking what is most relevant to your overall success? How are you doing against your goals and objectives. Maybe it's time for a change in direction! Whatever the case, sometimes we all need to be reminded of the importance of sitting back and taking a hard look at where we are and how we can improve.

OK . . . I'll hop off the soapbox now. Have a great Thursday!


Ted Grigg said...

So true Nancy.

You may be right that staff overload produces an incompetent behavior pattern in some marketing groups. But I suspect another culprit.

I have come to believe that clients have certain immutable philosophies about business (and life for that matter) and how things work.

Some have great respect for left brain activity and others right brain. And nothing you do will divert them from their preferred approach.

Here's a great comparison of the two types.

Most clients fit some where in between. But your experience describes an extreme right-brained advertiser who shoot from the hip.

Left Brain:

-Looks at parts

Right Brain:

-Looks at wholes

They both have value. But imbalance is deadly.

As you know, we are direct marketers and our strategies depend heavily on left brain activity. And respect for analytics and relational databases eludes right brained decision makers.

For this reason, I walk away from pure right brain clients. There is too much DISCIPLINE required by the direct marketing discipline.


Nancy Arter said...

Wow Ted! Again, you are so right. You bring up such a valid point that I guess I knew instinctively but didn't put it together until you outlined it in this comment. Sometimes when you are so deeply involved in the customer situation, you lose site of the overarching facts. And, you are exactly right. Sometimes it makes good sense just to walk away and find other opportunities when you can impact results in a positive manner. And sleep better at night.

Thanks for your comment. You rock!