Direct Marketing Notes

by Bill Purdin

Things seem to keep getting more and more complicated, but maybe not. Where once it was “early to bed, early to rise, advertise, advertise, advertise,” now the choices seem more complex. Target audiences, market share, segmentation, optimization, media mixing, CTR, preemptability, extramercial advantage, findability ratios, and keyword density are all important, but in another way they just represent a re-jargoning of marketing terminology that has been around since the beginning. In a world of diminishing marketing returns and accelerating media expenses, there may be some traditional methods of seeking new business that still work as well as ever. If you know how to use them and remember some timeless marketing truths.

The anecdote to media over-dependence is marketing curiosity. And, there is no cure for curiosity, thank goodness. Once you start it is impossible to stop. It is not difficult for a company to become preoccupied with one media resource to the exclusion of others because it works. But in a highly segmented consumer marketplace the effort to reach new customers can be scary and confusing. To often, like a partygoer who stays all night in one room, you may eventually see everyone, but you won’t see everyone in different settings. So by adding a new mix to your program, you may suddenly find that responses go up from new and, interestingly, from existing customers as well.

In a quality advertising agency/client relationship two things happen. (1) both sides stop thinking exclusively about money heading into their individual pockets and (2) both sides realize that they are part of a potentially very powerful team. The agency makes recommendations that are the best for the client. The client realizes that for this independence and honesty, the agency is to be paid fairly and promptly. When one side mistrusts the other, chaos ensues. X+Y will never=Z. Things just won’t add up. Direct mail is especially difficult outside of a quality agency/client relationship. An good advertising agency has no prejudgmental axe to grind in terms of direct mail packages versus any other form of marketing. All the agency wants is success for the client. All a good agency asks is a creative opportunity to accomplish the client’s goals.

Direct marketing should come under the campaign umbrella that your company is working hard to deliver thoughtfully to all of the target markets and audiences. Direct marketing should be conducted within a context that is consistent and believable in the marketing culture of your enterprise. This means that unless you get really lucky, the logic of your direct mail program will be inductive, moving from your specifics to the large generalities of advertising. Said another way, if someone comes to you with a direct mail package that is pre-conceived, pre-packaged (gimmicky, if you will) there is virtually no chance that it will fit authentically into your program, even and especially if this package is touted as already “industry-specific” and “industry-proven.” There is a force in the world that tries to commoditize everything. Don’t ask me why, but it’s always there holding out its sweaty little hands. When you sense its presence, the amygdala’s orienting response – which saved us all on the evolution trail from things lurking in the jungle or in the dark – should snap your attention sharply in its direction and get you ready to fight. Commoditization is antipathy to creativity and creativity is the heart and soul of new sales.

So authorize the design of a genuinely creative and unique direct marketing program without any hesitation. The seductive “savings” of off-the-shelf plans and packages will be long forgotten in awkward and inauthentic impression they make in customers who know you already and the inconsistent and incorrect impression they will make on potential new customers if the ‘first impression’ modality. Tread carefully with direct marketing devices. Remember it is direct. A direct connection between you and the customer. If upon first meeting a new customer you begin the conversation by offering a deep cut in price, or a large percentage off, or some come-on bait and switch to entice them, then that will be what they always expect. As I said, tread lightly. There may be a better way. Remember it is, after all,  ideas that can change everything.

Just be sure yours is a good idea.

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