Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Direct Marketing Is A Pain In The...

I was chatting with a buddy of mine recently about the intricacies of successfully executing a direct marketing campaign. It was one of the more interesting conversations I've had ...

I love direct marketing. I think it's awesome. But I've continually been frustrated by the inability of organizations to see the value that DM can bring. I used to think it was because people were scared of numbers (sometimes), or bad at pivot tables (which I still think), or just downright morons (always a possibility, but highly unlikely)...but my friend's comment made it much simpler to recognize the inherent problem with direct marketing -including both online and offline.

Here's his hypothesis, in a nutshell...

Creating a marketing plan is a pain in the ass.

Creating a direct marketing plan is a pain in someone else's ass.

In order to successfully execute a direct marketing campaign, we need cooperation. We need for the web team to provide landing pages and measurement. We need for sales to provide lead source and close data. We need for customer service to answer any emails that are generated from our activity. We need a content management system that can turn our genius into reality. We need for legal/compliance to go over every rule you can think of - for each creative version we create - to make sure we're not violating some nebulous law. We need for senior management to understand this "different" way of thinking. We need for IT to track everything and tie it all together. We need all these things, yet we control almost none of it.

In most organizations, DM is not central to the business. There are lots of ways that business is generated - the organization is not necessarily "sold out" to the power of DM. As a result, direct marketing campaigns and "stuff" is extra. The people you need for cooperation did not ask for you to give them work. They have enough to do. They usually don't have insight to your marketing genius. To them, it's just more work. Aka - a pain in the ass. Their ass. Your idea, their pain.

This is a burden that "traditional" marketers don't face. Making a TV commercial or print ad doesn't tax internal resources, because it's almost always created by an external agency. In fact, it's very exciting for senior execs to go "on set" and see the magic happen. It's even more exciting to see the product on TV - way more exciting than seeing your text link appear on Google. The only pain you'll feel is in the wallet but you'll happily pay it if the pictures are pretty.

If there's one failure that we've faced as direct marketers, it's impressing upon our management that we are, in fact, a pain to some people in the organization. Our senior management NEEDS to recognize this, so that they can provide the muscle that will eventually be needed to clear up the car crash that our "extra" work can cause. Showing a clear and concise value to DM (something we sometimes struggle with) is critical in forcing the cooperation we need.

Yes, DM is a pain. If your running from that fact, you're probably struggling with properly valuing your efforts.


  1. Its amazing though how when companies don't do it after they were doing it....quickly return after a qtr or too. Why, because it generates a ROI.

  2. Good to see you back at it, Mr. Frady.

    I couldn't have said it better.

    Andy "Modeling is my life" Russo

  3. Direct marketing RECRUITING can be a pain in the.....
    This is a difficult environment for employers, particularly smaller ones

  4. Nicely done, Bob! And it's true, even though it's VIEWED as a PITA, when you don't use direct marketing and the intelligence that comes with it, you end up spending those scarcer and scarcer marketing dollars inefficiently. Inevitably, as Anonymous pointed out above, those organizations who have backed away from it come back (tail between their legs) because it is the only true way to create and track ROI. In our world today -- if you can't prove that you are squeezing the most from each dollar spent . . . well, the outlook is not so good.

  5. I have a colleague who says "there are 317 things that can go wrong with a direct marketing campaign." Done right, however, nothing else can so directly link the $$ spent to the $$ made. So it's well worth doing right -- regardless of the pain.

  6. Truer words have never been spoken. I always say about email that it's one of the few disciplines inside a company that has true cross-functional (including executive) visibility, requirements, and yelling & screaming!

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