“I Want to Go Back” Is Not a Solution

If you’re a baby boomer-aged marketer, there may be a good chance that you want to “go back.” That is, go back just a few years when we didn’t have to juggle so many marketing channels. In the past, as direct marketers, we relied on direct mail and catalogs mostly. We used print advertising, inserts, direct response television or radio, and other alternate media as well. And we’d have an in-house mailing list of customers.

I’ve too often heard a phrase from news commentators during interviews and politicians in recent debates that puts me off. The commentator or politician chirps, “I want to go back” after a point had been made minutes earlier, after the flow the conversation had moved on. “I want to go back,” is often not a solution that serves anyone.

There is no going back. Once the genie is out of the bottle, an attempt to “go back” is usually futile.

If you’re a baby boomer-aged marketer, there may be a good chance that you want to “go back.” That is, go back just a few years when we didn’t have to juggle so many marketing channels. In the past, as direct marketers, we relied on direct mail and catalogs mostly. We used print advertising, inserts, direct response television or radio, and other alternate media as well. And we’d have an in-house mailing list of customers.

Today, mailing list ownership gets fuzzy. We need to build more than a direct mail list. We need to entice customers to opt-in for email or SMS. If you get a lot of spam, you see, first-hand, the abuse of lists. Marketers build social media followers, but those followers aren’t like a customer a list, and they are never ours to own. They are merely rented, so to speak, and who’s to say that someday the big social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others won’t suddenly start to charge us for the use of the list (or somehow otherwise hold us hostage to access our followers)? Already, if you want your social media content to appear to your followers before sinking to oblivion at the bottom of the news feed, you have to pay.

Then there is the need to have a presence in multiple new channels to meet your prospects where they are in the world. Websites, landing pages, email, social media, video, remarketing, search engine marketing — the list of channel opportunities grows every season.

With concepts like nurture marketing and content marketing, sometimes we ask ourselves “is this different, or the same as, direct marketing as we knew it?” or “is this a subset of direct marketing?” So we ask: where do we, as direct marketers, fit in the mix with so many buzz phrases?

The speed of change and new channels is dizzying. As marketers we must prioritize what channels we’ll use. It’s tempting to boil it down to the numbers. But I don’t think it’s always that easy. Social media, for example, based on my experience and what I hear from others, generally doesn’t provide great conversion. It’s a glance-and-forget channel. It may be low-cost, but there is a real commitment to using effective content marketing and social media. Many organizations, depending upon the category, must have a social media presence to be considered relevant. If you’re going to play in that game, you must have a plan to bring those individuals into your sales funnel so you can monetize all of that time and effort.

Having a strong working knowledge of all these marketing channel choices is challenging, but I don’t want to go back to limited channel options. I want to look forward and embrace what’s new and coming on the horizon. Channel choices that better identify where to find, and how to serve prospects and customers, makes us more effective marketers.

“I want to go back” is the problem. “I want to look forward” is the solution.

Marketing in the Big World

Marketers are embracing the big question today: How do you map and influence the complete customer journey? That’s the whole trip, from creating interest in your category, to educating them on the space, becoming a brand they want to do business with, and finally to making a purchase.

The Big World
Marketing in the Big World means taking responsibility for each customer’s full Odyssey, not just dropping a Cyclops on them. Credit: NASA, Visible Earth.

For many years at Target Marketing, we took the approach that direct marketing is what happens when you send a targeted audience an offer, some of them take it, and you add that information into your house list to keep marketing to them in the future.

That’s not a simple process, and I don’t want to make it out to be. It reminds me of a master jeweler creating value by crafting the perfect cut of a gem.

But it’s a small world: Offer, list, capture data, analyze, new offer. Know your list. Love your list! Become an expert on helping it grow and finding ways to increase conversions and lifetime value through your chosen channels.

It’s the realm of a specialist measuring ROI to, as Denny Hatch likes to say, “The gnat’s eyebrow.”

And isn’t that exactly why direct marketing became it’s own tightly knit community? Because this highly profitable style of targeted, accountable marketing wasn’t welcome on Madison Avenue?

The thing is, marketing is about more than that today. It’s not that direct tactics are outdated by any means. In fact, I think direct marketing has become the most important part of all marketing. (And ask any agency if their clients don’t want return on investment measured to the gnat’s eyebrow.) But that also means it is a piece of ALL marketing today.

Nearly all marketing efforts are expected to drive a direct response, and grow the house database, and gather data on customers and potential customers that will be used to inform the next marketing campaigns.

That happens in the big brand campaigns now, just as much as it happens in niche direct marketing. And it happens across TV, mail, email, online ads, content marketing, social media, and more channels that I’m not even thinking of tonight.

Marketers are embracing the big question today: How do you map and influence the complete customer journey?

That’s the whole trip, from creating interest in your category, to educating them on the space, becoming a brand they want to do business with, and finally to making a purchase … And then continuing to nurture that trusted relationship, expanding their knowledge of your product category and related interests, and sparking ongoing sales, loyalty and evangelism.

That’s a Big World!

To market in the Big World, you need to be able to send a great offer to a targeted list (or custom audience, programmatically defined segment, etc) and measure ROI down to a gnat’s eyebrow. But you also need to be able to continuously interact with your audience — current customers, prospects, and the wider universe of interested parties who can become those — through social media, brand ads, content marketing and more.

Release the (itty bitty) Kraken!
Big things, small beginnings.

The Big World is a combined discipline of direct marketing, brand marketing, customer service and PR. And it’s often being done best by small teams that handle all of those things at once. Tentacles of the same kraken, even if it’s still just a baby kraken.

Small world direct marketing is Odysseus defeating the Cyclops. Then Odysseus sailing past the sirens. Then the next episode/campaign, etc. Each scene perfected and deployed.

The Big World is the whole Odyssey, being retold and retailored live for each person your brand wants as a customer to consciously create a journey that eventually leads to you.

Who in your company is in charge of that telling?

How well does your marketing capture the whole customer journey? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

5 Tips to Position (or Reposition) Your Offer

Does bundling products together in your offer result in higher sales? Bundling can be an effective way to sell, but research suggests it can backfire if you don’t approach it thoughtfully.

Does bundling products together in your offer result in higher sales? Bundling can be an effective way to sell, but research suggests it can backfire if you don’t approach it thoughtfully.

Product bundling, good/better/best choices, add-ons and free bonuses have been a part of direct marketing offers for generations. Any smart direct marketer will test offers in small volumes first before rolling out the best performing test in larger circulation.

But product bundling can have its own set of purchase and perception challenges. Research from authors at Pepperdine University and Northwestern University suggests that consumers are not always willing to pay as much for a combination of items as they would for, say, two separate items. In this study, primarily for retailers but with application to direct marketers, reveals:

  • Consumers think in categorical terms. When an item considered expensive is combined with an inexpensive item in a bundle, consumers perceive the combination to be “moderately expensive.” Consumers forget they are purchasing multiple items and the bundle can result in a perception that they should pay less for the combination.
  • Sales declined 15 percent when an inexpensive item was added to the expensive item.
  • Consumers perceived that the combination of an expensive item and inexpensive item should result in a price decrease of 25 percent.

In direct marketing, our sales environment is different than retail. Fortunately, as direct marketers, we can test in a controlled environment. And we can be confident in the outcome of the test by applying sound statistical confidence intervals when evaluating the results. If you offer multiple products, here are a few bundling recommendations for testing. They can be done as A/B, A/B/C, or any combination of these five options:

  1. Bundle products together for one price.
  1. Charge full price for the expensive item, and give the less expensive item away as a free premium.
  1. Charge full price for the expensive item and price the second item at a deep discount.
  1. Create a “Good/Better/Best” offer, which makes it look less like a bundle and gives your customer choices.
  1. Position additional items as add-ons that enhance the primary product you offer.

Your offer is often considered to be a substantial contributor to the success of any direct marketing campaign. With multiple items, bundle thoughtfully and use your imagination to position your offer.