Where Do You Start? Teaching Direct Marketing to College Students

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

I remember sitting in the parlor of a Catholic parish rectory in North Jersey while my wife was participating in a wedding rehearsal. The Mets game was on TV. The brother of a parish priest who was visiting from Ireland asked me to explain baseball. Explain baseball?!?! Where do you start?

Despite all of the professional speaking and training I’ve done in direct response marketing, the first time I taught a college course devoted entirely to it was last spring. I started with the fundamental concepts of media, offer, and creative. I had them write about each of these concepts from their own experience. We went over the various targeting opportunities marketers have online and offline. And at the end, we covered measurement and metrics.

At the end of the course, I asked the students to tell me what worked, what didn’t, and what should be changed. The most insightful comment was from a student who said:

“I wish you had covered all that measurement content at the beginning of the course. It made me realize why all that other stuff was important, and how it fit into the big picture.”

HELP!

Now, as I embark on teaching a course dedicated to Direct Response Marketing at Rutgers School of Business Camden, I’m looking for advice about how to sequence things.

Last year, when I bemoaned the lack of an appropriate up-to-date textbook for this discipline in this column, Dave Marold and Harvey  Markowitz stepped up and recommended the Fourth Edition of “Direct, Digital, and Data-Driven Marketing,” by Lisa Spiller. (Thanks for that Dave and Harvey; I’m using that book in the Fall).

What Do You Think?

Now I see the benefit of stressing measurement early. Even though I told the students every class that the coolest thing about direct marketing is that you can measure it, apparently the mechanical reality of measuring something like search engine keywords was not real for them. So:

  • Do I incorporate some form of measurement into every lesson?
  • Do I introduce a comprehensive measurement unit early in the course? (Spiller’s book does that early on, in Chapter 4).
  • Or, do I go full-on “math course” at the beginning, and thin a 40-student class down to 20 students after two weeks? (Just kidding).

Opinions welcome. (Actually, encouraged.)

Will Millennials Fully Experience the Analog Revival?

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Analog is making a comeback
Analog is making a comeback

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Instagram shows over 3 million posts each for the hashtags #filmphotography, #filmisnotdead and #polaroid. Photo booths are popular at weddings. Young people are increasingly enamored with pictures taken on devices other than their phones, even though Instagram remains the go-to place to view and share them.

My students who have done class research projects on ebook readers have consistently found that college students prefer print books over electronic ones for classes. I’ve observed an increasing number of students using paper notebooks rather than tablet computers and laptops to take notes. Hardcover diary-type notebooks are gaining a hipster cache, and recently, I had a student enter an appointment in a paper calendar, as I remarked, “How quaint!”

A New York Times review says the new David Sax book, “The Revenge of Analog,” is “a powerful counter-narrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world.” The review adds that the author contends that the analog revival “is not just a case of nostalgia or hipster street cred, but something more complex.”

But while most things we can have and hold are easily accessible to Millennials, music is different. Fortune magazine reported vinyl record sales hit $416 million last year, the highest since 1988, according to the RIAA. But there are several barriers to the mass adoption of analog music, most significant of which is the need for a turntable and vinyl platters. Millennials own digital music and listen to it on portable devices through headphones, occasionally through a Bluetooth speaker. I’ve written before about the Millennial music experience being more individual than social, more like filling your ears with sound than filling a room with sound.

It’s easier for Baby Boomers to embrace analog music, because many still have their vinyl collections stored away. Marketing consultant Lonny Strum recently wrote in his blog Strumings about re-experiencing the joy of a turntable needle drop, saying “What the process of using a turntable has reminded me of is the joy of interaction/engagement with music that vinyl provided. The ‘needle drop’ (and alas the subsequent vinyl scratches) were all part of the process of listening to music. The selection of the song, the cut of the album took time and consideration, not a millisecond fast-forward that digital allows. I rediscovered the snap, crackle and pop from excessive play in past years. In fact, I instantly recall the places in songs of my 45s and LPs where the crackle, or pop existed, as if it were a key part of the song.”

EmotionsThese are the types of experiences that the Times notes in reviewing “The Revenge of Analog,”

“ … the hectic scratch of a fountain pen on the smooth, lined pages of a notebook; the slow magic of a Polaroid photo developing before our eyes; the snap of a newspaper page being turned and folded back … ”

A recent study published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society concluded that “MP3 compression strengthened neutral and negative emotional characteristics such as Mysterious, Shy, Scary and Sad, and weakened positive emotional characteristics such as Happy, Heroic, Romantic, Comic and Calm” making the case that analog music might actually be a more positive and pleasant experience.

Will Millennials and the generations who follow get to experience it?

Why Millennials Don’t Consume Mass Media … And Why That’s OK

Every semester, I ask the students in my undergraduate classes: “Does anyone read the newspaper?” No hands raised.

Every semester, I ask the students in my undergraduate classes: “Does anyone read the newspaper?” No hands raised.

“Does anyone watch the network news on TV?” No hands raised.

“Does anyone listen to the radio?” Some who commute by car raised their hands.

As someone who has two newspapers delivered to the house every day and faithfully watches the network news on TV, I was disturbed by this, smacking my forehead with a “these kids today!” exclamation. I feared that the world view brought to them by social media was very narrow and limited to the viewpoints of people who were just like them. A few of my Facebook friends have very different political views from mine (their posts sometimes annoy me), but most of those in my social network are aligned with my views. I believed that young people would have an even less diverse pool of opinions from which to draw.

So I did some research to confirm my point of view, ignoring David Ogilvy’s warning that many agencies and clients “use research like a drunkard uses a lamp post – not for illumination but for support.” What I found was illuminating.

The social networks of Millennials are not as homogenous as those of older people: “31 percent of Baby Boomers on Facebook who pay attention to political posts say the posts they see are mostly or always in line with their own views, higher than both Generation Xers (21 percent) and Millennials (18 percent),” according to Pew Research Center Journalism & Media.

A study by The American Press Institute (opens as a PDF) finds that most Millennials report that the people in their social networks have diverse views. “Contrary to the idea that social media creates a polarizing ‘filter bubble,’ exposing people to only a narrow range of opinions, 70 percent of Millennials say that their social media feeds are comprised of diverse viewpoints, evenly mixed between those similar to and different from their own. An additional 16 percent say their feeds contain mostly viewpoints different from their own. And nearly three-quarters of those exposed to different views (73 percent) report they investigate others’ opinions at least some of the time — with a quarter saying they do it always or often.”

The news is not a destination for Millennials, but rather something that’s woven into their daily social media activity. “Millennials consume news and information in strikingly different ways than previous generations, and their paths to discovery are more nuanced and varied than some may have imagined … just 47 percent who use Facebook say that getting news is a main motivation for visiting, but it has become one of the significant activities they engage in once they are there. Fully 88 percent of Millennials get news from Facebook regularly, for instance, and more than half of them do so daily.”

Of course, it’s not just Facebook … YouTube and Instagram serve the same purposes for Millennials. As marketers, we need to stay tuned-in (sorry) to how the most populous generation consumes news, social and lifestyle information simultaneously on social media platforms, and how we can best make our messages relevant there.

The ‘Sustainability’ of Giving Back: How Marketers Look After Their Own

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social. This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social.

This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need.

First, we had the Marketing EDGE Annual Awards Dinner. Nearly 250 marketing leaders gathered to honor two recipients for Marketing EDGE’s two most prestigious education leadership awards: Michael Becker, co-founder and managing partner North America, mCordis, as the 2014 Edward N. Mayer, Jr. Education Leadership Award honoree; and Google as the 2014 Corporate Leadership Award designate.

Many of the emcees of the evening, uniquely, were alumni of Marketing EDGE programs (Marketing EDGE engages thousands of students and professors every year). Altogether, the evening generated not only hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship monies, but also mini-testimonials from students and young professionals including one individual who confessed he almost became a Eurobond trader until he was engaged in a Marketing EDGE program. He described himself as an “accidental marketer.”

Think about the term, “accidental marketer.” Today’s generation of students and “market-ready” career entrants are increasingly marketing educated, and even direct and interactive marketing educated, armed with internships and professional experiences the moment they reach the marketplace. Marketing EDGE programs alone touched more than 5,000 students last year—and 6,000 are anticipated for 2015. Many are marketing majors, while others are in STEM fields, creative and other disciplines, but with exposure to marketing curricula and some marketing experience.

Compare that to 20—even 10—years ago. This business was built largely by “accidental marketers” who found a home in measurable, accountable direct, interactive and data-driven marketing, and found entrepreneurial opportunities in our field. We did OK, even spectacularly, but our successes have only made the appetite for top talent grow more ravenous. Thus, the more we “give” to marketing education today—in donated time and money, in adjunct teaching, in internships, and in involvement with colleges, universities and “bridges” such as Marketing EDGE—the better chance we have to attract the best and brightest to our field, and to our companies. Giving back pays immediate dividends. (Don’t forget #GivingTuesday is December 2!)

During the Direct Marketing Association 2014 Strategic Summit, we heard from a panel on what it takes to bring along “The Next Generation of Marketing Talent.” Representatives from IBM, Javelin Marketing Group, Marketing EDGE and University of Georgia talked about the need for flexibility, mentoring, culture and social responsibility as motivators to today’s students and career entrants. Young professionals crave guidance, and likewise to understand their role in the big picture of community (in marketing, the business overall, the end-user, the industry, the world). One might say these attributes motivate everyone, but they are particularly important to digital natives and Millennials who want to start their careers as contributors and difference makers. How much better to have these new and young professionals matched with mentors, by default or design, to bring clarity to such contributions.

Which brings me to a third event, the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 30th Annual Silver Apples Gala, honoring seven individuals (Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman & chief executive officer, OgilvyOne Worldwide; Timothy Kennon, president & owner, McVicker & Higginbotham, Inc.; Pamela Maphis Larrick, CEO, Omnicom’s Javelin Marketing Group; Thomas “Tim” Litle, founder & chairman, Litle & Co.; Lon Mandel, president, SMS Marketing Services; Debbie Roth, vice president of sales, Japs-Olson Company; and Dawn Zier, president & chief executive officer, Nutrisystem; and one corporate honoree (Fosina Marketing Group) who have contributed a quarter century (or more) to the direct marketing discipline, through demonstrable professional success, and a giving of time and effort to promote the goals of DMCNY which incorporates education and to foster growth of the field.

All during the evening, honorees recalled having mentors, being mentors to others, and having the clarity of marketing goals and measurement to achieve marketing success. They also spoke of community—where ideas are freely explored and exchanged, the good, the bad and the not-so-pretty (testing and lifelong learning)—as being part of the key to not only professional success, but also a deep sense of personal and professional fulfillment.

We are a community—and one I’m thankful for everyday in my own accidental career. It’s always time to give back and mentor.

Mobile Isn’t Just About Marketing

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales. … You need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales.

The other day, I had someone call me for advice and he was interested in leveraging mobile in his business-to-business-focused company that optimized shipping/boxing for small- to medium-sized companies.

He was unclear on how to use mobile to market to other businesses that might be interested in his company’s services and was sort of skeptical that mobile really could even work for B-to-B companies.

I asked him a simple question: “What problem are you trying to solve or are you using mobile for mobile’s sake?”

He was sort of confused for a second and asked if I could clarify. I explained that he gave off the impression that he didn’t really know why he was interested in using mobile in his business other than that people are talking about it.

You see, just like this gentleman, you need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

The most unique aspect of mobile is its utility. When it comes down to it, mobile can do, and be, a lot for your business that doesn’t involve marketing. You just have to approach it strategically and not tactically to start to see it this way.

Don’t jump to tactics. Trust me, you won’t find success that way.

The most successful uses of mobile are ones that are so seamless that your customers even forget they are using a mobile device.

Because mobile threads through all of our daily experiences, you should look to use mobile to help solve a business problem or eliminate inefficiencies.

I wanted to share three ways mobile can impact your business that aren’t directly tied to a marketing initiative.

Solve an Operational Problem

Not too long ago, I interviewed the head of mobile for Yamaha. We chatted about how they’ve slowly integrated mobile into their operations over the last two to five years. Yamaha originally thought it’d leverage mobile to connect with customers. But, little to their surprise, their dealers and dealer staff began leveraging the tablet application to sell on the floor.

Boats are expensive … As a dealer, you can’t afford to have every single model with every single feature on the showroom floor. So, Yamaha’s sales teams used the app to show customers what a specific product may look like or cost by using their consumer-facing tablet application.

Yamaha realized this was creating a more efficient system to deliver the latest and greatest content to the dealers and make sure everyone was showcasing the most up-to-date materials.

Shortly thereafter, they eliminated delivering printed materials for dealers and equipped them all with tablets and can now deliver the latest product information on the fly.

At the end of the day, the dealers were able to engage with customers and showcase products that would never have to be on the floor to help close deals and give the best customer experience. Oh, and they even saved money from their continual printing costs.

So, if you have a sales or business development team, think about leveraging mobile to enable them to do their job better, more efficiently and always be equipped with the knowledge they need out in the field.

Your Product or Service Can Be Mobile

Have you ever used the app Hotel Tonight or Uber? If you haven’t, you should check them out as both of these businesses rely on the mobile device to deliver amazing customer experiences. Their apps drive their business by delivering a utility to their customer.

Hotel Tonight lets you find last-minute specials on hotel rooms in the city you’re in. When you open the app, the latest room rates will display around midday and you can book for that evening.

They don’t let you book hotels in advance … only that day and that day alone.

Uber is an application that lets you request a private driver based on your location. You can order a taxi, a black car or even a nice SUV. When you need a ride, you open the app and you can see all the vehicles in your proximity. When you request a driver, the app notifies all drivers in the near proximity that you’d like a ride.

Shortly thereafter, you see which driver is coming to pick you up and the time it will take for them to get to your pick up destination. The whole business is powered via this app. Your credit card is on file, so you never even exchange any cash. The tip is included and you pay a slight premium for the service, but it’s amazing.

I was just in San Francisco for five days and used it frequently to get around. I never had to flag a cab on the corner—I just pulled out my phone and, in minutes, I was on my way.

You see, both Uber and Hotel Tonight generate business by offering their customers an easy-to-use tool right on their phones to accomplish tasks that were once a pain to complete.

These are two great examples of leveraging mobility AS your business.

Mobile Can Be a Training or Education Tool

I follow two online marketers and business owners who recently launched their own apps as a part of their overall business. Now, they didn’t just go and repurpose their content from their site and put it in an app.

They wanted to deliver tremendous value that helped their customers.

Ramit Sethi, a blogger and best-selling author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” teaches people how to earn money on the side and get their dream jobs.

Over the last few years of studies and research he was able to give his students word-for-word scripts to help them get a raise, get a job, work from home and much more.

He knows a lot of the situations he trains his students for don’t happen at home … they happen while they are out and about nowhere near a computer to refer to these resources.

So what did Ramit do?

He built an app called Negotiate It that includes scripts to help you negotiate just about anything. You can open the app and find scripts to use to lower your credit rate, lower your credit bill, get a raise at your job and a ton of other common situations. He even charged about $4 and turned it into a revenue-generating product that was solving a super-specific need for his students.

Then there is Grant Cardone. He is an amazing salesman and businessperson. He frequently trains people about how to better sell and sell “the right” way that can actually impact your business.

He decided to create a mobile app called CloseTheSale, which offered scripts of closing techniques for just about every single scenario you can think of. They all have clever names and you can refer to the app whenever you’re preparing for a big sales meeting or you want a quick selling strategy to learn.

Both of these guys realized that creating an app would allow them to put so many valuable lessons in the palm of their customers’ hands to help them reach their own goals. Very specific use cases, but both demonstrate how mobile can be a training or educating tool for your customers.

As you can see, mobile doesn’t have to be a marketing tool. In some ways, these three examples indirectly affect your marketing. But their main purpose stems from something entirely different …

So, I challenge you to first ask yourself if you’re just doing mobile for mobile’s sake. If you are, you need to re-evaluate your “why” immediately.

If you’re about to get started using mobile in your business, be sure to have a problem you’re trying to solve, a process you’re trying to optimize or a product or service that could best be used by a consumer’s mobile device.

What are some non-marketing use cases you’ve seen with mobile?