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A View from the Marketing Trenches – “C’mon Man!”

For those of you who follow NFL on ESPN, they started doing segments where the commentators show a clip from the past week where a player often is caught doing a really dumb thing, followed by the expression, “c’mon man!” In my thirty years of direct marketing, I have witnessed some legendary mistakes, goof ups, and over paid expert advice most deserving of a “c’mon man!” In the past few years as direct marketing began experiencing massive changes and challenges, the frequency of those moments has increased.

Raise your hand if you are a data-driven, multi-channel, omni-channel, online/offline integration expert, customer driven, VOC evangelist, marketing database expert, and attribution marketing specialist. Your marketing campaigns are personalized, integrated, optimized, categorized and kicking a#%. C’mon man! Is all the hype and marketing sophistication we read about really happening? Or, are marketers, being the spin masters that we are, saying one thing and doing another?

I would suggest that many direct marketers, at least in the B2B world I operate in, are still working the basic algorithm, spray and pray. Which essentially means, if the numbers work, then why change? But, of course, the numbers aren’t as easy to hit now. Yet there is resistance to change. It’s easier to put one’s head in the sand and hope that all this data-driven, online and offline convergence and synergy will pass you by. It won’t.

It has been interesting following the developments of attribution measurement. Attribution models were to be the panacea of understanding how marketing campaigns worked together. Turns out it is more difficult to understand than many of us thought. Some folks just gave up trying. Others decided to do arbitrary allocations. Presto! They confidently report to the CEO that they’ve figured it out. C’mon Man!

Direct Marketing is tougher than it ever has been. But I’d suggest it’s also the most exciting time as the marketing folks that figure this stuff out will be very valuable to their organizations, and they won’t have to change jobs every two years!

Ok, let’s go back to what we say we are doing, or rather, what we are not doing. Let’s examine why marketers are behaving that way, when in most cases it makes no sense whatsoever. Remember the old spaghetti western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Which category do you fall in?

Let’s start with basics. Measuring customer loyalty/retention, reactivation, new customers, and size of the active customer file are pretty important. Right? I am constantly amazed by the number of firms that do not measure these basic fundamentals. This is simple and gives you rich information when trending over time. Over thirty years I have heard this question, over and over, “Robert, we aren’t growing any more. Can you look into it?” Then I politely ask for those fundamental metrics and they have no clue what’s going on in their customer file. C’mon man!

Let me add another oldie but a goldie. Lifetime value. Without this you are operating in a sinkhole, churning customers, especially the most valuable. C’mon man!

How are those silos working out in your marketing organization? I asked a group of channel marketing managers why the company was growing at 7% but they were all reporting double digit growth? Of course the response from each was, “my numbers are solid.” Right! And I have bridge I can sell you. I know attribution is hard but how can we possibly expect to really understand what’s working when we market in silos. C’mon man!

Don’t let me get started on last click attribution! We know it is wrong and we keep doing it. Why? Because it’s easy.

Lack of interest in SEO by Marketers and IT is a puzzle to me. Though it does explain the abundance of SEO experts and consultants that come in to clean up the mess marketers made of the website. Why would we not want more valuable traffic? More traffic times conversion rate, times average order, equals more revenue. C’mon man!

Our customers come first. You can read it in the CEO’s letter in the catalog. It’s on the website too. But do they really? When was the last time you surveyed them to solicit their opinions on your business?  Surveying gets bucketed as a non-revenue generating expense. Chop! Since when did listening to your customers become not worthwhile?

The point of this rant is simply this: direct marketers are operating in a far more complex marketing ecosystem and we need to really drive change. Yet, at the same time use the basic direct marketing principles like testing, measuring LTV, etc., that helped get us here. Let’s be truthful about what’s working and what’s not. You know the old saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

Lead, challenge conventional thinking, and be innovative in your thinking. Don’t be a “luddite”, as Don Libey would have said.

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