Monday, June 1, 2009
Get Personal. Get Results. (Part 1 of 3)
Get Personal. Get Results.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
If you’re thinking this article is another how-to guide with sure-fire tips to success in the sack, you’re wrong. So sorry to disappoint.
But if you think this article is how to make your direct marketing better, then you just got lucky. Read on!
Creating effective direct marketing is a lot like dating.
In dating, the more you know about the individual you’re going out with, the better your date can go. You know what to say, how to say it, and when to shut up and listen. A good date necessitates 2-way communication. As you learn more, you get better and better at communicating with the other person. A relationship develops.
Similarly, in direct marketing, the more you know about the individual recipient of your message, the better and more targeted you can make your approach to him or her.
Suppose you care passionately about a park proposed for your community. You decide to send a letter to everybody in 2-mile area asking for support. That is shot gun marketing. Not everyone is a donor. Not everyone cares. Even the small fraction of people who are donors may not care a whit about your park. It’s rough out there, Baby.
But send that same message to those people who are most likely to agree with you, and your success rate increases exponentially. Who are these folks? Bicyclers, campers, hikers, bird watchers, nature lovers of all stripes. They are your go-to constituency.
Blind dates and non-targeted “shot gun” marketing both have the same abysmal result: They are expensive, frustrating, usually doomed to failure. There has to be a better way.
While people who continue to go out on blind dates get what they deserve, marketers have indeed found a better way to find out whom they are approaching.
But first, a brief history of getting personal in direct marketing…
50 years ago, the height of getting personal in marketing was using the recipient’s name and address in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. All of us over a certain age remember getting letters that read in part
Dear WILLIAM E. JOHNSON,
The WILLIAM E. JOHNSON household is one of the few households in
SEVERNA PARK, MARYLAND receiving this letter…
In this Pleistocene era before computers became ubiquitous, this ALL CAPS stuff was sophisticated marketing. Recipients had never seen their names in print, much less their city and state. It stopped them in their tracks. It was revolutionary. It was wildly successful. For a time.
The quirky ALL CAPS novelty wore off quickly, so then marketers went to less obvious upper/lower casing. But the information content was unchanged. For years all marketers had to work with was the recipient’s name and address. We needed help.
In the 1960’s lists got more sophisticated. Soon 35,000+ lists were on the rental market, with each list purporting to be the absolutely best list available of people with some common interest or need. This was an improvement. Marketers could at least select recipient lists based on some common criterion.
But even that improvement was not enough. Not every list could be absolutely the best, nor even relevant. After all, one of the best producing lists of all time was a list of households that owned vacuum cleaners! What did owning a vacuum have to do with the price of tea in China?
OK, it wasn’t great, but it was getting better. We could at least choose our lists based on donor history, magazine subscriptions, membership in clubs and associations, and other general indicators.
Still, marketers only had a minimum amount of generalized information about the target group as a whole. Even with the advent of “selects” which allowed us to “drill down deeper” we lacked specificity about the individuals who comprised that amorphous whole.
The revolution began with the advent of inexpensive computers in the 1970s and 80s. As more organizations could afford computers (remember at the beginning of time, computer time that is, world experts predicted that only 24 computers could run the whole world!) the rules changed again.
Companies and organizations could keep their own data. They could keep it in greater depth, tracking such things as most recent donation/purchase and highest donation/purchase. There was a gleam in marketers’ eyes as we saw the possibilities.
It was another big improvement when we got selects for gender and implied age on consumer lists. It helped even more when we got selects for job title, company size (by number of employees or annual billings), and industry type on business-to-business lists.
Sure, we had some idea of who these people were and what they wanted/believed in/bought into (that’s what put them on the list probably, and what list research is supposed to ferret out, after all). But we also knew that good marketing copy is written by one individual to another individual. It’s one-to-one. It’s about being personal.
We needed more. And in just the last few years we finally got what we needed.
Today, there are dozens of data “filters” through which we can run lists to “data mine” the demographic and psychographic composition of the list.
OK, that’s a big mouthful. What it means is that finally we can determine the gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, language preference, household income, homeowner or renter, presence of children, personal interests, hobbies, credit worthiness, religious and political affiliations of individuals on lists. And that’s just for starters!
Filters can help determine education level, likely profession and level within that profession, as well as the car they drive and the music they listen to. We may know more about them than their Mothers!
What can we do with all this info, really? The goal is to take this new-found knowledge and use it well.
Part II of this series addresses what some innovative marketers are doing to use personalization in their prospect mailings.