November 13, 2007

The Writers Strike And Multichannel Marketing

I like to follow Ken Levine's blog, especially during the writer's strike. It's one thing to read a blog, it's quite another to read the blog of a writer.

TV writers want to be compensated when their work airs in the digital realm. When viewers watch "The Office" on television, writers receive some level of compensation. When viewers watch "The Office" on, writers do not receive compensation.

How similar is this to the challenges folks in multichannel cataloging face?

When you boil it down, writers want credit for their work ... credit being compensation.

In multichannel cataloging, we see the same thing.

E-Mail marketers truly believe (and rightly so) that they drive significant volume. But they are sometimes hounded by catalog marketers who believe that e-mail marketers couldn't even do their job if the catalog didn't generate an order, causing an e-mail address to be collected.

Search marketers can't measure the business they drive to stores ... and if they could accurately measure it, their budgets would at least double in size.

Catalog vendors are desperate for respect. A printer has to prove that printed material causes online and retail sales to happen. The USPS must prop up mail volume. Co-ops depend upon occasionally biased matchback algorithms that suggest paper is the primary cause for online and retail orders. List brokers and list managers watch dollars flow out of their industry, into paid search ... or worse, they recommended that their clients use the co-ops, only to see the co-ops steal their business, causing consolidation.

The internet changed everything.

Writers want compensation when their work is consumed online.

Catalog, e-mail and paid search marketers and vendors want credit/compensation when consumers use their work to purchase merchandise online or in stores.

The only fair way to replicate a writers strike is to not execute your marketing tactics for a period of time.

In marketing, that isn't called "going on strike". It is called "a test".

If you want to prove that your catalog is so critical to your brand, take five percent of your customer file, and withhold catalog mailings for one year ... see what happens.

If you want to prove that your e-mail marketing is an integral part of your sales promotional strategy, take five percent of your e-mail file, and withhold e-mail campaigns for one year ... see what happens.

If you want to prove that search marketing is responsible for driving sales in stores, try taking five percent of key merchandising keywords, and withhold search marketing campaigns for these keywords for one year ... see what happens.

One year is an important time frame for marketing tests. See, customers don't notice when one of thirty-eight catalogs, or one of sixty-seven e-mail campaigns is missing.

Customers do notice when catalogs stop coming. Customers do notice when e-mails no longer show up. Customers then change their behavior.

This is what you want to measure ... you want to measure what happens when customers have no choice but to use other alternatives to shop. This proves the true value of your marketing channel.

I've executed these tests many times over the past twenty years. The results are never what you'd expect, never similar to what you see when you execute simple A/B splits in short-term marketing strategies. Customers are fascinating --- they do all sorts of unpredictable things when you take marketing away from them for a long period of time.