April 09, 2008

Experience vs. Arrogance In Multichannel Marketing

If you've spent your career honing your skills in catalog marketing (or spent the past fifteen years as an e-mail marketer), you can probably empathize with the comments of copywriting guru Bob Bly. Read his words, feel his pain.

These days, you see philosophical differences everywhere. We're much more public, and more mean-spirited about how we rip into old-school marketers or hipster social media advocates.

Back in the early 1990s, a catalog brand would launch a new title. Growth in the core title would stall, growth in the new title was great (albeit unprofitable). There was plenty of In-fighting between old-school core title advocates and the hipsters working for the startup title. The hipsters bragged about their highly targeted mailing, while the core title old-fogies pontificated about providing the infrastructure necessary for the success of the hipsters.

And then we had the advent of the internet. We started the process all over again, and in many cases, the in-fighting continues.

Even the so-called arrogant social media pundits are split. Folks who evangelized blogging just three years ago abandoned the craft last year for Facebook, telling everybody to move to that platform. Then these folks abandoned Facebook for Twitter. Rest assured that social media folks will poo-poo blogging, Facebook and Twitter when next year's shiny new object appears.

Social media micro-channels have been proven to be successful in generating sales and leads for small brands and small B2B organizations. Social media micro-channels have been proven to be successful in improving public relations issues with large brands. Social media has not, to date, proven itself to be a viable replacement for direct marketing. It probably never was intended to replace direct marketing.

This brings us back to the concept of experience vs. arrogance. To paraphrase Don Libey's comments in a recent newsletter, multichannel marketers will probably have to do "everything".

If your core customer is 25-55 years old, you'll need to do everything ... traditional advertising, traditional direct marketing, online marketing, and social media.

If your core customer is 61 years old, you're likely to find that traditional direct marketing works best, validating the belief system of Bob Bly.

If your core customer is 44 years old, you're likely to find that online marketing and e-mail marketing work really well, validating the belief system of the e-commerce generation.

If your core customer is 27 years old, you're likely to find that social media plays an important role in your business, validating the belief system of social media pundits.

Experienced direct marketers learn that arrogance always comes with upstart individuals promoting new channels.

The arrogance that comes with new channels is tempered over time by experience.

What matters most is to keep an eye on your customer. Do what is right for the customer.