September 12, 2010

Dear Catalog CEOs: Online Marketing Doesn't Work

Dear Catalog CEOs:

"Online Marketing Doesn't Work."

That's a quote from one of you, to me, at a recent conference.

And then an online marketing executive recently told me this gem:

"Print, catalogs, offline marketing, none of that stuff works, we tried it all."

Oh.

You know what? Here's where I've come out on this topic.

Everything works.

There seem to be four things that cause marketing to work or not work.
  1. A receptive customer audience.
  2. A blend of best practices that are combined with "rule breaking" practices that make a brand "unique".
  3. Talent ... human talent and technological talent.
  4. You have to "want it".
Continually, I find that folks don't "want it". So many catalog marketers don't really want online marketing to work, as it invalidates a career spent honing offline marketing skills. And so many online marketers don't want any form of offline marketing to work, as it invalidates all of the excitement of a population shifting long-standing habits online.

I thought things were bad ten years ago. Things are worse today.

I continually run into business leaders who, in spite of fifteen years of e-commerce growth, do not have an instinct for thinking about e-commerce. Meetings are held without the online marketing team, offline strategies are devised in ways that force the online folks to only execute offline tactics in the online environment. No wonder online marketing doesn't work!

It's no better on the other side of the spectrum.

Online marketers do not have the analytics tools to understand offline customer behavior, and often have no interest in learning about offline customer behavior. Offline folks are continually blasted by the online elite for being Luddites, for not understanding the intricacies of long-tail search marketing, for not having a clue about the viral benefits of a strategically timed "tweet".

What does work is merchandise that customers are passionate about. Just ask Apple, for instance. Channels are irrelevant when customers crave your merchandise.

Do customers crave your merchandise? That's a question worth spending a few hours talking about with your Executive team.

Go find a marketer, online or offline, who is passionate about merchandise, and you're likely to find a marketer who says that any channel works!