Last week, I took part in a fantasy football draft. For the next fourteen weeks, my attention is focused on maximizing the value of Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson.
If direct marketing held a fantasy draft, we'd have to evaluate each channel, predicting just how important it would be during the Fall/Winter season of 2012.
Let's handicap the race, right here, right now.
Email Marketing: Email marketing is a lot like drafting a kicker, in that you get credit for a lot of extra points, but you are not going to get a four touchdown day. The DMA loves publishing how email marketing has the best ROI in all of marketing. That's true. Email marketing essentially has no cost, so when you generate $0.09 per campaign, you get $0.03 of profit divided by $0.003 of cost, yielding a 100 to 1 ROI. And yet, nobody talks about how you only get $0.09 demand per campaign, do they? Draft email marketing in the later rounds.
Affiliate Marketing: Sometimes known as "the place the customer goes to get a discount marketing channel", affiliates are a lot like drafting backup tight ends. You need a backup tight end for the bye week when your starter isn't available. Similarly, you need affiliate marketing for the small percentage of customers who care more about your promotions than your brand.
Natural / Organic Search: This is one of those situations where you wait until after the first week of the season. At that time, you look for a wide receiver that nobody drafted, one that scored two touchdowns in the season opener. You claim this player on waivers, essentially costing you nothing. That's the role of natural / organic search, largely ignored until the CFO wants free marketing.
Paid Search: A lot like drafting a starting running back. You have to have a running back on your team, but running backs used to be important and now are not valued nearly has high as are other positions. Paid search was so important from 2004 - 2009. Today, it may be important, but nobody cares anymore, it's like catalog marketing.
Omnichannel Marketing: From what you read, this is like drafting Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. You HAVE TO DO IT, OR YOUR BUSINESS MODEL WILL BE DEAD. However, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have proven that they work. Omnichannel Marketing is just a theory. Your peers will take Omnichannel Marketing early in the draft. Hold on, and take Omnichannel Marketing in the later rounds.
Merchandise: This should be your first-round draft choice. Here's a funny thing about merchandise. If you have crappy merchandise, everything else you do is utterly feckless. Ever visit a company that is failing? Everybody is yelling at the marketing team to do a better job ... you look at the marketing data, and you can just tell that nobody wants to buy the merchandise. Merchandise is Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. John Clayton of ESPN did research that showed that teams with a top-12 quarterback have an 80% chance of beating teams with a 13-32nd ranked quarterback. The same thing goes for merchandise. If your merchandise is craved by customers, you have a very high chance of beating the competition. Sometimes, it's as if almost nothing else matters.
Catalogs: Unless you're marketing to a 55+ rural crowd, view catalog marketing much the same way you'd view drafting Carson Palmer as a starting quarterback.
Social Media: Unless you're marketing to a 30 or under crowd, view social media much the same way you'd view drafting Carson Palmer as a starting quarterback.
Mobile: Mobile is like drafting Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Robert Griffin III ... they are all mobile quarterbacks, and can elude the pocket (i.e. old school marketing), making plays on the run. Of course, mobile quarterbacks sometimes get hit, and when they get hit, they get hurt, costing your team wins. This is what mobile marketing is all about, folks. Your fancy iPad app allows you to escape marketing clutter, but when nobody downloads the app, it's like you just sustained an injury, in that you lost out on opportunity cost to existing channels with proven ROI. Not worth a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round draft choice, but something you need to keep an eye on.
Retail: Retail is a lot like drafting Larry Fitzgerald. He's going to produce, but in an auction league, his cost is very high because he's going to produce. In retail, the cost is very high ... debt, debt, debt. If you invest here, you may not have as much money to invest in other opportunities.
Creative: Creative is like choosing a defense. The best defenses have all of the fundamentals covered, allowing them to take calculated risks that result in touchdowns. The best companies know every aspect about selling, they know to present merchandise in stacks or on models, and they know what colors to feature. This allows them to take risks within the confines of the fundamentals they have mastered. Creative isn't something that you'd draft in the top-5, but you clearly want great creative somewhere down the road.
Customer Service: So important. Draft it early, at any cost.
Free Shipping: Almost expected now. No sense forcing some customers to pay for it to fund the ones smart enough to find an affiliate marketing code. Find the AOV hurdle that makes sense and just do it --- a 3rd or 4th round draft choice, it's that important these days.
20% Off Promotions: This is the Terrell Owens of marketing ploys. In his prime, he was very talented, worth a 1st round draft choice. But then he'd pull out a Sharpie after scoring a touchdown and, well, that's not part of the team spirit, is it? Eventually, his talent wasn't worth the problems he caused. Same goes for promotions ... they bring in the sales, but eventually, promotions wear out their welcome and you can't sell anything at full price anymore. You'll be tempted to do this, to make it a primary part of your marketing strategy. Honestly, it should be a low round draft choice, at best.
Comparison Shopping Engines: Certain ideas are popular at some point in time, then fade in other eras. That's the CSE, folks. Remember how important tight ends were in football? About every 10-15 years, tight ends are in vogue, often in periods when the running game matters. Today, spread offenses demand having five good wide receivers, minimizing the impact of the tight end. Today, your social/mobile strategy gets all of the attention, minimizing the importance of CSEs.
Co-Ops: When drafting a fantasy football team, you always pick backup running backs and wide receivers that will become starters when other players get hurt. That's what a co-op is to a cataloger ... ignored when business is good, needed when new customers are required to fuel future growth.
Use the comments section to offer your thoughts!