September 29, 2009

This Week In Business: The Direct Marketing Association

During the past week, a battle formed on the bridge that connects the past with the future ... click here for a few tweets about an ongoing discussion between the Direct Marketing Association and an individual named Gerry Pike.

You've forwarded e-mails to me, e-mail messages you received from both sides of the argument ... questioning the authenticity of each point of view.

As a community of marketers, it might be instructive to step outside of the discussion, and focus a few minutes of thought on what has become of us.

Let's think about the things that we focus efforts on. As you read through this list, assign a percentage to the importance of each element in the list ... make sure the percentages add up to 100%.
  • Merchandise (it's hard to run a business without merchandise, right?).
  • Inventory Management.
  • Creative Presentation of Merchandise.
  • Pricing Strategy and Shipping/Handling Strategy.
  • Online Marketing, Awareness, Acquisition, Loyalty Strategy.
  • Offline Marketing, Awareness, Acquisition, Loyalty Strategy.
  • Social Media, User Generated Content, Video Marketing Strategy.
  • Mobile Marketing.
  • Customer Insight, Analytics, And Business Intelligence Strategy.
  • Marketing Promotions (% off, Loyalty Programs, GWP, etc.).
  • Website Navigation And Presentation.
  • Customer Service And Merchandise Fulfillment Strategy --- Leveraging Humans.
  • Expense Management Strategy And Financial Discipline.
  • Information Technology Strategy.
  • Human Resource And Employee Compensation Strategy.
  • Other --- You Name The Topic.

Now that you have assigned percentages to each line item in the list, ask yourself this question. For any organization (not just the DMA, but any organization), what percentage of your list can any organization assist you with?

I think this is the real question we're all dancing around. You focus on one thing, and you end up focusing on 5% or 10% of the business, tops. There's no critical mass anymore. Fifteen years ago, a 35% postage increase would have caused complete and unfettered anarchy. Today, it truly doesn't matter --- if it truly mattered, every cataloger would have joined the ACMA, fighting back with tenacity and voracity. That didn't happen. The ACMA soldiers on, representing more than 10,000 companies on the financial contributions of a hundred companies that care, plus or minus. Why would we expect any other organization to meet our needs when we ourselves are so full of apathy?

Maybe we're full of apathy because classic direct marketing no longer exists. Retailers ship products to your home. Direct marketers ship products to stores. Do you think of Orvis as a cataloger, or do you think of Orvis as "Orvis"?

Quality and differentiated merchandise at a fair price with great customer service is what matters to the customer --- and here's the thing, folks --- almost nobody talks about this. Seriously. Go read your favorite blogger, trade journal, research organization, vendor publication, or trade organization white paper, and you'll read a ton of articles that offer what I call "4% solutions" ... social media, user generated content, web analytics, print isn't dead, five steps to easy paid search success, bricks 'n clicks, e-mail marketing has the best ROI, mobile marketing is the future, blah blah blah blah blah. They all sound good, and in fact, the solutions are generally quite good at optimizing 4% of your business. But you make significant improvements on eight of these things, and your business doesn't improve by 32%, does it? Everything is interconnected, dependent upon each other --- and when you try to align everything, you don't get the sales increases promised. Nothing addresses a critical mass needed to fundamentally move your business in a positive direction.

The holistic organization of the future will help a brand offer quality and differentiated merchandise at a fair price with great customer service. This matters! I don't think it matters who the organization is, or what their primary focus is. The organization of the future will find a way to address a critical mass needed to fundamentally move our business in a positive direction.


  1. Anonymous4:05 AM

    So if it all doesn't matter, why do we need to pay the leader of the DMA an exorbitant amount?

  2. Anonymous, you don't need to pay the leader of the DMA an exorbitant amount.

    Don't renew your membership.

    And if nobody renews membership, they're done. No salary, no organization, nothing.

    This is why we, as a direct marketing community, are so feckless. We complain, but we aren't willing to do anything.

    Don't renew your membership, if that's the way you feel.


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