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What Matters in Marketing is What Works — Not What You Think Works

February 22nd, 2005 by Bob Bly

?I discard all marketing materials received in my mail without reading them, period,? writes Aileen Cassidy in a post on this blog. ?There is simply too much of this material clogging up my mailbox to have it invaded by strangers.?

Aileen makes the common error of concluding that, just because she doesn?t like direct marketing, direct marketing can?t possibly work.

?Everyone I know feels the same way,? she contines. ?So how come these methods are so aggressively pursued? Do they really improve sales? I am curious.?

I think Aileen already knows the answer to her question, which is this: of course they are profitable. Otherwise, marketers wouldn?t keep doing them.

Condemning — or advocating — a marketing tactic because you personally don?t like it or like it is the most amateur mistake you can make.

The best advice in this regard comes from my colleague, top DM copywriter Peter Beutel, who warns us: ?Don?t get caught up by personal preference.?

What you think or don?t think works — or should work — is irrelevant; what actually works or doesn?t work is all that matters.



This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005 at 12:46 pm and is filed under Direct Marketing, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

78 responses about “What Matters in Marketing is What Works — Not What You Think Works”

  1. Bob Cargill said:

    Yes, Bob, you’re right. To support your argument, I can’t tell you how many people I know in the direct marketing industry who claim they, like Aileen, don’t look at the direct mail they receive at home (which, if you ask me, is hypocritical of them, but that’s a comment for another day). Yet these very same people owe their livelihood to the DM industry — it’s the career they have chosen. So obviously, they have their personal preferences, but they haven’t gotten too caught up by them in their professional lives. They know DM works, and that’s all that matters.

  2. Susan Getgood said:

    One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And it all depends on the day. If your marketing strategy is sound, and you know your prospect, direct mail works.

    It may end up working in a roundabout way — the prospect gets your letter, reads your offer and doesn’t respond, but when they do that Google search, something jogs their memory. Or perhaps they get your mailers regularly for a year, and then one day the project gets approved. Whatever.

    One thing I know for certain is that if you are in regular contact with your prospects, you stand a much better chance of getting a sale than if you aren’t 🙂

  3. Jim Logan said:

    The only thing that matters is what works. I’m in the business of making money for my clients. Whatever makes them money, as long as it’s legal and ethical, is what we do. Our personal feelings are irrelevant. Results are all that counts.

    If you’re a sales or marketing professional, I can’t think of a way to look at it otherwise.

  4. Bruce DeBoer said:

    Agreed. At what point does one decide that a marketing communication channel is bad for the brand. e.g. Spam works but hurts my brand image.

    How do we measure the negative effects some approaches may have on brand image?

  5. Everett said:

    Context matters… do you know who Aileen is? Is she a marketing professional? Then yeah, shame on her for not “getting it” or something. Or is she just a consumer? Then try to think twice before pissing off your public, unless you’re married to the shotgun approach and don’t need to concern yourself with the way 99% of the public relates to your brand/product/service/whatever.

  6. Stephan F said:

    Remember, even a successful campaign has only 1-2% return rate.

  7. Bob McCarthy said:

    If you’re getting a 2% response rate, 98% of the people didn’t respond … and you have — we all have — a far greater chance of being in that group.

    So ignore your gut reactions, intuition and personal opinions … and let the numbers do the talking.

  8. Shelle Castles-Melton said:

    Hello! Is Aileen a DM? Swipe File, baby! Swipe File!

    If you’re in the business you have to do what works. Otherwise you’d just be failing your client. Just blogged about this very thing….

  9. Susan Getgood said:

    I’ve been thinking about this some more, and it just hit me: define “stranger.” I suspect that the mail we collectively classify as “junk” (ie the stuff that goes in the round file unopened) comes from companies with whom we do not have a relationship — whether it be prior purchase or just familiarity. Even if we truly believe we NEVER EVER read direct mail, I’m willing to bet we actually do. We just mentally classify it differently. It’s not junk mail cause I wanted it 🙂

    For me it comes back to: know your audience, create a compelling offer, integrate your direct marketing strategy with other vehicles like advertising and you won’t be a stranger.

  10. Aileen said:

    No, I am not a DM, am not in marketing at all – I am “just” a consumer (per Everett’s post). I was just asking as a receiver (and discarder) of DM materials. At least Andy Rooney agrees with me! 🙂

  11. Milton Drepaul said:

    It’s all about the hook. Once you start reading you can be locked into the writer’s story.
    How many of us start idly looking at a movie and after 10 mins. cannot stop looking even though they will say ,’I’m looking at a really bad movie’.
    DM works because if we start reading there’s an opportunity to get involved with the message if the copy is good.
    Sure people throw out some mail before reading but if we have emotions we can be engaged.

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