This past week, I took part in the FTC’s comment period on the proposed Do-Not-Email (DNE) registry. While I certainly wanted to add my two cents, I kept thinking about the bigger picture. Policymakers at the state and federal levels have been tightening the noose around most direct marketing channels with such initiatives as the Do-Not-Call list and Do-Not-Fax list with no apparent end in sight. Direct Marketers must feel that their planning choices are now so regulated, that it’s not about what you should do but what’s left that you can do.
The question on most DMer’s minds is, "Why now?" After all, telemarketing is hardly new. Neither is fax marketing. Heck, email marketing is nearly a decade old already! So why are legislators all of a sudden gunning for direct marketers? The answer to this question is far simpler than anyone would believe: it's because there are plenty of voters supporting it.
To uncover why the average voter has it in for direct marketers, I suggest you take a moment and count your personal contact points. These are the channels of communication available to you through work and home -- postal addresses, email, phone, fax, etc. In my informal study, I found the average person has roughly 10 contact points, and that seems to be multiplying at an incredible pace. Just in the last decade alone, we’ve seen at least three additional contact points thrown into the mix: email, cell phones and instant messaging.
Thus, the good news for consumers is that there are now more channels of communication available to them than ever before. The bad news is that you’ll most likely receive sales pitches through all of them.
To try and put this into context, consider that in 2003 approximately:
- 657,000,000 opt-in emails were sent per day – which does not include Spam
- 678,000,000 outbound telemarketing calls were placed per day
- 553,000,000 pieces of direct mail were sent per day
That’s close to two billion pitches per day going to a country with approximately 190 million people over the age of 18. That’s a lot of marketing. As yet another informal experiment, I counted all the pieces that I received on one random day across all my contact points and I received a total of 156 sales solicitations. I didn’t count spam.
Yet spam does serve as a fabulous science project. It’s a wonderful example of marketing that’s completely out of control. Spam, in a way, has given us the Scrooge-like peek into the future where we we're all given a glimpse of permission-less marketing on steroids -- and nobody liked what they saw.
In fact, spam serves as one of the best arguments for permission because once you remove two simple things -- permission (or consumer control) and the economic barriers from opt-in email -- what’s left is more akin to “anti-” direct marketing. Spam is anti-relevance, anti-targeting and more importantly, anti-respect. Spam sends the loud and clear, no-excuses message to consumers that if DMers had their unregulated way, all channels would be just as clogged. They’re probably right.
Spam is so extreme -- in the negative sense, of course -- that savvy, legitimate email marketers now flock to the polar opposite end of the respectability spectrum, not by just obtaining permission but by putting their squeaky-clean best practices up front and center and waving their respectability flag high and wide. I call this type of marketing that’s starting to emerge “extreme respectability.” In other words, many marketers now see the need to first sell consumers on their privacy policies, or their company, basically, before they pitch their products or services. Not a terrible concept, actually.
Now what’s even more interesting about extreme respectability marketing is that consumers see this top-notch online behavior among legitimate marketers and begin to wonder why they are treated differently offline by the very same marketer. It’s becoming very clear that today’s top direct marketers do not treat them differently at all. They treat their customers and prospects with the same level of respect, care and disclosure online and offline. Furthermore, they are very adept at collecting and honoring permission across all channels. In short, they recognize permission is not just for email marketing. It’s a best practice for all DM programs.
Permission is not a fad or a defensive action; it’s the right way to market in this new millennium. We should embrace it not because we are told to, but because it’s the right thing to do. Take it from one who’s been living in the permission world for the past six years and whose company now collects permission from several thousand people per day: It’s not, at all, a bad place to be.
This is an interesting time to be in direct marketing. It’s a time when pummeled consumers -- not policymakers -- are forcing us all to be better marketers. They feel the best way to make us better marketers is to give us less choices. I beg to differ. The way to be a better marketer is to build a bond with the consumer that “Do-Nots” can’t break. I, for one, am convinced that those bonds begin with permission.
As president and COO of NetCreations/PostMasterDirect, Michael Mayor is an 18-year veteran of direct marketing and a recognized pioneer of email marketing. Michael joined NetCreations as one of the company's first employees in 1998, and played a key role in helping to build the largest and most successful email list management company in the industry today. He has also pioneered many of the email marketing industry's standards and best practices. Mayor is a leading advocate of privacy and is a frequent speaker at industry functions. Mayor is also the Chairman for the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Email Committee.
Is your digital and social truly integrated?
The world of marketing is moving toward a "converged media" model, otherwise known as the coming together of earned, owned, and paid media strategy into a comprehensive approach. For years, many have discussed this integrated marketing approach, and this is now finally accelerating with the digital and social consumer, particularly for brands that target Millenials (or "Gen Y"). We now accept that "Generation Now" wants to collaborate, share, and even co-create content. And they want to do it now, in real-time. Brands that tap into this rather than simply transmitting messages, for instance, with one-way traditional advertising, are today's winners.
Source: Altimeter Group
Assuming most if not all marketers believe this, why's it so hard? The main reason is silos. They exist between digital and other departments, and they even exist within digital teams. Many larger organizations have completely different teams, as well as plans and budgets, between digital advertising, SEM/SEO, social media, and others, making it challenging to plan and execute collaboratively across paid, owned, and earned media.
Agile marketing practices, such as daily scrum meetings that dictate closer cross-departmental work methods and accountability across different stakeholders, bring the silos closer together to make converged media happen, with digital and social working as one. The teams can then generate real-time data across media types that, with the right analytics and processes in place, lead to ongoing TLC loops evaluating the data, iterating again on tactics, and ultimately generating better results.
Part of the growing importance of incorporating a converged media approach to marketing campaigns is the now critical components of earned and social programs. Interestingly enough, video game marketing was one of the first categories to recognize the power of earned media and how it supported paid media programs. Big titles would kick off 12+ month-long product campaigns where the front half relied exclusively on PR, from product announcement to teases and previews that bridged into the start of paid campaigns closer to launch. On the social side, game forums were among the first online communities. They evolved into standalone social nets, and "community PR" entered the game-marketing vernacular. Many communities eventually migrated to Facebook and Twitter. Community PR became "social marketing," and simple community moderation evolved with strategies to drive community engagement, social sharing, and recruitment.
Do you have an ongoing active listening program?
Given that TLC is at the heart of agile marketing, you need an ongoing active listening program for the all-important "L," or the learn step. The two key words here are ongoing and active. Being agile is a continual and "always on" way of working. Consumer sentiment and behavior can change by the day, hour, or even minute. Your brand is part of an ecosystem and gets impacted by other events outside your control. Research initiatives, programs, and snapshots all have their place, but the real information now lies in the moment, which means you need to have a system in place to continually listen. Active listening then demands analytics and reporting that are digestible, together with intuitive and expert interpretation to provide the right insight to inform the next decision and action (i.e. the next "T" or test and "C" or commit in the agile marketing loop).
At a recent ad industry conference, the North America head of marketing for Nokia talked convincingly about the power of real-time sharing and earned media input:
"Digital is the place that is defining our brand more than ever. The coolest, funniest, and most impactful content about your brand is no longer from an owned source -- it's out there. Your best bet is to co-author...[but]...you're expected to have a point-of-view at any one time for your brand. Your job as a brand is to be a catalyst for the conversation or a great conversation starter."
Ongoing and active listening systems provide the foundation for creating and starting these brand conversations, particularly when co-creation or sharing content generated by earned media is becoming one of the most influential drivers of your brand. So, being truly agile demands a robust ongoing active listening platform and process.
Do you substitute ongoing TLC for a "campaign by campaign" approach?
The old way to create any marketing activity was usually long and often tortuous. It would involve research-brief-(pitch, maybe)-plan-create-build-develop-implement and so on, often in three, six, or even 12 month cycles. Most were big leap initiatives and, while doubtlessly based on plenty of smart planning, the outcome would never be certain.
Agile marketing argues that this "hope for the best" approach will only succeed often if you're taking lots of smaller bets, rather than the traditional approach with fewer campaigns taking bigger bets. Take this principle further. If you can compress your campaign-by-campaign approach to one that's always on and always evolving, you're more likely to benefit from what agile marketing nirvana promises to deliver.
Is this practical? Well, it depends on the specific category, but it is being increasingly seen as the smart way forward. For example, if you turn the classic marketing funnel on its head and start with your customer base, then move on to active advocates, then fan base, and then lastly turn to prospects, you will see how the always-on approach to marketing would work in practice. The whole debate around whether brands should act like publishers supports this way of thinking and working, and there are some compelling real-world examples.
Speaking at Ad Age Digital in September, Heineken CMO Lesya Lysyj recently referred to their real-time marketing. She said, "We use Facebook as a research platform…we just put stuff out there and learn from the response."
Twitter referred to their CEO saying, "A really interesting conversation starts a campaign. We're moving from a time where campaigns were planned to a time where we adjust for the moment."
One of the most infamous examples of this in action is Audi's "I want an R8" campaign, which grew from an initial single tweet from a lady in Washington!
Do you have limited links to the rest of your organization?
This is similar to the point above about silos, but this time it is a much bigger ambition. True, agile marketing goes beyond the digital marketing team and even beyond the marketing itself. It takes the power of data and insight from an always-on listening system, uses the process of team collaboration and faster, adaptive working, and works it all back into the rest of the organization. As such, it promises to deliver on the original promise of marketing, as both discipline and department, to really represent the external customer, understand the marketplace, and embed itself as the accelerant into everything the organization does.
The most direct area where agile marketing helps better integration is between marketing and product development, bringing them into sync and even changing the sequence from the marketplace leading product development rather than vice versa. Still, the opportunity can go much further.
An Altimeter Group report from September 2012 states, "Successful adaptive organizations have social media (the core connection to the outside world) embedded and operating across 17 different departments."
We know that most large businesses are still built to work vertically better than horizontally. An agile marketing approach obviously challenges this. Ask any organization that adopted agile at any level. It's a fundamental change. The four key questions aside, the primary one is, "Do you have the appetite for it?"
It may be clichéd, but the old saying "every problem is an opportunity" is definitely applicable with agile methodology. Again, ask organizations that have benefitted from it, and you're likely to hear their challenges with adopting it first. For some, especially anyone who thinks they've gone agile while only implementing it piecemeal and wondering where are all of the benefits, it begins with identifying these four problems.
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