What It Takes to Be a (Direct) Marketer
As marketing has turned digital, the hiring process has become ever more complicated. What skills do new marketers need to succeed? And what talents should employers be looking for? At the graduate-school level, the key word is “integrated.”
As a marketer whose career has been an equal balance of agency account management and teaching at the graduate level, I am often asked what skills are needed for entry into our field. The answer was easier in the pre-digital era. That’s because, as DMCNY members well know, the field has changed dramatically – and continues to change – and the skills required to thrive in it have multiplied in recent years.
Today’s entry-level candidates must have significant specialized talents far beyond those required of marketers just a decade ago.
TODAY’S MARKETING STUDENTS
Here’s an important point to understand about today’s marketing students right from the start: Digital natives do not consider themselves direct marketers.
As the academic director of a graduate degree program in marketing for the past 10 years, my experience teaching and advising hundreds of students has shown me they are not familiar with the term “direct marketing” – and do not consider direct marketing to be a specific career path. They define themselves as marketers.
That is one of the reasons I changed the name of the graduate-degree program at New York University from “direct and interactive marketing” to “integrated marketing” back in 2008.
The name change, along with the new curriculum that I developed for it, resulted in a dramatic lift in student response. That isn’t surprising when we consider that students are consumers, and today’s consumers expect the marketplace to be integrated – with branding consistency across all media and channels.
Here are a few more facts about today’s marketing students:
- They have often never seen the hardcopy version of a catalog and are just as often not aware that there might be a hardcopy version.
- They perceive catalog marketers as online marketers.
- They have never belonged to a book or music club.
- They tend to not subscribe to any hardcopy publications.
In a sense, today’s students consider most marketing to be “direct” because most companies that market to them have websites. The concept of 1:1 seems implicit to them because of live Web chats with customer-service representatives and the social media channels that connect them to brands. They view transparency and immediacy as basic elements of “direct.”
TODAY’S REQUIRED SKILL SETS
To thrive in the digital marketplace, today’s marketers (whether or not they consider themselves direct) need:
Financial skills. Those of us who started in direct marketing had to become fluent in profit-and-loss management and response analysis. Measurable marketing skills are essential for digital, and candidates will find measurement skills a key asset for entry-level client-side, agency, and vendor positions.
Marketing skills. Here, it is an understanding rather than a set of skills that is needed at the outset. The skillset will come with experience. What is needed at entry-level is the knowledge that marketing is an
exchange process and that it is costly in terms of media as well as time (social media requires management).
Media skills. Digital media knowledge is the most critical media skill: knowing which media are right for achieving marketing goals, and what the best practices are for the full array – from email, flash, search, and video to social media.
Creative skills. Knowing what constitutes effective creative is essential, from being able to write a creative brief that defines the marketing strategy to assessing whether the work is on-strategy.
The “Four P” skills. Knowing how to leverage product, price, promotion, and place is not essential for entry-level marketers, but a basic knowledge of these key elements is important. For example, the classic direct marketer’s use of promotion in the form of offer development is now central to
a wide range of customer touchpoints well beyond an acquisition campaign; that knowledge is also crucial for website design and copy, SEO, and social media.
And that’s just the start!
MBA and specialized graduate programs are designed to go beyond on-the-job training to build skills in strategy, finance, statistics, analytics—including data security and privacy, brand and product management, operations, management, and business development.
Finally, at all levels there is the need for teamwork skills and a strong moral compass.
As the field of marketing continues to evolve, DMCNY members at all stages of their career paths face the challenge of staying current. What I’ve outlined here is what it takes to build the foundation skills for today’s marketing – which is direct in ways we could never have anticipated.
Dr. Marjorie Kalter is a marketer and educator. She teaches at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Selected for the DMA’s Hall of Fame, she received this honor in October 2012. She is a recipient of the DMCNY’s Silver Apple
Award and the DMEF’s Edward N. Mayer Award for Educational Leadership. She created and headed NYU’s M.S. in Integrated Marketing program, and served as its fulltime professor for 11 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Successful Copywriting in a Digital World
The Digital Age has opened up an exciting array of new marketing channels. The challenge now is to match the message to the medium! Consider these excellent tips for multichannel copywriting.
New media channels are exploding, and there’s no going back. In today’s world, Twitter, Facebook,YouTube, iPads, apps and Pinterest make even email marketing seem, well, 20th-century.
The good news is that direct response copywriting skills are more relevant than ever. The powerful, customer-focused call-to-action remains essential.
TIPS BY CHANNEL
To execute a strong integrated campaign, you can’t just lift copy from Web page to email to direct mail. Your content can be the same, but your voice, pace and structure have to come alive for each medium.
Here are some tips for writing by channel in the Digital Age:
Websites: Invite people into your home.
Websites need to have a strong customer-service orientation. Welcome prospects with exactly what they’re looking for on the home page (including the offer featured in your promotions). Be gracious: Offer multiple ways to engage. Make it easy for prospects to find what they want. Provide clear choices that are user-focused. Be orderly in structuring your site, so visitors can find where they want to go without searching all over and getting lost.
Email: Test. Test. Test subject lines.
Your “Sender” line should either be your company name or an individual known to the recipient. Constantly test “Subject” lines that go right to the point of the prospect’s need; your reader’s unthinking brain is scanning 100 email titles for relevance! Body copy should get right to the point. Give your photos strong captions that link
to action, in addition to your call-to-action links at top and bottom. Create a strong, uncluttered Web landing page with the same look, which focuses only on this offer. Alternate your hard-sell emails with messages that educate and engage.
Twitter: Could 140 characters be too many?
Short, pithy, compelling – easier said than done, but using fewer than 140 characters will leave room for your username on retweets. Lift your tweet phrasing from spoken language. Watch for phrasings that get your attention in conversation or on TV. Could you pose your tweet as a question? Use more extreme words (craving v. hungry; must know now v. curious). Be casual and personal, but not sloppy or self-focused. If you’re posting for a company, make that clear, and stay within the brand personality.
Facebook: Be natural.
This is a medium where the customers, not the companies, are in charge, so make sure you blend in. Writing should be natural rather than corporate, upbeat, and very short (100 to 250 words recommended). Think offers and headlines, and, when customers respond, positive or not, think, “Great! Market Research.
Facebook.com/business will walk you through all their ever-evolving features.
LinkedIn: Everyone benefits.
More straightforward than Facebook, LinkedIn is a good idea for just about every business and professional. Although the resumé format makes it easy to post your professional information, let your writing be a little more personal and enthusiastic than resumé style. Less hard-sell, more friendly and enticing.
Blogs: Make sure you have something to say.
It’s hard to be original all the time. But it’s better to quote someone else than be obvious or trite. Let your passions show. Of all media, the blog should be the most personal. “I was thinking the other day...” “One of my colleagues recently asked me about...” Does it bother you that...?”
Online Video: Talking heads still need a script.
Online videos are so cheap to make, but so often boring to view. With a tight script (and a little rehearsal) you’ll make your point quickly and grab interest. Craft your videos like three 10-second TV spots that together make a :30.
Mobile: Growing fast, becoming huge.
User behavior differs for computers, iPads and smartphones, so take the time to consider technical requirements, creative parameters and user behavior. Picture your prospects walking around with a mobile phone in-hand. What actions are they likely to take? Not the same as sitting at a desk, that’s for sure! Don’t use automated software to convert your website to mobile. Instead, rank the actions your smartphone users perform when they’re out and about, and write your mobile site accordingly.
Direct Mail: Don’t underestimate it.
Direct mail is still a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, but in the digital age, don’t take any element for granted. Going after a younger market? Think conceptual, edgy postcards and QR codes. Find out if localization is an option. Use the larger direct mail real estate to appeal to hearts and minds: Think heartwarming photos and factual pie charts, and make their captions do some heavy lifting. Your letter should be heartfelt, personal, informative and persuasive, but remember, only the person who’s already sold is going to read the whole letter. So focus on your envelope teaser, callouts, captions, and reply form to reel them in. Create integrated direct mail and email campaigns – and look for stronger results than from either channel alone.
The bottom line? Whatever your medium, stay focused on user behavior. Your call-to-action is king.
Thinking Outside the Box with Content Marketing
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool direct marketer, so this is going to sound like heresy. I propose to champion an indirect method of marketing and selling, namely content marketing. You’re probably thinking, “What, no call to action?” or “Where’s the ROI for indirect marketing?”
But let’s take a close look at content marketing. To an email marketer, content marketing actually makes a lot of sense. In fact, compelling and engaging content and content-based offers are methods that are very effective in convincing your audience to act.
So, what is content marketing?
Content marketing is the technique of creating, curating and distributing relevant and valuable information to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and well-understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
If I haven’t grabbed you yet, notice that the definition is all about targeted marketing to drive profitable actions. That’s not so far afield of direct marketing!
I’ll address content creation in a moment, but let me first explain content curation. This aspect of content marketing allows a company to cull ideas available from a myriad of sources, decide on the most important resources, and package the information with the company’s point of view in mind. As an example, if I wanted to position my company as an expert in direct marketing, I’d research credible sources, select authoritative information and then put my own spin on why direct marketing is valuable. I would also be careful to credit my sources.
Why should you care about content marketing?
Content marketing allows you to reach your target audiences in new and different ways, among them:
• Content marketing helps you attract additional audiences, by building trust and credibility. Lots of people don’t want to be hit over the head with a heavy hammer these days. Traditional marketing communications may not work with this kind of prospect.
• You’ll drive more traffic to your website. Search engines are increasingly tweaking their algorithms to give sites credit for credible content.
• Content marketing addresses your sales funnel in engaging ways, by providing the right message to the right people at the right time.
How to become an effective content marketer
Every company has content. You probably have as blog posts, videos, presentations, photos, webinars, marketing collateral, press releases, industry articles and white papers already in hand.
Here are the top ten content marketing vehicles. I’ll bet you are already using at least half of these already. Consider testing even more.
1. Social media—a great way to get your content shared and to get your audience engaged.
2. E-newsletters—a perfect vehicle to build and deepen relationships with those who want to hear from you.
3. Articles on your website. Well-written articles let you address issues, trends and topics of interest to targeted audiences.
4. Press releases and clips. Today, your audience of influencers is no longer just journalists. You need to be cultivating anyone online who accesses search engines, RSS feeds or social media for information on a topic of interest.
5. Blog posts. A blog offers an easy way to present short chunks of frequently refreshed web content.
6. Videos. Video is hot! Possibly the most powerful vehicle for engaging customers and prospects.
7. Print magazines and catalogs. Direct marketers have been in the business of providing content for years.
8. Infographics—which present complex information quickly and clearly. A perfect opportunity for content curation.
9. White papers. Used primarily by B-to-B marketers, white papers deliver thought leadership on a topic of interest. They can also present research, provide product usage tips, or highlight a particular product or service.
10. Webinars, webcasts and podcasts—which give marketers the opportunity to capture attention and present products and services. When archived, their influence grows with time.
I am going to assume you do have content already available in your company. Now it’s time to re-purpose or re-package your content for a minimum of three marketing channels. Content marketing is about leveraging information so that your audience may find you on social media, on your site, from search engines or via links from external sites. So take up the challenge. This stuff is really direct marketing!
A Case for Analog in a Digital World
True, the world has gone digital. But that doesn’t mean customers no longer want to hold a catalog in their hands! Here’s another compelling argument for integration; specifically, keeping print, and tried-and-true DM techniques, a part of your marketing mix.
I believe that most direct marketers will find the following to be a reasonable modern definition of our profession: Direct marketing is “the monetization of data in a privacy- compliant manner.” My argument for the continued use of analog direct marketing techniques follows from this premise. (It’s still the data, stupid!)
I grew up in an analog world. I remember shared telephone “party lines” and black-and-white TV. As a direct marketer, I remember an era before PCs, when a mail order was really an order placed though the mail.
Today, most of the articles in print and online are about the importance of having a “social media strategy.” That is the world of direct marketing in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.
But I will argue that direct marketers who ignore print and the tried-and-true techniques like recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) analyses are leaving money on the table. Consumers who buy direct have shifted how they buy (more online and less by phone or mail), but not what they buy. And they still want to have a trusted relationship with companies and buy products and services that are relevant to their own unique lives.
Print and RFM still work
Direct marketing has always been about monetizing data by targeting customer preferences. RFM still works – digitally and in print. Case in point: I mailed a small catalog, with an equally small circulation (30,000) this past fall. The response rate was off the charts. And the results were as predicted by our RFM analysis: The most dollars came in from the most recent buyers, followed by the multi-buyers and finally customers with the largest prior purchases. The catalog, with fully loaded costs, generated a
handsome profit. True, more customers ordered online than in the prior year, but I am certain that, without ensuring those customers had a catalog in-hand, the total profit would have been less.
Why? The slim-jim sized book, with a compelling cover, got the attention of a ready buyer increasingly deluged with online offers. The catalog stood out from the crowd as something concrete the customer could hold in his or her hand.
For that reason, I am of the opinion that adding mail offers to your marketing mix can actually get your products or services more attention these days.
Should you add print to your mix? Test it and see.
Should every direct marketer be in print today? Probably not; however, I would argue that most should – and you will never know whether you should mail until you simply test it.
And that doesn’t have to cost you too much. Printers are creating more ways to make ink-on-paper competitive with other ways to reach customers. Co-mailing alone has made it possible to put more catalogs in the mail profitably.
Finally, here’s a strong argument for testing a print run: Even Amazon and Google – who are no-doubt the most successful of the pure-play digital marketers – are testing print.
Multi-channel becomes omnichannel
The most successful direct marketers understand that you must meet your current and prospective customers where they are. And there are customers who still prefer to view products and services in print, even if their preferred ordering vehicle is online. There are buyers who would prefer to speak with a live, knowledgeable customer service representative before placing an order, and finally, there are still people who will send in a mail order. We must not ignore these individual preferences!
I am a big champion of social media, and agree that direct marketers who ignore that important vehicle do so at their peril. However, I’m also convinced that ignoring traditional direct marketing practices will result in lost profits.
Consider expanding your multichannel marketing to embrace some tried-and-true direct mail practices. The results could surprise you – in a very good way.
Bob Allen is President/CEO of the WindhamFoundation (www.windham-foundation.org),based in Grafton, Vermont. The foundation has two operating businesses: The Grafton Inn and The Grafton Village Cheese Company. Bob retired in 2005 after 25 years at The Vermont Country Store. In 2010, he served as Interim CEO of the Direct Marketing Association in New York. Reach him at email@example.com.
Successful Lead Generation: InBound Marketing
Successful Lead Generation: Is Inbound Marketing Delivering the Revenue You Need?
Top performing B2B sales organizations rarely employ just one lead generation tactic. B2B companies today use multiple lead generation tactics including email marketing, search engine optimization, tele-prospecting, inbound marketing, direct mail and trade shows.
Why then are so many consultants and companies out there actively promoting inbound marketing as the dominant lead generation strategy of our time?
Inbound marketing is based on developing high-quality content that attracts qualified buyers, who are in the early stages of the sales cycle. “Build it and they will come,” they say. But I wonder: Can you build enough content, and who will come? Despite their best intentions, many B2B companies are not able to generate enough business from an inbound marketing lead generation program alone.
Lead Quality Drives Increased Revenue
But the debate about inbound marketing is not just about volume. It’s about quality. B2B companies know that lead quality is equally—if not more—important than the quantity of leads generated. Let’s take a closer look at the quality of leads produced by inbound lead generation tactics and how this impacts your ability to further develop these prospects into customers.
Most leads from inbound marketing include basic demographic information captured on forms required to download or access content. There is a direct relationship between requesting more detailed information and declining response rates. The more information you request, the fewer prospects that will download your content.
So your inbound lead may consist of a person’s first and last name, the company or organization, an email address and maybe the size of the company. This is hardly enough to qualify the prospect. And who knows if this information is accurate. I am thinking of a healthcare company that recently had a white paper downloaded by Dr. Kildare at the MASH Hospital Unit.
Furthermore, if you have defined your target as C-Level executives in your industry, are they likely to search the web for solutions themselves? Many executives will delegate this responsibility to lower level people within their organization. Your “qualified” inbound marketing lead may actually be an administrative assistant or lower level executive with only limited decision-making or influencing ability.
Compare this to a qualified lead from a professional tele-prospecting company. The prospect has been personally engaged by a trained, experienced salesperson who has helped identify a pain point, possible solutions and qualified the prospect by numerous pre-determined factors. Of these two examples of qualified leads, which one will your company be able to more quickly and efficiently convert to a customer?
Defining Lead Quality
At my company, we define the attributes of a truly qualified lead as one that includes:
1. Relevant industry.
2. Firmographics (revenue, number of employees, number of locations).
3. Decision makers and influencers identified.
4. Environment documented.
5. Decision-maker engaged.
6. Business pain(s) uncovered/validated.
7. Decision-making process and timeframe documented.
8. Budget allocated or process for budgeting documented.
9. Competitive landscape documented.
10. Sense of urgency or compelling event exists.
A quality lead sets the stage for relationship selling, lead nurturing and prospect development. The more successful your prospect development program—the more successful you will be at generating revenue.
Another benefit of prospect development is reaching prospects earlier in the sales cycle. Some companies may not even be aware of their pain proposition or whether a solution exists or not. Inbound marketing only identifies prospects that are actively searching for a solution. Your outbound prospect development program may identify prospects before they even start their buying research.
Why wait for qualified leads to come to you? Adding outbound prospect development to your lead generation mix allows you to aggressively and actively beat your lead generation and sales forecasts.