DM Talent Scarcer than Ever

What do today's employers want when they are looking for direct response talent? Are they making wise choices when they interview and hire direct marketers? What do you think?

In a recent DMNews article, the author writes about an interview with Jerry Bernhart, President of Bernhart Associates. In this article Mr. Bernhart, a leader in DM searches, mentions that in their last quarterly survey company survey, about 25% of the respondents were having a very difficult time and 60% were having some difficulty filling direct marketing positions. Nobody said that they were having no problems.

But in the truly interesting part of his interview, Mr. Bernhart said that direct mail expertise was no longer the demand leader, but new media such as e-commerce and multichannel marketing direct marketers were the high demand areas.

This comes at no surprise, but I have always wondered how direct marketers were viewed as "direct mail" channel specialists only in the first place.

I don't know about your past experiences, but my direct marketing background is filled with multichannel experience. They include DRTV, alternate media, print, telemarketing, database marketing and yes, even direct mail as required either singly or in combination with other media to yield the needed results. My clients are asking for more guidance in e-commerce and relational database planning than ever before driven primarily by the need to manage and understand how to balance the media mix.

Here's my point. Direct marketers are not media specialists, they are direct marketing strategists who should be media agnostic. Balancing media expenditures does not mean that the direct marketer specializes in one channel over another. In my estimation, we tend to recommend what we know rather than what the goals require. So knowing too much about any single channel actually weakens the direct marketer's objectivity.

Even direct mail specialists do not know as much about lettershop processes as lettershop suppliers. The printers and package formatters certainly provide guidance that far exceeds the tactical knowledge available to the direct mail specialist. What about postal regulations? No direct mail expert worth their salt knows everything there is to know about postal regulations. And what about list knowledge and creative development that goes into beating controls? Then there is the testing strategy, the analytics and interpretation of the response information.

Clearly, the successful direct marketer is a generalist who leads the strategy regardless of the channels involved.

So this focus on channel expertise shows tactical thinking rather than a direct marketers' strategic leadership.

What are your thoughts about this so-called redefined direct marketer? Is the talented, strategically driven direct marketer somehow no longer needed? What are clients really looking for in their people? New thinking or just tactical implementation?

Posted on August 10, 2007 and filed under General.