The Direct Marketing Mindset: It's About Customers, Not Just Sales

During an initial meeting with a national jewelry retailer, the VP of Advertising mentioned they mailed over 20 million catalogs each year. I asked him what the results were. He told me he did not know exactly but knew that the mailings increased sales. So even though he could not quantify it's impact (he never tested it), no one in the company dared challenge the seasonal catalog mailings.

This response from a retailer no longer surprises me because a large part of the industry still works under the illusion that everyone is a customer. Some retailers treat prospects and customers the same way by sending them the same offers using the same contact strategies.

In fact, many large retailers still do not maintain relational databases to track sales at the customer level that would enable them to evaluate the effectiveness of their advertising. They are also unable to modify offers based on a customer‘s past purchase history.

So what causes this blind spot in certain businesses?

In the recent editorial in Target Marketing Magazine, Denny Hatch may have expressed a concept that could help these companies understand the importance of building state of the art relational databases. He said:

"As direct marketers we're not here primarily to make a sale; we're here to get a customer."

This strategic shift in thinking helps clients grasp the core concept of the direct marketing strategy.

Direct marketers do not create one off direct marketing campaigns, but rather build incremental revenue by leveraging customer databases. In a way, sales come as a result of the marketer's priority of acquiring the right kind of customers and then surrounding those customers with multiple offers to convert them from one time buyers into repeat buyers.

Do you work in an environment that is so intent on asking for the sale that the company has forgotten that a every sale starts a customer? If so, have you noticed if this mind-set causes the company to squander selling opportunities? 

Posted on January 9, 2009 and filed under Direct Marketing Strategy.