Communication and Strategy not the Technical Marketer’s Strength

In the so called "good old days", the big communication challenge for direct marketers was to translate marketing objectives to database mainframe programmers. Today, the challenge has jumped over to the IT types and Internet specialists.

The first thing any programmer on the team should want to know is, "What are we trying to accomplish?" But annoyingly, after the marketers attempt to communicate marketing strategy to programmers for several hours, the conversation ends with that dreaded statement from the programmers.

"What do you want us to do?"

Turning several colors of red from frustration, our response to them would usually go something like this.

"As marketers, our primary role is to come up with what we are trying to achieve with the database. So we think you should answer your own question by figuring out what programming you need to do to solve the problem we just laid out."

Part of the challenge in this ongoing discussion is that it is difficult to find technicians who know how to create tactics that fulfill broad based strategies. 

The problem today, of course, has raised it's ugly head again with web technicians who know the technology but have little understanding of marketing strategy.

Here is an example of a marketing analyst translating the data to actionable marketing information.

Several times a year, I recommend that my clients become better informed about their customers to help them keep the profitable ones and attract more of the same. I typically work closely with customer modeling analysts at strong operations like Merkle, Experian, Epsilon (who now owns the Abacus database), Equifax and so on. 

In every case, these analysts send back a model or customer profile report with 80 to 120 pages of numbers without developing an executive summary or key findings summary.

It is certain that balancing the many dependents that impact response often makes developing summaries and and interpreting them a challenge. From the analyst’s perspective, the computer applies their sophisticated algorithms as needed to make record selection for customer or prospect segmentation. 

But marketers need a firm handle on what their best and worst customers look like when developing new product ideas or breakthrough creative work. A solid understanding of the demographics, lifestyles, likes and dislikes of his customers makes the marketer a far more effective planner and implementer.

So one of my significant consulting roles today involves interpreting the findings so marketers can apply them to their daily tasks. 

It is rare to find analysts who are also adept at communications and interpreting the data for high level marketers. 

Here's an example of an internet technician trying to communicate.

Let's face it. Most Internet experts came from the tech world. So it is not unusual to find a disconnect between Internet experts and marketers who thrive on working with many channels.

Just as the programmers of old, these new web tech experts have a hard time differentiating between tactics and strategies.

They do many things well. But what they do might not fit the marketing strategy. They know their craft, but not necessarily the longer term customer building strategies.

They also suffer from poor communication skills.

Here's a lift of an article entitled Optimization Overdose by Paul Knegten. He starts out his article with this statement in bold type.

"Demand side platforms (DSPs) are a giant leap forward for Adkind." In the body of the article he writes. "1. Make sure your DSP and dynamic ad provider are talking to one another (programmatically). Essentially, the DSP has to pass audience information through, and the dynamic provider has to pass which creative execution it will show. Ask a lot of questions to make sure this is being done."


This is an overdose all right. An overdose of gobbledegook that does not communicate benefits or a clear strategic focus.

These types of articles permeate the Internet and trade publications with little to offer in the way of meaningful information. It's not that these people don't have skills or that they are dolts. They just don't know how to communicate.

Nor does their emphasis on the bits and bytes naturally provide them with the tools to understand marketing strategy.


May astute company managers somehow weed out the tacticians from the marketing strategists.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Many managers today came from the school of tactical thinking and poor communication skills. Heck, they might even come from web design or database programming.

In the so called "good old days", the big communication challenge for direct marketers was to translate marketing objectives to database mainframe programmering. Today, the challenge extends to the new internet technicians.

Posted on March 30, 2010 and filed under Direct Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing.