This short guideline should help you organize your material incorporating those elements I think are essential to any successful direct marketing test, campaign or annual plan.
After having written well over a hundred such plans, I have yet to save a template where I could edit and change a few figures to create an effective plan. Some clients require significant detail in some areas and very little in others. In every case, the need for customization does not allow the use of a template without requiring a complete rewrite.
But incorporate this guideline in varying degrees in all of my plans.
- Define success. Determine what response rates are required from your chosen channel or multichannel test. Address both top line sales volume requirements and bottom line profit. Translate these figures into how many incremental new customers you need calculating your allowable cost per customer, cost per sale and cost per lead.
- Describe your proposed direct marketing test or proposed direct response program. Include your test or annual budget as appropriate incorporating your financial proforma. The proforma shows your breakeven response rates based on a rollout cost for all tests. Your maintenance program shows the budget and revenues for the year based on historical response rates.
- Describe your product from the user's or target market's perspective. What problem(s) does the service or product solve? What benefits does it offer? What evidence do you have to support those benefits? Testimonials? Research and other scientific evidence? Endorsement of a respected organization and so on?
- Target market description. Describe the content (that is the flat file layout) of your customer, prospect and inquiry databases. Is it a relational file containing transaction data? What are the files segmentation capabilities? Describe how do you track responses starting with the database all of the way through to the sale and retention information.
- Regulatory issues. What government groups must approve your advertising? What are the regulatory limitations on your marketing efforts? What approval timelines and changes to the creative work have you encountered in the past?
- Promotional history. What offers, direct mail packages, outbound telemarketing, DRTV, or other channels have you tested? What are the results you are getting from repeat efforts? How do you track the results and then evaluate them? Analyze both your successful campaigns and failures over the last 12 to 24 months.
- Infrastructure review. How do you handle inbound response such as calls and online inquiries/orders? Review your entire selling process for profit-making changes and new sales opportunities. This is a virtual goldmine because infrastructure decisions become obsolete over time and are rife with fiefdoms and silos that kill sales and strong customer relationships. Make sure you have enough sales people and customer service representative to handle the volume increases brought on by your new marketing efforts.
- Competitive environment. Periodically review your competitive position starting with your direct marketing plan. Some of this information may already be available from your company's business plan. Regardless, the SWOT analysis represents the gold standard for understanding your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to your top competitors. I would limit my analysis to the top 3 to 5 competitors. Otherwise the process provides too much information for practical use.
So there you have it. It's a tedious process but necessary for flawless implementation and ultimate success. And a well-organized and written plan also makes it easier to sell your program internally.