"We Did What You recommended, But It Failed"

Have you ever heard these words from a boss or client at some point in your career? "We did what you recommended, but it failed." I suspect you have. If not, then it's a matter of when and not if.

No doubt that in some cases, this indictment reflects the truth. But more likely is an accuser who has ignored key elements in your recommendations that you warned would make or break the program.

The story goes something like this.

The boss or client asks you to create a plan of action that will improve his response rates on his annual direct mail program. As your experience dictates, you compile the program history, review the customer database for clues, and look at past testing to see what worked and what didn't. You then formulate hypotheses or possible reasons why the program is in decline.

When reviewing the sales process, you see weaknesses in the sales follow up, the tracking and an undisciplined approach to database maintenance. You uncover inefficiencies in the mailing lists; weak offers; less effective direct mail package formats; lack of Internet support; and weak lead follow up. In fact, leads are not saved for future promotion.

So you come back with key recommendations that might look something like this.

  1. Tie in your direct mail with stronger sales support on your website. Start an active blog to build credibility in your product and upgrade the SEO on your website so potential customers will find you.
  2. Revamp your database to save leads and track all responses by record for deeper analytics and use in future promotions. Without CRM support, your overall sales are floundering because good leads are abandoned prematurely. If a prospect says "no," then they are never recognized as a lead and they are treated the same as any cold prospect.
  3. Tap into the broadcast channel to find new prospects that do not respond to direct mail.
  4. Test more offers and direct mail packages continually improving your response rates over time. Establish controls and then beat those controls through ongoing testing.

These are all sound direct marketing recommendations.

But clients tend to implement the easy things ignoring the more challenging recommendations for future implementation. These "future" projects never happen because the client or boss does not recognize the critical nature of all of the recommendations.

The boss, in this case, overrules his hired expert(s) believing that the recommended changes are not really necessary.

In this business case, the client followed the marketing test recommendations related to the direct mail, but ignored the database changes, the Internet upgrade and the broadcast test. The result -- failure. The client did what was easy and did not strengthen his database and tracking mechanisms. He also failed to support increased Internet traffic with a more sales oriented website.

The boss has essentially shot himself in the foot with his own ignorance. In some cases, he kills the program by his own arrogance by not recognizing that his employees' talents and experience exceed his own. Otherwise, why hire any talent if the boss' talent exceeds the market talent of those he hires?

The client's decision to leave out your key recommendations leads to failure.

What happens when a doctor prescribes a medication telling you to drink at least 6 tall glasses of water a day with the medication and you decide to take the medication, but drink only two glasses of water per day? The answer -- the medication does more harm than good because you did not follow every recommendation.

The same applies to marketing plans.

Cherry picking the easy things leaving out the unpleasant or difficult changes often does more harm than good.

Are you doing the easy things and avoiding the difficult changes needed to solve your marketing problem? Or are you doing the easy things expecting quick and strong results with short term, easy task thinking? My advice to you is to listen to those you hire to make you successful.

If you want to be a soloist, then your business will remain small and die with you. But it you can get out of the way and let others help you grow, then your business will exceed your expectations!


Posted on August 31, 2013 and filed under Consulting, Direct Marketing Strategy, Planning.