Cover Story: The Big Qs of 2011
They say the only bad question is the one you didn't ask. So Target Marketing magazine reached out to some of the most knowledgeable people in the direct marketing industry to find out what they believe are the biggest issues facing direct marketers today and what questions your company needs to be able to answer to thrive in the coming year and beyond.
The marketers and consultants we spoke with had similar concerns about the industry: Do you really know your customers? Can you contact them through all the media they're using and still comprehend the metrics? What do you do about privacy?
Some marketers are seeing growth again, others are even hiring. But emerging from the recession, this is a time of soul-searching for many companies. It's a time to ask questions about the way you run your business.
These are the questions they think you should ask.
Are You Talking to the Right Customers?
"Marketers have to stop believing they 'just know' who their customers are and start using better tools and strategies to understand what drives customer behavior," says Ashley Johnston, vice president of marketing services at Experian Marketing Services in Costa Mesa, Calif. Her tone was echoed by most of the experts we spoke to.
"New predictive modeling, analytics, data enhancement and [customer relationship management] tools are making it possible for virtually any marketer to identify the characteristics of their best customers and select prospects based on those values," says Keith Goodman, vice president of corporate solutions for the Carlsbad, Calif.-based print and marketing services provider Modern Postcard.
The potential of those new techniques to cut waste from communications and improve the impressions left on customers has yet to be fully realized by most marketers.
Multichannel touchpoints make such understanding tricky. Wendy Talio—director of database marketing for New York-based Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports—explains the challenges her company faces: "Part of the plan [to increase Consumers Union's customer base] requires that we attract more online subscribers while optimizing our retention programs and increasing the number of multi-buyer customers through cross-sells." However, Talio must overcome two "data hurdles" to effectively identify prospects she's marketing to: