Cover Story: The Big Qs of 2011
"It's all about respect for the consumer," KBM Group's Laben says. "Consumer knowledge needs to be the basis for a long-term relationship, which is what most marketers aspire to create—[i.e.,] customer retention. Consumers are smart. They respond to businesses that treat them with respect and courtesy."
They also respond to businesses that offer value for consumer opt-in. Johnston points out, "progressive and responsible marketers are focused on delivering relevant and meaningful content to their customers through more robust data and insights." Marketers who can convince consumers that the value they offer is greater than the risks—which is a combination of offering good value and taking steps to eliminate those risks—will have the tools to do better in the data-driven marketplace.
"The direct marketing community should be careful to distance itself from targeting approaches that consumers don't trust," says Schmitt. "Fundamentally, direct marketing is about addressing marketing messages based on direct relationships with existing customers, and/or widely available and publicly accepted data sources."
What Did You Learn from the Recession?
"Skilled direct marketers who understand their data and customer behavior invariably find a way to succeed," says DMA CEO Kimmel. "As Sam Walton [founder of Wal-Mart] said when asked for his opinion of the 1991 recession, 'I've thought about it, and decided not to participate.'"
Bad times often tell you more about yourself than the good, and the recession has taught companies a lot about their businesses, their markets and their customers. But as with your customer data, that information is only useful if you can capture it and act on it. Plus, stubbornly high unemployment means the hard times have barely lifted for most Americans, so you're going to have to live by those lessons for at least another year.
"To survive and thrive in this economy, our clients [have become] more engaged with their customers, not less," says Laben. "Hard times require more conversations, more touchpoints with customers. There is less impulse buying and more value-based buying. Customers need more compelling reasons to buy."