Johnson Direct's Grant Johnson on the Magic of Measurable Marketing
In this uncertain economy and with so many businesses looking for better ways to market themselves through the mail and other channels, could there be a better time to make the case for direct marketing versus traditional advertising? Grant Johnson doesn’t think there has been. “Now IS the perfect time for all advertising and marketing practitioners to discover the accountability, measurability and testability of direct marketing,” says Johnson, who is the president and chief marketing officer for Johnson Direct, a measurable marketing communications and direct branding counseling firm based in Brookfield, Wis.
Recently, he published a book entitled “Fairytale Marketing: 7 Magical Discoveries” (available at www.fairytalemarketing.com), in which he also mentions the magic words—businesses making more money, better measuring results and experiencing greater returns on investments—that any business is desperate to hear today.
Boldt: How did the idea for this book take shape? And how did you arrive at the unorthodox title?
Johnson: The book and its title are a 100 percent outgrowth of my direct marketing journey. As I gained more and more experience in direct marketing, it became very evident to me that traditional brand advertisers knew next to nothing about direct marketing, and all the books out there were more or less textbooks that did not highlight the basic tenants of direct marketing. I hope after reading it they discover its power and have a thirst to learn more.
Conversely, direct marketers, those seasoned pros, often overcomplicate things and forget the basic principles of our wonderful discipline. The book is intended to get them to consider a back-to-basics approach to direct marketing and really push the basics and use those to create programs and campaigns that garner exceptional results, simply and powerfully.
As I researched books, not one single tome conveyed the basic keys to successful direct marketing as a business fable, so I thought, let’s publish this book and help tell the direct marketing story.
As for the title itself, from my experience, most people find direct marketing programs a “dream come true” when implemented correctly and have a hard time believing how powerful they can be, especially compared to traditional brand advertising. Thus the title was obvious, especially as it’s told as a business fable.
Boldt: It’s perfect timing for this book, right?
Johnson: It’s ironic that the book is coming out now, as I started the project a few years ago when things were booming. Regardless of economic conditions, direct marketing should be a key part of the media mix, and this book reiterates that. As economic woes continue, those who practice the “seven magical discoveries” in the book will have tired arms from carrying all their money to the bank!
Panic and bad decisions regarding marketing often follow softer economies and recession, and those that market smarter will grow and prosper. It does not mean that they have to spend more. It means that they have to spend more prudently, more wisely, and the book conveys that.
The tenure of chief marketing officers is south of two years, and I contend it’s because most don’t know how to make their marketing more measurable. They don’t know direct marketing and how it can intersect with brand advertising. The marketing function today is no longer about “how much will it cost me?” Rather, it’s about “how much will my marketing make me?” The C-level suite looks at marketing as a P/L function; accountability is very real, and that’s why direct marketing will continue to play a key role in all marketing, especially B-to-B marketing.
Boldt: Can you reveal a couple of those “magical discoveries”?
Johnson: I can share three with you: 1. Think and write like the customer/prospect (knowing who they really are). 2. Establish credibility. 3. Make them a relevant offer. And, of course, four more that will lead people down the profitable path of direct marketing and accountable advertising and measurable marketing.
While these may seem basic, it’s because they are. Again, as our lives become ever more hectic, we CRAVE simplicity. Most people forget this and overthink their marketing, and still more have not covered all their bases with the basics. This book is a reminder that simpler is often better (and more effective).
Boldt: Besides many businesses that could benefit from this book, who else did you write this for? Did you, for example, have the many young people heading into the broad field of marketing and advertising in mind?
Johnson: That’s a great question. A disturbing trend I see in advertising, marketing and direct marketing is overspecialization. I feel the whole industry needs pros who are generalists first, before they become experts. If you are a generalist, you typically have a better grasp on how to be an even better specialist later on in your career. Yes, the book is an attempt to get all those—new and old—excited about direct marketing and want to learn more.
Boldt: Lastly, what direct marketing principles are you using to promote your own book?
Johnson: Like I preach in the book, it’s a multichannel world. I am using the Web site as a marketing hub, using direct mail, e-mail (viral e-mail), banner ads, PR, speaking engagements and blogs to get the word out on the book.