Meredith Corp.'s David Ball on Consistency in Marketing Programs
At a time when marketing and advertising budgets are being slashed, direct marketing efforts are getting a thumbs-up from the corner office. And at Meredith Corp., the Des Moines, Iowa publishing firm that always has been a direct response powerhouse, there's no lack of support for initiatives that can be tracked, measured and refined.
This week, Target Marketing Tipline talked to David Ball, Meredith Corp.'s vice president of consumer marketing, about the importance of investing in direct response programs, close communications with management, and continually striving for efficiency and ROI no matter what the economic climate.
Target Marketing: In what areas did you cut back your direct marketing spend for 2009?
David Ball: None. We are big believers in investing in direct marketing because we know that cuts made this year will dramatically affect [our] profitability in later years.
TM: In what areas did you increase your spend?
DB: We are investing in projects to help us understand the lifetime value of our subscribers. We are doing this to make sure that we are investing our marketing dollars in the most profitable way possible.
TM: What direct marketing activities do you believe must be kept alive at all costs?
DB: Direct mail retention and acquisition efforts are the lifeblood of our businesses. We cannot afford to cut out either of these sources of business.
TM: What steps do you take to protect important initiatives from budget cuts?
DB: I think the most important thing one can do is keep your management informed about the long-term [P&L] implications of everything you do. We work closely with our finance department to make sure they understand what we are doing and can advocate for us with their bosses and their bosses’ bosses. Keeping everyone in the loop and informed is very important.
TM: Did Meredith Corp. optimize its direct marketing budget by identifying processes that could be made more efficient to contain costs or improve ROI? If so, in what areas did you focus?
DB: We are constantly looking at ways to optimize processes. For instance, we recently instituted postal commingling on a number of our titles to get better rates while holding delivery times and response rates. We look at our package designs to see if we can make tweaks that will give us more efficient (and cheaper) printing. We have also looked at merge/purge processes to see if we can wring any more savings from there.