TM0203_Cover/10 Big Things
By Alicia Orr Suman
An interview with Lester Wunderman.
Often called the father of direct marketing, Lester Wunderman has said, "I am not sure whether I discovered direct marketing or it discovered me. I found its components one-by-one during a lifetime of trial and error."
From that wealth of experiences, Wunderman, who is now chairman emeritus of direct marketing agency Wunderman, created his list of rules: "Nineteen Things All Successful Direct Marketing Companies Know" (from his book, "Being Direct," Random House, 1996).
Several of the ideas on that list seem especially important—even urgent—now. So when I recently spoke to Wunderman in an exclusive interview, I asked him to share his insights into some of the big trends impacting direct marketing today. Here they are, along with his visions for what we as direct marketers should be doing to respond to them.
1. Make direct marketing your strategy, not just a tactic.
Direct marketing is a commitment to direct communication with the customer in everything you do, according to Wunderman. What it is not: just putting a phone number at the end of a commercial or placing a Web address or coupon response device on an ad.
Implementing a direct marketing strategy requires a different attitude by the advertiser toward the customer, Wunderman says. "Try to know as much about your customers as you can. In direct marketing, the objective is to be relevant, not to be personal. Personal may offend. Relevancy never will."
The edge we as direct marketers have, he explains, is data. "Use the data you have available and the various forms of direct communication to build loyalty and, ultimately, lifetime value."
2. Focus on the consumer, not the product.
The focus of all marketing should be on the consumer's need that has to be satisfied—not on the product that's for sale. Unfortunately, says Wunderman, "This point is often lost on marketers."