What direct marketing has taught me

direct marketing

When I came to Infinity Direct almost 20 years ago, I didn’t know a thing about direct marketing. Zip, nothing, nada. In fact, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. For 10 years prior, I had worked in advertising for a magazine and then at a boutique creative agency. During that time, everything had been about brand and impressions – big picture stuff.

When I got to Infinity Direct, it was all about the details. Figuring out who the customers actually were, what they were buying, why they were buying, when they were buying, and what incited them to buy more. It was analytics mixed with creative. I felt like Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz when he gets his diploma from the Wizard and exclaimed, “Oh, Joy! Rapture!” What’s funny about all this is that it was 1997, way before many were talking about big data, CRMs, and customer experience. We were, and it’s part of what makes us so smart today.

Back in those days, direct marketing was considered the “red-headed stepchild” of marketing. Big agencies didn’t understand it and didn’t want to do it. Many clients thought it was only for catalog mailers or charities. It wasn’t glamorous, or flashy, or high profile enough to even be worth chasing (boy, have times changed!). But it was the only type of marketing that could actually prove its reach, effectiveness, and return on investment. Something that nowadays is a given for all marketing.

You will hear me often say that “we were doing direct marketing before direct marketing was cool,” and it’s true. The first time I was handed an audit report, I looked down at the multi-page spreadsheet and stacks of printouts and almost fainted. It was numbers, and I’m not good at numbers, I thought. Yet, those numbers were attached to consumers and their behaviors, and that I could understand.

Direct marketing is not for those who want to hang out in fancy downtown offices and concept the next Super Bowl commercial; it is for those who want to roll up their sleeves, dig deep, ask questions, and test everything. It is for the curious, the nimble, and the ones who seek to have both sides of their brains firing on all cylinders.

What has direct marketing taught me? It’s taught me that the most beautiful campaign doesn’t always pull best. It’s taught me that what I know today may not be true tomorrow. It’s taught me that marketing is more than just trying to sell something. It is about understanding customers so that you can help them make the right choice in what they want to add into their lives. And, of course, it’s all about the response, baby!

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Victoria Wise • March 23, 2016

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