Marketing Babes

Out of the Mouths of Marketing Babes

by Bruce Gregoire

I have been fortunate to spend the last 18 years as Adjunct Professor in the graduate marketing program at the Carey School of Business, Johns Hopkins University.

When I begin each class, my first question to students goes something like this:

“How many of you have a visceral reaction to getting what you might call, ‘Junk Mail’”?

These students are getting their MBA, most with a Marketing degree. Half or more will raise their hand.

This moment in time begins the student’s journey into Direct Marketing. I share this to create a picture of what you should expect when meeting a fresh-faced MBA student: more often than not, a blank slate.

You also may find, as I have, their refreshing innocence and eagerness to learn new topics. But it helps to take a step back and consider how important DMAW/EF and DMAW have become in offering training and education for direct marketing “Newbies.”

Consider the following conversations and typical student misunderstandings:

Conversation #1: Direct mail is a waste.
Conversation #1 Reality Check: A business can’t afford scatter-shot marketing, but rather, needs to chase the highest ROI, which means “targeting”—how it works, what metrics are most valuable (specifically RFM analysis), and most importantly, repeated testing to find what works.

Students Love War Stories
At some point the “what works” discussion veers toward the famous quote from John Wanamaker (1838-1922), the department store magnate from Philadelphia. He is credited with coining the phrase “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

This story resonates with students. They get it.

Most of them have encountered the 80/20 rule at some time in their journey. Targeting – especially with direct mail – exemplifies this narrative. I tell students direct marketers are trained to measure success using A/B split testing. Holding back a test group and comparing results to the mailed portion can establish the “lift” of the mailed portion. Students see this as similar to the “controlled experiments” they did back in science class in younger days … which brings us to the overall importance of story telling with new students.

Marketing success stories (and also stories of dramatic marketing failure) occupy a special place with students – and this is where DMAW/EF helps us shine.

More than anything else, working professionals bring to the table occasional war stories and real-life experiences that illustrate the content a textbook cannot. In November 2012, just days after the re-election of President Obama, my scheduled guest speaker was forced to cancel. So instead, I encouraged the class to pivot to the very topical news of the day: the extremely targeted and successful outreach by Obama’s social media campaign – really the first of its kind. As luck would have it, I had a small group of savvy social media students who could explain that success story to the remainder of the class.

Conversation #2: CRM is the domain of technology.
Conversation #2 Reality Check: Most students have heard of “CRM, Customer Relationship Management.” Many, assume CRM means technology. In truth, this is a limited view because CRM is both a technology and a philosophy of customer-focus, namely, putting the customer at the center of all operational functions.

Sometimes students miss this point completely. One in particular comes to mind. Despite my emphasis for 8 weeks describing customer focus versus staff convenience, he smiled throughout his final class presentation, so happy to describe how a CRM installation at his workplace was going to make his life so much easier. OUCH!

Thank you for helping recognize the role the Educational Foundation plays—and, with your help, will continue to play—in educating today’s marketing workforce about the vital role of direct marketing and CRM.

Bruce Gregoire is founder and CEO of WiseGuys Marketing, in Falls Church, VA. Since 1998, WiseGuys has helped direct marketers target their customers with the right offer at the right time – using RFM algorithms and data-driven CRM software. In addition, Bruce teaches CRM in the graduate marketing department of the Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University. For further questions about CRM, Bruce can be reached at (703) 941-8109.