The other day I was walking around with my son, who is eleven if you didn’t catch that from the title, and he asked me the simple question “What do you do all day at work?” Granted he’s accompanied me to work, but he was a little too caught up tracing pictures of Pokémon to pay much attention to my day-to-day. So as I started to explain to him the logic around direct marketing, I realized how many companies are missing these simple truisms of effective marketing.  

1. “I help companies find customers that are like the customers they already have” 

Seems simple enough, but how many emails, postcards, coupons, banner ads do you get that have NOTHING to do with you as a customer? I explained to my son how you could use characteristics and behaviors to form an idea of what your ideal customer would be.  We were at the amusement park during this chat, so I used the go-kart track as an example. Would an ad in the AARP magazine (or an insert with a retirement account statement) make much sense to advertise the track? Or an email campaign sent across the state advertising a very local track? “What if you sent a discount postcard to all of the families with two or more children in a 15 mile radius of the track? Then you tracked who actually scanned the card and did a wider mailing to the neighborhoods they lived in?” This logic started to sink in before we hopped on the go karts. 


2. “I work with companies like banks and lenders, that send out statements, or send offers to open more accounts” 

My son could instantly relate to the example of bills he saw in the mail and his mom checking the gas bill online, but had never thought where they came from. Also, I explained that one of the main ways banks opened up new checking accounts and helped people with loans was through finding exactly who was most likely to borrow or open an account. Then I went on to explain how companies can make their bills easier to read, on less paper, can convert them to electronic versions (used the iPad for a reference point), and how they can put variable messaging on them. “How come our power bill is just black and white and totally boring?” That’s a good question that banks, utilities and insurers should be asking themselves… 

3. “I help people learn about (or remind them) about companies at the right time” 

This point was a pretty easy one to illustrate, but one that was hard to come up with examples that we’d recently seen. So I started by talking bout the different channels he was used to – mail, email, television, Facebook, and the iPhone. I asked “Now wouldn’t it make sense that if you got something in the mail advertising a new restaurant, that you would have heard about it from another way, sort of as a reminder?” He said, yes. “Now how about if that was timed when you were getting ready to go to eat and they sent you a coupon? Or if you were already walking downtown, and an ad popped up on your phone telling you about the special going on at the restaurant just up the block?”  “That would be neat!” he said. “Well, that’s multichannel marketing, using geotargeting and optimal cadence!” I think I went over his head a little bit with that one. 

But my overall point was made – that’s what dad does for a living, and how he thinks about marketing, as it is either thrust at him or integrated seamlessly into his daily life. The big question from my son was “Why isn’t everybody doing these things?” Now that’s a good question, son…  How would you explain direct marketing to an eleven year old? 

Matt Haskell is SourceLink's Corporate Marketing Manager, largely responsible for the company's video, social media and website presence. Matt enjoys sports and listening to music from his (quite) large vinyl record collection. You can reach Matt via email at mhaskell@sourcelink.com