On a recent trip, I came across the 25th Anniversary edition of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. The book lists several simple lessons about life that even a kindergartener could understand. I was thinking about work as I read it on the plane, so I started applying what I was reading to my work life.
What I discovered was that I never would have reached my 30-year milestone in the direct marketing business if I had taken the title of this book to heart. It actually flies in the face of every direct marketing principle that I’ve ever learned. Here are just a few of the things the book teaches that you can’t apply to direct marketing:
1. “Imagination is stronger than knowledge.”
In the direct response business, if you don’t bring all of what you know to bear, then you’ll fall short of your business objectives. At IWCO Direct, we advise our clients to use every piece of data they have about their customers, their business, and their competition. We believe knowledge is king, and those that use what they know to the fullest will have a competitive advantage.
2. “Myth is more potent than history.”
Direct response is all about learning from your past: the successes and the failures. In our initial discovery sessions with new clients, we hear horror stories about tests that ‘didn’t work’ and how they ‘can’t afford to fail’ again. The focus is always achieving metrics, which of course is the right focus, but long-term learnings are more potent than the results of one test that ‘didn’t work.’
3. “Dreams are more powerful than facts.”
We are in a fact-driven business. Facts drive our target audience selection, the (pre-approved) offer, the messaging, the package format, the in-home date, the user experience on our websites, and our customers’ Life Time Value, to name just a few. We counsel our clients to use facts to optimize the next campaign (and the campaign after that, and the campaign after that). Nothing is more powerful than facts when you’re trying to maximize your Return on Marketing Investment.
4. “Hope always triumphs over experience.”
When I first started in this business, I knew that I had a lot to learn. So many moving parts. So many factors to consider. About halfway through my career, I noticed that I still had a lot to learn. While I had a pretty good handle on the parts and the factors, there were always things that I hadn’t thought of. Our teams have created more than 100 winning control packages and we’re still learning. More experience always triumphs over experience every time we start a new project. You just can’t get enough of it.
Sure, Mr. Fulghum did not write his best-selling book for me to compare his thesis to the world of direct marketing. But on that flight, his words did make me take stock of what we at IWCO Direct believe is the right path for our clients. It also reinforced what I believe about what has made me a better direct marketer, which is my love for what I do.
What direct marketing principles have you learned over your career? Drop me a note, and we can learn together
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