Mail marketing is a science, and CMOs should treat it like one
Leader Column by Steve Cuno in the new issue of Deliver
NOTE: I meet many marketing managers who know precious little about marketing. Many seem to assume that having the job makes them experts. This Leader Column for Deliver was my gentle attempt at suggesting that they might want to bone up. I entertain no fantasies that I made a dent, but at least it was fun to write. To download the current issue of Deliver, click here.
If you have worked in direct response mail for more than a few minutes, chances are you have heard your profession referred to as “scientific marketing.”
It is not hyperbole. Testing, retesting and predicting — the direct marketer’s stock-in-trade—are the basis of the Hypothetico Deductive Model, which scientists generally agree is the definition of science itself. That means that the very process by which direct marketers uncover what works and what doesn’t is the same process by which scientists figure out the universe. Scientists (and direct marketers) routinely publish their findings, which other scientists (and direct marketers) then duplicate, test and validate. Then they build upon those findings, and in turn share what they learn. In this way, the body of scientific (and direct marketing) knowledge grows to the benefit of all. Isaac Newton summed it up when he famously said, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
But giant shoulders provide an advantage only when people bother to seek out and stand atop them. Einstein did not arrive at the Special Theory and, later, General Theory of Relativity in ignorance of Newton’s laws. He was able to think outside the box precisely because he had first acquainted himself with what was inside it.
The direct mail industry has no shortage of giants with solid shoulders. From nearly two centuries of tracking results, direct marketing has amassed a great deal of knowledge — indeed, scientific knowledge — as to what works. By learning and relying on that knowledge, direct marketers can increase ROI faster and spend less money doing it. Those who overlook it risk wasting valuable time and resources reinventing the wheel — or, worse, testing square ones.
A body of tested, retested, predictive knowledge is part of what makes direct mail much more than “just another communication medium.” With today’s tight budgets, a working knowledge of proven practices gives direct marketers a clear and distinct advantage.
And, as with Einstein, knowing what’s inside the box puts you in a position to better work outside it — responsibly. In turn, you’ll have an opportunity to add your own discoveries to an ever-growing repository of useful marketing knowledge.
Who knows? Tomorrow’s direct mail experts may someday stand on your shoulders.