Marketing intelligence, Pt. 2

By Jeffery Hoyle

Emphasis Marketing & Communications


In my previous article, I re-introduced you to the time-tested theory of marketing intelligence. The idea is to get inside the head of your consumer, and pull information that would help you build and brand your business better. Sounds tricky, right? Not really... if you take the process step-by-step. In this article we are going to discuss how to mine for the information you need.

The first step in even knowing how to begin your research is to determine what the question is that you need to ask. Something like, "How can I improve my business?" won't have much impact. You have to get down to the heart of the matter. We all want to have better interaction with clients, but how? What steps are necessary to achieve that? What do I have to offer that sets me apart from my competition? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Traditionally, your marketing efforts may have consisted of a mass direct-mail campaign or an advertisement in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical. Perhaps you've taken a more modern approach and focused your advertising efforts on the Internet. If any of these fit in your business plan, that's great. Truly, there is no such thing as too much advertising, but there is such a thing as advertising over-kill. We'll discuss that at a later date. For this purpose, we are going to dissect a current and hugely popular marketing effort: direct-mail marketing.

Personally, I would love to shake the hand of the individual who invented the concept of direct mail. It is said that the Remington Typewriter Company started the concept in the 1870s. Whomever it was, I am certain that they had no idea of the power they were unleashing on consumers and businesses alike. At times I feel inundated with direct-mail pieces both at home and at the office. It is truly one of the most effective marketing tools businesses have in their arsenal today. The problem is that most direct-mail marketing efforts fall short because they lack one simple thing: market intelligence (MI).

Here's an example of an ill-planned direct-mail marketing campaign: Say you've just moved into your dream home: a five-bedroom, 6½ brick Tudor-style home on a huge lot nestled on a tree-lined street. Sounds great, doesn't it? And, as we all know, whenever you move, the train of direct mail "Welcome to the Neighborhood" pieces start rolling in. While it's great to feel welcome in a new community, sometimes you have to wonder how they got your information in the first place. We'll answer that question in a moment. Let's talk about the welcoming direct-mail offers you've been receiving.

One of those offers that comes as consistently as the ticking of a clock is from a local aluminum siding company. Now remember, your new home is a brick home, so aluminum siding is not really an option for you. You receive not one, not two, but closer to a dozen direct-marketing pieces from this siding company; all different in appearance but similar in message: "You home is vulnerable; our product can help!"

See the irony? All the effort that this company has gone to has been wasted, simply because someone didn't do their homework. The siding company has spent good money to market to a consumer not interested in their product. Yet on the other hand, they have failed to inform a consumer who might indeed be interested in their product. With a bit of extra legwork, the siding company's efforts have been a lot less successful than they could have been.

Direct mail can be tricky anyway, as most marketers use the services of a mailing house skilled at direct mail to accomplish their direct-mail goals. But even this isn't foolproof. It can, indeed, be a double-edged sword. While one side cuts a sharp swath through a particular demographic, the other side fails to deliver at all. The potential prospect has moved, the address is completely incorrect, or the prospect doesn't fit the offer (as in our example above). Time-sensitivity can be an issue as well -- especially if your mail piece has a specific date and time. It seems like a risky marketing move, doesn't it? Well, that's where the question we spoke about earlier comes into play.

So instead of asking our original question, "How can I improve my business?" we're going to redefine it to be more specific. Instead, we are going to ask "What can I do to improve my business with clients between 40 and 75 years old?" Then, we break it down even further: "What can I do to improve my business with clients between 40 and 75 years old with a net worth of $500,000?" Then we break it out even further: "What can I do to improve my business with clients between 40 and 75 with a net worth of $500,000 in zip code 54321?" Get the picture now? Simple in theory, yes, but it is often overlooked in marketing efforts.

Now let's talk briefly about how the demographic shoe is fitted to your prospect. Market research is everywhere. There are a number of market research firms that have popped up in the last few years to join in the parade. And, often times we are providing market research even when we aren't aware. Your first step to directing any marketing efforts is to partner with such a company. They can help ensure that your marketing/advertising dollars will be best spent by directing their research appropriate to your goals and with better effectiveness. Next time we'll talk about what to do with the research you've obtained.

Remember, your results are only as good as your efforts. As for all those aluminum siding mailers, they have dwindled -- only two come on a regular basis to my house now.

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