Or ... how NOT to have a DataBase & survive in the '90s
Selling hospitals like hot dogs has not been a smashing success according to Quality Expectations, a health care marketing firm.
Electronic gizmos come with more format options than most people have fingers. Do buyers really need all this diversity? Scarcely, reports Neil Weinberg, writing about interactive media.
Millions of Americans are questioning advertising, its truthfulness, its meaning, its message. Stan Rapp reports 60% rate advertising messages at an all time low for credibility.
At the same time this news is in the trades, Don Libey is telling retailers to get with it: ". . . inter-connectivity, inter-activity, virtual reality marketing are all with us now and will become the new paradigm..." according to Libey.
The people who hold a couple of mortgages for me have an entirely different view of what is and will be "virtual reality marketing". They are not at all interested nor concerned with the year 2000...they are much more interested in the next 12-36 months.
Some call that the short-term American view of business.
I call it REALISTIC MARKETING.
Over the past decade there has been an ever increasing number of advocates for DataBase Marketing. There are conferences - multi-day conferences, dedicated to the pursuit of the DB process. Some of them are actually very good, very enlightening. Hundreds, even thousands, of people are attending these events...and learning from them. I've even participated in several.
There are also books on the subject. And entire sections of magazines are filled with the current DB thinking. True gurus now exist...people who know the subject inside out/upside down and backwards. There is an established database industry.
In fact, there is such a rush to database, the feeling one gets if you are not already deep into the process is that you are out of the circle. You are not with what is happening today. You are behind the current times. And very probably you will be dead as a business before the year is out. Certainly by the end of the decade.
In one word: BULL!
I don't know about where you live, but it is very obvious that in the small communities of southwest Arizona where I live, both the retail marketplace and the many micro-small businesses are doing just fine without a database. This past holiday season saw record crowds and gigantic leaps in sales. This was true at automobile dealerships, department stores, specialty shops, food service.
Interestingly, my very unofficial and unscientific survey learned that not a single mall store, no matter size or product line, has a useable database. Not one!
Let me rephrase that statement a wee bit: not a single store I went into, or talked with, made any effort to gather any input about me. Not one! Even where I spent money. Which I did...sometimes cash, sometimes a credit card, sometimes a personal or business check. Not a single store did anything with that transaction information. Nor have they since.
Those that I do know and can talk to about their business told me they were having a roaring fall / winter selling season...business is good.
Ditto for small business. The town nearest my home is 17 miles away. It has a dozen eateries, one good size super market, a convenience store, a drug store (open half days), a dress shop, flower shop, small appliance store, real estate office, several auto-fix-it type places, a John Deere outlet, a number of mobile home parks...the usual for a small rural community with one stop sign and no stop light.
These people I do know...and guess what: none of them have a database. What is equally interesting is that most of them do know what I'm talking about when I use that word. (Which, by the way, is a horrid word! Database the word was obviously created by a computer whiz kid who could not spell marketing. It is certainly a most unfriendly word, that scares some people and petrifies many.)
Let's define database. Since there are so many definitions already I'll add mine to the mix: Database Marketing is
If you'll accept these few words as reasonably accurate, then this DB business is fairly easy to understand. Right? Well, yes, I think it is. The understanding is not the problem ...the strategy part, the planning and thinking part of DB is easy to get. People do get it. They understand the concept - the idea.
The problem - and there is a problem! - comes when you try to implement the concept. To do it. To make database marketing work.
And ladies and gentlemen, we all know it is a ton of work! No doubt about it. The up-front costs in time, manpower and cash can strip the profits from many smaller businesses. Being a small business, I recognize possibly more than some what cash flow is. And meeting pay days 24 times a year.
My little company knows about the IRS and being audited. We get hit with state taxes and permits and more. We have the normal array of suppliers to keep our creative / consulting / speaking shop going. Jim Vormelker, my slide maker for a number of years, likes to be paid when he does his work.
All these things - if you're a small business-to-business supplier or service organization, or a retail outlet, limit your capability to build a database. And guess what...you are NOT going to die and go away because you do not.
A while back I was part of a special conference titled Technology Marketing. What it was all about was the techy side of what is available to marketers today. And how to use it.
One of the attendees is the owner of a successful womens fashion shop in that same town. Nice guy. We talked over the couple of days. He got the message. And talked about, after 30 years in business, putting together a database of his customers. He would build a knowledge bank that would be useful in expanding and growing.
Early December I saw Jim again. We talked about it. He has done nothing...except think about it. Why? Because he is too busy with his single location store, with less than 10 full and part time employees, to take the time, the money, the people needed.
Jim smiled at me and said he knew he should start...he just could not see how and when that was going to happen. He is busy being real in todays marketplace. He is not going to do what it takes to be successful with database.
Am I anti databases? Absolutely not! (Except for the word itself, which I hate.) What I am against is the preachers who march 'round the continent telling anyone who will pay a few bucks and listen, that unless you're with the new technology of the '90's you are doomed.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Because ladies and gentlemen, it is still ladies and gentleman who make this world go 'round. Not the techy side of life...much of which I use and thoroughly enjoy. Much of which helps my business be more efficient and sometimes more effective.
It is PEOPLE who make the difference - not technology.
Another thing we are on a kick about in the U.S.A. is customer service. Which I totally support. Why? Because it is PEOPLE who offer the personal one-on-one service we all want.
Sure, machines make much of what we call service better. So far robots and voice mail and other technical things can not do what people still do best.
Anyone reading this far has undoubtedly had a run-in with a voice mail system. One you either could not get into, out of, through or around. You need to talk to a person...and the system will not let you. It doesn't matter why, it only matters that you are frustrated because you need a person to talk with, and you can't get one.
And you are unhappy. Probably mad at the company...maybe so angry you make a decision not to do business with that firm ever again. Tell me folks, that technology is doing the job when this happens. And it does happen, doesn't it?
What does this have to do with database? Lots...because most often the company with the fancy voice mail system is also the one with the capabilities of building an extensive database.
They are beginning to run their business like a robot factory...to "save money".
On the surface the bean counters love this approach. It looks like it will be an excellent business move. In reality, when we loose touch with people as people, that is when we are going to go out of business.
Let's be real - people buy from people first...then from companies. That is a reality in marketing.
Several years ago United Airlines ran a television spot where a large advertising agency lost their largest account. The boss took a quick look around, saw lots of fax and mail messages. And many telephone calls. Next to nothing in the way of personal touch. So, he sent everyone on an airplane trip to see and touch customers.
That is another reason not having a database marketing system is not going to put anyone out of business. Since Adam and Eve exchanged glances in the Garden (and evidently a few more things!), people do business with people. Not with machines.
We in Direct Marketing have a marvelous opportunity to harness the power of machines, and we've done so. We've built databases. And now we're coming close - at least in our thinking if not our practice, of letting the machines run us. By formula.
That is one of the reasons privacy is a matter that has gotten a hold of us. With a database we can make less mistakes than without. When we have the opportunity to know more we also have the opportunity to use more. And then we have an obligation to use that knowledge intelligently.
That is not a bad thing...it is good. Taking knowledge and using it to serve a customer, get a new client, ask a question, offer a service. Database allows us to do this. It also allows us to be stupid, and talk with everyone like they are everyone else.
Like most things mechanical, when it works it is grand... when it does not it gets a school mark of "F". This is what database does to us when we use it as a "formula" gathering instrument instead of a learning and knowledge tool.
And this is also why many, many small companies across
America do not have to worry about going out of business any time soon. They still offer personal service. They still call their customers by name. They still say "Please", May I...", "Thank-You" and "You're Welcome". They treat people as people should be treated...as these people want to be treated.
Lead, follow or get out of the way.
There is a large group of small companies thinking seriously about direct marketing who are getting out of the way. 86% of all North America companies have 20 employees or less. 97% have 100 or less. Literally millions of these companies are getting out of the way. They are avoiding getting serious about direct marketing because they have been scared with database marketing. It is not real for them today.
Could they do what they do so well already better with a database? Maybe ...even probably "Yes". And then again, maybe not. They are being realistic about marketing in their marketplace today. They will move only when it makes economic sense for them to do so. And right now they are more concerned with the next 30-60-90 days.
Maybe it is time to divide direct marketing and database marketing into two camps:
So all this "stuff" about the 21st Century that is clearly not going to get us through the next 12-24-36 months can be banged around without getting in the way of the realistic here and now.
It is not that the futuristic ideas (and yes, database is the future to much of the marketing world!) are bad or wrong... they are not. If thinkers want to take time and spend money dreaming, that is fine. It is good.
At the same time, how about more that can be used in the immediate. Directly helpful to the present...to 1994-1995. Ideas, concepts, stories, cases, knowledge that is applicable today. That will aid and help us all achieve our objectives, reach our goals. Realistic Marketing.
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.