Create the experience your customers want

Posted by Brad Douglas on Oct 7, 2015 10:46:14 AM

Marketing — like golf is about incremental progress

I love golf. I enjoy the challenge of the game, and that it requires consistency to score well. I also like how it rewards steady, incremental progress. I’m constantly making minor adjustments to my game hoping to shave a stroke or two off my next round. These tweaks keep things interesting while providing opportunities for improvement. But, not all tweaks bear fruit.

Recently, I bought a new driver hoping to gain some extra yardage. It didn’t work. Within two weeks I returned to my old club because it just performs better. In the end, results are all that matter.

The point is, the allure of the new is powerful, and that’s especially true of marketing. As fresh marketing tools, apps, and strategies pop up regularly in our digital age, the urge to experiment is more than recommended — it’s required. Trying new approaches often leads to better results. But sometimes returning to a proven method is warranted to achieve results because it’s just that — proven.

Give people what they want

Because direct mail involves consistently testing and rolling out new ideas, a similar scenario plays out for many companies ranging from small nonprofits to huge corporations. Take JCPenney, for example. For the first time since 2010, the retailer is mailing out its print catalog to select customers. Why? Because the company realized the catalog led to significant online sales.

Five years ago, JCPenney expected their print catalog devotees to simply migrate online. But since that hasn’t happened, they returned to printing their catalog in an attempt to recapture these lost sales. To their credit, the company learned that customers value and prefer the “old” JCPenney experience. In this case, the catalog is analogous to my tried-and-true golf club.

According to research conducted by the Direct Marketing Association, the response rate for direct mail catalogs to a house list is 4.26%, while the email response rate is a paltry .12%. That’s a significant difference. Clearly, many people prefer to do their purchasing online, which is fine with JCPenney. But the takeaway is that many shoppers first saw a product in a catalog or other print DM piece before choosing to act.

After all, it’s easier — and usually more enjoyable — to sit back and browse a glossy catalog than to click through endless lists online, so bringing back this tangible experience for customers helps drive revenue and build brand loyalty.

This is just one high-profile example showing that a substantial number of people still prefer ink and paper to pixels in certain situations. Or better yet, a seamless blend of the two. Because there’s a larger lesson here as well: Integrated print and digital marketing campaigns are often more powerful and effective than segregated, one-dimensional marketing efforts. And it’s vital to your bottom line to learn from past marketing efforts — and to keep testing new ones — so you can continue giving people what they want.

The benefits of coordinated campaigns

Blending digital and print campaigns not only creates a better customer experience, it also helps you learn more about your customers’ buying habits and preferences. This data further allows you to tailor more personalized and effective offers moving forward. Such data helped JCPenney return to print in a smarter way.

For instance, the company didn’t simply pick up where it left off in 2010 by mailing a massive catalog to everyone in their database. Instead, the company condensed it from 800-plus pages to a streamlined 120 pages focused on items from their home department. And it was only mailed to customers who have purchased housewares at Penney’s in the past. The catalog also features a similar look and feel to their other direct mail, creating a continuity that further drives sales and brand awareness.

The value of continually testing new marketing ideas can’t be overstated. And while you’re testing and planning your next campaign, don’t forget the power of print in getting your message across. Because getting results never grows old.

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Topics: Direct Marketing

Brad Douglas

Written by Brad Douglas

Brad has more than 25 years of leadership experience in agency-side and client-side direct marketing, including deep sales strategy expertise in the financial, insurance, telecom, and resort industries.