Why direct marketing agencies have to change

This morning, Merkle announced the acquisition of an independent, Chicago-based, direct marketing agency, CFM Direct.  From Merkle’s perspective, the move bolsters their existing agency services and further strengthens their exposure in the financial services industry – CFM’s primary focus area.

But the move emphasizes an interesting trend in the direct marketing industry.  The lines between direct marketing agency and database marketing service provider are blurring.  Both are adding services or acquiring companies that boast the historical strengths of their opposite numbers.  On paper, their capabilities are beginning to look the same. 

But, they are still different beasts - one is creatively focused, the other operationally focused; one sells time, the other sells output; one is often tied to exclusivity, the other will sometimes work with all of the top firms in a given vertical; one demonstrates phenomenal account management and program management rigor, the other, well, doesn’t…

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Socializing the customer database

By Julie Katz - Researcher, Marketing, Forrester

Database marketing is officially sexy.  Once heavily technical and used only to support direct marketing programs, database marketing now helps brand marketers learn more about their target customers and build loyalty.  Aaron Cano of 1-800-Flowers and Elva Lewis of P&G joined Dave Frankland to discuss how their organizations make use of database marketing to further their business goals and deepen customer relationships.

P&G's 86 brands have traditionally operated independently through mass media to reach theoretical customers.  Now they're experimenting using "sticky" brands like Pampers and Iams to build community and attract loyal users to other relevant brands.  Lewis credits many sources for their success with data and change in mindset:  millennial marketers joining P&G, marketing partners like Merkle and Targetbase, and retail partners like CVS.

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More than just a warm body

It's the day before our Marketing Forum. I came down to Miami early to sit in on Forrester's Direct Marketing Council meeting, and I was surprised by the different methods marketers use to find the analytics staff they need.  Their overall challenges?  Building a consistent definition of the customer, measuring campaigns and media mix (among other things), and justifying their actions to senior management. Companies look for a combination of skills in modern database marketers:  heavy data abilities and strong interpersonal skills.  That combination -- folks who know data and can translate the numbers and analysis into business language -- is rare. So where do companies find these yellow diamonds?  A few recruit from MBA programs with personal recommendations from academic connections.  Others take antithetical approaches:  some find folks with analytical prowess and develop their business acumen so they can use data strategically; others train skilled business people from outside of database marketing on modeling.  Talent is hard to find, but no official word on which recruitment approach works best.