KPI’s can’t replace marketing

23 July 2019 / By Jeff Tarran
Reading time: 3 minutes

Tracking clicks is not the same as understanding your customer

Marketing technologies have changed the game. Marketers have more data at their fingertips than ever before to help make deployment decisions. Attribution, metrics, and measurement rule the marketing decision set. AI, still a nascent technology, is already impacting a host of marketing functions. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking cold hard numbers are a replacement for the warm glow of knowledge.

We do direct mail. The best direct mail starts a conversation with a prospect that they continue, almost always, through another channel. Once we home in on a target and have an offer in place, our work is about connecting with our target using the written word in a compelling and authentic manner, whether it’s a letter, a self-mailer or another format.

Most of our clients know their competitors. What’s surprising is when they don’t know why someone would choose their product over a competitor’s. Note to marketers: If your differentiation claim is “we’re faster and cheaper” then you’re setting yourself up for a race to the bottom. Fast and cheap is seldom defensible long-term.

We want our creative team to be excited by your product. To get that conversation going with prospects they also need to know who your prospect is and why they might want to do business with you. The headline from last week’s most clicked banner ad is seldom the answer.

This is not to diminish the importance of marketing metrics. “What gets measured gets managed” is a valid idiom. But, like an ostrich with its head in the sand, it’s what you don’t see that can hurt you.

 

Here are some dangers of KPI Marketing vs Conversational Marketing:
  • We mistake metrics for meaning. A click, an open, reading a post, even a sale tells you what a customer does. But not what they think, how a decision was made, or anything about attitudes towards your product or company. That’s a short-term perspective that provides no insights into your target and who they are.
  • The competition could know something you don’t. If your competition is doing research and having conversations with customers, they could be gaining an understanding of the emotional underpinnings of the customer decision process that you lack. That opens the door to marketing appeals and strategies that KPI analytics alone miss.
  • Focusing on KPI building versus brand building. You can’t build a brand without an emotional connection. At a recent Startup Grind conference, Bridgette Beam, Global Programs Manager, Google for Entrepreneurs said, “The difference between building a product and a brand is the emotional connection you create.” In the long run, it’s branding that separates competitors. Strong brands have a connection with the target that transcends any one feature or offer. The race to better KPIs risks a short-term win versus a long-term business.
  • Knowing why something works is important. Without customer insight you’re guessing about what to test or try next when a program inevitably stops working. Worst case is you fall into the offer trap — richer and richer offers to move the needle while continually eroding profitability and brand perception.

 

When we start with a new direct mail client, we’re looking for insights we can use to start the prospect conversation that leads to a sale:

  • A clear picture of your customer — demographics, psychographics and anything else you can tell us
  • Insight into why prospects want your product and how it makes their lives better — help us understand their decision process or “customer journey” that leads to a sale
  • Why they should choose you versus your competitor — beyond faster and cheaper

 

Are you a “marketing director” or a “marketing stack executer?” Execution is essential, but not at the expense of insights. Regardless of your title or where you sit in the marketing department, make it your job to understand your customer so you can build cross-channel conversations that resonate with prospects and separate you from the competition.

Jeff Tarran
About The Author

Jeff Tarran

As VP of Account Services, Jeff works with our clients to analyze business problems and develop direct marketing strategies that achieve their goals. A 20-year veteran and strategic thought leader in direct marketing, Jeff has headed two independent direct response agencies in the Bay Area after starting his career at Foote Cone and Belding. He earned a Dual BS in management and communications at Syracuse University and his MBA in marketing at Columbia University in New York.

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