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Buzzwords no substitute for experience
By John L. Cimino

I’ve always been amused at how quickly direct marketers latch onto a new trend or buzzword and abandon everything they’ve been doing for most of their careers to jump on the new bandwagon
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For one thing, it’s probably not very good for your knees to be jumping off and onto bandwagons.For another thing, it’s annoying as hell for old ideas and concepts to be trotted out under new names and treated as though they’re sme kind of fabulous breakthrough no one has ever thought of before.

Database marketing is one such example. Everyone—from list brokers to freelance copywriters—is an expert in the philosophical aspects of database marketing. Few, however, practice what they preach.

Then there’s the proponents of one-to-one marketing. An obvious reaction to the inefficiencies of mass marketing, one-to-one marketing exhibits one huge pathetic fallacy—that all of us are as unique as snowflakes and need to treated as such.

As a writer, I realize what a bunch of self-important crap that viewpoint really is. The truth is—most of us are a lot more similar to each other than we care to admit.

The similarities of one human to another far outweigh the differences. We tend to like the same things—go to the same places—watch the same TV shows. Surf the same web sites.
The one-to-one marketers seem to be preaching the cult of the individual long after these theories have been proven to be inaccurate. If we’re all such individuals with our own unique tastes and wants, how come 97% of us use PCs running Windows? How come MiniVans and Sport Utility Vehicles are so popular?

Of course, technology impresses people. Even if the premise behind the new technology is questionable.

But successful products and services don’t succeed because they appeal to select individuals, they succeed because they appeal to large groups of individuals. No paradigm shifting, snake-oil salesman can convince me otherwise.

An obvious reaction to the inefficiencies of mass marketing, one-to-one marketing exhibits one huge pathetic fallacy—that all of us are as unique as snowflakes and need to treated as such.

My two latest favorite buzzwords are data warehouses and data mining. When I read this quote in the June 15th issue of DM News, it almost brought a tear to my eye.

“Direct marketing is the fastest growing area of marketing expenditures in the bank,” said Randy Grossman, senior vice president and director of Fleet’s customer data management and analysis division. “We want to be able to improve the efficiency of our target marketing. Like most banks, Fleet has a customer base of which 40% are unprofitable, and half of the customer product sales we make every day never become profitable.”

Yikes! What the hell have these people been doing for the past 20 years. Why do they keep putting unprofitable customers on their books. If they haven’t worked out the methodology to acquire and retain profitable customers, how is data warehousing going to help.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, hiding behind technological buzzwords is not going to help. Now, they’re putting all their marbles into data warehouses.

What’s mind-boggling is that they talk about customer lifetime value projections, and their impact on their bank’s bottom line… and then they turn around and throw out all their customer data after 24 months because there’s no room for it on their systems. What gives? Simply this: An MBA from an Ivy League school doesn’t make you a direct marketer. Experience does.

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