Top 5 Things I Learned at DMA 2011

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Here’s a topline summary of what I took away from this year’s DMA Conference in Boston as a quick summary of themes.

1. A Healthy Loyalty Program May Be a Company’s Prime Asset. You may have been expecting me to say that. However, this is a new impression gained from the other themes recapped below. The world of direct marketing has changed so much that it puts an even higher premium on having a great loyalty program as an asset–a controlled yet dynamic, continuously evolving physical database representing the quality of your relationships with only source of revenue, profit, and growth you have–your customers. Here’s what direct marketers are saying about why that is so:
2. The Lines of Accountability Between Direct and Loyalty Marketing Are Blurring. What used to be a clear demarcation between a direct marketer’s focus on event response and the longer-term concerns of a loyalty marketer are merging. No longer content with “one and done,” direct marketers are being held now to other considerations that sound more like “friends ’til the end,” including permission and opt-in, expected lifetime value, and referral value of conversions. By the way, print on paper still plays a role, but its value has shifted from acquisition to retention and engagement.
3. Social Media is a Loyalty Platform. While the effort to unleash the commercial value of social media without “spamming it into submission” is still largely a marketing management mystery, a consensus is emerging that perhaps its highest utility is as a listening platform for current customers. Twitter, facebook and the rest are seen as means of recovering from service failures, helping customers gain more value from the brand, and collaborating with them, especially the most loyal ones, to build product and service innovations. All those services require careful listening, followed by thoughtful response given with relevance (meeting needs) and “remarkability” (news value). Those two “R’s” create a third–Resonance–and resonance gets passed on to friends and family and so on to millions, potentially.
4. Engagement Drives Acquisition. Continuing that last thought, direct marketers are increasingly waking up to the phenomenon COLLOQUY identified over a year ago–the “iNetwork” (spoken of as “the walled garden” by some at DMA). Consumers are screening out the spew of cosmic data everywhere these days and interacting with their personal networks of family and friends to share relevant news they all can use. The upshot: engaging current customers with resonance (see point 3. above) is a reliable means of generating referral to friends and family on current customers’ iNetworks. We listen to and believe the recommendations of trusted advisors, friends and family, while response rates for unsolicited offers across all media continue to decline.
5. Data Drives Everything. Including creative. Whether it comes from purchase transactions, or other touchpoint interactions, or external behavior outside your dealings with your customers, information is the “source code” for resonant relationships. A lively, fresh, and current customer database is the motherlode of revenue, profit, and growth. That’s where unmet needs can be found. That’s where relevance lies waiting to be discovered. Responsible asset allocation is to be found within your customer value segments. A loyalty database and the people who know how to use it are the shareholder’s best friends.

Net: “Marketers of the world, UNITE!” The value of specialization by channel or approach is declining. The direct marketer’s ability to drive response is a great marker of relevance. The loyalty marketer’s skill at nurturing relationships drives long-term repeat sales. Increasingly, those skills are merging.

At DMA 2011, I learned that other marketers are learning that.

What did you learn? We’d love to hear other perspectives from those who attended this year’s show.

Jim Sullivan
Jim directs the advancement of enterprise loyalty at COLLOQUY, an endeavor guided by his almost 30 years of managing in marketing, strategic planning, business development, innovation, and communications. Jim also assists with COLLOQUY's loyalty workshops, seminars and conferences, and serves as an academic liaison for colleges, universities and thinking institutions performing research on Enterprise Loyalty.

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