Ignorance Is Bliss

  |  April 2, 2002   |  Comments

Want customer metrics? ROI measurement? Effectiveness models? Think again.

Yesterday, I had a revelation.

A colleague of mine and I were presenting a marketing dashboard solution to a potential client. We were intently describing how the dashboard would provide key customer metrics on all his campaigns. This new data would allow the prospect to make better-educated decisions on where to allocate future marketing dollars to generate maximum return on investment (ROI).

The client stopped us abruptly and said, "I don't really want to know all that. I'm afraid of what I might learn. What if none of my campaigns are effective? They'll cut my budget. I'd rather not know; it's better that way."

That's when it hit me.

We marketers are making our own jobs too hard. We shouldn't apply scientific methods to our practices to increase the effectiveness of our budgets and generate incremental sales. In doing so, we raise the bar for our brethren and make everyone's job more difficult. We should be ashamed of how we're cannibalizing one another. The lack of humanity is simply repulsive.

I've seen the light. I'm lobbying for a return to the good old days, when spending marketing dollars without measuring effectiveness was not just accepted but encouraged. You remember strategy meetings back then, don't you? Throw some money at television, print, radio, or direct mail and hope something hits. Sometimes they all struck out, but like a home run hitter going through a slump, we rode out the bad times waiting until our swing came back. When we were put on the hot seat and were ordered to absolutely, positively deliver results, we jumped ship and landed a sweet VP of marketing job at a new company, where we repeated the cycle. As long as everybody plays by the same rules, no marketer is better than the next. Thus, we ensure job security. Isn't that what we all should strive for?

Everywhere I look, ads promote tools promising to increase campaign effectiveness. Right now, a WebTrends ad promising to help you "Learn how to make smarter decisions" is staring you in the face. Don't they realize that even if we marketers buried our heads in the sand and ignored the ad, someone in our company might see it anyway and ask us to explain why we haven't explored options like this to increase the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns? Doesn't WebTrends realize what an uncomfortable situation I'd be in if that were to occur?

While I'm at it, I'd like to take issue with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). It's done us all a disservice by promising to teach how to more efficiently spend our budgets. How long before my CFO asks if I'm employing any marketing intelligence for the company's benefit? Worse, the DMA lets anyone who's willing to pay attend the course. How are we veteran marketers supposed to stay ahead if anyone can be taught how to play by new rules -- that make us obsolete? I've got no problem letting the DMA in on our game. I'll enroll in one of the $1,800 three-day courses (at my company's expense), if the association holds it in an exotic locale and promises not to take attendance. Throw in a luau on the beach with hula girls, and I'll go to an even $2,000.

Remember the perks for spending marketing dollars in the "right" places? Dinners at fine restaurants, meetings in the Cayman Islands, tickets to major sporting events. What a wonderful life. We never crunched numbers or obsessed over which call to action was most effective at converting a prospect into a customer. Who had time to do that and keep his handicap in the single-digits while playing golf at someone else's club? The wonderful "I'll wash your back, you wash mine" machine we created has been crushed. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

It's time for a revolution. It's time to save our way of life before it's too late. Stop measuring the results of marketing campaigns. Stop trying to demonstrate that every dollar spent on marketing generates two dollars in incremental sales. I'd rather not know so I can continue to spend my budget where it serves me best.

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Mark Sakalosky Mark Sakalosky is an associate at Howe Strategic, a business consulting firm working with early stage companies in technology sectors. Mark has more than nine years of marketing strategy, business development and product development experience in both online and offline environments. He has delivered successful results for companies ranging from Fortune 500 firms to start-ups operating in the retail, telecommunications, media and technology industries. Although he earned an MBA in marketing strategy from The College of William & Mary, he remains a devoted Spider from his undergrad days at the University of Richmond.

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