Marketing is definitely hard

If you haven’t seen it, Scoble decided we was going to single-handedly fix Microsoft’s marketing. Fellow employee Kevin Schofield took issue with the easy as which Robert thought he could fix everything. John Porcaro added his thoughts and there were probably others.

I’d like to add my belated thoughts. I think marketing is hard too.

For two and a half years, I worked in the family business with my father. Going in, I knew that marketing was going to be key in taking the business to the next step. Everything my father had done for the prior five years was through word of mouth. The thing we had going for us was once we started a relationship with a customer it lasted forever. He still does business with his first customer from 23 years ago. We needed to get prospecting for new customers.

Our first campaign was based on replicating success. We focused on industry segment that we already did alot of business with. The segment was relatively small (about 1000 companies). We decided to use direct mail as the delivery method based of the widely varying use of technology within the industry. We created a list from in-house information, industry guides and a few purchased mailing lists.

The package was simple. We had a doubled sided four color sell sheet designed and printed. The envelope was clear (similar to the ones magazines sometimes come in). We thought seeing the sell sheet was improve the chances of it being opened. This was also around the time with all of the trouble at the U.S. Capitol with anthrax. Besides the sell sheet, there was a personalized introductory letter and two business cards.

We started mailing them and saw immediate response. We kept very detailed records of response rates and conversions rates. We would average between 6% and 12% response rates on the mailings. The customer conversion rate varied widely, but I can tell you we doubled our customer base in about 12 months. We were very happy with the results.

We decided to look at another industry segment that we had experience in and duplicate the campaign. We decided to use the same delivery mechanism. We produced second sell sheet with visuals and text to match the new market. The short story is the second campaign flopped. Our response rate measured in the tenths of a point.

Some days I think I was lucky with the first campaign. I do think I understood that market and who we were talking to. I clearly didn’t understand the second market. I think I was tried to sell similar products to what we made for other people and I should have been selling the services we could provide. I am still not sure.

Marketing is hard.

2 thoughts on “Marketing is definitely hard

  1. i saw this scoble note and thought a lot about it. i guess i have to agree and disagree. marketing is hard work but i don’t think it has to be complicated or entirely mysterious. We have spent a lot of time trying to avoid the mystery of marketing. What you and your dad did was smart, logical and based on your informed instincts. Hey that’s cool. What happened next, well, shoot. That’s what testing is all about. Hard yes, but everything that’s really worth doing seems that way. Thanks.

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