I write in reply to your feature on customer loyalty (MW June 4). The question initially posed in the feature asks if direct marketers know what they are talking about. When it comes to moving direct marketing strategy onto a higher level (especially when the debate centres on moving from a basic DM-driven contact programme to a true relationship marketing programme), many clients pose themselves the question – does my agency possess the know-how to do so?
The real attraction of DM is its measurability, but how many programmes incorporate the facility to elicit personal data from customers? Targeting without a feedback mechanism clearly is worrying. Without feedback, a segmentation strategy cannot be put into practice.
Whatever form of external support is used for segmentation decisions, it must be remembered that this is just a support mechanism and not one to be depended on in isolation. Any form of lifestyle data should simply form a foundation from which an agency commences customer communications on behalf of a client.
The end result of a relationship which is beneficial to both the consumer and the brand can only be achieved through a bespoke programme which focuses strongly on the one to one concept, and manages to build a relationship based on unique data which a brand holds on its customers.
Paul Robinson of SDM is quite right to bring up the issue of neighbours and neighbourhoods. Marketers must never forget that neighbourhood information can point us in the right direction, but only through the acquisition of actual neighbour data can we ever really get close to customers and max- imise marketing expenditure. For many brands the future must be an effective relationship marketing programme which is light on jargon but heavy on accessing valuable data and building up a thorough understanding of a customer base.
Equally, realising that high market share does not equate to high levels of loyalty, and that vast volumes of name and address data coupled with frequency of purchase data does not equate to a strong consumer franchise, are vital.
The success of future campaigns and the ability of brands to differentiate themselves will come from a change in attitude to the execution of DM.
The desire to build a relationship coupled with the determination to make it work must permeate the agency, from account handling through to creative output, and subsequently the marketing department of the client.
Remember, successful relationship marketing begins with successful client-agency relationships based on trust and mutuality of benefit.