In response to Richard West’s article, I wholeheartedly believe that as an industry we need to be far more careful about how we use customer data.
I also do not agree that targeting remains an unpredictable science. Prospects can be targeted very successfully, so long as the data has been exploited intelligently. However, any amount of sophisticated software will not make companies better at it. It is the people who matter – after all, a car does not drive itself.
Direct marketers increasingly need to become hybrids – principally marketers but with the added extras of being extremely IT literate, statistically minded and strong in communication and presentation skills.
Unfortunately, this type of person is rare. However, a workforce made up of such crossbreeds can create an edge over competitors. There are some companies out there that are being very clever with data, but you don’t get to hear of them often – why alert the competition? This is the beauty of direct marketing: it can be used as a stealth discipline, and there is nothing anyone can do to combat it when at its best.