Overlook door step “rogues” at your peril

Russell Parsons

Despite being one of Britain’s best loved characters in the country’s most popular sitcom, the questionable marketing techniques used by Derek “Del Boy” Trotter are always invoked to demonstrate bad practice.

And so it proved last week when the MPs that make up the energy and climate change committee slammed energy suppliers for using “Del Boy” sales tricks to lure poor unsuspecting punters in to buying products that they otherwise wouldn’t.

Not satisfied with using the D word, MPs, backed by Consumer Focus, called for severe restrictions to be imposed on the methods used by door step marketers.

Although the select committee did themselves concede that it was the actions of “rogue agents” that were tainting the reputation of both the sector and the discipline, the censure does shine a light on a channel all but forgotten in a world of digital marketing.

Door to door marketing is the ugly runt of the marketing litter that most in the industry would like to forget exists. It is, however, one of the channels that is, as a senior marketer recently described it to me, for some the “nuts and bolts”.

For those customers that are not “engaging” with the brand via social media platforms, in-person marketing is their only interaction with a brand.

It is essential therefore, that companies using agents spend as much time and energy making sure that their staff are beyond reproach as they do chasing ways to be relevant in the age of social media.

Because for many customers, their soul interaction with the brand will not be a smart phone app, it will be a salesman, at their door. So better make sure that your main brand ambassadors are not akin to a loveable but roguish television character.

Talking about the “nuts and bolts” of marketing, last week saw another major development in a channel that is not necessarily loved but is effective.

Royal Mail announced it would delay plans to introduce a “delivered by Royal Mail” mark on DM after a relative avalanche of complaints from direct marketers furious about sharing valuable creative space with another brand.

The postal operator has moved plans back at least six months, during which it will likely trial and garner feedback from a still sceptical industry before either pressing ahead undaunted, or adjusting or pulling plans.

To its credit, Royal Mail decided that rather than alienate one of its key stakeholders, they would listen and reflect on their commercial customers’ objections.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, which, as I argued last week,should be the shelving of the well intentioned but ill thought plan, it also needs to do is show it has learned.

If, as it surely will, Royal Mail is to shift focus, post privatisation, to being a b2b service provider in order to exploit an area, unlike letters, that has growth potential, it needs to show it can be a valuable and collaborative partner. There are better ways to demonstrate that it respects and values its staff, like seeking input on the inevitable changes that come with a switch in business.

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