This is one of an occasional series featuring direct marketing leaders who will share five key insights they have learned from their career in marketing and advertising.
Recently your Friday Forecaster chatted with Marianna Morello, the trailblazing entrepreneur who founded Manhattan Media Services some 22 years ago. Here are five key insights she shared with us that have helped provide the foundation of her success.
- Selling Direct Is More Important Than Ever
“Selling direct to the consumer has never been more important, and here’s why: the consolidation of retail combined with the dominance of e-commerce players like Amazon is putting an immense amount of power in the hands of a few. Look at Toys “R” Us, for example, which filed for bankruptcy this week, despite being the last remaining national toy chain. The remaining mass retailers put tremendous pressure on margins for product sellers, and then, if your product doesn’t sell, they make you take it back. Selling direct helps marketers diversify their sales channels, and produces better margins, as opposed to relying exclusively on online and offline discount retailers who put the squeeze on you and take a bigger cut.”
- Having A Brand That Means Something to Consumers Is Critical
“Another byproduct of mass discount retailers is that once they observe there is demand for a product, they will simply knock it off with a cheaper white label version of the same product. We have a client, for example, who was selling a dietary supplement product very successfully at mass drug, but now that retailer is basically selling the same product under their own label at a price far below the branded product. Everyone from Target to Amazon is getting into the white label game. This is why having a brand that consumers perceive to be superior is so vital: it’s the only defense against volume and price erosion when your own retail ‘partners’, cut out the middle-man and compete against you.”
- Treat Employees Like Family
“At Manhattan Media we’ve been blessed to have a team that has been with me, in some cases, as much as 10, 15, even 18 years. What’s my secret you ask? I treat my employees like they are family. That may sound clichéd, but the way I put that concept into action is that I involve them in all important decisions. It’s a consultative approach to management versus old school command and control management. So, for example, we recently relocated our offices to a different part of Manhattan. This is obviously something that was going to affect every single person – from commute times to their sense of the environment they work in daily. I made sure that everyone was on board before I signed the new lease. I’m happy to say they love the new location. In return for respecting their opinions, I get a staff that consistently goes the extra mile for us. Nobody punches the clock – we do what is necessary to make sure that our clients are taken care of.”
- Lasting Relationships Have Lasting Impact
“Over the years, we’ve built enduring relationships with both our client partners and other vendors that have been vital to our long-term success. Sometimes we’ll do business whereby those relationships are constant, but in other cases our collaborations can be very active and then go dormant for a time. The important thing is to continuously build goodwill because, over time, I’ve found that things tend to circle back. For example, I have one client and we hadn’t done anything together in years, but I noticed that their competition was very active in print. We launched a new campaign recently to amplify their share of mind and that initiative was a result of many years of trust and working together. Similarly, we often assemble teams of vendors and they, in turn, will bring us in on opportunities. Why? Because we know and they know that we are all at the top of our game, and that by working together we are going to make the entire team look good and be more successful.”
Manhattan Media Services recently launched a new website that highlights their expanded suite of services.
- Adapting to A Changing Marketplace Is Key to Not Just Surviving, But Thriving
“We started out very focused on direct response print and are still the foremost experts at it, but we have expanded our services to include digital, social, out-of-home, and broadcast. It is essential that we help our clients be present at every touch point along the consumer journey. Messages have to be delivered in a fashion that suits the consumer, not the other way around. The old days of focusing exclusively on, say, DRTV, are over. You have to change and evolve with the marketplace; otherwise, you are just going to get swept away.”
Marianna concludes, “I cannot believe how fast time has gone by. That’s why working with great people who you trust and who want to share their success with you is so important. Life is simply too short and too precious to conduct business – and one’s life, for that matter – any other way.”
Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO/DoubleFlex. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University.