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. This week, your Friday Forecaster met up with Ava Seavey, Queen Bee of Avalanche Creative Services, Inc., a cost-effective alternative to traditional Madison Avenue agencies that she founded in 2001.
Avalanche creates and executes brand response advertising across all media, which is memorable, trackable and accountable. With a career that has spanned three decades in service of clients that have included Omega XL, Focus Factor, Bosley, Time Life, Verizon and Hair Club, we spoke with Ava over the phone to glean five insights from her broad range of experience.
1. Data Is Great, But Don’t Lose Your ‘Gut’
“We are all driven by the numbers and the insight that is gleaned from data, but there is something powerful about following your instinct, which is often a good parameter. Sometimes, data is imperfect or only reveals a part of the story. If you resort to relying on the numbers exclusively, you can lose the humanity that is a part of dealing with the public and understanding what their needs and hot buttons are. That’s why I think it’s important to trust your instinct. We do a lot of online research, and, sometimes, people will gravitate toward something specific, but when you execute on it, it doesn’t always pan out. TV’s ability to reach a broader audience is still an excellent barometer of whether people want something or not. I’ve seen a lot of campaigns that could have gone big, where the executives in charge base their decision to kill a project based on a one-week media test. The real successes these days are often the result of dogged determination and lots of variable testing, and a common denominator is someone following their gut to find the right combination for success.”
2. Niche is the New Mass
“We used to say in direct marketing that something had to be mass to be a success. Nowadays, with so many different ways to reach audiences, a niche market can be a perfectly valid, going concern, but when many people hear niche, they cringe because they think the market is going to be too small. I’ve seen campaigns that others may have dismissed that have been incredibly successful and made a lot of money. For example, look at some of the dating services that target singles based on religious beliefs. Some might think that sort of positioning is too narrow, but they have very successful business models. The bottom line: don’t dismiss so-called ‘niche’ opportunities.”
3. Social Influencers Alone Cannot Save Lagging Sales
“There is a tendency for marketers to run towards the latest and greatest way to spend money digitally. One of those trends currently is the idea that social Influencers are going to save the day and help boost lagging sales. Such influencers can be a part of the mix, but it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. You really have to do your homework to sift through the bots and fakes and find the influencers who are impactful. Someone could have a huge following, but an audience that is inundated or disinterested, whereas another influencer might have a smaller group of followers who are hanging on their every word. I think people are too quick to find a shotgun solution to solve a problem, and that might not necessarily be the solution for everyone. It’s like how in the old days, we would look for a spokesperson to endorse a product. And then when they don’t get any sales or results, one was left to wonder what happened, when the answer is the people they are selecting or the methodology they are choosing is not conducive to a sale. The quick fix is not the answer in the direct-to-consumer market.”
4. Avoid 100% Attribution Syndrome
“Many people in the industry are suffering from what I call ‘100% Attribution Syndrome.’ Symptoms of this incurable disease are a belief that every sale should and can be attributed to media with complete accuracy. Everyone is claiming they have the magic solution, but nobody does. It’s simply not possible! There is too much halo effect and too much consumer interaction and crossover to know for sure how to calculate attribution. You have to look at trends and benchmarks and evaluate all of the different elements within the context of overall media spend and sales, while excepting the fact that attribution is as much art as it is science — and an imperfect one at that. I think this is a sound approach and you’ll have a lot less stress, because I see a lot of people in a frenzy trying to lay claim to 100% attribution. It’s is a disease that’s eating a lot of people alive, and it’s creating strife between marketers and their competing vendors who should be working together. Everyone needs to chill and get over it.”
5. Customer Service Is Everything
“Customer Service can make or break a product or a company. Consumers want to interact with brands, but I can’t tell you how many Facebook campaigns I’ve seen where people are asking questions and nobody from the marketing company responds. Social media is such an opportunity to engage with your customers. So often, dissatisfaction is not a result of a poor product, but lousy business practices. The company didn’t treat the customer with respect, didn’t listen to them, and did not solve their problem. Companies need to invest in customer service and realize that you can’t always service customers exclusively online. People want options and they need to be able to speak to a human being, sometimes, to save the sale.”
Ava concludes, “Much of my experience has been in categories such as health care and beauty, where a relationship with the consumer is far more important than an individual transaction. Even those who are marketing one-off products need to understand that in our omni-channel universe, and one that is dominated by social media, relationships have taken over and those relationships require care and feeding.”
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. 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.