I was lucky enough to get an interview with Drayton Bird, the man who marketing legend David Ogilvy says “knows more about direct marketing than anyone in the world”.
He was named one of the 50 individuals who have shaped modern marketing by The Chartered Institute. Drayton was a leading trainer for Ogilvy & Mather. He has spoken in 53 countries and has written three best-selling books.
His book Common Sense to Direct Marketing is practically a text book for high level marketing agencies around the world. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world: Mercedes, Virgin, Visa, Amex, Ford, IBM and Microsoft.
Question: Drayton, we work with a lot of professional service providers (financial, ad agencies, law firms). Are there any unique differences in marketing for service providers, opposed to a company which sells a physical product?
Answer: What a coincidence! I am currently working on copy for a consortium of business schools.
So I asked myself how I have gone about it. Am I doing anything differently to what I would if it were a product – say a car?
Not really. In both cases you are selling benefits. In that respect there is no real difference.
Your first challenge is to determine why people should choose you rather than alternatives – a fact which is ignored to a startling degree by sellers of all kinds.
However, very often services involve people to a greater degree.
So very often you will be featuring people more.
And very often there will be several people involved in the buying decision, each with his or her own motives, which must be addressed in discrete or adapted messages.
Very often, too, the time taken over the decision may be lengthy because the service is complex or expensive.
But having said all that, all those factors are relevant when selling expensive products. So when it comes down to it, I’m really not sure there is that much difference.
A few years ago I wrote a book about marketing for the legal profession. I don’t think the essential processes I suggested were any different than if it had been about selling expensive real estate.
Question: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see marketing directors in midsize and large companies making?
Answer: Er … not having the faintest idea what the aim of marketing is. Not knowing anything about the basics. Total failure to study. Falling for every new fad that comes along. Not measuring enough. Not testing enough. Trying something new and jettisoning what is working without making sure it is measurably better. Wasting time and money and resources on fancy pitch-fests.
Question: Can you share a story of a big win you had recently helping someone improve their marketing?
Answer: The most spectacular was for a firm in the very overcrowded field of selling data. They got an ROI of 730% in January. Open rate of 53% for an email. And so many inquiries their sales people couldn’t handle them.
Question: You started when print was king, now a great portion of marketing is done online, do you see printing still having a valuable place in marketing?
Answer: I have now spent much of a lifetime hearing how everything is about to change because of new technology. TV would kill cinema; records would kill live music; email would kill print etc., etc.
All bullshit, of course. We still do a lot of work in print advertising and direct mail. And it still works.
What happens is that each new medium tends to take its place, and those which deserve to survive do.
The oldest animal in selling – the salesman – is still out there. We are still writing direct mail for clients, though as it happens, most of our own promotional work is on-line.
Question: With technology today, are we seeing the lines blurred between what we traditionally looked at as sales and as marketing? If that is so, how is it most profoundly changing both?
Answer: I have no idea. I have always regarded the two as inextricably linked.
However, I have noticed that many salespeople regard marketers as a bunch high-falutin’ posers, whilst marketers see salespeople as unsophisticated oafs. I hope the two groups will get closer together – but have grave doubts.
Question: What’s the future for marketing? Do you see a greater role in the behavioral sciences as organizations make more effective use of the data being collected?
Answer: Marketers have more tools than ever before. Whether they are now, or are likely to be able to use them effectively, is another matter. It is a good 50 years since people like The Readers’ Digest started using databases effectively.
To this day, few firms understand their capabilities. Matters are not improved by the lowering of educational standards in Western societies.
Behavioral economics quite fascinates me – partly because much of what it reveals is so similar to stuff that we learned through trial and error.
If you would like to find out more about Drayton Bird you can go to his website here. If you are interested in marketing, I recommend signing up for his email list, he sends a lot of valuable information.