Direct Marketing and Lean share an experimental method to drive improvement: iteratively testing proposals against Current Best Way

Many years ago — long before I came near Software Development — I had a background in Direct Marketing.

Let’s try that again:

Hi, My Name’s Martin and I’m a Direct Marketer.

I know what most people think of Marketing, but Direct Marketing is very different from the fluffy, 3-drinks-minimum, MacBook Air-toting hipster stereotype that you’re probably holding in your mind right now.

For a start, my initiation to Direct Marketing was via Charity Fundraising, and if ever there’s a sector intent on wringing every possible penny of value out of near to no spend at all, it’s the Voluntary Sector. My guru at the time was Ken Burnett, and via his writing and speaking, I learned the basics of hard-nosed, data-driven, response-focused direct mail, and operated it with some success on budgets that would make you cry. And not in jealousy.

Later on, I became a CRM consultant (via a hazy route of web publishing and the dot-com boom & bust) and augmented my knowledge with solid budgeting, RoI forecasting and real statistical analysis.

There’s a common misperception (far too common amongst marketing types too) that direct marketing is all about creative leaps forward – gifted writing and design in particular. Books of marketing case studies re-inforce that view. But it’s really not. Good direct marketing is about using empirical data to maximise the return while minimising spend, and working to improve every day.

Achieving more with less. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The way they do that is by experimental design – take the current most successful combination of product, targeting, timing, pricing/offer and creative (known as the Champion) and test a variation (the Challenger). If the Challenger does better — with statistical robustness — then standardise: it becomes the new Champion. And then test again with a new Challenger. Repeat until the end of time.

Some of these experiments will be about achieving greater results — customer recruitment, retention and spend — and some will be about reducing cost without adversely impacting results.

Achieving more with less with a constant mindset of improving continuously based on evidence.

Isn’t that what Lean Thinking really is?

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Martin Burns

Transformation Consultant at CA Inc (formerly Rally)
Previously: Leader of software delivery portfolios in large scale orgs.
Specialism: Transforming complex delivery organisations to be more Lean/Agile.
Mindset: Continuous Improvement Obsessive
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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 For Lean Thinking, Employ a Direct Marketer by Martin Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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