DMA Report: A Matter of Perspective
Some of you are probably too young to remember a book called How to Lie with Statistics. I still have the copy I bought when I was in college. The title of the book popped into my head when I read two news stories, both based on the same Direct Marketing Association report.
The DMA analyzed data collected from over 29 billion promotional emails and two billion online ads. The organization compared the response rates from those promotions to response rates already gathered for direct mail and telemarketing.
Now, I’m not saying anyone lied, as the book title implies, but there is certainly a different emphasis in the two articles I saw that summarized the DMA report.
The first article was from the DMA’s own information bureau and it arrived in an email summary of articles very early one morning last week. The second came later that day in a newsletter with links to articles compiled by an organization that focuses on electronic and social media.
Remember, both articles describe the findings from the same report. The DMA article headline read:
“Direct mail response rates beat digital”
The other headline, from the electronic media (digital) specialists, said:
“Direct Mail Response Rates ‘Dipping’ says DMA Report”
Of course, a private company that makes its profits by promoting solely electronic advertising can’t wave a flag declaring targeted mail the winner.
So how do you get two distinctly different summaries of the same report?
Here’s how the DMA article positions the particular statistic. After stating there was a low 6% sales conversion rate for click-through ads, it says:
“Despite this news, Wurmser notes that in the nine years the DMA has been doing its response rate report, the rate for direct mail, while still ‘the better channel than any other out there right now,’ has gone down 25% overall.”
Yory Wurmser is identified in the article as the “director of marketing and media insights at the DMA.”
Those numbers are somewhat confusing (6% and 25%) and all the statistics from the report weren’t shown, but here’s another paragraph from the DMA article:
“Depending on how one crunches the numbers, direct mail has a response rate of up to 10 to 30 times that of email — and even higher when compared to online display, Wurmser continues.”
Now, the electronic media folks cite the same 25% statistic and follow it with the DMA summary that “mail campaigns draw better overall response than digital channels.” No disagreement. But look again at the headline and what the digital marketers chose to emphasize.
Is this nothing more than marketers fighting for their specialty and it means nothing for you?
Here’s what you should consider from today’s post. When you’re using outside agencies, you’re likely to find different focuses and prejudices among them. It pays you to ask why they recommend what they do for your marketing campaigns and why they believe their recommendations will succeed.
If they don’t have answers or they’re vague, then they’re probably not dealing with facts. If they seem to overcompensate, they’re probably hiding something.
I sat in on an agency presentation years ago when I worked for a large insurance company. One sales department’s executive invited an out-of-state agency to make a presentation simply because he assumed local agencies lacked experience. (The reverse was true.) My boss, who wasn’t dazzled by the agency’s flashy presentation and unsuitable marketing strategy, asked specific questions that any good marketing professional should ask. It was laughable to see the agency reps dance around the issues and never give a real answer to a single question.
They couldn’t back up their recommendations. They were phonies.
So do your research. Prepare your questions. Beware of those questionable types when you hire an agency to create and stage your promotions.