Why are so many direct marketing companies performing at half
potential? And why are only a handful performing at or above their
potential? What makes the difference?
The first thing I see is passion. Top performers have a passion for
what they do that most of us only dream about. These people love
business and they love their business. In one way, they are truly
fortunate. Passion of that kind is rare, and very successful people
invariably possess it to extremes. In another way, they are cursed.
They can never get away from that passion and their lives are shaped
by it almost totally and almost constantly.
Because passionate business owners and leaders are mono-focused on
the business, they often re-invent themselves and the business to
ensure they remain at the leading edges. Others enjoy the familiar
groove, the familiar niche, the same familiar SICs. They maintain the
past and the present; the passionate ones create the future. And that
is the difference: maintain or create?
The second thing I see is the use of money. The passionate creators
spend money; the maintainers take the money out of the business and
make it earn every step of its undistinguished way. All investment
has to be “self-funding.” The exceptional business knows the value of
talent, technology, facilities, investment prospecting, advanced
logistics and integrated enterprise operating systems. The
unexceptional companies have only enough talent, technology,
facilities, prospecting, logistics and operating systems to get by
without having to invest anything in the future. Consequently, they
often don’t have one.
The third thing I see is ideas. The exceptional owners surround
themselves with more ideas than they can ever accomplish. But they
have options. The average company spends a lot of time pushing ideas
away, mostly because they require investment, but also because they
might be dangerous, especially if they aren’t the owner’s idea. All
of the original ideas are monopolized in the marketplace by the
exceptional companies; the average companies haven’t had an original
idea since the first one that got them their niche.
The fourth thing I see is people. The extraordinary company has
extraordinary people and all of them are also passionate. The average
company has average people and none of them are passionate.
Extraordinary attracts extraordinary; average attracts average. And
when average companies inadvertently attract an extraordinary person,
the result is painful and short-lived.
The fifth thing I see is attention to basics. While leading in
innovation, technology and ideas, the extraordinary company is also
totally grounded in and proficient with all the direct marketing
basics. They know the numbers off the top of their heads – and they
are accurate numbers. The average companies are struggling to cover
or discover the basics. They are employing entry-level people to
manage the circulation plan because they are cheaper and all you have
to do is tell Abacus what it is you want and they do everything. The
extraordinary company is running circles around its competitors in
every channel because it has a seasoned, confident and proven
circulation pro working with a seasoned, confident and proven broker
and everybody’s feet are held to the fire for performance and
productivity. And the extraordinary company doesn’t ask for a
discount; in fact, it often pays its broker a higher commission for
delivering higher prospecting performance.
The sixth thing I see is elegance. The extraordinary company has an
elegance of mind as well as an elegance of style. The owner wears
custom-made or designer clothing and has a custom analytic and
perceptive mind. The restrooms and the minds are well-decorated and
fully furnished, one with choices of soaps and linen towels, the
other with concepts and open-minded reasoning. The warehouse and the
personality are neat, orderly, clean, automated and totally
organized. These people are its business; the business mirrors the
person. And the management team in these extraordinary companies
lives that elegance. The average company is, well, average. Things
are a little dusty, a bit wrinkled.
The seventh thing I see is boldness. The extraordinary companies are
fearless; the average companies are fearful. One attacks the future;
one defends the past. One is comfortable with challenge and the
unknown; one is comfortable with only the known and what once worked.
One leads; one follows. One takes risks; one is riskless.
The eighth thing I see is inclusion. The extraordinary company
includes all its trusted advisors in its research and decision-making
processes. The conference room for a strategy session may have 10 or
15 vendors, suppliers and consultants, all charged with the
objective, “Help us leverage what we do well to become a $1 billion
company.” The average company doesn’t trust its vendors; bends them
for another 2 percent; spreads the business among as many as possible
to assure the lowest possible price and often lays failure at the
feet of the vendor.
The ninth thing I see is rule breaking. The extraordinary companies
do almost everything differently than they should; they disregard
what should be for what is. While attending to the direct marketing
basics and truth, they also only believe what the customer tells
them. And if what the customer wants requires breaking direct
marketing conventional wisdom, out goes the conventional wisdom. The
average company plays by the rules, takes no chances, hasn’t talked
to a customer in years. Chiseled above the door is the time-worn
motto: Status Quo.
The final thing I see is questioning. The extraordinary owner or
leader questions everyone he or she comes into contact with. These
are not accuracy questions, rather questions about what is new, how
others are changing pagination, what landing pages are working,
whether video is getting prospecting response in search hits, how
much fall-off in pay per click there was in October, whether long
term response is eroding in co-ops . . . and a thousand questions
aimed at people with knowledge that can be used. The average company
asks few questions and usually doesn’t know what questions to ask.
Why are so many direct marketing companies performing at half