Q&A: David DeVore, FanMail CEO

FanMail Marketing is an interactive marketing agency specializing in design, deployment and optimization of direct-to-fan marketing solutions for the music industry and other entertainment clients. In the eight years since its launch, those who have used its technology include labels such as Roadrunner Records and Razor and Tie Records, events like Lollapalooza, and artists including Foo Fighters and Beck.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): Talk about your mission of nurturing fan advocates for an entertainment brand, be it a band or a sports team.

David DeVore (FanMail): Our core philosophy is that basically that not all customers are created equal. There’s a general pool of customers, then inside that pool, you hope, there are the fans, and figuring out who the fans are versus the general population is really what our mission is. But it’s not just about being able to figure out who they are, but also acquiring them, to understand who they are, and then to give them relevant and valuable information.

DMN: What kinds of information, and via which means?

DeVore: The kind of information depends on the fan. The kind of communication really depends on who the person is on the other side: for example, with the concert goer, understanding if that person is someone who goes to a concert five times a year, which city they’re in, which venue they go to, the type of music they listen to. With that information, I’m going to be able to target that person with exactly the type of information that interests them. By nurturing relevant information, we are able to grow that relationship and train them into possibly paying more attention over time. Social is good, although it still has a long way to go in terms of targeting. Email, of course, is fantastic, and in some ways still the holy grail in terms of direct-to-consumer marketing. Also, though trickier, there’s mobile and SMS. It’s harder to get permissions and certain types of communication there tend to be less marketing oriented and more alert oriented. Targeting the right type of communication through the right medium, and at the right time, is an important skill organizations are needing to learn.

DMN: How can marketers not only best engage with fans but help them share their passion for a brand with others online?

DeVore: That’s really one of the things that’s interesting about fans, and if you can understand who the fan is and provide valuable information, they can be your megaphone. But you have to do the data, starting with collecting the data in a respectful way, and have the programs and the skills to use the data to provide really relevant messaging. The return on that is huge, because if you can give somebody who’s a fan special knowledge about a pre-release or a party or seats to game or a product, etc. etc., they can end up being that megaphone … putting the message out there, and enabling those fans to take that message to their people. It’s a lot harder to get people’s attention than it used to be, but people still listen to what their friends say.

DMN: What are some projects you’re working on at the moment?

DeVore: We just built a concert alert system for Universal Music Group [whose top artists include Lady Gaga, Eminem and Justin Bieber], an automated system for sending out alerts on behalf of artists in a particular location to say they’ll be in your area. It is email but with social capabilities baked in, enabling people to tell their friends they’re going to this or that show by posting it on their Facebook wall.

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