Q&A: Martha Bush, SVP of strategy and marketing, Sigma Marketing Group

Martha Bush, SVP of strategy and marketing at Sigma Marketing Group, a direct and digital services firm, discusses the importance of platform integration and why enhanced customer data will hurt direct mail. Bush has worked in the direct marketing industry for nearly three decades, including more than 18 years at Sigma.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): You say that marketers should stop searching for one great solution to handle multichannel marketing efforts. You argue that there will not be one online marketing suite that can address all the silos and agendas involved. Why?

Martha Bush (Sigma): I’ve been through several product evolutions starting in the 1990s during the CRM craze when everybody went nuts thinking they could buy one product that would solve all their problems. We’ve engaged with clients who’ve bought one big product that promised all their problems would be solved. But our clients just weren’t able to implement it or get what they wanted out of it because they didn’t have the data, and they hadn’t done any analytics. Without that foundational work, buying a product is doomed to fail. We’ve gone in on a number of occasions to clean up the mess. That being said, so many tools are really incredible today. But the problem is the marketing of the tools makes it sound like I just have to write a check and all my problems will be solved.

DMN: Can you speak more about the foundational work companies need to do before deciding which product or products to buy?

Bush: I think that where [a marketer] need to start when buying a tool is with analysis about the customer. It takes analytical tools to understand your customer but not a big enterprise investment. Understand who the best customers are; what metrics might decide is what to market and who to market to; that’s the hard work that should come before a big implementation. I recommend pilots that are proof of concept. Then, I think if you’ve gone through the process of robust intelligence, you’re in a way better situation to make a better end-to-end tool decision.

DMN: We’re seeing an emergence of social collaboration CRM tools. Salesforce.com just made Chatter free to the public. SAP introduced collaboration tools for Sales OnDemand. Where are these tools headed? How will they impact marketers and customers?

Bush: There are so many different kinds of social CRM tools today. But it’s still the Wild West. It’s like the Internet bubble. We’ve tried to line the tools up but they’re all over the map. People are experimenting and that’s all they can do because the list of features are changing like a pinwheel. Products will begin to slowly line up against each other, and we’ll be able to compare them as apples to apples.

DMN: I’ve spoken to some marketers who believe enhanced data will hurt direct mail spending moving forward. I’ve spoken to some marketers who believe enhanced data will make direct mail more efficient and thus increase direct mail spend. Where do you stand on this topic?

Bush: At the end of the day, there will be less direct mail. I’ve been in the direct marketing business for a long time. There’s way less direct mail today than there was then. Will it go away completely? I don’t think so. Direct mail allows you to tell a story that other mediums don’t, but it kills trees and it’s getting more expensive and more rich media is available online that can tell the same kind of story.

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