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Why Some Hires Are Great, Others Aren’t: The DM Personality

Ever wonder why some new hires in this profession work out brilliantly, while others don’t? I am convinced that there is a certain personality type that is drawn to direct marketing.

All kinds of random people are exposed to the industry at some point during their careers. There has to be something identifiable about the ones who take to direct marketing, who get religion, who become its passionate advocates. Here is a handful of hypotheses about the characteristics of the direct marketing personality:

• The direct marketing personality is practical, down to earth and a straight shooter. Direct marketers want results. They get no comfort from smoke and mirrors, and they are not particularly skilled at dissembling. Their art and copy are designed to sell, not to win awards.

• The direct marketing personality is open-minded. Direct marketers are willing to test everything and let the market decide what works and what doesn’t. They avoid prejudgment based on their own preferences, not to mention their experience. They don’t mind being proved wrong.

• That said, the direct marketing personality can be arrogant and impatient. When direct marketers rely on proof of success from the marketplace, they have no time for those who rely on instinct, on persuasion or on politics to make marketing decisions. So direct marketers get cocky and become a bit of a pain in the neck.

• If direct marketers are offensive to others, they get along great with their own kind. These people have created an unusually tight industry of like minds, who share ideas, lists and advice and, as a result, truly enjoy each other’s company. Not that we don’t have rivalries and plenty of long-standing feuds within the industry. But those are based on the passion factor (see later item).

• The direct marketing personality contains a fine balance between the left and the right brain. Direct marketers value creativity – in strategy, in tactics, in new ideas, in messaging. But they also love and respect numbers, and they let the data indicate the best way to move. They are comfortable working with both artists and statisticians because they get value from both.

• The direct marketing personality is passionate to the point of obsession. Direct marketers are committed to selling, to getting their products to market. So any new idea, any scrap of information, is of interest. Direct marketers always can find something to learn from each other, from their vendors, from their competitors. Direct marketers rarely jump ship to their direct competition, the way a supplier sales representative might; marketers take their associations with the company or product line too personally.

• The direct marketing personality will try anything. There is no “not invented here” to get in the way of a new idea. All they care about is whether it works, not where it came from. So direct marketers are likely to be thinking globally, to explore foreign markets and be comfortable testing their way worldwide.

• Direct marketers give it up. Far from being possessive, they are flattered when their ideas are used by others. What other industry brazenly promotes the use of “swipe files”? Imitation is truly the sincerest form in this business, and we all benefit.

• Direct marketers go for the deal. Forget emotions, forget awareness – what’s the offer? Direct marketers are most comfortable when talking tangibles, like benefits and guarantees.

• The direct marketing personality is thick-skinned. For decades, direct marketers have been shunned by general advertisers, those folks “above the line” who cast disdainful looks at anyone who is actually trying to get the order. To be sure, the industry did suffer from a deserved reputation for a certain amount of sleaze in years past. Now we are rehabilitated. In fact, we are hot.

This list is just my opinion, and it is written primarily for the amusement of those in the business. But I also can see some practical application (hey, I am a direct marketer – I want results!). Let us call on the personality index professionals to put some science around the characteristics of the people who best fit the industry and see what they come up with. If we can identify the DM personality with some accuracy, our hiring might become more efficient. Or at least we’d be able to poke even more fun at ourselves. n

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