It’s all the rage.  Create an ad.  Send it out to your carefully targeted audience.  And sit back and count the orders while calculating your ROI.  A beautiful thing, this accountable advertising.

The year:  1967.  Lester Wunderman and his band of direct marketing pioneers were mailing out yet another Columbia Record Club mailing.  Maybe there was a penny inside the envelope.  And I guarantee there was an offer the customer couldn’t refuse. Then weeks after the mail drop, they counted the orders, added up the revenue, subtracted out expenses and viola:  ROI!

So what’s the difference today?  Why this sense of Aha! and revelation when you hear marketers talking about this “revolutionary” way to market?  “We ONLY do ROI.”  “No ROI?  No way!”  “ROI or die!”

I mean, what other way is there to go?

The only difference I see is the time factor.  When we dropped those huge, colorful 9″x12″ DM packs for Time Life’s book series in the 1980s (Civil War series, Home Repair, Mysteries of the Unknown, etc, etc) we used to say, “It takes a year to get an answer.” That’s because we lost money on the soft continuity offer of a low price for book number one and had to wait until book 3 or 4 to claim a profit.

Otherwise, nothing’s changed.  Whether your channel is a direct mail pack or an email, whether it’s an outbound phone call or a text, whether it’s a DRTV spot or a social media placement, the formula remains:  determine your product benefits, identify your target, test offers, position your campaign, create a compelling ad and place said ad efficiently.  Then count the orders and calc your ROI. (I wish there was a catchy acronym here … alas, we’re stuck with BITOPCPC or Benefits/Identify/Tests/Offers/Positioning/Creative/Placement/Calculate.)

No doubt, technology has made this job more precise and reliable.  And cheaper.  And faster.  All game-changing improvements in the process.  Less paper.  Less fuel burned. More control while mid-campaign.

Certainly to thrive (and survive), we must optimize our sites, exploit the awe-inspiring rush of social media marketing, hop on the twitter boat, use the most current best practices before emailing, tighten up our CRM, employ the latest analytics tools.  Basically, get our ones and zeroes in order.

But be wary when the digital toys become the heroes.  They are the supporting cast in this marketing play.  There’s is so much more to hitting a profitable ROI than data packet management.  In the end, whether in the Age of Aquarius or the Age of the iPhone, marketing success will always begin with BITOPCPC.  Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

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