ADVERTISING & PROMOTION: The customer is only right if he’s not plain stupid

’Returning from an intensive management course in the US, I was eager to display my new expertise: ’We must stop short-term thinking and plan for long-term profits.’ ’Quite so, dear boy,’ said my chairman.

’Returning from an intensive management course in the US, I was

eager to display my new expertise: ’We must stop short-term thinking and

plan for long-term profits.’ ’Quite so, dear boy,’ said my chairman.



’And the best long-term profits are made up of a succession of

short-term profits’.’



Victor Ross, in my view one of the finest minds in our business,

contributed that marvellous little anecdote to a booklet commemorating

the 10th Anniversary of the Institute of Direct Marketing. I suspect it

could be reflected upon with profit by any reader who uses the word

’strategy’ more than once a month.



If you have been seduced by some of the fine sounding but suspect

variations on direct marketing, the following may help. It was

contributed to the same booklet by Graeme McCorkhill, who founded one of

Britain’s first good direct marketing agencies. He quoted an American

friend who said: ’I’m still doing direct marketing but I call it

relationship marketing now. The clients hated ’direct’ because it

involved difficult stuff like doing ads that worked and getting sums

right. They love relationship marketing. Even they can have a

relationship.’



My contribution to the booklet was neither as funny nor as

perceptive.



For some years I have run a course called Complete Direct Marketing for

the IDM. It is hard work, partly because of the varied backgrounds and

the differing levels of experience of the delegates, and partly because

many are sent there rather than choosing to go. However, there are a few

laughs, and connoisseurs of unmitigated gall might enjoy this story.



A couple of weeks ago, a man who runs a direct mail firm wrote to the

IDM ’with regret’ asking for his money back because he claimed an

employee of his had learned nothing from the course. Well, as you can

imagine this did not make my day. After 52 courses training some 1400

people we had never had such a request. In fact, the course is very

highly rated by delegates, who are all asked to evaluate it. Over 99%

find it excellent, good or satisfactory - with less than 3% falling into

the third category.



After I had finished weeping, wailing and gnashing my teeth, I wondered

why the unhappy punter had made no comment, either verbal or written, at

the time, but waited two months to tell his boss. Then I started to

think. The delegate’s name sounded familiar. He was one of the few who

had taken the trouble to write afterwards, thanking me for an

’excellent’ course. Indeed, my staff tells me he rang several times,

apparently wondering if we could do business.



This assuaged my pain. Clearly the regret expressed in his boss’s letter

was less to do with the quality of our training than with his anguish at

having to part with money. But I shall remember that man’s name. I

cannot recall avarice and stupidity being so wonderfully combined in one

letter.



Topics