Contrary to what you may have heard, though semantics may be at play, the ‘peddler’ is the world’s oldest profession and I may be considered one of its living fossils. After spending part of the 1960s and 1970s on Seventh Avenue and Madison Avenue in the fashion selling business, I went out on the highways and small towns of the South, from Chapel Hill and Lookout Mountain to Andalusia, Alabama and Jacksonville, Florida to El Paso and Dime Box, Texas.
Selling advertising and trying to figure out what America might want to wear in those years was an adventure. The first ad spot I held was at the prestigious Clothes Magazine funded entirely and covertly by DuPont for the sole purpose of bringing thick and petro based double knit polyester clothing to the masses. Everyone was excited back then about the possibilities.
Back in the 1960s is when I hit Manhattan trying to learn the ad business and learn how to sell, I surrounded myself with the old timers who spent a good part of their days manipulating business card files and erasing old numbers and sharing strategies on how to close deals. The key, I was told, was to keep your Rolodex up to date. Soon I too had a robust Rolodex which I guarded with my life as I feared a scoundrel or two in the midst. That was 40 years ago and I still have a Rolodex, along side my MacBook Pro and next to my PC, and I still use it. Some things never change.
Here we are in the halcyon years of the Information Age and we continue to search for new mouse traps to capture customer information and share that information with our team and become one of those universe masters. We have morphed from peddlers into marketers, and other useful titles, but we still live for the deal.
Yet, as I discussed in my last piece on decision making’s ancient history, I don’t know if we are so much further along in our customer understanding and marketing strategy. As my dear friend Jeff Wilkins, PhD, Chairman at Entiera and inimitable data and marketing guru, said recently, "I’m a big believer that marketing is fundamentally a data problem."
Because of this "data problem" IT and marketing have become inextricably linked, however, in ways that are not always optimum. The advent of simple to use, on-demand, CRM systems has given small and medium-sized business a field from which they may compete. It has provided, as we’ve seen the last dozen years, an engine for smart companies who understand the dynamics to capture markets no Rolodex-based society could conceive of doing.
In spite of having such incredible cloud-based tools to build campaigns, and in spite of having these amazing applications that can talk to each other in ways big companies can only dream about, the data "problem" is the issue that separates the best data managers and the most modern marketing brass from serendipitous meetings of the minds. It also slows down sales and wastes billions in the process. If everyone had the perfect data sets, the world would be a different place.
Alas, we’ve seen way too many companies, of all sizes, not understand how important data is or how to make sure they are optimizing their use of it. It’s elementary to want to discuss how to lower sales costs and lower risk and shorten sales cycles, however, until you understand why your problem is a data driven problem and until you have a plan in place to manage it and make sure you’ve trained assiduously to get everyone pulling in the same direction, it may never go away.