Monday, July 02, 2007


Secrets of Direct Marketing with Howard Sewell

The world needs more marketers like Howard Sewell. Knowledgeable, practical, and focused on results.

I recently sat down with Howard to talk about marketing, direct response and innovation, and below is our transcript. More information about his company, Connect Direct, as well as his blog and email address follow.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in marketing over the past five years?
Search has revolutionized the direct marketing business. Marketing Sherpa just reported that 80 percent of technology decision-makers say their organization searched for and found technology solutions when making a purchase, not the other way around. The result is that marketers are focusing more and more of their efforts on “being in the right place at the right time” – with integrated marketing plans that include search-based media such as SEM and content syndication, complemented by systematic lead nurturing that keeps their brand top of mind with the prospect.

If you were building a marketing plan from scratch, what’s the first thing you would do?
Determine precisely what it is I wanted to achieve. Start with target revenue and back that out into the number of qualified opportunities and raw inquiries. So many companies base their marketing plans on producing a fixed number of campaigns, rather than tailoring those campaigns to meet a specific objective.

If you could only spend marketing dollars on one thing, what would it be?
This may be heresy for a dyed-in-the-wool direct marketer, but I’d say: search. You can waste an awful lot of money advertising on Google if you don’t have the resources to manage the program properly, but with the appropriate expertise and bandwidth, search is a very powerful tool that can work for just about any company. Plus there’s a myriad things you can learn – lessons that can impact your other campaigns for the better.

What do most marketers today do wrong?
They don’t pay enough attention to the back end of campaigns – whether it’s an effective landing page or microsite, or a lead nurturing program designed to convert leads into opportunities. There are plenty of companies out there, some with very sizable budgets, who either waste money driving clicks instead of leads, or else generate thousands of leads only to have the sales force ignore them. With the technology available today, there’s little excuse for either scenario.

What's the most important marketing lesson you've learned in the past year?
Always question your assumptions. It’s too easy to fall into a trap of doing something the same way, sometimes indefinitely, just because it worked once. In online marketing, the user experience changes rapidly, so it’s always wise to try something new. Always test head-to-head against the control, however – that way you can be certain what made the difference.

What's your one, most important piece of advice to fellow marketers?
The offer is everything. No-one cares how great your product or service is if they don’t want what it is you have to offer. An effective offer – be it a white paper, Webinar, free trial – should be the centerpiece of every campaign. And more campaigns fail for the lack of an effective offer than almost any other reason.

Howard J. Sewell is president of Connect Direct, Inc. (CDI) (, a full-service direct marketing agency with offices in Silicon Valley and Seattle that specializes in demand generation for high-technology companies. Howard writes about direct response marketing in his company’s blog, “Direct Connections” ( and can be reached via e-mail at


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