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February 22, 2018
Is Cold Prospecting Dead?
At a time when personal demographic, psychographic, geographic and behavioral data about almost anyone is easy to come by, there are growing doubts about the efficacy of mass market cold prospecting. This standard direct marketing procedure is becoming less and less effective.
Fueled by protective postures and filtering actions taken by Google, Microsoft and other channel owners, critics of this mainstream marketing practice argue that it’s no longer culturally acceptable or financially viable to bombard people you don’t know with email or other forms of commercial messaging. And, depending on the product or service, the financials of mass messaging are beginning to fade.
The anti-SPAM mindset is beginning to affect mailers and marketers who traditionally have purchased lists to acquire and sell new prospects goods and services. For 100 years, direct marketers of all stripes have made a living by reaching out to broad audiences that yield small, but profitable, response and conversion rates. In the era of cascading cheap email, there seems to be the makings of a cultural shift away from mass direct marketing in favor of familiarity as the basic target selection criterion.
These critics believe that its pointless to message large audiences in the absence of some identifiable or measurable brand relationship or affinity. Pointing to the tonnage of SPAM email mixed with each individual’s daily torrent of messages, if a prospect doesn’t have a commercial or emotional connection to a brand, a cold call message will aggravate rather than resonate.
Given the cost-efficient availability of data about what people want, where they go, what they do and what they buy, it’s unreasonable to carpet bomb a randomly selected population with a one-size-fits-all message. The emerging generation of digital natives, raised making choices, exercising options, selecting gaming levels and inputting personal preferences, doesn’t tolerate interruptive or irrelevant advertising like their parents and grandparents did.
The implication for marketers is five-fold.
Less is More. Small highly targeted audiences based on data overlays and predictive models will respond better and faster than broadsides aimed at mass markets. Focus on those likely to respond rather than on the total volume of a campaign.
Service Segments. Group like-minded people with common interests and behaviors and create dedicated messages aimed at their mindsets and their media usage. Build messages and offers specifically designed to appeal to each segment.
Influence Inflection Points. Every customer finds their way to brands. These pathways or customer journeys are identifiable. Each one has several moments-of-truth where choices and commitments are made. Someone defines a need, then specifies a product type or style, then searches for options, then picks a brand, price point, size or color. Each of these moments-of-truth steps is an opportunity to persuade because in the digital arena many can inferred or mapped. Find these moments and make pointed offers.
DiFM. Do it For Me. Make it easy to respond and interact. Create frictionless ways using buttons and links to act on the messaging by understanding when, how and through which channel the target audience prefers. Test your way to a cadence and a time-of-day or day-of-week that suits the target audience best. Pre-fill applications and forms and design surveys or games for easy interactions on smartphones.
Connect the Dots. We live in an omnichannel world. Consumers generally are touched seven times before making a buying decision. In the course of these touches they are exposed to and use search, display, email, text, postal mail, web pages and retargeting. Find the sequences and connections that map to your target’s use patterns. Understand where the journey begins and which roads it leads down and use content as well as offers to nurture the relationship.  
The direct marketing mindset is changing. It’s no longer a big numbers game; it’s a smart numbers game. As brands intensely compete in every arena without awareness or affinity the message falls on deaf ears. Marketers have to give up the orthodoxy of cold prospecting to recalibrate and readjust their sights.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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