Why David Ogilvy would be right at home in today’s sales and marketing world

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Man in the Hathaway shirt

This post originally appeared on the IDG Connect Marketers blog.

David Ogilvy founded and led one of the most important ad agencies in the world, Ogilvy & Mather. (Jane Maas, who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple years ago, was a creative director at O&M in the Sixties and is rumored to have been the inspiration for Peggy on “Mad Men”.) He is well known for his signature design style – for years he insisted that print ads be laid out with a large picture at the top, headline in the middle and copy below – because that’s how the eye would scan the ad. Anything else disrupted the reader’s natural flow and made the ad less effective. Period. And O&M created some of the most iconic and successful campaigns of his time, such as the Man in the Hathaway Shirt. (Today we might call him The Most Interesting Man in the World.)

Dos Equis ad - most interesting man

Perhaps David Ogilvy’s philosophy is best summarized in this quote from him, “You can do homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product.”

Or perhaps that’s not the most representative quote, for while David Ogilvy is best known for his love of the Big Idea, he actually was a huge fan of data-driven direct response advertising – what he called his “first love” and “secret weapon”. Just listen to this six minute talk on the subject from him.

That is quite a passionate speech; that is a true believer.

Today’s sales and marketing world is a combination of fact-based insights possible as a result of the firehose of data provided on digital channels, and the intuitive connections and leaps that only people can make. The world of 2014 is dramatically different from the sales and marketing world of only 10 years ago, and David Ogilvy would have been right at home in it.

For sellers and marketers the internet and high-speed computers makes the instant collection and analysis of massive amounts of data now possible. So the sales and marketing tools for identifying and marketing and selling to these new B2C and B2B buyers are not just dramatically better, they offer entirely new, previously inconceivable capabilities. These include:

  • Early applications such as CRM databases and sales force automation packages
  • Tools to help with the buying, placement, tracking and optimization of online ads; often it’s not the Big Idea that makes the difference, but the change of just a few words that can dramatically improve results
  • Email and e-newsletter tools that track opens, clicks, forwards, etc., and automate follow ups and segmentation of future emails based on those actions
  • Ecommerce packages that support upselling, cross-selling, and dealing with abandoned shopping carts, as well as reviewing, rating and sharing – and then automate integration with shippers, tracking, and sending updates of status to customers
  • Marketing automation packages that include email marketing as well as real-time personalization of website content and sending of alerts to sales people based on the buyer’s behavior. Through lead scoring companies can further segment and target consumers with the most appropriate and wanted messages.
  • Social media tools for listening, moderating, publishing, tracking and analyzing social media channels
  • Predictive analytics for B2B that uses internal data combined with third-party data to identify the top sales prospects and to help segment suspects for marketing campaigns
  • Deeper, easy-to-use analytics software for analyzing all of the data going into and coming out of these programs so they can be acted on quickly

And much more. The proliferation of sales and marketing technology is astonishing. Some companies, such as Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle, have brought together “marketing clouds” of tools, and software vendors increasingly overlap features with other types of software, such as a CMS adding marketing automation features.

And that’s not even getting into the huge, direct-response databases that retailers, credit card companies and others have used for decades – one of the tools that Ogilvy so loved.

But buying the technology is not the end of the game, it’s only the beginning. Although some companies have adopted the new software tools, most have not and far fewer are using them well or to their full capabilities. How a company implements and uses the software really is the difference between a waste of money and a huge ROI. I’ve worked with companies of all sizes where people in sales and marketing have told me that they’re not even doing the 101 things, like having marketing score and confirm leads and sending only the good ones to sales. The failure of just this one step can lead to the failure of the entire implementation of a marketing automation system, but getting this right can set the foundation for great future success.

On the other hand, technology has also empowered consumers in ways that Ogilvy never had to deal with. And that has changed everything about the buyer’s journey in retail and B2B.

  • In retail it’s led to companies like Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, Sears, Office Depot, Apple, Dell, Best Buy, etc., selling hundreds of billions of dollars of products directly to consumers, and upselling and cross-selling them through predictive analytics – while their competition is only a click away
  • 75% of consumers report using smartphones as part of their retail experience, either to buy directly or to do comparison shopping and pricing while in the store
  • In B2B, customers are 60% through the buying cycle before they contact a sales rep, and consequently their expectations of what they want from that rep are dramatically different from a decade ago. Now they want information and consultation that puts their needs, not the seller’s story, first.

There’s an old saying, attributed to marketing pioneer John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Ogilvy rants against that in his speech, and that’s no longer acceptable in marketing, which is increasingly being held accountable for its spending and contribution to sales. Through that greater accountability marketing is making itself a more valued player. And it’s not acceptable in sales, either, which is moving towards relying less on art and more on science.

I recently started a LinkedIn group, Sales and Marketing Technology, to talk about all this. Unfortunately David Ogilvy can’t be part of the conversation, but I hope that you will be. We won’t run out of things to talk about for a long, long time.

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