For Direct Marketers, Personality Is Everything

I’m sure you’ll find this interesting. While recently wrapping up a CEO search for a leading consumer catalog and web company, nearly all the candidates who made our client’s short list had the same personality. Interesting, yes! But not peculiar.

The finalist candidates–four men and a woman–a talented mix of seasoned dm execs from across the country, were representing career backgrounds in a variety of product categories and company size.

In fact, after 12 years of assessment testing hundreds of men and women–senior-level direct marketing candidates for positions as CEO, President–for leadership roles in Finance, Marketing, Merchandising, IT, Operations, I’ve noticed the same thing. Over 75% of these individuals have the same personality and temperament type. So for me, testing this most recent group came as no surprise.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The direct marketing executive personality type I’m referring to–and the one you may not be aware of–is shared by only 12% to 15% of the American population, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This is the standard-bearer of all personality assessments. In fact, it identifies sixteen distinctly different, universal personality types.

According to its publishers, Myers-Briggs is used by roughly nine out of 10 Fortune 100 companies and is administered to more than 2.5 million employees a year. The MBTI was developed 60 years ago based on the theories of psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It endures, because it does a great job of improving team relations by pointing out differences between how personality “types” perceive and process information.

The Right Fit

A Harvard University study found that for every dismissal based on failure to perform, there are two dismissals due to personality and communication problems. With the high costs of employee turnover, it’s no surprise more and more direct marketing organizations are turning to personality and behavioral assessments to help evaluate job candidates, build teams and resolve workplace conflicts.

Think about it. You’re already testing offers, testing copy, testing merchandise, and testing catalogs. So why not your people?

If your business is not doing so, you ought to consider using testing (and there are numerous pre-hire assessment options to choose from) to fine-tune your hiring process and bring in top talent. It may help you get a handle on which candidates are most likely to succeed–evaluating candidates before they are hired. And give you some kind of idea of what makes them tick.

This raises the question: Are certain people genetically bred to go into direct marketing? Or does the very nature of the business effect personality and temperament? Take your pick. In my judgment, it’s a bit of both. “We want to learn more about candidates as individuals,” says Andy Katz, President & CEO of pet supplies direct marketer, PetEdge. “Once a candidate is hired, this same information helps us understand and maximize their talents specific to the role they have,” Katz adds. “And we continue to work on developing employees’ self-awareness throughout their careers to help create an environment that ensures success.”

You Can’t Study For It

In taking a personality assessment, experts advise candidates to answer the questions truthfully, not the way they think the company wants them to respond. There is often a validity factor built in where many questions are asked solely to determine whether the subject is answering truthfully and consistently.

Even if the candidate does fool the test, he or she will only wind up in a job or assignment that doesn’t fit or will make you–and those around you–miserable. According to Bonnie Bass, a vice president of a professional dynametric programs testing organization, “When people feel the need to act unnaturally, they waste energy, experience stress and become unhappy and less productive. People are at their best when they’re doing work that draws on their natural strengths and allows them to be themselves.”

Executive Search International is a nationally recognized boutique firm providing best practice search and recruiting services to the direct marketing industry.

Les Gore, founder and managing partner is a 23-year veteran of the “recruiting wars” and who Don Libey, noted industry guru, calls “The Dean of Direct Marketing Executive Recruiters.”

Infomercials and Direct Response

Infomercials changed the way advertisers sell things on television. Previously, product manufacturers merely presented their wares on TV in the most attractive manner they could come up with. They planted ideas, sought to change habits or to create them where none existed. They expanded market share subtly with one common unifying factor – you watched the commercial and if you liked what you saw you went to the store or the showroom and bought it. From now on television would be different. Infomercials and direct response marketing was born. Now if you liked what you saw, thought it was just the right product, idea or concept for you, you picked up the phone, called the number on your screen and ordered what you wanted direct from the manufacturer.

It’s hard to imagine in today’s internet world with overnight deliveries and instantly downloads, but for the very first time you could order something off your TV set without even getting up from your favorite chair. It was unbelievable, magical, and very successful. Almost overnight phone banks sprang up all over the country as the call volume, once numbering in the thousands, surged into the millions. Like Internet domain names today, 800 numbers became a vanity item – the most popular ones disappearing as fast as they became available. Previously only used in magazine advertisements or mail order brochures, the phone business became a very big business with the success of infomercials.

To begin with, infomercials and direct response TV selling give a manufacturer an immediate tool to measure whether or not his product, his pricing and even his approach is working. Previously, manufacturers had to create their product, get it into stores where it would be available for purchase on a nationwide basis and then and only then, launch a costly nationwide advertising campaign on popular TV shows. After that, they would wait a minimum of 90 days, sending out squads of sales personnel or making hundreds of phone calls to find out if their product was selling. If it wasn’t it was back to the drawing board to try to figure out what went wrong and then perhaps try it again maybe next year.

With infomercials and direct response, there was now a way to measure the success or failure of any project in a matter of hours and at a fraction of the cost. If a manufacturer had his own phone bank, he could conceivably sit there after his infomercials were airing around the country and literally count the orders coming in. And almost immediately, he would have an idea if his project was working. This leveled the playing field for new product launches and led to the creation of hundreds of new products each and every year launched and tested as infomercials before ever hitting a retail outlet.

Marketing for New Customers: Expanding Your Customer Base the Easy Way

Most good businesses receive new customer referrals automatically from their existing customer base; however this normally has limitations, as follows:

o The flow of automatic referrals is unlikely to be adequate to build your business exponentially

o Referrals emanating from the whole of your customer base does not provide targeted and highly qualified leads as only the best customers provide the best referrals

To overcome these limitations you need to proactively seek greater volumes of highly qualified customer referrals. You can do this in two ways. Firstly you need to segment your existing customer base to identify the best customers. This may typically be 20% of your customer base. Secondly you need to ask your best customers for referrals in the most appropriate manor.

Customers who refer others to you tend to refer those who are of similar mind, having similar purchasing needs and purchasing power.

Every business has problem customers from time to time. This can be due to bad service levels or the inability of your business to meet the ongoing needs and expectations of certain customers. Equally, I find, the problem customer has nothing to do with the quality of your services at all, but everything to do with them as a customer. They may have unrealistic demands or they may just be badly aligned to your business proposition. In other words there may be a mismatch between their specific needs and the solution that your business provides for people. So despite the fact that they have become a customer they don’t actually meet your requirements as a well qualified targeted prospect.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you provide a complete domestic carpet cleaning service for your customers. You are able to provide a whole range of domestic carpet and upholstery cleaning within a home environment. What you don’t do however is provide industrial cleaning for factories and warehouses. All your best customers enable you to keep their carpets and upholstery clean and fresh within their home.

Let’s assume that you attract a new prospect that is looking for a large-scale refresh of their entire factory and warehouse facility. You decide to take on this customer because you don’t like to turn people away. Given the best will in the world this is unlikely to work out and difficulties will probably occur. This situation can be avoided by only taking on qualified prospects as new customers. Here are some of the key elements for assessing qualified customers:

o You have ready access to them for regular contact

o They have a genuine and a matched need for your solution

o They are able to afford your prices

o They are willing and prepared to pay your price

o Their purchases are capable of generating gross margin for your business

o Their ongoing servicing needs are matched by your service levels

Once you have identified your best customers you then need to ask them for referrals. It is unlikely that you will receive the maximum potential of quality referrals without asking for them.