By Larry Riggs
This week’s question to the broker roundtable: What's the biggest change you have seen to the brokerage profession in the past five years? What newer skills are needed to succeed? Our current panel features Geoff Batrouney of Estee Marketing Services Inc., Joe Borelli of Borelli Direct Marketing Inc., Greg Branstetter of Hippo Direct, Mary Ann Buoncristiano of American List Counsel, and Heather Cantley of Infocus Marketing. (Would you like to be considered to be a member of our roundtable? Contact Larry Riggs at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Geoff Batrouney, executive vice president of Estee Marketing Services Inc.:
The rise of social media and 24/7 connectivity between people, network members, companies and organizations cannot be ignored. Twitter and Facebook are the new "high frequency direct-to-consumer" media of choice. Is the new media outperforming traditional direct mail in terms of commercial effectiveness, actually selling merchandise and services? Not today, but it's early days, isn't it?
Joe Borellli, president/CEO, Borelli Direct Marketing Inc.:
I know a lot of brokers will say “we have to do more for less”, or “we have to adapt to new trends such as e-mail, etc”, but for us there have not been many changes. We are list brokers. That’s what we do, and we believe we are the best in the business. We’re not trying to be experts in all direct marketing areas. For that reason, change has been subtle. Since entering the industry in 1986, change has been the one constant, and in the last five years, change has not been as dramatic as the introduction of fax machines, e-mail, lists on-demand, and so forth.
The skills needed to succeed have and will always be the same: Be smart, efficient and diligent; continue to learn; and above all, treat and respect every client as if they were your only customer and always do what is in their best interest. Everything else is window dressing.
Greg Branstetter, president, Hippo Direct:
The biggest change is the widespread lack of new postal lists of direct mail buyers which a broker can recommend to clients, as well as the declining quantities of available names on the lists which mailers have been using for years.
I've expanded the concept of my role from list broker to lead generation expert who can help clients achieve results with multiple marketing methods: postal lists, e-mail lists, online advertising, mobile marketing, and social media.
The newer skills needed to succeed are mostly Internet-related. Today's broker needs adaptability and a willingness to learn new ways to help clients find new customers with traditional direct mail as well as online marketing, inbound marketing and social media.
Client education and training is another skill of increasing importance, as there’s great opportunity to continually educate clients on how to be successful when marketing across multiple channels.
The ability to express one's thoughts with clear, succinct writing has become vitally important to list brokers since the vast majority of interaction with clients and list managers now occurs via e-mail messages.
Mary Ann Buoncristiano, executive vice president, American List Counsel:
At the forefront, brokerage is no longer a profession and maybe it never was. In order to deliver value to our clients, we are data and customer acquisition strategists. Our solutions must enable our clients to grow, increase market share and improve profitability through the innovative use of data -- gathering, enhancement and integration. The understanding of customer insights is a critical driver to this success. Analytics and technology are key elements of this solution.
Heather Cantley, manager, list services, Infocus Marketing:
More and more mailers are looking to their list broker for solid recommendations on more than just lists. Noticing this trend, Infocus Marketing took the proactive step to expand our marketing services beyond lists, specializing in direct mail, email, print production, fulfillment, design/copywriting, and more. We are often asked for guidance on marketing campaigns in general – what type of mail piece, direct mail vs. e-mail, online advertising, etc. Budgets are being cut at many companies so marketing dollars are more precious now than ever before.
Today’s list broker needs to be more educated regarding new rules, new regulations and new marketing strategies. Educating themselves with industry information will allow them to offer the sound advice their clients are seeking. Mailers need to feel confident that their list broker has their best interest in mind and will spend their marketing dollars in the most effective way possible.
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