There’s yet another new toy, and it is ever so shiny. It is even shinier than the last new toy. It promises to obliterate norms, set that wobbly old bar higher, create experiences that are emotionally pragmatic, pragmatically emotional and serendipitously seamless.

Shiner than predictive? Yep. Than CDPs? Jah Mon. Than AR, VR, MR? Si, oui, aye.

Whatever can this shiny and spectacular new toy be?

According to my friend, Beth Negus Viveiros, managing editor of the Chief Marketer Network, it’s direct mail. As in ink printed on paper, scored and folded, and indeed mailed. Physically. Through post office sorting centers.

In actual fact, Beth wasn’t really stating that direct mail is a shiny new toy for B2B marketers. But when I caught up with her this past Friday to discuss Access Intelligence’s recent Connect To Convert Conference in Boston, she was keen to discuss one of her key takeaways from the event.

“Everything old is new again,” Beth told me.

Her point is that marketers are re-focusing on fundamental tactics and skills that we may have left behind prematurely. Direct mail is a ‘poster child’ example: “Direct mail is working again,” Beth told me. “Our in-boxes are overflowing, while our mail boxes are empty!”

Beth further stated that, according to both conference attendees and Chief Marketer’s B2B Marketing 2019 Outlook Report, “Email remains the top source for leads and for leads with the best ROI.” But she went on to bemoan that marketers are forgetting the basics. “At the conference, so many people told me they aren’t testing the way they should. This is so fundamental to marketing – and especially digital marketing that makes testing so easy.”

“Everything old is new again.”
Beth Negus Viveiros, Chief Marketer

Beth’s observations align with my own – big time. Every piece of research points to the massive investment marketers are making in marketing technology – the shiny new tools of our trade. The Chief Marketer 2019 Outlook report indicates that martech budgets are rising for nearly 60% of marketers. Stein IAS’ own Rise, Fall and Rise of Martech report, developed with B2B Marketing, also shows the increasing embrace of martech.

Yet, everywhere I go, I see too little focus on what we have learned over the past 20 years. Too many hard-learned lessons are getting lost in the “here-now-and-next.” Too little focus is applied to the craft, the craft, the craft. As in great thinking, writing and visual expression. Great animation. Great testing and optimization strategies. Great use of the technologies we have before the next new toy bedazzles us.

Martech aside, digital performance is the sum of many parts. And each part needs to be great. Not “good enough because we need to get it out the door.”

Some may think me old school to rail on this way. But I started in this profession as a copywriter, and a direct response copywriter to boot. My career kicked into gear at the dawn of digital. I have seen great. And I have seen everything else. Frankly, there’s a lot more ‘everything else’ than there is great.

Beth brought my simmering discontent to a boil when she asked, “Are we making the most of what we have? Is your marketing automation still just a souped-up email server?”

I’d add, “Are you crafting the experiences to power the technology or letting the technology mask mediocre craft?” Because it won’t. So says Beth Negus Viveiros. And so I violently agree.

Tom Stein, Matt Preschern and Dan Sheridan at Connect to Covert

Tom Stein, Stein IAS, Matt Preschern, CA Technologies, and Dan Sheridan, Stein IAS, at the 2018 Connect to Convert Conference in Boston

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