Marketing: The Cats & Dogs Of It

For some time I’ve struggled to come up with a way of distinguishing direct from indirect marketing, if only to help participants in my seminars.

Typically, we think of indirect marketing as all of those activities that create customer awareness, fuzzy feelings, and a positive predisposition to buy, which culminates in a customer deciding to contact us.

Direct marketing is when we send them a mailer or call them on the phone or run an ad on radio or TV, beckoning them to come into our stores or to call our “800″ numbers.

With indirect, they come to us, and with direct, we go to them.

I had just finished admonishing my dog to stay back while I parked in the driveway, and he obeyed, dutifully. Then I went indoors, cooked some salmon, and one of the cats I feed meowed that she wanted to come in for a bite and back-scratching.

Then, it hit me.

Direct marketing is like dog training. You have to issue commands, repeatedly, to get them to learn what you want, and to then respond. But once you have the drill down, they tend to keep complying as long as the stimulus and the reward remain the same.

Indirect marketing is like befriending a cat. You can’t be too direct, or you scare them off. You make it comfortable for them to get to know you, and then, if you’re lucky, you might earn the chance to feed them for the rest of their lives, getting in return, a most gratifying morsel of affection.

Dog training is reliable. You can do it in a park, in a pack arrangement with other clueless owners. It’s called Obedience School.

Cats? Well, obedience just isn’t in their vocabularies.

There are satisfactions in both arrangements. My Bearded Collie, a rescue dog, is a slobbering fuzz ball who loves to dig and jump on me. Cleopa, a former member of a feral cat colony, and occasional recidivist, is unusually affectionate and has a huge vocabulary, considering. But she might not say hello for a day or two.

Take your pick, or if you’re like me, enjoy both.

But don’t expect indirect marketing to carry your newspaper. It just isn’t that compliant.