April 2008 - Channel Crossing: DRTV

Lessons for the DRTV Industry

By Frank Cannella

I have always been proud of the entrepreneurial nature of the DRTV industry. Many companies that have risen through the ranks of this business saw opportunity and capitalized on it. Others have tried, failed and given up, while still others have failed but continue to persevere. Marketers searching for a DR agency might want to ask themselves: What separates agencies that succeed from those that fail? Is there a magic formula?

A book published by consultant and best-selling author Ram Charan, titled “What the Customer Wants You to Know,” contains valuable lessons for DRTV vendors; lessons I have found from first-hand experience to be keys to success.

Charan writes that vendors need to work backwards from the business needs of the client. In the DRTV business, this means that the agency must learn the client’s business by asking the right questions. How many agencies know exactly how their clients make money? Is it through leads that get converted into seminars? Product sales via DRTV that eventually go to retail? Does that agency understand its clients’ profit margins at each level? Does that agency know what drives clients to use DRTV as their primary advertising vehicle? Not only will these questions shed light on how agencies can make their clients more successful, but they also will let clients know those agencies care more about their business than just simply taking a media commission.

A good agency not only understands clients’ profit structure, it also understands their decision-making process. Charan recommends building many relationships within a client’s infrastructure.

An effective agency builds relationships at every level-from the ownership group to key executives, to the accounting departments, traffic coordinators and the staff members who are in the trenches. In doing so, that agency obtains a diverse amount of information, which better enables that company to give the proper input at each level to best service its clients. More importantly, it allows the agency to provide the input that can lead to the key decisions at the client level.

The most important take-away from Charan’s writings is that the more you know about your clients’ business model, the more valuable you can become to them. Thus, marketers need to know their agency will treat their business like it would its own.

Too many times, clients are not being serviced properly by agencies. Perhaps it is because there is too much focus on commissions, or perhaps agencies lack the experienced personnel and rely simply on order takers. Regardless, it is an area in which our industry can improve. As Charan said in a recent interview, “the salesperson must build trust with the customer’s people that’s deeper than before and sustained over time. You cannot design a solution without information from the customer, and if the customer does not trust you, he or she will not give you any information.”

These are sound words of advice that can help our industry grow.

Frank Cannella is founder and CEO of Cannella Response Television in Burlington, Wis. He can be reached at [email protected].


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