Business Plus Interview Peter Whelehan

Why it’s crucial to identify the decision maker

What’s your background and experience in Direct Marketing?

I started working in Direct Marketing in Sydney, Australia, back in the 1990s with Westpac, one of the big Australian banks. I immediately saw the impact database marketing had in delivering well targeted messages that could be tracked directly to measurable results.

What was particularly enlightening at the time was how we carefully segmented the bank database in to clusters of customers with similar characteristics and profiles. Then we targeted clever and creative messages to cross sell, upsell and promote only the most relevant products to those customers, based on matching the bank products to their profiles. By doing this we knew they’d have a higher than average propensity to be interested in purchasing those particular products.

On the acquisition side, our customer data allowed us to create profiles or personas of ‘ideal’ prospect customers. We then used these profiles as the basis for targeting individuals with the same or similar profiles (outside the Wespac customer base) with acquisition campaigns.

When I returned to Ireland I moved to the agency side, working with a number of top DM agencies before setting up DMCM, in 2003.

At DMCM we apply direct marketing and direct response principles to all channels from direct mail to direct response advertising. Usually the database is a central starting point as it allows for quick, efficient and direct communication with customers. Then we often work from the database out in to other media such as digital, above the line and promotional channels.

A typical campaign would incorporate highly engaging creative, clever targeting, a strong offer, impactful copy, split testing and careful tracking to measure results to report back metrics to clients.

Is Direct Mail still receiving a fair share of the marketing budget

It’s been a very interesting year, with direct mail making a comeback, and with good reason.

At first seem counter-intuitive but it probably does make sense if you think about it, as often online and above the line channels can be simply too cluttered. So it can be very difficult for brands to get desired cut-through and true engagement using above the line or digital channels.

Often campaigns need something more in terms of a communication that works harder and goes the extra mile for a client’s brand.

Campaigns today need a strong engaging lead to get attention and make a mark at the outset, and that’s where the impact and power of Direct Mail can be strongest. This can then be reinforced through brand advertising, digital, online and other promotional channels.

In an ultra-competitive digital world, the uniqueness of literally getting your brand physically in to the hand of a customer or prospect in a creative and engaging way (and one that drives response) can be one of the most important elements in any integrated direct response campaign.

It can be a simple case of ‘less is more’. The fact that there has been less traditional DM campaigns in recent years means that the brands that are still doing it, or starting to step it up again, are getting more impact and better cut-through (and response) than they ever did.

Maybe that’s why we’ve seen a shift back in the past year or two as marketing decision-makers realise this. So while digital and advertising are obviously important it’s also important to mix it up in to other channels too. Often a specialist direct marketing campaign can be ‘the’ most important element of a campaign in driving engagement and response.
Is Direct Mail still receiving a fair share of the marketing budget

+ In the B2B arena, what are the essential elements of successful DM customer acquisition campaigns?

Targeting is the number one essential element. There’s no point in having a great product, or offer, if your marketing communication is targeting the wrong audience!

But B2B is not just about targeting the right business. It’s crucial to identify the right person within that business and to ask detailed questions about any data before a campaign even starts.

Questions relating to how the list was compiled, when it was compiled (i.e. how old it is) and whether the data sourced first hand or not. Clients often want to know about the size of a database, but answers to these types of questions give clarity on the quality of the list, which is far more important to understand before any campaign commences.

Other essential elements to carefully consider for customer acquisition campaigns include:
• Attention-grabbing and engaging creative message
• Strong acquisition offer
• Ensuring the optimum timing to launch a campaign
• Impactful headlines and copy to draw the reader in
• Strong deadline and response-driven call to action.

How will Eircodes impact on your business?

Initially, in the short term, they won’t have major impact as I think it will take some time for Eircodes to be fully understood, and for everyone to get used to them at a consumer level.

At a business level brands seem unsure about how it will evolve, so seem to be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. I feel businesses will take stock again later in the year. Once they see how it’s bedding down in reality, then they’ll then be better positioned to make strategic decisions and invest more freely in integrating Eircodes fully into their databases.



Car brand SEAT wanted to drum up sales interest in December 2014 ahead of the annual January rush for new car sales. Unique product benefits were offered but only if the customer ‘fast forwarded’ their order to SEAT by December 19.

Direct marketing agency DMCM devised a mailshot using an outer envelope with tyre marks brought to life with a UV varnish print finish. The thrust of the copy was that there’s an easier way to find your 151 car. The thousands of mailshots were all personalised in the recipient’s name, and included a message from the local SEAT dealer.

One third of the prospects were existing SEAT customers and the agency compiled the rest of the mailing list based on profiling of existing SEAT customers. Included in the mailing was the offer of a Supervalu voucher for people taking a test drive.

According to DMCM, 7.8% of the mailshot recipients booked a test drive, and of them one in six bought a SEAT car. Proportionally speaking, more new orders were generated from the fresh prospects list than from the existing database.


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