Dick Wechsler of Lockard & Wechsler Direct: 5 Non-Intuitive Ways To Grow Your Marketing Career
Original Author: Kage Spatz
Date: September 27, 2020
If every person opened up to one other person in need, providing friendship, mentorship and example, it could have a profound affect that could trickle down to an endless stream of others.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Dick Wechsler.
Dick has spent more than a quarter-century in senior marketing and Direct Response. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost thought leaders in DR and is a sought-after speaker at major industry conferences. Dick has authored more than 30 articles in leading publications and is a member of the Direct Response Hall of Fame.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Honestly, marketing communications and direct response marketing came to me by surprise. I was an art history major in college and fortunately landed a volunteer internship at the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C after graduation. On my first day, I learned that the communications director had taken a sabbatical. I was told to sit in the office and answer the phone. The Museum of African Art led me to a marketing position at National Public Radio. I was then offered a job at Ketchum Public Relations in New York City where I learned how to service accounts and develop new business. I met Arthur Lockard while windsurfing on Fire Island. He and I became friends, he asked if I’d be interested in joining him and taking over his small direct marketing agency. With no experience in advertising or direct marketing, I said yes. Arthur retired in five years and it’s been an incredible ride since.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
When you’re in media, small errors can have large consequences. Very early on, I transposed an 800 number on a broadcast master. No one realized the mistake until over $100,000 in media had ran. I had to take the hit. I also had to admit that I was a terrible typist and proofreader. So, I decided to develop a media management system that would do everything from ordering broadcast master to traffic to campaign analytics and reporting, while minimizing keystrokes. That was over 25 years ago, and the system, MediaPro, has become the proprietary backbone of my company, Lockard & Wechsler Direct (LWD).
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
My tipping point came within one year of starting out. Our largest client told us they were putting the account into review. It was desperate times. At that time, we specialized in the financial service industry and did a lot of print advertising and direct mail work. TV was a new channel for us. In order to survive, I decided to look outside the financial service area for new clients and to focus on TV. To do that, I ran an ad on the first page of the marketing section in the Wall Street Journal. The ad promoted, “Per Inquiry Deals of TV.” I received over 60 calls from prospective clients the first morning the ad ran. Four people that responded are still clients today. From then on, TV became a major growth area for us and we successfully expanded from financial services to all aspects of consumer products.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are a few areas that distinguish LWD. First, we’re a high-touch organization. From VPs to assistants, clients have access to a deep bench of very talented and experienced professionals who are all highly engaged and always responsive.
A second area is analytics and reporting. We measure everything for our clients. Recently, a new client shared that his “MIT PhDs” told him they no longer needed to look at the impact of TV on their other channels because our system was handling it more accurately and faster than they could. We’ve heard that from other clients as well, but it always makes us feel good.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Every day, we have over 200 active campaigns in market. And every day is a new project for each campaign. Tracking, analyzing and optimizing each of them is both exciting and rewarding.
We also just updated our attribution model to incorporate OTT and digital video. This is exciting because it was previously a black hole where results couldn’t be effectively tracked or measured. Now we’re able to accurately track actions from OTT and digital video. As a result, we now have the facts needed to effectively negotiate rates with the media. That knowledge is really helpful to our clients.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
The marketing world is constantly evolving. My advice is to embrace the change and to challenge yourself to constantly learn. If you do, burnout should never be an issue. My other piece of advice is to always find a way to empirically measure everything you do while you’re doing it, so you can continuously improve.
Great advice. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history?
The early Alka Seltzer TV campaigns still sing out to me. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” “Plop, plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” I remember watching those and saying to myself, “I’d like to do something like that someday.”
GEICO is another brand that can’t be ignored. “Fifteen minutes is all it takes to save 15% or more on auto insurance.” It’s an incredibly concise, and powerful proposition that has helped build the largest auto insurer in the country.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like?
I always break things down to Objective, Strategy, Tactic, Solution. With marketing, it should always start with research — Who are you trying to reach? What are their attitudes toward the product or solution? With performance marketing, the blueprint is similar — what’s the problem, what’s the solution, what’s the reason to believe it and where’s the value? If the campaign covers those areas, you’ll likely be in a good place.
SimpliSafe’s recent “Burglar” campaign does an amazing job of this. They use a fictitious house burglar to explain why he chose SimpliSafe to keep his home safe. It’s really clever. The burglar is the problem, and then he tells you how to keep your home safe from him!
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how businesses market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
Here’s my takeaway with Google and Facebook. Google has shown that people want information. Over 50% of all Internet sessions begin with search as opposed to direct type in. Google search is the new phone directory.
Facebook illustrates how powerful affinity groups are. If there’s a specialty interest, there’s a Facebook page about it. It shows how powerful affinity marketing remains. By the way, direct marketers, magazine publishers and cable networks have known this for a long time.
For me, the fracturing of the media world is the biggest change that’s come about because of companies like Google, Facebook and the constant growth in Internet bandwidth. Mass media has become an increasingly rare commodity. Learning how to effectively identify and efficiently reach prospects in mass is likely to become increasingly difficult.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started?
I’m going to twist this around and tell you five things that I was told or learned that helped me over the past three decades.
- Tell the client three times convincingly what you believe to be their best option, then do what they want enthusiastically. Paul Alvarez, former chairman of Ketchum Public Relations told me this after Milton Bradley passed on an amazing idea we had presented. I share this with my staff regularly.
- Never speak disparagingly of a client internally or externally. You never know who is listening. Also, doing so is the first step in dropping your guard and the quality of service you provide.
- You don’t always have to be right, and things don’t always have to be done your way. This one is important. If you insist on things always being done the same way, you’ll never discover a better way. Asieya Pine joined LWD over 20 years ago as my assistant. On her second day, she completely reorganized our accounts payable and receivable process. Asieya is now president of the agency.
- Don’t be afraid to grow! Look at Horizon Media. GEICO could have easily outgrown them as an agency. They never let it happen. We have several clients who have been with us for nearly 30 years. Many grew from startups to billion-dollar companies. As frightening as it is to hire staff and build new capabilities, doing so was critical to our growth and the long-term tenure of so many of our clients.
- Follow the path of least resistance. It will lead you to success. I’ve had many clients throw good money at bad ideas, trying to make an unsuccessful item successful. It never works, but it drains a ton or resources.
Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights!
Author: Kage Spatz is a Forbes-ft. CEO & Strategist for Good — giving Marketers, Entrepreneurs, & Strategic Partners a new income stream. Monetize the same US-based Organic Search & Online Sales specialists used by an NBA franchise, the Fortune 500, & high-end agencies worldwide. Acquire a team with real scalability today to give your clients real results tomorrow at Spacetwin.
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