Next Wednesday marks the date that Marty McFly and Doc Brown advanced to 21st October 2015 from 1985 in Back to the Future 2.
I thought it would be a great time to look back to the past and see what’s happened in the last 30 years.
In October 1985 I was formulating my plans to start Hilite Direct Marketing Services. To be honest, I was taking a big chance but I was lucky as we were about to enter the golden age of direct mail and as someone who had been mailing 3 million items a year for the previous 6 years I was a person marketers wanted to speak to.
I can remember hearing Peter Rosenwald, an American DM expert, speak in 1987. He predicted the growth of the internet and while everyone in the audience were very sceptical of his seemingly far fetched predictions, he got it almost spot on.
Perhaps he should have been called in by the Back to the Future writers as I’m still waiting for “hover boards”, predictable weather, and trainers that tie their own laces!
Enough of Back to the Future, what have we learned over the last 30 years as far as business is concerned?
1. We’ll always get surprises - mostly bad ones so be ready.
Black Monday October 1987
Early Nineties Recession
2008 Credit Crunch
Looking on the bright side, having solutions to problems is really what we sell, so being ready for the next piece of bad news is not a bad strategy to adopt.
2. New technology could kill your business.
When I first saw the ‘Ask Jeeves’ search engine I was blown away and would have happily invested my life savings in the company given half a chance. I’m glad I didn’t as within a year Google burst on the scene and virtually blew them out of the water.
Back in the 70’s I was equally impressed with micro fiche readers which would slash the printing costs of directories and manuals dramatically. I can now store thousands of books on my smart phone and download millions of others at will.
I can also remember promoting a ‘Make Money on the Internet’ in the early 1990’s – it flopped as we were far too early.
I think what I’ve learnt here is always be aware of new technologies and trends but never "back the farm" on them. The pace of change is now increasing at an alarming rate and we need to be ready for whatever is thrown at us.
3. New routes to Market
Before the first dot com bubble we had face-to-face sales, direct mail, TV, radio, space ads, loose inserts and telemarketing for years. We were lucky to have a wealth of knowledge on what did and didn’t work in each medium. When email, banner ads and web page design became the flavour of the month every “chancer” alive became an internet expert and promised their prospects the earth. Many of our clients had their fingers badly burned and many banned us from ever mentioning the internet again. Hence both us, and them were slow off the mark as a few savvy marketers eventually discovered there were ways of making it work effectively.
In the 1950’s everyone expected TV would kill Radio – it didn’t, Radio just evolved to fill a slightly different gap in the market. When emails started everyone predicted the death of direct mail. True, the 2008 credit crunch and increased costs didn’t help but we still have many clients who continue to do very well with their direct mail offers. And guess what? Last month I received a mailing from Google! Yes there is still a place for even old hat marketing channels.
“Great Scot”, I must stop now as this Monday Minute is in danger of becoming the Monday Hour. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane.