Your first big campaign is in the books. Great team effort. Great response rate.

On to the next campaign. Same great responses. And so on with each campaign, getting an OK response.

But, if you look back at campaign No. 1 — which you ran four years ago — to the campaigns you run today, you’ll see a trend. When you look at the long-term trend, you aren’t getting quite the response you used to get. Refreshing the creative reverses the trend … for a little while. You refresh the creative again, and the data people get questioned for their list pulling.

Keep markets from becoming stale by taking a break from them, if necessary.
Keep markets from becoming stale by taking a break from them, if necessary.

Yet, still there is no way to escape — the slow downward trend is there.

A fear sets in: You are now four or even five years into your data-driven acquisition campaign strategy with slowing response rates, and you wonder if the good old days will ever be coming back.

From the database perspective, you’ve now called every phone number you have a dozen times, you’ve e-mailed every e-mail address you have to the point where open rates are drying up, and, finally, you’ve direct mailed everything possible so many times you’ve got to wonder why you should do it again.

From a creative design perspective, the team is also wondering what else to try. They spend a lot of time looking at the what-is-working section of whosmailingwhat.com. Is there hope? Is there a silver bullet?

Yes, there is hope. Yes, there a silver bullet.

Mastering an ongoing marketing strategy is critical, and often times overlooked, when programmes are first conceived. There is so much pressure to get every possible new customer you can as quickly as possible that the mass marketing programmes you rely upon can burn out.

Unfortunately, if you reach the market burn-out state, more often than not, a strategic pause is the best medicine to reviving the programmes. Long-term sustainability is where the art and science of messaging (design), analytics (list and feedback), and mining that all of that Big Data all come together.

Is it easy? No. Is it doable? Yes.

What are some signs that you’ve “fried” your market? In telemarketing, look at the ratio of new orders to do-not-call additions (you have to count both internal and federal DNC changes to get a good grasp on this metric).

Let’s say you sold 120 orders during the week via telemarketing. For the sake of the argument here, let’s say that 120 is a really good number. It’s enough that the suits upstairs want you to hit the same order production next week.

Before cutting the list, how about looking at the DNCs that were generated during the big week. Hmm … I count 150 internal additions, and the federal level went up by 1% over the baseline rate. And the ring/no answer and answering machine numbers are also 2% and 2.5% over baseline. You are upside down in a sold vs. lost ratio.

Run the same pattern over a long period of time and pretty soon you are out numbers and out of the telemarketing business. E-mail is easy to watch with the same type of KPIs (opens, opt-outs). Direct mail is a bit harder as you probably rarely get a do-not-mail request. But you can track orders sold against times mailed.

You breathe a sigh of relief — not fried yet. But can you feel it coming in the trend analysis? (Data scientists/analysts, I hope you are tracking the trends to protect your operation from the tipping point!)

If you are approaching the danger point, look for options to slow the pace of contacts. Do you have a seasonal lull in your market that you can use as a resting point?

I know that when I worked in one of the large markets in the Southwest, we used the summer as a planned slow period for pressured orders. We learned to use that window as a strategic slow-down of certain marketing activities — not all activities, but some. We used the strategic slow-down as a time to dive deep into the data and creative designs.

Are there any subtle trends? Is it time to revisit your touch-point timing strategy (hint: the answer is always yes)? If your data tell you that you’re getting close to frying the market, you probably are frying it. Slow down, and get the situation under control because once you’ve crossed the line, it is a difficult thing to correct.

If you are in a fried market, resetting is a painful process. It must be done or it will only get worse. How? Most marketing operations run concurrent campaigns in every channel possible. This gives you the way out of the mess. Strategically pause your burnt out channel (hopefully only one is fried) as your first effort to reboot.

An alternative is to try something new in your market. News consumption is evolving, so use the pause to shift some dollars/pressure to an emerging consumption point.

Maybe you need a Millennial-directed messaging channel to rest your Boomers for a couple of cycles. Or, shift some dollars/pressure to the retention side of the equation with a robust new programme to save someone rather than having to fish to refill the locker.

Whichever approach you take, you are going to have to communicate the strategy to “the boss.” Make sure this communication is direct and with enough detail on the end goal and short-term impact that you won’t be back in the office a month later explaining why you are down 20 starts in telemarketing.

You will be taking a hit, obviously, in the rested channel, so prepare everyone — even make a note in the KPI reports that the rest of the channel is “planned.”

Another thing to consider in the mature market strategy is that you really need to trust the data more than you are used to. There is a tendency to make a change because something has been used for a while. Remember, you see the pieces all of the time, but your targets don’t.

A good data analytics plan will have baseline and trend data so you can understand fatigue and make adjustments if needed.