by Mark Bonacorso, Hayzlett & Associates Once a month, SBC sends a nicely designed, offset- color direct mail piece urging me to switch. The problem is, I have all their services already May 25, 2005 -- While my column last month on Really Stupid Marketing prompted a few complimentary emails from ODJ's readers, I started to feel a bit guilty knowing that there are a number of companies out there who "Get It" and are doing some Really Smart Marketing. With that in mind, I thought that I would give the few bright folks out there equal time. Last fall I traveled to Las Vegas for a short holiday. While playing the slot machines, I hit a jackpot, not a big one mind you, but big enough to sound alarms and light up the slot machine as it paid out in coins. My meager winnings prompted a visit from a casino attendant who suggested I could earn reward points if I simply used their "connection card" each time I played a new slot machine. I thought why not, suspecting that their connection card was simply some nefarious means to track my gambling habits and movements within the casino and feed some giant database that would later be come back to haunt me. ERIC: Put this part in a box at this point in the article: Definition of Really Smart Marketing What makes for smart marketing; because some bright folks out there have taken some time to analyze or simply understand the following? They know who their customer are They know what their customers buy, when, and where They understand that it's easier to continue to up sell or cross sell their existing customers that to acquire new ones Collects data on my use of their service and uses it wisely Frightens me from time to time Back to Vegas Not long after I returned from Vegas, perhaps three months or so, I begin to get a combination of email and direct mail from the casino I visited. Not spam, not "Dear Resident," but addressed to me with a combination of offers encouraging my return. What I failed to mention earlier is that in addition to hitting a small jackpot at the casino, I also dined at a couple of their restaurants, rented a poolside cabana, and took in a show. Both the email and direct mail campaigns were strangely relevant to my stay in Vegas in that they provided incentives to return based on my previous activities. For example, one offer highlighted that Jerry Seinfeld was appearing, another used a pool theme (see example on the left), and yet another suggested discounts at a couple of the casino's restaurants that I hadn't eaten at. After getting over my panic attack that "they" were watching me, searching my office for listening devices, and rechecking my router's firewall, it dawned on me. The casino's "connection" card and the fact that I left an electronic credit card trail from the time I arrived, to the time I left the casino allowed the clever folks at the casino to carefully target their offers based on the habits I exhibited during my visit. Not rocket science, but brilliant nevertheless, and now I have this nagging compulsion to return to Las Vegas. Closer to Home While this next example has yet to happen to me directly, the sophistication of another campaign bears mentioning. I ran into a colleague at a recent trade show who grabbed me, opened his briefcase saying, "You've GOT to see this." As he handed me a nicely printed, full-color direct mail piece, his eyes lit up. The previous week, he had visited a Lowe's home center (large home improvement retailer with stores in 48 states) to look into replacement windows for part of this house he was renovating. One of the resident window experts asked him questions about the kind of windows he would like, sizes, budgets, and provided product information and pricing. Four days later, he received the direct mail piece he showed me, one that is completely customized to the answers he provided during his visit to Lowe's. I'm not just talking "Dear Bill" here, but pictures of different window types, customized copy, and a personalized URL that he can visit on Lowe's web site. The direct mailer and the flyer both offered up-sell options to a premium line of windows. All of this was digitally printed in color and folded to be a self-mailer. When Bill finally decides to tackle his window replacement project, where do you think he's going to go? These two examples give me hope for the future of marketing--and the printing industry--that have an arsenal of technology available to collect data and use it smartly. If some of the companies mentioned in last month's article get over the price-per-thousand mind set and start thinking in terms of cost-per-response we'll all be better off.