A Lawyer as Chief Marketing Officer?
The New York Times account of 100 institutions of higher education sending high-tech direct mail to high school students in order to rope them in as applicants—with huge success—grabbed my attention. I devoured Jacques Steinberg’s story.
It quickly became clear that some old direct mail pro had landed in the honey pot—a fossilized industry desperate for business—and cashed in big time. Using tried-‘n’-true techniques developed over the past 800 years, these colleges learned they could eat their competitors’ lunch.
In the middle of Steinberg’s story, the name of an old pro jumped off the page and grabbed me by the collar—Bill Royall of Royall & Co. out of Richmond, Va., who shook up direct mail more than 20 years ago.
A Personal Digression
In Target Marketing magazine, I run an ad offering a free critique of anybody’s direct marketing effort. Last year I received an inquiry from a defense contractor.
The piece in question was a letter to all the attendees of a giant weapons expo who'd stopped by this company’s booth. Hundreds of follow-up letters were sent out, and not one reply was received. Zip. Zero. Nada.
I pointed out that the letter—in terms of copy, design and lack of offer—broke a ton of rules. I woke up at 4 the next morning thinking about that sad-sack letter, hit the computer and made some suggestions on what to test following the next big show.
The marketing folks liked what I said, so I offered to fly out to its headquarters—for travel expenses only—for a free day of consulting to see if a permanent relationship made sense. The company agreed.
I didn't know squat about military or defense marketing, but I do know marketing after spending 50-plus years in the field. I showed up at the offices with my laptop and started asking questions and taking notes. It took me about 20 minutes to find out what was needed, the basics that were being ignored and what wasn't being done. We bonded, and the company kept me over for a second day.