Direct Marketer of the Year: Brian Kurtz, executive vice president, Boardroom Inc.
And he's particularly proud of his role in expanding the book division. Again, Grossman gave the initial push in telling Kurtz that Boardroom could do better if it moved beyond publishing just its own content. Before this venture, Kurtz says, "Most of our best-sellers were greatest hits of our newsletters: "Book of Inside Information," "Big Black Book," "Bottom Line Yearbook" and "The Book of Business Knowledge."
"We weren't paying a royalty, and it was a great business to be in. But Grossman's comment convinced me to spearhead a program that went out looking for trade books that we could turn into direct mail books. The trade book business was so archaic in how they looked at sales-if they sold 30,000 books it was a best-seller, where if we didn't sell 100,000, it was a book we'd probably drop."
Doing his homework, Kurtz realized that if he and his marketing team could find the right titles in the right categories, turn them into bigger hardcover books by adding more content, get the company's state-of-the-art database working for them, tack on premiums to improve the offer and get its top copywriters to develop direct mail packages to sell them, then it could create an entire new line of products.
"Now it just so happens," he explains, "that our greatest hits books are some of the best books we sell. But we've had some amazing winners that are written by other authors that were once small trade books."
Having touched on the subject of direct mail creative, Kurtz immediately emphasizes the significance of settling for nothing less than top-notch copy and design. "We've always been committed to the best creative, but over the last 20 years we've even committed more money and more resources to making sure that our copywriters and designers are the best in the industry. We don't cut corners because of one of Benson's comments to me a long time ago: ‘The best package is the best package.' The corollary to this is that breakthrough creative can solve a lot of ills. If you've got a piece of breakthrough creative, you can get through a lot more tough times than you can with mediocre creative from B copywriters."