Direct Marketer of the Year: Brian Kurtz, executive vice president, Boardroom Inc.
Edelston was certain of his advice, and says now, "He came [to Boardroom] at the right moment, and he applied his great intelligence-and he's very intelligent-to marketing rather than English. At first, he wanted to be on the editorial side, but I thought he could do better. He worked [in lists and marketing], and he learned everything."
At the time, however, Kurtz did not realize how advantageous it would be to learn direct marketing from the list side of the business. Rather than coming strictly out of circulation, with a head for numbers, or out of marketing, with a focus on media or creative, he got the best of all worlds by being immersed in lists. After all, you cannot market a list without understanding the circulation and marketing techniques that convince customers to respond to various promotions.
"It all started with being a list manager," Kurtz says, "and I'm really proud of that fact. I think it was a great way to come around."
Learning the List Business
For a young list manager, what better teachers could one ask for than Mike Manzari, then with The Kleid Company, and Dave Florence, founder and chairman of Direct Media? "Whenever I had any question about what I was doing on the management side, I knew I had two guys I could call and they would give me the legal argument, the ethical argument, how I could rework certain things, what was acceptable and what was not acceptable. I think without them, I wouldn't have gotten past step one," Kurtz recounts.
But the biggest lesson he took away from his interactions with them, as well as from Edelston, is the importance of paying close attention to what's going on around you in your industry.
"For instance, when I went to conferences early in my career, I would go to the booths in the exhibit hall and spend time talking to other list managers. Now most list managers wouldn't spend any time with other list managers; they would only talk to brokers," he notes, because that's who rented their list files. But through his mentors, Kurtz learned he could be more successful by widening the scope of intelligence he collected. "I talked to brokers, too, but I also wanted to see what my competition looked like. I wanted to see what some of them might be doing that I could incorporate into my own repertoire of sales techniques. And, interestingly, I realized early on that the brokerage and management community were so intertwined that the list manager of today could be the list broker of tomorrow and vice versa," he explains.