Direct Marketer of the Year Grolier's Dante Cirilli (3,801 wor
Since the days back in the early 1960s when it launched that first kids' book club, Grolier Direct Marketing's primary focus has been in the development and marketing of continuity book programs directed primarily to families with young children. In addition, Grolier Collectibles develops and markets collectibles and gifts such as ornaments, figurines and plates. All of the organization's advertising is direct response—primarily through solo and co-op direct mail and telemarketing—and results in more than 1 billion targeted impressions to consumers each year.
And all that direct marketing certainly pays off: Grolier Direct Marketing's 1998 revenues totalled $325 million, accounting for more than two-thirds of Grolier Inc.'s total revenues. (In 1988, Grolier Inc. was bought by Hachette, the French printing and publishing giant. Subsequently, Hachette was merged into Matr and is now referred to as Lagardere Group, an $11 billion company.)
Thinking on what he has accomplished at Grolier over the years, Cirilli is quick to make this observation: "If there's one thing I've learned in my career, it's that no one does it alone. Recognizing good people is something I've done throughout my career. And they've been instrumental in our success."
When Grolier first got involved in direct marketing, Cirilli was working on the operations side. "I was the low-level person at the time," he says, "and every thing was done manually in those days. We took on 300,000 orders a season, so I was working 10- to 12-hour days. And I did it all: I processed orders, I processed the mail."
By the time Cirilli had gotten his training from the ground up and was named as vice president of fulfillment operations in 1973, Grolier was phasing itself out of the door-to-door encyclopedia sales business and focusing more on direct mail. Cirilli says, "We were marketing four or five product lines, including children's continuity book programs back then."