Direct Marketer of the Year Grolier's Dante Cirilli (3,801 wor
We published the product, binding it to match the encyclopedia set. It pulled huge numbers, around 20 percent, and brought in $3 million in sales at a very high profit. Bob Clarke was so thrilled he sent me and my wife to Acapulco. I was a hero.
In hindsight, Cirilli says that the product could have been marketed even more aggressively—and made a lot more money, too. "But," he laments, "we were a very conservative company at the time."
The Yearbook helped temporarily boost the company's numbers, but two years later, Grolier was still in trouble.
Bob Clarke, who by then was Grolier's president, knew a lot of people at Time-Life, which was having great successes in telemarketing at the time. Cirilli recalls, "Our marketing people were just playing with telemarketing. Clarke made a deal with Time-Life's Joan Manley, president of the book division at the time. She decided that since we weren't direct competitors it would be OK to help us out, especially since it would be a negative blow to the entire publishing industry in New York if Grolier were to go under."
The deal Time-Life laid out was this: "We'll let you send one person to visit our Alexandria telemarketing center for one day. This person may not take notes but may observe everything going on from hiring and training to scripts and calling."
Cirilli was the person chosen to go. "I went down there and spent the day taking it all in, everything I could see and observe, asking questions. Then instead of coming back that evening, I spent the entire night in my hotel room writing down as much as I could remember."
When Cirilli came back with all the information he could glean from the trip, Clarke appointed him to set up a telemarketing operation at Grolier. Within two years, the telemarketing center was up and running and making 10 million calls annually.