Go for the Gold!
By Denny Hatch
Direct marketing is a daunting business. It was DM News columnist Martin Gross who said, "Whoever knows only one direct marketing skill, whether it's art direction, copywriting or list management, does not even know that properly."
During the dot-com boom, the hotshot twenty-somethings did not have even one direct marketing skill, as they sneered at us old-timers living in the past who did not understand the "new paradigm." They cost investors a trillion dollars or more and are to this day dining on crow.
So how can a newcomer learn direct marketing?
The best job I ever had was working for four extraordinary mentors at Grolier Enterprises in the 1960s—Elsworth Howell, the legendary Bob Clarke, Ed Bakal and my immediate boss Lew Smith. After I had been there for a month or two they put me in charge of a start-up paperback book club for kids using only public domain titles. I did everything but lick the stamps and envelopes. Whenever I ran into trouble I would yell for help and one of these estimable gentlemen would clear his desk and take me through the process. My year-and-a-half at Grolier was the equivalent of an MBA in direct marketing.
So how can a newcomer learn direct marketing when businesses are so huge and filled with tunnel-vision specialists?
In the early 1980s, Dorothy Kerr, circulation director of US News & World Report, said "To be successful in direct mail, you have to see who's mailing what, see which mailings keep coming in over and over again (which means they are successful) and then steal smart." This was the genesis of the newsletter, WHO'S MAILING WHAT!, that Peggy and I ran for 10 years from our basement in Stamford, CT. Our single object: Help direct mailers make money. We cataloged direct mail, wrote about direct mail, and sold photocopies of direct mail samples out of our archive of 200,000 pieces.
When we came to Philly to take over this magazine, we had the same vision: Help direct marketers do their jobs better. The only difference was that our horizons expanded into telemarketing, broadcast, alternate media, database marketing, fax marketing, and later, the Internet.
Peggy and I positioned Target Marketing as the "how-to" publication for direct marketers that it is today. We wanted to replicate the learning experience I had at Grolier, and find experts to take readers through myriad direct marketing disciplines.
One problem with print media: A very good article may have appeared two or four years ago and still be absolutely valid today; but if the reader did not cut it out and file it at the time, it would be gone forever. No more.
You are invited to visit targetmarketingmag.com.
Enter modern technology and the Target Marketing Web site—now a vast treasure trove of direct marketing know-how that covers every facet of the business including alternate print media, business-to-business, catalog marketing, creative, CRM, customer contact centers, database marketing, direct mail, DRTV, e-commerce, e-mail marketing, fulfillment, international, lists, postal, printing, privacy, and much more.
Many articles and features from Target Marketing, Catalog Success (its sister publication, founded by Peggy four years ago) and Inside Direct Mail (formerly WHO'S MAILING WHAT!) are available—some for free, others for a modest fee. Here, too, are specialized "communities" where you can post questions and get answers, as well as find hyperlinks to an incredible array of Web sites, companies and people.
The Grand Controls
Contrary to what the techies will tell you, the workhorse of direct marketing is still direct mail. In the WHO'S MAILING WHAT! Archive are several hundred mailings that have been a control for three or more consecutive years. This is marketing gold! And shortly, these will be listed separately on the Web site and available for purchase (at a nominal fee) as photocopies. Plus you currently have access to information on 500,000 other mailings in nearly 200 categories at whosmailingwhat.com for a small annual fee of $24.95. Nothing like this resource exists anywhere in the world!
Turn your neophytes loose on targetmarketingmag.com. Go there yourself for a refresher course or to find the answer to a specific question.
Join us, steal smart and go for the gold!
Denny Hatch, contributing editor, consultant and freelance copywriter, is the author of the books "Method Marketing" and (with Don Jackson) "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success." Visit him online at www.methodmarketing.com.