Meet the Masters - Martin Baier
Being in the business for quite a long time, Martin Baier jokes that the business of direct marketing didn't even exist when he began his career more than 50 years ago!
After college and a stint in the navy, Baier began to work in the circulation department of BOXOFFICE, a weekly motion picture trade magazine. That's where Baier got his first taste of direct mail advertising—his job was to sell and renew subscriptions and to cross-sell related publications.
There he met his first mentor, the publications' business manager, Morris Schlozman. They actually met while Baier was in high school; he had worked on Saturdays during high school, wrapping BOXOFFICE magazines for mailing. Schlozman gave Baier the advice not to go and get a degree in journalism, but to "major in something useful, like business."
Baier got a B.A. in Business Administration, a B.S. in Economics and an M.A. in Economics. While in school, he learned the nuances of direct marketing "in a lot of courses NOT called 'direct marketing.'"
There, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he later developed the DMA/DMEF-funded M.B.A. in direct marketing and also wrote the first direct marketing textbook.
From BOXOFFICE, Baier went to Tension Envelope to become the advertising manager. As a vendor, he was introduced to the DMA and its annual conference. There, he received "my most significant and memorable 'mentoring' from the likes of Ed Mayer and Henry Hoke Sr....where gab sessions would often go into the wee hours of the morning. Many shared their learned knowledge with us informally in those days, including M.P. Brown, Dale Ecton, Joe McGee Jr., Homer Buckley, Larry Chait, Leonard Raymond, etc."
In 1961, Baier and Bob Stone became business partners as mail-order sellers of business products: collection helps, greeting letters and stationery. The company Stone worked for, National Research Bureau, bought M.P. Brown, the business products company, and "Bob and I truly mentored each other while M.P. and Belle Brown mentored both of us. They were the original compilers of the Dun & Bradstreet business list, doing this literally on their kitchen table… selecting by SIC from the "big book" and then manually obtaining street addresses from the Yellow Pages.
"When they 'mentored' Bob and me to mail drug stores only on odd-numbered years—and we asked why—they answered, 'Don't ask questions. Just do as we say.'"
Actually response was so good overall that measurement was superfluous!
However, that was to change.
"As that response waned as more and more got into mail-order, and postage and other costs rose rapidly, mistakes became costly. Testing and scientific decision making were imperative.
"I well remember one such mistake when we made a single drop of a half-million pieces the weekend before President Eisenhower's famous heart attack. From that we learned about the sensitivity of response to exogenous, uncontrollable factors."
Baier's advice to other direct marketers: "Think strategically and objectively. Experiment."