Seabiscuit and Direct Marketing
By Denny Hatch
The best nonfiction book I've ever read is Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit." For a brief period of my life, I spent every Saturday with The Daily Racing Form the way some people do crossword puzzles. I loved studying the past performances, and once in a while a horse would pop out of the numbers as a sure winner, and I would bet a couple of bucks. But mostly it was mental exercise.
Several years ago a Midwest circulation group invited me to do a talk on direct marketing, and the meeting was held at Arlington racetrack outside Chicago. I decided my talk would be about the similarities between horse racing and direct marketing. Both disciplines are governed by rules:
>Never bet on a maiden (a horse that has never won a race). Never hire a copywriter, agency or a consultant that has never put a client in the winner's circle.
>Bet on horses as you would bet on customers—using RFM.
Recency and Frequency: To win, a horse needs workouts and races. If a horse has not worked out and raced—and finished well—in the past month, take a pass.
Monetary: "Cheap horses know it," says racing guru Tom Ainsly. An expensive horse always will beat a cheap horse. A customer who spends a good deal of money with you is your best customer.
>Horses for courses … or do not bet on a dirt horse that's running on turf or a distance horse that's running in a short race, and vice versa. In direct marketing, don't offer a high-end item with a bill-me option to a prospect in bankruptcy or make a toy offer to a family with no children.
>Become your prospect or customer. To be successful in direct marketing, you have to get inside the head and under the skin of your customers and prospects—think how they think, feel what they feel—and literally become those people.