Bill Gates

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

US News and World Report recently pointed to Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management as the nation’s top educational institution for aspiring marketers. Among the likes of Penn, Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia, what makes Northwestern’s program stand out from the crowd?

A good envelope shouts, "OPEN ME NOW!" The fat blue carrier from "David Birnbaum, Private Jeweler Extraordinaire" did just that. Birnbaum's name and address on the label were in shiny gold. The name on the address in gorgeous script: "Mr. Denison S. Hatch"

Much of what I've learned over the years about sales, marketing and customer service has to do with the critical importance of customer data, and how those data are converted to actionable insights. It's how companies generate the right customer data, manage and share data the right way, and use it at the right time. It's also how they use data to the best effect, to optimize loyalty and profitability, that makes them successful, or not, on an individual customer basis. Culture, leadership, and systems will facilitate effective information gathering, storage and application; and, CRM, CEM, ERP, or other acronyms notwithstanding, it's impossible to be successful without having as much relevant anecdotal and dimensional content about customers as possible.

On Tuesday afternoon, Target Marketing Publisher Drew James removed his spectacles and donned a T-shirt and shorts in preparation for having a freshly prepared, ice-filled and sloshing bucket of ice water poured over his head for the benefit of the ALS Association. If that sounds familiar, it's because the association reports in a news release titled "Ice Bucket Challenge Still Going Strong" that as of Wednesday, many existing and 637,527 new donors gave $31.5 million to the charity between July 29 and Aug. 20—compared with $1.9 in donations during the same time period in 2013.

Way back in the Internet dark ages of January 1996, Bill Gates wrote about and coined the phrase "Content Is King." He was talking of course, about Web content and the need for people and organizations hoping to monetize the Internet to consistently produce fresh and relevant topics in order to gain the interest and loyalty of viewers, just as television had been doing, radio before that and print media the longest of all. His assertion that "over time, someone will figure out how to get revenue" from Internet advertising is frighteningly similar to today's gurus predicting much the same in regard to social media marketing. Just as back then—when companies and marketers struggled with deciding whether a Web presence was needed—today there are still major corporations only testing the social media waters, even if only half-heartedly, to keep pace with competitors.

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