Dick Benson

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.

Some recent and mildly frustrating interactions with young marketing colleagues started me wondering about the amazing mentors whose generosity and wisdom shaped my own career. What’s happened, I asked myself, to the time-honored practice of mentoring?

Since this is the Target Marketer of the Year issue, let’s reflect on the great marketers of all time. Here are the mentors I wish I had. To this day I continue to read their work and marvel how their marketing philosophy, smarts and rules of the road apply directly to the data-mania environment of today.

The great guru Dick Benson wrote, “A letter should look and feel like a letter.” I believe this is true in print and online. The guy who taught me the craft of writing a letter was a great copywriter and most elegant gentleman, Malcolm Decker.

Copywriters empathize. They are highly paid to get inside the heads of those to whom they are writing. Copywriters think how their prospects and customers think and feel what they feel. Politicians have the hides of a rhinoceros. Their overarching agenda: re-election at all costs.

A lumpy yellow #10 World Wildlife Fund mailing arrived recently. The late Dick Benson said more elements in a mailing usually increase results and each additional element usually more than pays for itself. I have always like lumpy mailings — clumsy things that separate themselves from the rest of the ho-hum collection of bills and other boring letters. This WWF package had a letter, personalized return address labels, a calendar, plus all the usual elements. Opening it created a veritable party atmosphere.

I'm a word nerd. And even though you may not be, please keep reading. It could make your mission as an entrepreneur, approving manager, creative director or designer (who works with writers) so much easier when you work with us. Rewarding, too. Here's the thing: for direct response writers, every word counts. That's because we know our word choices can make or break the response by which we're measured. For example, we've long understood the power of the word free versus using no charge or complimentary for generating traffic, leads and sales. Direct mail expert Dick Benson once proclaimed the word free as magical.

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