Lester Doniger

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.

A number of stories in the Sunday newspapers made my few nape hairs stick straight up—the Wall Street crash and the election to name two.

But the worst was the story of Google shutting down e-mail service and leaving consumers and businesspeople to twist in the wind for hours, days and weeks with no recourse. It won't publish a phone number to a live person for help.

This is a case of IT people making marketing decisions, which can wreck a business.

It nearly happened to me when I was running book clubs at Meredith. I found rampant incompetence, made the necessary changes and saved the book clubs.

And then I got out.

That Bookspan—the amalgam of the old Book-of-the-Month and Literary Guild—was cited and fined for treating customers badly is a shame. It’s true that the negative option book club is—without question—the most complex of direct marketing business models. It operates under a crushing schedule of 15 mailing cycles a year. Ten to 15 different kinds of communications between the member and the club could be in the mail at any given time: packages of books, returned books, announcements of new books, rejection (do-not-ship) slips, bills, statements, dunning efforts, payments, bonus book orders and bonus books shipped. All of these transactions are date sensitive. If a rejection

Back In the earlier part of this century, direct marketing didn't even have a name. Over the years, more and more disciples became devoted to this super-focused method of reaching and selling customers; eventually direct marketing drew enough of a following to earn its own professional association and a trade journal. However, only in the past five years has direct marketing fanned out to touch nearly every company across this country—and even the world. For those who started out in this "industry," there weren't any college classes, associations or experts to learn from. No companies ran workshops, seminars or full-blown conferences on creating effective

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