Maxwell Sackheim

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

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.

Back when I was running the Target Marketing Group, I would get approximately two calls a month from readers who wanted the magic formula for the ideal number of times a customer should be contacted.

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

This past November, former Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy died at the age of 89. It was McCarthy, a bookish, low-key intellectual, who, you’ll recall, startled the country and the world by announcing he would challenge the incumbent president, Lyndon B. Johnson, for the 1968 Democratic nomination. Johnson was mired in the Vietnam War with hundreds of body bags coming home every week. McCarthy made his announcement in the Senate Caucus Room in the Capitol. He said, “My decision to challenge the president’s position and the administration position has been strengthened by recent announcements of the administration, the evident intention to escalate and to intensify the

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