May 8, 2020

My Mom turned 95 last week.

We had a socially distanced birthday party for her, complete with 4 sweet potatoes, 3 cans of sardines, 2 bags of  prunes (pitted of course) and a small cake that unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy with her (but it was the thought that counted).

Obviously doing her shopping was much more important than her birthday this year (there’s still a pandemic in case you haven’t heard)…and thank goodness the store had prunes!

My Mom, whether she wants to admit it or not, is a superb direct marketer (even though she only got through the first chapter of my book and said “I need to get back to that”).

Even if she read the entire thing, she will never be an expert in RFM…and she has no need to understand my “41/39/20 rule” (I almost invented that one!).

But I realized she is an absolute expert in three key areas of direct marketing:

1. Telemarketing

2. Direct mail

3. Lifetime value

Mom on telemarketing

For Mom, if it’s not a phone communication or an in-person visit, it doesn’t count.

Email? That’s for the “new generation.”

Although if she was on email she’d hear from me more often, that’s for sure.

Forget texting altogether. She’d have to give up her flip phone for that so I don’t even mention that texting is a “thing.”

And the Internet is a place where she can browse for latex gloves, contraptions that can reach and grasp items on high shelves and where she can get her favorite skin cream (not available in stores)—and call me to have her buy them for her at the “store” called Amazon.

Funny story—for Mother’s Day a few years ago I bought her an Amazon gift card at CVS, put $0 on it, and told her there was a special number on the card that only worked if she called me for her items and I would order them.

She keeps asking me “how much money is left on the card?” and I tell her “a lot”– and that seems to keep her ordering, $16 at a time.

Back to Mom on telemarketing—her favorite offline medium.

She is actually ahead of the curve here.

Most of us are attached to our smart phones all day long but we rarely see it as a “phone” (as opposed to being a vehicle to post vacation pictures, food photos and participate in political rants).

Using the phone as a phone for marketing purposes seems to elude many of the smartest marketers I know. But it’s still powerful…especially for my Mom.

Besides laying on the guilt re: how infrequently I call her with “inbound” telemarketing, her “outbound” operation is quite extensive.

When she buys a can of tomatoes that are past their expiration date, rather than simply return the can to Shop-Rite, her first plan of action is to call the CEO of Del-Monte.

She’s got the time and the patience to sit on hold for days so why not?

And every time I see her, she always has a story about how she got “satisfaction” calling anyone who will listen, at any company or store who has stepped out of line (in her opinion), responding to her tales of woe.

She’s relentless and won’t stop until she gets what she needs.

Does that sound like any of your customers?

Or more importantly, do you have any idea how your customers really feel about you or your products?

If you’re a CEO or business owner, I suggest you listen in on some incoming customer service calls and hopefully you will hear my Mom one day…or someone like her.

Why not touch your customers once in a while to see what is really happening in your business?

Just a suggestion.

When she tells me about her “adventures in telemarketing,” all  I can think about is the person she gets on the phone with for an hour about the new step stool she bought that’s missing a screw…and how that person better satisfy her…or else.

And even at 95, she sees herself as someone worth staying a customer for life with every company she deals with who takes the best care of her issues.

I talked about the “return on returns” in the past–and my Mom has inspired me to remind you about this critical topic once again…that is, customer service and fulfillment are marketing functions and we should never lose sight of that.

Note that I affectionately called my Mom’s practice “telemarketing” rather than “complaining.”

In fact, I dedicated an entire chapter to this topic in my book, Overdeliver.

It’s based on the premise that it may take a lifetime to win (and keep) a customer but you can lose that customer in a heartbeat (with one misstep).

This is what links new customer acquisition to customer retention and/or renewals: Always do customer acquisition with the second order in mind.


It is always easier to keep a customer than to get a new one. 

Bringing new customers into the fold is a function of our ability to persuade than to actually deliver (or overdeliver); keeping customers for life is always about coming through in the clutch on all of the persuasiveness you used to sell them in the first place.

(More on a different brand of keeping customers for life below.)

Of course be ready to answer the phone when they call and need something more.

And if it’s my Mom, please tell her I will be calling her soon. 🙂

Regarding that chapter in my book, check out the P.S.

And if you could care less about that chapter in my book, I hope you will at least agree with me that customer service and fulfillment are marketing functions– and quite possibly the most important.

Mom on direct mail

My Mom might be the most loyal and trusting (euphemism for gullible) person you will ever mail to, the perfect person to have on your list.

She often tells me how she feels she must give money to the Paralyzed American Veterans because “they sent me free return labels.”

And the calendar from U.N.I.C.E.F.? That deserves an additional bonus contribution.

If you do direct mail and want her address, it will cost you in freebies and bonuses–but isn’t that something that works for many other prospects too?

The ethical bribe is one that my Mom takes very seriously.

That’s how she deals with incoming direct mail. A good reminder to all of us.

For her outgoing direct mail operation (a different way to say her bills and her cards), how’s this for a philosophy:

I regularly send her the prettiest postage stamps I can find at the post office which she uses for all her email.

First of all, she seems to think the electric company and cable TV provider will be kinder to her if she sends her payments with a beautifully stamped envelope.

And for the cards she sends out to her grandchildren she thinks it’s the stamp that they are giddy over–but it is really the check inside.

My favorite stamps—the “TRex collection”—are off limits to her no matter what…which I guess is understandable. They are just too scary!

Regardless, I’ve got her back on the power of direct mail…stamped appropriately of course.

Mom on lifetime value

This one is simple for her…and here’s a story to illustrate my Mom’s understanding of the most important concept in direct marketing.

Three years ago she broke her hip—we rushed her to the hospital for emergency surgery and eventually all was well (giving you the gory details would be TMI).

When I got home from the hospital, there were 4 messages on my answering machine—from Shirley, Rita, Thelma and Eleanor.

They were all 92 at the time, all “with it” (despite some aches and pains), and they all wanted to know the status of Terry (my Mom).

I had lengthy conversations with each of the four other “Sistas” (as I like to call them).

These five women have known each other for over 80 years.

That’s a brand of “lifetime value” that goes beyond anything I am familiar with and it’s not even covered in my book.

But it’s covered by these five women.

Their friendship was the one-time sale of a lifetime, no funnel required.

Here they are in their prime…that’s my Mom on the far left:

Last year Shirley passed away (second from the left) and a couple of weeks ago Eleanor passed away (far right)…but the 80+ years of memories (and lifetime value) will never pass away.

And now you know why my Mom is an awesome direct marketer and why this seemed to be an appropriate post for Mother’s Day.

I especially want to wish a fantastic day to all the wonderful mothers in my online family.

May you all practice the art of multi-channel direct marketing (possibly a little more diversified than my Mom).

And to everyone–Mothers, Fathers, Sistas and Brothers–may you only experience a lifetime of value (which in this case has little to do with the value of an average order).



P.S. Since my Mom will never read Overdeliver, maybe you will (if you haven’t already).

Perhaps if I could show her a picture of it in a bookstore or in an airport she will be more convinced it’s a real book.

I don’t think she realizes Amazon also sells books in addition to the “Tchotchkes” she buys on her “unlimited-spending-limit Amazon card.”

I need to tell her sometime that Amazon started as an online bookstore. 🙂

At, for buying a $17 book (less if you buy the e-book) there are free interviews with some of the greatest direct marketers who have ever lived, some no longer with us and many who still are…and  there are keynote speeches, over 600 pages of swipe files, PDF’s of classic, out-of-print books…and much more.

They are worth from thousands of dollars to priceless.

And I hope you will leave a review on Amazon for the book once you read it (or if you have read it already).

Also–email me with feedback (good or bad) so I can think about the next edition,  especially if you have had any new epiphanies about telemarketing, direct mail or lifetime value from reading today’s post.

But no phone calls please.

And only use direct mail to communicate with me if you include a bonus or premium (with a pretty stamp).

And finally, whether you like it or not, we are all friends for life–lifetime value is a core principle whether we are 95, or 25.

My Mother taught me that.

P.P.S. Happy Mother’s Day (again)!

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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