May 16, 2014

OK…I know what you are thinking after reading that subject line…Brian is once again trying to justify his existence as a serial direct marketer by making it sound like everything he does is for the good of society…blah…blah…blah…

But those of you who know me know that I have no shame around the fact that I love to market and “sell stuff”…and teach people how to do it better.

However, having the privilege of marketing in the health category for my entire career has given me a bigger sense of purpose¬†despite being affectionately called the “company marketing whore” (ouch!) by some of my closest friends and partners.

Note that I said “affectionately!” ūüôā

Seriously, though, I take a lot of pride in the products I’ve been selling for the past 33¬†years and I wanted to share some observations about that today.

I am currently attending yet another life changing conference this week…and the beauty of this one is that it’s an annual event.

Side note: The last two weeks I spoke about two of the life changing events I’ve¬†attended¬†in the past and for context (and for new¬†readers of this¬†weekly e-mail) links to those two posts are at the end of this e-mail.

The two day event I am attending this week is called the “Consumer Health Summit” and it is hosted by one of my closest friends and an amazing marketer, Michael Fishman.

It’s an invitation only event for the world’s best practitioners, authors and marketers in the health and wellness category.

I’ve been attending this event for close to 15 years and it is always a highlight of the year.

And yes, Michael will be speaking at my event in September.

My plan for¬†this week was that¬†I really wanted to write about mailing lists, databases, audiences and segmentation and lo and behold, Michael gave me the opportunity from his opening remarks at this week’s CHS conference to introduce the topic…one that I will come back to again in the weeks and months ahead.

I’m a “list guy” at my core…voted in my high school yearbook as “most likely to become a list manager”…and I didn’t disappoint for the first 10 years of my career.

Michael kicked off the event to this illustrious group with an inspiring commentary.

Simply put, we are marketing in a sacred space and we have a¬†“responsibility” as marketers¬†to always sell with authenticity and integrity…and in my words, “if you don’t believe in what you are selling yourself, don’t sell it.”

That’s true outside the health category too, of course.

So what about lists and segmentation?

In the 1980’s and into the 90’s, my company Boardroom often mailed in excess of 100 million pieces of direct mail a year…mostly for products in the health category or related categories. Michael Fishman was our top list broker during much of that period.

Simply put, during that period when direct mail was king, list brokers were the most important counselors…and finding the right lists to mail with the proper segmentation was critical to the success of any campaign.

I didn’t say we mailed 100 million namesunprofitably, did I?

And I remember some amusing conversations Michael and I had when we were doing very well with our mailings–conversations about how we were not simply “marketers selling stuff” but we were, in fact, saving lives…and the more we mailed, and the more money we made, the more people we saved.

How’s that for being in junk mail and justifying our existence!

Hence, the reference to my subject line…and the one that made Michael and I chuckle further:

“List Brokers can cure cancer! ”

I’m only jesting (as a cancer survivor myself) to prove a point:

We really¬†DO have a responsibility as marketers to teach and reach aggressively…and that it is actually irresponsible to not “sell hard” when we know we’ve got the goods to change lives.

I know anyone not in marketing is laughing at this post…and will be in my “unsubscribe” count this evening…

But I implore you to look at your list, your customers, your community, your “tribe,” your potential prospects as the most important asset to accomplish all you want to accomplish.

Yes…feel free to make a lot of money too…but then re-invest in helping the next million people because you truly do have a responsibility to do that.

And if you come from the perspective of making a difference first, I guarantee that you will build a more profitable business for the long term too.

Not to mention creating many more life changing opportunities for more people.

My direct mail guru Dick Benson who I have mentioned in previous posts had the quote that has propelled me my entire career to look at my list like family, to segment thoroughly and to now teach a new generation those valuable lessons.

Benson simply said:

“No mailer spends enough time on lists.”

He was talking direct mail but of course this is a message for any marketer in any medium.

There are no unique names…just unique lists…and I will write a separate post in the weeks to come specifically on the topic of how talking to everyone on your list the same way is not how we get maximum impact or response.

Consider today’s post the preamble to that one…but it’s important to market from the heart first…and then we can figure out the best tactics to get the most from our family (i.e. list)…



P.S. Links to my posts the last two weeks re: life-changing events: The People You Meet on the Way Up and You Never Know Who Is Watching…or Listening…

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Brian Kurtz

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