May 15, 2021

My Mom turned 96 last week. 

I’ve written about her before…on her 95th birthday a year ago…specifically about how she is an expert direct marketer (with the phone being her favorite “medium”)…and I thought she deserved another shout out on her 96th.

Last year we had a socially distanced birthday party for her, complete with a delivery of 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 a birthday celebration last year (we were in the middle of a pandemic in case you hadn’t heard)…and thank goodness the store had prunes.

This year we had a proper celebration—still with a delivery of all of the essential items from her shopping list—but this time with us both being unmasked…and the visit included a hug on the way in and on the way out. ☺

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 the “41/39/20 rule.”

But I realized she is an absolute expert in three key areas covered in my book:

1. Telemarketing

2. Direct mail

3. Lifetime value

Mom on telemarketing

To my 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 about texting…she’d have to give up her flip phone for that so I don’t even mention that texting is a “thing.”

My Mom with a smartphone would start a chain of events (beginning with hundreds of calls to Verizon customer service) that would change the world of mobile communications forever.

And where the Internet is concerned, that 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 then I would order them.

She keeps asking me “how much money is left on the card?” and I tell her “a lot”– which keeps her ordering, albeit $16 junk items at a time.

Back to Mom on telemarketing—her favorite medium.

She is actually ahead of the curve here since it’s become a forgotten medium to many marketing mavens.

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 to 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.

Despite 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?

Hopefully my Mom is one of yours…since she will be with you for a lifetime as long as you solve her issue.

And I’m sure you will solve her issue if you’ve been reading my blogs over the years…and if not, go to my blog page and put “customer service” in the search bar.

Do you have any idea how your customers really feel about you and your products or services?

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 96, she sees herself as a potential customer for life with every company she deals with…but they must satisfy her first.

She’s no different from any other customer and the way she’s going she will outlive many other customers her junior.

I talked about the “return on returns” in the past–and my Mom’s 96th 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 as “outbound telemarketing” rather than “complaining.”

In fact, I dedicated an entire chapter to this topic (that’s customer service and fulfillment, not complaining) 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 rather 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. ☺

Mom on direct mail

My Mom might be the most loyal and trusting (euphemism for gullible) person you will ever mail to…and 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 address labels.”

And the free 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 which is a good reminder to all of us.

For her outgoing direct mail operation (a different way to say “mailing her bills and birthday 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 outgoing 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 we know it is really the check inside.

My favorite stamps—the “T.rex collection”—are off limits to her no matter what…which I guess is understandable.

They are 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.

Four 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, as close friends, for over 80 years.

That’s a brand of “lifetime value” that goes beyond anything I am familiar with and it’s not 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:

Two years ago Shirley passed away (second from the left) and last year 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 to share once again with you as my Mom is a year older…a year wiser…and a year better.

And since we recently celebrated Mother’s Day, I want to send a belated Mother’s Day wish for all of you.

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).



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To your Xceleration! 

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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