Direct Marketing's More Than Filling Mailboxes

Article excerpt

To the average consumer, "direct marketing" is little more than a fancy term for "junk mail."

But to devotees of the industry (folks who read magazines such as Direct and American Demographics Marketing Tools), direct marketing is a strategy that goes well beyond mass mailings. As one industry professional explains, direct marketing is "a one-to-one form of communication that uses any and all mediums to communicate the message."

That's the point Lester Wunderman drives home in his new book, Being Direct: How I Learned to Make Advertising Pay (Random House, $25, 294 pages). Known in industry circles as the father of direct marketing, Mr. Wunderman stresses that building relationships, whether it's over the telephone, on radio or over the Internet, is and always will be the key to successfully marketing a product.

"Your share of loyal customers, not your share of market, creates profits," Mr. Wunderman writes.

Written in the form of an autobiography, the book takes the reader on a guided tour of Mr. Wunderman's life as a direct marketer - from his launching of the first record club to his introduction of bound-in magazine subscription cards to his role in the selling of the American Express card.

It also includes Mr. Wunderman's guide for surviving and thriving in the estimated $1.1 trillion direct marketing industry.

Time will tell if "Being Direct" can manage to win over many mainstream readers. Its self-promotional style, with sentences like "I was born in New York City in a tenement in the East Bronx," raises questions about just how direct one ought to be when dispensing advice. Still, Mr. Wunderman offers enough words of wisdom that the book should appeal to the direct marketers out there. And as Mr. Wunderman points out in the final pages, 20 million men and women worldwide now work in direct marketing or some related field.

DISTILLED WISDOM: "It's not an ad with a coupon, it's not a commercial with a toll-free number, it's not a mailing, a phone call, a promotion, a database or a Web site; it's a commitment to getting and keeping valuable customers."

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