Live from ALC’s For Brokers Only: Shoot For the Stars

Despite rising costs and challenges, “never has the potential of direct marketing been greater,” according to Donn Rappaport, chairman of Princeton, NJ-based firm American List Counsel. Speaking at the firm’s networking and cocktail reception, “For Brokers Only” held on May 12 in New York, Rappaport stressed that marketers should avoid wallowing in negativity.

“A lot of people are telling sad stories,” he said. “Mailers are not mailing as much, and customer acquisition costs are increasing.” But that’s not what mailers should be focused on, Rappaport said. Instead, the industry needs to accentuate the positive, and look to the future. Rappaport shared some of his secrets of success with attendees, including these three key points:

1) Success is a state of mind. “You’ve got to enjoy the process,” he says. “And that includes solving some of the industry’s problems. We in the list industry have got to stop talking in the past. We need to start talking about how things can be better.”

2) Respect what you do. If you’re embarrassed about what you do or what you sell, you cannot be successful, he says. Rappaport even invoked one of Donald Trump’s favorite phrases: You can’t sell anything if you don’t love it. Rappaport got a rise out of the crowd when he asked rhetorically, “Is it truly possible to love the junk mail business?” He then responded, “Of course it is. Our business is connecting the right offer with the right buyers.”

3) Act successful. It also helps if you look the part. Rappaport shared a story with attendees of a meeting years ago with legendary catalog merchant Stanley Marcus, chairman of cataloger/retailer Neiman Marcus. “I was a young kid and I was wearing a suit that had been wrinkled from being my suitcase.” Upon seeing the rumpled Rappaport, Marcus called a 20-minute break from a meeting and led Rappaport down to the store’s luggage department and taught him how to properly fold a suit in a suitcase. “Right in the middle of the luggage department,” Rappaport says incredulously. The moral of the story? In order to be successful, you first must act successful.

Despite the upbeat address, Rappaport conceded that the last three years have been tough for the list business. Consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements, and the Internet “has made us all comparison shoppers, loyalty be damned.” But through all the challenges, he says, “the direct marketing opportunities have never been greater. We, the keepers of the data, will save the day.”

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