Remembering Don Libey

Don Libey
Don Libey

Author, speaker, CEO advisor, Sherlock Holmes buff and direct marketing industry icon Don Libey passed away on March 14.

Among many other  game-changing contributions, Don was the originator and codifier of the RFM principle (recency, frequency, monetary value) of direct marketing, a key factor in the success of many companies, especially catalog companies. RFM has become part of the business lexicon, yet few know where it began. It began with Libey.

He was a world-class, animated speaker – the type of speaker you did not want to follow if you were speaking the same day. You would suffer by comparison.

His “Libey on” books were each contributors to the industry: Libey on RFM, Libey on Change, Libey on Customers are all classics. He advised me through the process of three of my books.

I met Don Libey in the days of DMB conference (Direct Marketing to Business conference) produced by Chuck Tannen in the early-mid 1990s. Chuck assembled some of the best and brightest BtoB experts at the multi-day affair, and I was fortunate to be among them. Don Libey, of course, was on the faculty.

I sat in on one of his sessions, and during the Q&A, asked a question. I was starting to introduce myself when Don said, “Amtower, everybody already knows you, or should.” A la Casablanca, it was the beginning of a great friendship.

There have been several people who have influenced me as a person and as a businessman, but when an industry icon recognizes you early, and often, it is something to savor. I was not alone in this; I know Don did the same for many others.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Don was on my Board of Advisors. He was living in New Jersey at the time, and every now and then I’d get a call around 7PM. The ever-chipper Libey would say “Hey, whatcha doing for lunch tomorrow? Meet me at Union Station in DC at 11:30.” He’d come down by train and we’d spend about two hours talking about the industry. He’d also have several “have you thought about” action items for me. Then he’d get on the train and go home. He loved traveling by train. Coming to see me was probably an excuse for a much needed train ride.

That was the essence of Don Libey. Generous with his time and counsel, he’d always find time to chat with those who sought his advice.

When he and Chris Pickering updated the RFM book, Libey and Pickering on RFM and Beyond, I was asked to contribute a book jacket quote. It was time for the update and I was thrilled to be on the book jacket.

So what do you say, finally, when an icon passes on. I’ll let his words from Libey on Change speak for him:

Change, by definition, can never be known or understood. The moment of change yields always to new changes. Nothing is static: all is in the process of becoming. The time worn maxim is true: Change is the only constant.

The change is upon us, my friend, but your impact will remain. I will see you on the other side.

Mark Amtower ([email protected]) is the author of Government Marketing Best Practices andSelling to the Government. He has advised companies on selling to the government since 1985. 

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