825. A Day in the Life–What's It Really Like to Be a Serial Direct Marketer?
I went to Marty Edelston, who was the owner and the founder. And I said, ‘That job just opened up in editorial and I’d like to take it.’ And Marty looked at me and he said, ‘You know, I think you have a nose for marketing.’ And when you’re 23 years old and the president of the company says you have a nose for marketing, who am I to argue? So I didn’t take the editorial job. I stayed in list management. And I’d say that was a pivot point in my career because then I just went whole hog on direct marketing lists. I got involved with copy and you know? 10 years into the business, my first 10 years I’m doing list management. The next 24 years I’m running the marketing department.”
Brian Kurtz has been a serial direct marketer for the past 40+ years. He’s never met a medium he didn’t like, and he spent the first 34 years of his career helping Boardroom, Inc., become a state-of-the-art direct marketing and publishing company. As founder of Titans Marketing, he now advises many of the most admired direct marketers in the world and writes and speaks regularly on direct marketing.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“Six months after graduating from Rutgers University with an English degree, I was hired by Boardroom Reports, a newsletter company which was doing about $5 million in sales. My job was in-house list manager. A year into the job I went in to founder Marty Edelston’s office and told him I’d like to apply for an editorial role that had opened up. I thought I ‘should’ be on the editorial side since it was closer to what I had studied. Marty took a hard look at me and said, ‘I think you have a nose for marketing and that you should stay on the list side of the business and learn everything you can about direct marketing.’ Because of his sage advice, I grew and thrived in that role for the next 33 years, becoming EVP and partner at Boardroom and helping it grow exponentially into a state-of-the art direct marketing and publishing company.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
1. I was an above-average student, played on the varsity tennis team, but was certainly not a standout in any particular area. What I did have was a lot of curiosity—about life and the world around me, and that curiosity has been a great asset all my life.
2. When I graduated from Rutgers, I thought I wanted to be a writer or editor but had zero prospects. What I lacked in smarts I made up for in resourcefulness, so I came up with a plan for canvassing as many publishing companies as I could, walking the streets of New York City, and handing off my resume to each of them. After several weeks pounding the pavement, I got my first entry-level position.
3. My love of learning, particularly in the field of direct marketing where I’ve spent my entire career, has been vital. From the day I began in this field almost 40 years ago, the ability to not only stay abreast of the fast-breaking trends and innovations but also to decipher and act on the best opportunities, has been key.
4. Boardroom founder and visionary, Marty Edelston, was my first mentor who literally shaped the path of my entire career, but I have been fortunate to learn and grow inspired by countless other innovative writers, marketing experts and entrepreneurs. At this stage of my career I am striving to pay it forward to members of my tribe, too.
On His Bookshelf
Breakthrough Advertising, by Eugene Schwartz
Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy
Scientific Advertising, by Claude Hopkins
Connecting With Brian Kurtz
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