The Most Innovative People in Direct Marketing

by Bridget McCrea, Response Magazine

When the words "direct marketing" are uttered to the average consumer, they will most likely conjure up thoughts of late-night infomercials and the hundreds of envelopes of junk mail they throw out on a monthly basis. While these are valid direct marketing tactics, good marketers know that there's a lot more to direct marketing than just getting in a consumer's face. There are back-end operations that handle fulfillment and customer service, countless hours of writing and producing required to perfect an infomercial and/or spot, and there's the Internet, a new medium where companies are vying for consumer' eyes through the use of relationship, rather than transactional, marketing. This year, with the Internet transforming into a medium that symbolizes progression and success for many of the companies that are setting up shop online, the direct selling arena is no longer limited to just traditional brick-and-mortar companies. As an invaluable direct selling tool that virtually eliminates the middleman, electronic commerce is nothing less than hot, and more than one of the direct marketers on our list knows it.

With that, we salute the following top marketers of the year, whom we've chosen for various reasons, but mainly for remaining flexible and representing growth in a rapidly evolving business climate. Whether they're on the front lines or working from a back office, all of these individuals played a vital role in their companies' growth in the last year.

Colleen Szot

Owner/President of Colleen Szot Wonderful Writer, LLC

1998 was the Year of Golf for Colleen Szot. It started out with the Orlimar Trimetal, and then I was flooded with requests to write for golf gloves, trainers, putters, books and videos," says the Minneapolis-based writer. Success for Szot means that now, after nine years of writing direct response and 22 years in the advertising business, she gets to pick and choose her projects.

"I've been very blessed with lots of repeat business from clients like Fitness Quest, Tony Little, Onyx Productions, The Direct Network and more," says Szot. "It's gotten to the point where I don't have to take every job that comes down the pike."

Szot, who opened her own business in 1994, says her recent accomplishments include generating 1,000 orders a day for Fitness Quest; moving 360,000 units in 30 days for NordicTrack (when they had projected 90 days); creating the first-ever infomercials for Troy-Bilt; and writing all four of the highly successful David Dikeman Command Performance shows. She's won ERA/NIMA, National Addy, Regional Addy and Telly awards and was a Clio finalist and winner of four Reggie Merit awards, among others. Most recently, Szot's show, CNN's Cold War (for New York-based Direct Network), won a Telly Award.

Today, Szot says many clients ask her why she doesn't subcontract work out. She explains: "I don't think I'll ever do that because I'm just passionate about writing. I always plan to be at the helm of every project I take on—and let's face it, that's why people call me...for Colleen Szot, not for someone else."