How Dirty Are Your Fingernails?
On rainy weekends one of my simple but rewarding pleasures is pawing through my bookshelves, re-reading direct marketing and fundraising favorites. (Hey, it makes more sense to me than woodworking, stamp collecting or Tweeting.)
This exercise not only provokes new insights, it serves to remind me that, for the day at least, I’m not on a plane, in some hotel, or headed for another airport. I’m home. Because ‘home’ is where my books are.
On Sunday I got engrossed in Denny Hatch’s Million Dollar Mailing$.
It’s been 20 years since this book appeared, but it continues to occupy a ‘favorites’ bookshelf in my office. It’s jam-packed with successful, long-running direct mail packages that won in the marketplace year after year.
Accompanying those packages are ‘in-their-own-words’ practical insights from some of the truly great copywriters and designers who created them.
In the 40 years I’ve known Denny he’s possessed the gift of zeroing in on the damndest little goodie to make his point.
And so, as I browsed through Million Dollar Mailing$ I couldn’t resist sharing this gem written by Freelancer Bob Dolman. It appears at the front of Denny’s book. Here it is verbatim:
The Greatest Copywriter in the World
“Whenever I get burned out, I go to visit and watch the greatest copywriter in the world at work, under the portales in the Plaza de Santo Domingo in Mexico City. Oliverio, with his Olympia typewriter made in Brazil, is clearly a king among evangelists, the scribes who sit at card tables behind the old platen presses where you can have your wedding invitations printed while you wait.
“Good plain people who can’t write letters for themselves come to Oliverio, and he is much closer to life than I’ll ever get. He writes most eloquently about love waiting at home for sons and daughters to return and claim it.
” Under his fingernails I see a permanent black edge from changing his ribbons. Back home, when I confront my antiseptic computer, I look first at my fingernails and if they are all clean I know my letter would be antiseptic, too.
” I wish I could take Oliverio’s place at his card table for just one hour, but that would turn into a bitter circus—his clients would believe I was mocking them, and I think they would be right about that. Mocking them or him is something I would never want to do, so I melt into the background and watch and listen while my friend works.
“For my own work, the best thing I can do is try to keep Oliverio’s human touch in mind every time I write. Lord knows I try.”
— Bob Dolman
Here’s to dirty fingernails for all fundraisers striving for the human touch.
P.S. Although Denny’s now ‘retired’, or so he claims, you can find the distilled direct marketing wisdom of his Target Marketing Business Common Sense blog here. And make sure you read his final post — A Free Parting Gift, From Denny Hatch — for a ringside view of the changes in our trade over the past 25 years.
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