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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Could you learn from Rick Fitzgerald's secret?

I'm writing this in Manly, a little resort just across the Sydney Harbour, where I'm staying with my Aussie partner Malcolm Auld, his infinitely more attractive wife Sharon and their two kids.

It's shame they've started growing up, because when they were a little younger they used to call me Dragon and my better half Marta Tomater. This gave me great pleasure, I confess.

I'm here doing some speeches and seminars, which I began in Perth on the other side of this continent. I did a keynote speech and a one day seminar for the Australian Fundraising Institute, who certainly live up to their name. They actually asked me to pay $90 for the pleasure of having dinner with the other speakers.

Never come across that one before, I must say. I declined as I'm just as cheap as they are - and I did the work free anyhow. I wonder if they all work for nothing. I somehow doubt it.

When in Perth I met Rick Fitzgerald, who is a list manager and who invited me to lunch. His plane was so late we never had the lunch, but we did have a good chat, and I'll catch him later at the Direct Marketing Fair in London where I'm speaking.

I asked Rick how he got into list management.

"I was a builder for twenty years," he replied. "I fell into it."

Uh? I realise the average list broker/manager has all the skills and dedication of a second rate estate agent - though there are shining exceptions - but this was a new one on me.

It seems he had done some building for a marketing firm and the boss asked him in, not to put up some shelving, as he had imagined, but to sort out who should manage his list.

He spent a few weeks doing this and found that all the brokers he approached were pretty much the same and none too diligent.

"So I said 'I know someone who could do a better job,'" explained Rick."The man said, 'Who?' And I said, 'Me'. And he said, 'You're on. I asked you in because you seemed a reliable bloke. Let's have a trial and see how you go.'"

So Rick sold his building firm and got into, and does pretty well, in the list game.

This proves something I have long believed: the worst possible preparation for a career in marketing is an education in marketing.

And, as Rick pointed out, satisfying people who are building the home of their dreams is a damn sight harder that satisfying the average marketer

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