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Ken Magill

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The One Policy I (Thankfully) Never Had to Use

8/12/14
 
By Ken Magill
 
With this issue, we’re heading into the fifth year of the Magill Report. I launched in August 2010.
 
I launched that year with what I considered to be an important policy: a “no assholes” policy.
 
And guess what: I’ve never had to use it.
 
I enacted the Magill Report no-assholes policy as a result of previous experience.
 
As an editor at various trade publications over the years I have attended many lunches, dinners and drinking sessions with advertising clients and prospects.
 
The events were mostly fun. I remember one in particular where we met with a client for lunch at a tavern in the TriBeCa neighborhood of Manhattan.
 
After lunch we continued drinking. A seemingly short while later, I said to the client and my ad-sales counterpart: “Believe it or not I’m hungry again.” They both responded: “So am I.”
 
We all looked at our watches. It was 6 o’clock. We had been drinking for six hours. 
 
So we ordered dinner and continued drinking well into the evening.
 
Meetings with clients and prospects weren’t always pleasant, however. I have witnessed clients and propects demean sales reps simply because they could.
 
To one condescending client in particular I said: “You need to talk to him (ad rep). I’m going to take a walk.” I then left the table and didn’t go back until I was reasonably certain the abusive lunch would be over.
 
I kept these encounters in mind as I launched the Magill Report. “There are more than 200 potential clients for the Magill Report. I need just three at any given time,” I reasoned. “So there is no reason to put up with an abusive client—ever.”
 
Thus, the Magill Report “no assholes” policy was born.
 
In four years, I have yet to invoke the policy. I haven’t needed to. Every client and potential client I have dealt with in the email marketing industry has been professional through and through.
 
Oh, I had one prospect try and low-ball me so severely that hourly fee-wise the phone call cost more of my time than he offered. But at least he low-balled me politely.
 
And, honestly, if that’s the worst experience I can conjure off the top of my head, that’s pretty darned good.
 
I do have a bullhorn and could make a spectacle if a client acted like an ass, and maybe some consider that when dealing with me. But I don’t think that’s it.
 
I think the permission-based email marketing industry simply draws decent people [for the most part].
 
Why is this? I can only offer a guess and here it is:
 
As was historically the case in direct mail, no one grows up saying: “I want to make a career in email marketing.” Even if someone is attracted to digital marketing as a career, the perpetually deemed soon-to-be-dead email channel will not be their first or even their third choice.
 
They’re going to pursue social, search and behaviorally targeted display advertising.
 
Email doesn’t draw—again, for the most part—self-important, preening assholes because what is there to preen about with email?
 
If you tell someone outside email marketing circles that you’re in email marketing, often they’ll say: “Oh, so you’re a spammer.”
 
I once had someone who had been eavesdropping at the next table at a restaurant lean over and hiss: “Are you a spammer?”
 
So something must attract those who stay in email that isn’t glamour or recognition.
 
Maybe it’s the satisfaction of doing something productive that measurably improves clients’ bottom lines.
 
Maybe like direct mail, email marketing tends to draw and keep people who are more interested in being appreciated for driving results than getting applause for being edgy and creative.
 
I accidentally stumbled into email marketing in 1997 when my editors at DM News gave me the email beat against my will. 
 
I wanted the catalog beat because that was a business model I understood. Today I am glad I didn’t get my wish.
 
So as I begin my fifth year of publishing the Magill Report, I would like to say to the email marketing industry: “Thank you. Thank you for not being a bunch of assholes.”
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