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Each week I receive a blog on direct marketing by industry maven Denny Hatch. Hatch's posts are packed with practical, proven ideas that improve my outreach efforts. Chances are, you've been entranced by some of the techniques I learned and deployed after reading about them in Hatch's emails.
The speaker was Dorothy Kerr, US News and World Report's circulation director. Hatch says that this part of Kerr's speech changed his life:
“If you want to be successful in direct marketing, watch your mail. If you see a mailing coming in over and over again, it is ipso facto successful. Save it. Study it. Memorize it. And steal smart.”
Kerr's advice was to notice what direct mailers repeatedly send because the very repetition proves that the mailers are effective.
But it's her last two words that are pure genius: “Steal Smart.”
Whoa there — before you jump to conclusions, Kerr is not advocating plagiarism. That verb is defined as “the act of plagiarizing: the copying of another person's ideas, text, or other creative work, and presenting it as one's own, especially without permission.”
Instead, she's talking about best practices.
The musical satirist Tom Lehrer even wrote a song about the renowned Russian mathematician Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky with these lyrics:
“Don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize –
Only be sure always to call it please ‘research.'”
Picasso, Kerr, Lehrer, and the rest of them all suggest doing what my friend Will calls “Swipe and Deploy.” Will's advice is to observe the best practices that successful people around you use and figure out how to employ those ideas to help you get what you want.
This strategy is older than you might think, by the way.
The Latin expression, “Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes,” or “Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants,” has been traced all the way back to Bernard of Chartres in the 12th century. 500 years later it entered the popular vernacular in a 1675 letter by Isaac Newton who wrote: “If I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
But it doesn't matter whether you already knew about Newton's declaration or just learned of this concept today. What matters is that from now on, when you look for new ways to get what you want, remember to use creative interpretations of proven best practices instead of always trying to reinvent the wheel.