Your hall of fame

Baseball, sure, but also roller derby and other worthy endeavors have a Hall of Fame.

It says a lot about an industry when it cares enough about its work (and the people doing it) to go to the trouble of organizing this story. The music industry is particularly good at this–not only do they have a hall of fame, but they have gold records, Grammy awards and multiple ways to highlight and honor people doing the work.

Why doesn't your company have one? A wall honoring the driver who broke a stupid company policy and got the shipment there on time… A diorama highlighting a particularly generous middle manager who always managed to find the resources to make something happen… A little glass box holding the purchase order that an heroic salesperson brought back from her long trip…

I got a note a few weeks ago, letting me know I was being inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. 101 people –Eddie Bauer, Lillian Vernon and of course, LL Bean–are there (real people, all of them). And also my friend Lester Wunderman, who pioneered the very idea of Direct Marketing and helped launch the American Express card. Three of us are joining this year–Don Peppers and Martha Rogers are the real highlights (if you haven't read their books, you should). Their first book (1996) completely upended my view of the world.

The thing about direct marketing is that it's always been a bootstrapped industry. Lillian famously started at her kitchen table, a few blocks from where I was born (she took her last name from "Mt. Vernon"). Buy some stamps, do some tests, repeat. That approach, the leverage that comes from having big-time media for low-budget money, is here for all of us. We are all direct marketers now.

That means you don't need a permit or permission to start your Hall or your walk of fame. The web makes it easier than ever to have a virtual institution, one that exists solely to find and highlight people that might be worth highlighting. You should start one.

Even better, in a world where we can chart our own course, you could figure out a path that gets you in to the Hall you care about. Not tomorrow perhaps, but, drip by drip, over a career.