There are lessons throughout the following newsletter
despite being written several years ago.
Pay close attention to not just everything our pop says
and check out how he is communicating with his own
The lessons he outlines in the letter still apply to
catalogs but also to catalog style websites offering
a large variety of wares.
When he speaks to the reader, notice how he is
genuinely being kind, open and very human.
He could have chosen to write this letter when he
was feeling great but instead he communicates with
the subscribers, lowering their expectations to the
point where he over delivers.
All of this helps his list feel like they know like and
This lesson is even more important today than it was
when he wrote it because people on email lists can
and will forget who you are if too much time passes
Coming up with inspirational messages an a
regular basis is not that simple and there may be
times when you must communicate with your list
even though you are not feeling 100% or at your
Being honest and offering a free gift is a great
way to keep the list warm.
Lastly, I know a lot of people are going to ask
where they can get a copy of the Robert Collier
Letter Book so here is a link and for the record,
this is not an affiliate link. It's just such an
essential reading for any direct marketer and we
are happy to point people to it.
Anyway, we hope you get a lot out of this
Bond & Kevin
W-A-Y West of Jewfish Creek
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
I don't feel much like struggling to write a good newsletter this month. I am sorry but my mind is elsewhere.
Paul Michael is dead. He died on Sunday, September 20th, of a heart attack. Paul was a force within our industry. He is credited with the invention of the "lift letter" and, as I wrote last month, when I first met him, he was producing perhaps 100 million per year in sales for Greystone Press. Paul was a large man, in both physical size and creative talent. My favorite memory of him is how he extended a hand to Norman Gold (who was also at the Jockey Club brainstorming session and who is also deceased) when everyone else (including me) had abandoned him because of his marketing ineptitude. Paul also extended a helping hand to me once, when I was very down for personal reasons I don't care to discuss. He was a fine man.
He will be missed.
And now, even if it's half-heartedly, it's best I get back to business. First off, let me say that the response to last month's letter was the heaviest and most favorable I have yet received. So many of you have sent in material to be brainstormed that I am overwhelmed. Also, a number of subscribers have said they would like to attend the session. A few of you were a little upset over the September 15th deadline. In fact, one subscriber in New Hampshire said his newsletter was not delivered until the 21st which was 17 days after it was mailed.
That's a long time to deliver a first class letter, isn't it?
So anyway, here's what I've decided to do about all this:
I am extending the deadline for submitting material. If you've got something you want brainstormed, go ahead and send it. I'll still accept it. But don't delay. Please send it as soon as you get this letter.
By the way, this extension is only for those people who have not already submitted material. The one-per-subscriber limit still applies.
I have, of necessity, delayed the date of the session itself. I have decided to start the session early in the morning on Friday the 23rd of this month and end it sometime during the late afternoon or evening of the next day, Saturday the 24th.
||I have decided to allow subscribers to attend free of charge.
Do you want to come? If so, I ask only one courtesy. Just call me or Paulette right away (213)273-7053 and let us know you will attend. That way, we'll be able to make sure we've booked a big enough meeting room and get enough munchies to keep everybody happy.
One other thing: a couple of subscribers who sent packages said they wanted all their info kept secret.
I'm sorry but I can't oblige. This is going to be a free-wheeling, no-limit brainstorming session and if I were to put governors on all those speed demon creative minds, the results would be dismal. The way it's going to work is that we are going to tape record every idea we come up with on all the packages and everybody who submitted a package will receive the entire tape. You never know; maybe something we come up with to improve somebody else's package will be more useful to you than the ideas we generated when we blitzed your package.
So, if you are paranoid about this, please call us so we can delete your material from the session.
Onward. Some time ago, in my promotional DM package for this newsletter, I promised I would reveal "what every catalog mailer does wrong." It is time for me to keep that promise. Listen. Many years ago, after Dennis Haslinger and I got our family coat-of-arms business cranked up, we decided to produce a catalog. It seemed like a good idea. It appeared to be a natural. You see, our front end product was an 8-1/2 x 11 piece of parchment-like paper upon which was printed a line drawing of the earliest family crest ever recorded with a particular family name. This "family name research report" also had a brief history of how that name came into being. Now, naturally, a lot of people who bought this inexpensive ($2.00) little report were fascinated, intrigued and pleased enough to want to see their family coat-of-arms in full, authentic, heraldic colors in a variety of products such as wall plaques, china plates and cups, drinking glasses, napkins, stationery and so forth.
So off I went into the woods of southern Ohio. All by myself. To camp out and to create a catalog. I worked and worked and it really turned out neat. It featured cute pictures of my three small sons (they were billed as my product testers) and approximately 70 items, most of which could be customized with your family crest. The catalog measured 5-1/2 x 11 inches and was printed on glossy stock in full color.
So after it was all finished, I had a bunch of them printed up and mailed out and I sat back to wait for the results.
They sucked. We didn't even break even. It bothered me. All that sparkling copy, all that full color printing, all those appealing (and related) products and I couldn't generate a dime in profit.
So I put on my thinking cap and I says to myself, "Hmn? I wonder what would happen if I eliminated all the loser products and then mailed either a smaller catalog or a simple brochure?"
So I did a simple analysis and developed a little report that arranged the products in rank order by sales volume. Well, what I discovered was that only three of those approximately 70 catalog products were carrying nearly all the weight. Everything else was dead meat.
Those three products, by the way, were all wall plaques. It seemed that all people wanted, as far as their family crest was concerned, was "wall-hanging recognition." Whatever. Anyway, what I did next is I designed a simple 8-1/2 x 11 color brochure that featured only those three wall plaques.
What happened? Actually, it wasn't very exciting. All we did, after mailing those brochures to our customer list, is approximately break even.
But I was moving in the right direction, wasn't I? So then, I had a brainstorm. What I did next is I took the top selling wall plaque, had a color photo taken of it, and then I sent a replica of that photo along with a personal letter to each of our customers.
And we dragged in millions of dollars!
Now listen: There is a valuable lesson here but, before I clarify it, please take a moment to read the current version of the personal letter that dragged in all that money. Here it is:
3699 Ira Road
Bath, Ohio 44210
2524 Ira Road
Bath, OH 44210
I thought you would like to see what our newest product looks like so I am sending you the enclosed snapshot. It shows my own Taylor Coat of Arms, authentically reproduced in the original heraldic colors.
We call this handsome wall plaque the "Classic Plaque." It is a beautifully designed product, measuring 14-1/2" x 17-1/2", has a walnut stained finish and a three-dimensional hand carved effect.
I am writing to make you this very special and unusual offer...
Since this is a new product we have chosen the Haslinger Coat of Arms to show off the quality of our new creation. We have made up three "Haslinger Classic Plaques" in advance for advertising and promotion purposes.
You can see our advertisement in House Beautiful featuring this plaque at $44.95. It is a bargain at that price. We don't normally have so called sales nor do we offer discounts on our products. But since we have the "Haslinger Classic Plaque" in stock and ready to ship, I'd like to offer it to you at an honest reduction and with a "no risk," full satisfaction guarantee.
So if you would like to have this plaque to grace your home, or if you are looking for a never-before-given gift for a relative, you can have it for only $34.95. And that is a full and a big 22% price reduction.
To order, you need send no money. All you have to do is simply fill out and return the order card to me in the enclosed envelope. The return envelope needs no postage.
Just one thing. If you decide you don't want the "Haslinger Classic Plaque" - even at this bargain price - would you please drop me a note to let me know. That way, I'll have a chance to offer it to someone else named Haslinger, at this special price. I hope you order this magnificent plaque, but either way it would be a favor if you let me know within 15 days.
Thank you very much for being a customer.
||We regret that we have only three plaques at this special price, so we must accept orders on a first come first served basis. But remember, if you are not completely satisfied for any reason, you may return your order for a full refund or credit. Please see the order card for details.
Interesting letter, isn't it? But what is equally as interesting, in my opinion, is what all this can teach us about what most catalog mailers do wrong. Namely:
They Mail Too
Many Catalogs And
Not Enough Simple Letters!
Hark unto me. When I told Ed Mayer (the "Dean" of direct mail) about my catalog experience, he said that if everybody who now mails catalogs, would instead build an individual direct mail promotion around their top items, then, they would make a lot more profit.
I agree. But that doesn't mean I think that everyone who mails a catalog should stop. Not at all. What I do think, however, is that most catalog mailers should look at their catalogs in a different light. What I mean is that instead of thinking of their catalog as their major profit center, these mailers should instead think of their catalogs as information gathering devices.
Let's say we've got a big catalog mailer who is going to push out say, about three million catalogs next year. In my opinion, instead of sending out three million catalogs, this mailer should mail about 300,000 catalogs. Next, he should analyze his response and then create a sales letter and a simple brochure (or maybe even just a color photo) describing each of the top sellers in the catalog. Then, these should be mailed as individual direct mail promotions at about three week intervals.
Look: it's my guess that most catalogs that feature a hundred or so items, they really only make a profit on the top 20 or so items. Therefore, I believe the catalog mailer who would normally mail 3,000,000 catalogs, should mail only 300,000 and find out what his best 20 products are and then create a DM package on each of those winners and stop wasting any more money on advertising the losers.
Now, here's some odds and ends I need to clean up:
I truly am a lousy proofreader. Paulette usually does it for me. But last month, she didn't know I was going to mention her in the letter and I wanted to surprise her so I proofread the thing myself. And this resulted in the most embarrassing and hilarious typo of my career. I'm talking, of course, about how I wrote I was going to try to "flatten your wallet" when I meant to say "fatten your wallet."
One of my subscribers has sent me a copy of the book "The First Hundred Million" and thus has got himself a lifetime subscription to this letter. Well, he's found a couple more copies. They're expensive. But, believe me, they are worth it. If you're interested, give me or Paulette a call and I'll give you his number.
Speaking of expensive, Joe Sugarman is giving a four day seminar that costs $3,000 to attend. You've seen Joe's work whenever you travel by air. He's the guy who owns JS&A and he runs ads in all the inflight magazines. Joe is a legend in our business. He is an absolutely brilliant copywriter and he has a keen eye for what the public will buy. If you can, I strongly advise that you go to his seminar even though the $3,000 tuition does not cover air fare, food or your hotel room. All you get for your money is everything Joe knows about direct response.
Which is a lot!
Oh yeah, you also get to be bored for a few hours by me since Joe has invited me to be his guest speaker.
This is a very small, very private seminar and it will fill up fast. It starts on Saturday, November 28, and runs through Tuesday, December the 1st. The location is the STOUFFER WAILEA BEACH RESORT on Maui, Hawaii. If you'd like to go, call Mary Stanke right away at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
In an earlier letter, I recommended a number of marketing books that I think have invaluable info. Unfortunately, some of those books are rare and hard to find. One of the very best marketing books of all that I recommended is "The Robert Collier Letter Book" written by Robert Collier many, many years ago. Some of the language and colloquialisms are a bit dated but the marketing insights are as valuable now as the day they were written. I consider this book must reading. I have already read it several times and I intend to read it again and again.
Just in case there are any nerds out there who are wondering if I am touting Joe's seminar and the above-mentioned two books because there's money in it for me, you are wrong!
I am touting these things because I passionately believe they are worthwhile.
I am not happy with this edition of my newsletter. As I said at the beginning, this month my mind is elsewhere. Not only has Paul Michael passed away, I also have a relative (my Mom's sister) who has lung cancer. (I wonder, what kind of scumbag needs money so bad that he or she will still create ads for cigarettes?) Recently, Paulette and I were on a little bitty airplane piloted by a crazy Mexican pilot (no English) who damn near ran us into several mountains. We've also recently been 100 feet under the Atlantic Ocean whereupon another pair of scuba divers spotted an eight foot shark.
None of us can really quite believe we're going to die, can we? Somehow, we are going to be the ones that magically escape the dark fate that awaits everyone else. Or at least, you and I are going to be the ones who make it to 120 and then get shot by a jealous husband, right?
Well, I don't know. What with coked-up aircraft mechanics, insane Mexican pilots, sharks, lung cancer, AIDS, heart attacks (and, today's earthquake!) maybe you and I really aren't going to beat the odds. Maybe we should, you and I, start focusing a little more on the things that really count like spending more time with our loved ones, letting our friends know they are valued and treating every living thing on this earth with as much compassion as we can muster.
Aw hell, it was just a thought.
But anyway, as I said, I'm not completely happy with this edition of my newsletter and therefore, I've decided to send it to you free.
So, for whatever it's worth, count this one as a gift as I am hereby extending your subscription for an extra month.
I hope that's OK.
|| Gary C. Halbert
||I also hope it's ok that I can't think of a snappy title for myself this month.
||But don't worry. I'll come roaring back next month. I promise. By the way, I didn't let Paulette proofread this letter either so it probably contains a jillion typos.
Nuts. Like I said, it's free.
Copyright © 2003 Gary C. Halbert. All Rights Reserved.