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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
am writing to make you this very special and unusual
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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)
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
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,
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.
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