WAY West of Jewfish Creek

Dear Friend & Subscriber,

You are about to read eight pages of information that can save you and/or your direct-marketing clients from financial disaster.

Please pay careful attention. What you are about to read is deceptively simple. In fact, I'm going to have to ask for a bit of patience from some of you. Especially those of you who are "old pros." You see, the first pages of this letter are going to reveal some stuff that most of you already know. Please bear with me. Some of my readers don't know this stuff and besides, it never hurts any of us to take a little "refresher course" once in a while.

And anyway, it's all a "setup" to pave the way for me to explain a financial "life or death" concept that will be revealed near the end of this letter.

Onward. No more messing around. Let's dive right in. Listen: As you may or may not know, every once in a while I give a class on copywriting and/or selling by mail. During these classes, one of the questions I like to ask my students is: "If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers, what advantages would you most like to have on your side to help you win?"

The answers vary. Some of the students say they would like to have the advantage of having superior meat from which to make their burgers. Others say they want sesame seed buns. Others mention location. Someone usually wants to be able to offer the lowest prices.

And so on.

Whatever. In any case, after my students are finished telling me what advantages they would most like to have, I usually say to them something like this: "O.K., I'll give you every single advantage you have asked for. I, myself, only want one advantage and, if you will give it to me, I will (when it comes to selling burgers) whip the pants off all of you!"

"What advantage do you want?" they ask.

"The only advantage I want," I reply...

"Is... A Starving Crowd!"

Think about it. When it comes to direct marketing, the most profitable habit you can cultivate is the habit of constantly being on the lookout for groups of people (markets) who have demonstrated that they are starving (or, at least hungry) for some particular product or service.

How do you measure this hunger? Well, for us direct marketers, thanks to the mailing list industry, it is rather easy. Let's brainstorm a little. Let's suppose you and I are new to DM and we want to sell a book titled "How to Invest Money In the Stock Market" and we have created a direct mail promotion designed to sell this book. Who do we mail our promotion to? Here are some possibilities:

Possibility #1: We could mail it to people whose names and addresses we get right out of a telephone book.

Comments: This is a terrible idea. Except for offers (like my coat-of-arms promotion) that have an extremely broad appeal, there are far too many non-prospects in this "hodge podge" group of people. In fact, the only thing these people have in common is that they all have a phone. Some of these people won't have any money to invest. Some of them (more than you would ever guess) never purchase anything by mail for the simple reason that they don't know how to read! Some of them can read but they can't read English. Some of them are old enough to remember 1929 and would never think of putting their money into stocks. Some of them are too stupid to invest in stocks. Some are too smart. Some are too paranoid.

And so on.

In short, there is way too much waste circulation in a list made up of names taken from a telephone book. Using a list like this is like shooting with a shotgun instead of a rifle.


Possibility #2: We could mail our promotion to people whose names and addresses we get from a phone book, but only to those people who live in high income areas.

Comments: This is a little better, but not nearly good enough. High income areas are, incidentally, easy to identify because several companies have compiled statistics on every zip code in the United States and they can tell you, with great accuracy, the average income per person in each zip code. They (these companies) can also, by the way, tell you the average education level, average age, how much is spent (per capita) on automobiles and a bunch of other stuff.

However, as I said, this still isn't nearly good enough. For one thing, not everybody who lives in a high-income area has a high income. Some of these people might be live-in maids or gardeners or some other type of domestic servant. (Come to think of it, with the prices they charge, California gardeners at least ought to be wealthy!) Some of these people may have money but are not interested in investing. Some of them may buy investment books from a bookstore but never by mail. Some of them may have money they are inclined to invest but will only invest in areas other than the stock market where they already have expertise.

Whatever. Once again we are shooting with a shotgun instead of a rifle. Once again, too much dead wood.

Let's see if we can do a little better.

Possibility #3: We could mail our piece to a group of people of whom we are relatively sure that all of them have above average incomes. Like doctors. Lawyers. Architects. Top executives. CPA's. Owners of expensive homes. Owners of Rolls Royce automobiles. Subscribers to The Gary Halbert Letter.

And so on.

Comments: Not bad. We are now getting into areas where we at least have an outside chance. Whether they are interested in the stock market or not, we can't know, but, in any case, if they are interested, they probably have the financial ability to do something about it. There's no doubt about it. This group of people is certainly more likely to respond to our pitch than the first two groups but, as you should soon see, we can do a hell of a lot better.

Possibility #4: We could mail our promotion to a list of upper income people who are proven mail order buyers. Buyers of what, you ask? Actually, for the purposes of selling by mail, it is generally true that mail order buyers of anything are better than almost any group of non-mail order buyers. And, in this case, we have added the extra qualification that they must be wealthy mail order buyers.

Comments: Now we are getting down to business. This is the first group I have described that gives us a reasonable shot at success. Not bad. Not bad at all. But now, let's stop messing around. Let's go for the kill.

Possibility #5: We could mail our promotion to a group of wealthy people who are not only mail order buyers but also, people who have ordered some other investment book by mail.

Comments: Bingo! Now we're cooking. These are upper income people who have purchased by mail a product similar to ours. What could be better? This is just about as "hot" of a list as we can get! Or is it? Actually, it is not. Let's keep trying.

Possibility #6: We could mail our promotion to a list of wealthy people who have purchased (by mail) a product similar to ours... several times!

Comments: Yeah! These people are "naturals." They're MO buyers. They've purchased (by mail) a product similar to ours. And, they are repeat buyers of this type of product. How sweet it is! Can it get any sweeter? Yes, dear reader, it can! Read on.

Possibility #7: We would mail our promotion to a list of wealthy people who have purchased (by mail) a product similar to ours several times AND WHO HAVE PAID BIG MONEY FOR WHAT THEY BOUGHT!

Comments: Goody. These people are very close to the "creme de la creme" of lists we can mail to. But wait! Why do I say they are only "very close" to the best? Good Lord, what more could we ask for? Hold on! We're not done yet.

Possibility #8: We could mail our promotion to a list of wealthy people who have purchased (by mail) a product similar to ours and, who have done so repeatedly and, who have paid big money for what they purchased and, who have VERY RECENTLY made such a purchase!

Comments: This is almost as good a list as we can get. It is certainly the best list we are likely to be able to rent.

But not quite. Just keep reading.

Possibility #9: We could mail our promotion to a list of people who have all the characteristics of possibility #8 AND WHO OUR FRIENDLY LIST BROKER TELLS US IS WORKING LIKE CRAZY FOR OTHER MAILERS WITH PROMOTIONS SIMILAR TO OURS.

Comments: For a variety of reasons, many lists that should work, don't. Who knows why? Actually when it comes to the bottom-line, it really doesn't matter "why". What does matter is simply that a given list is or is not responsive. And the best way to know what lists are "hot" is to have a good relationship with a good honest list broker. In fact, if you have a good relationship with a good broker, one of the things he will do for you (because it is to his financial advantage) is to keep an eye out for hot lists that are likely to work for your offers. And now with this last list, we have finally and truly identified the best list you can mail to.


Yep. We can still do better!

Possibility #10: There is, however, one group of people that will respond far better than any of the other nine I have described. What is it? I'm sure you already know.

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Copyright © 2003 Gary C. Halbert. All Rights Reserved.