Archive for August, 2017

Oh, those larcenous direct marketers of yesteryear!

August 15th, 2017 by Bob Bly

A lot of digital marketing today is direct response — only it’s
all done with electrons instead of ink on paper.

As a result of the rise of digital marketing, direct response has
now become mainstream.

But back when I got into direct response in the early 80s, DR was
considered the ugly stepchild of more respectable mainstream
Madison Avenue brand advertising.

One reason was that we direct people had the unmitigated gall to
want advertising to be profitable and actually sell something
with our copy. And not just win awards.

Another reason: while Madison Avenue worshipped beautiful graphic
design, direct marketers consistently found, sometimes to our
surprise, that “ugly” direct mail usually worked much better than
slick and colorful packages.

The third reason direct marketing was looked down on is that some
of the old-time practitioners had a … well, a penchant for
promoting questionable offers.

Promotions that bordered on sleazy. Offers that came close to
being deceptive — and a few that stepped over that line. Products
that were rip-offs.

One of the most famous was the mail order ad that offered “a
copper-engraved portrait of America’s 16th president” for only
$10.

When you sent in your ten-spot, the marketer fulfilled the order
by mailing you a penny.

Another mail order ad of this ilk had the headline, “Gets Rid of
Potato Bugs and Other Garden Insects Guaranteed.” The product
cost $5 in 1969.

When you ordered, you received two blocks of wood with
handwritten instructions on how to place the potato bug or other
insect on one piece of wood — and squash it with the other.

Says BC, a friend and fellow mail order old-timer who reminded me
of this ad the other day, “I laughed so hard, I was in tears.”

In addition, BC tells this classic mail order story: “A neighbor
of ours bought a set of lawn furniture for $12. Included 4
chairs, a table and umbrella.”

The neighbor received the actual scaled size furniture that was
in the print ad photo — good for a doll house or a little girl’s
toy, but not so good for a patio.

BC also reminded me of the mail order ad that sold a vibrating
lure designed to help you catch fish like crazy.

BC bought it when he was a kid and says: “I never caught a fish
on it. And I guess they have a contest every year and none of the
participants have ever caught a fish with it!”

Then there was the ad that said: “Turn your closet into a coat
room with sturdy metal coat hooks.” When you ordered, the
marketer sent you a dozen or so nails.

Another classic was “Portable Garage” — a plastic tarp you
placed over your car to keep the snow and rain off. Actually
quite handy for people who can’t put their car inside because
their real garage is filled with mowers, tools, boxes, and
assorted junk.

The classic of all time is the pet sea monkeys — a vial of brine
shrimp eggs that hatched when placed in warm salty water.

The ad proclaimed: “Instant Pets — a Bowlful of Fun!”

As a kid, I actually did have a lot of fun with the sea monkeys.
And I didn’t feel ripped off at all.

In fact, the brine shrimp are great live food for tropical fish,
and so my having fish tanks made the sea monkeys not only fun but
practical as well.

Although on South Park, Cartman wasn’t quite as thrilled as I was
with his sea monkeys:

Share

Category: Direct Marketing | No Comments »

Advice for aspiring novelists from a very successful one

August 4th, 2017 by Bob Bly

My friend Hunter Shea is a successful and prolific horror writer.

He is the author of more than 17 published novels including “The
Jersey Devil” (Pinnacle), “They Rise” (Severed Press), and “We
Are Always Watching” (Sinister Grin).

Anyway, Hunter recently told me an interesting story with a
lesson for writers that I want to share with you.

Take it away Mr. Shea….

“I attended only one writer’s conference in my life. It was close
to home in New York City, held in a college during the semester
break.

“Following my printed schedule, I went to a classroom to listen
to a famous thriller author talk about his path to publication.

“It was a packed room, so I had to take a seat in the back. I
noticed an old man sitting next to me.

“He leaned over and whispered, ‘You spend a lot of money on this,
kid?’

“‘You could say that.’ I’d spent nine hundred dollars I didn’t
have at the time.

“‘You see all these people?’ he said, pointing at the back of
everyone’s heads.

“‘Yeah.

“‘None of them will ever be writers. Come back here in ten years
and you’ll see the same faces.’

“‘Do me a favor. Hold onto your money. You want to be a writer?’

“I nodded, hoping the guy would quiet down once the author
started talking.

“‘Then go home and do two things. Read a ton. Then write a ton.
That’s all there is to it.’

“I quietly thanked him for the advice, enjoyed the talk by the
thriller author, and attended as many sessions that morning as I
could.

“Imagine my surprise when I saw that old man during the lunch
event stride up to the podium when he was introduced as the key
speaker for the day.

“That man was Elmore Leonard.

“Boom! I took his advice, and never again spent a dime on a
writing conference.

“Elmore Leonard saved me enough money over the years to buy a
brand new car. I wish he were alive so I could thank him
properly.

“If you’re going to spend your money, spend it on books to read.”

Thanks, Hunter!

Share

Category: General, Success, Writing | 2 Comments »

Prospecting with scissors

August 1st, 2017 by Bob Bly

Though I don’t think I invented it, I’m one of an extremely small
group of people who use this little-known marketing channel to
stay in touch with clients and prospects.

I call it “strategic clipping.”

How it works is simple….

Whenever you come across an article in a magazine or newspaper
that is relevant to one of your client’s businesses — or even his
or her hobbies or personal life — tear or clip it out of the
publication … and mail it to the client.

It sounds trivial. Almost ridiculous for me to call it a
marketing channel.

But in fact, it’s one of the most effective relationship-building
tools ever devised.

First, here’s how I do it.

I don’t deliberately research material to clip and send to
clients.

But in the course of your reading, you will come across many such
items weekly.

A lot of people look at a relevant article and think, “Bill would
be interested in this; maybe I should send it to him.”

But because they are busy, they don’t.

I do. It’s easy, because my strategic clipping method is fast and
efficient … and takes almost none of my time.

When I see an article for Bill, I cut it out of the publication with
scissors.

I handwrite in pen a quick note at the top: “Bill — FYI — Bob
Bly.” That’s it. Scribbled in seconds.

I then hand it to my assistant and say, “Please mail this to Bill
Jones at Acme Solar Energy.”

And that’s it. My assistant does the work.

No need for me to take time out of my hectic day to find Bill’s
postal address, hunt for a stamp and envelope, put the article in
the envelope, seal the envelope, affix the stamp, and drive to
the post office to drop it in the mail.

If I didn’t have an assistant and had to do it myself, I probably
would not use strategic clipping. But fortunately, I do. (Every
solopreneur should.)

Why is strategic clipping so effective? For 3 reasons:

First, the content is extremely targeted and relevant to the
recipient.

Second, it has a personal touch — especially the handwritten note
— and it shows people you are thinking of them.

Third, in our digital age where people are bombarded by email,
getting a piece of paper in the mail stands out.

The only drawback to strategic clipping is: it’s hit and miss. If
I don’t come across an article of interest to Bill, he doesn’t
get a clip.

My solution to that flaw in the clipping system is to augment it
by publishing a regular e-newsletter.

An e-newsletter is not as customized and personal as a strategic
clip.

But the regularity of sending a monthly or weekly newsletter
helps build top of mind awareness.

It also ensures that your prospects, clients, and customers hear
from you on a continual basis.

Share

Category: General | 1 Comment »