Today’s article has been provided courtesy of Ben Settle from CopywritingGrabBag.com.
Ben interviewed me and included the interview as an appendix in his Copywriting Grab Bag book. Lots of money-making gems in his book. I highly recommend it… and not just because I’m featured in it. There’s a lot of proven direct response marketing nuggets you can use immediately to start boosting your sales and profits.
Without further adieu, here’s the transcription from Ben’s interview with me.
All the best,
BEN: Okay Dan, now you used to live for a brief time with Gary Halbert. What are some things you learned about copywriting and business while you were living with him?
DAN: Wow… those lessons would take an entire book to fill. Actually I’m kind of in the process of compiling or writing all the things down I learned from Gary. They’re all in my head, it’s a matter of just getting them out of there and on the paper. Gary taught me so many things. Not just about business and copywriting and direct response‚ but about life in general. Some of them didn’t make sense at the time but now a lot of them are making sense.
Guess one of the most important things he taught me was he always said motion is better than meditation. You don’t have to get it perfect. You just have to get it going. And rather than sit on something and think about it for months and analyze it, just get it out there. As he used to say, “This is good enough at this point. It’s not perfect. It’s good enough. Let’s run it up the flag pole and see how many people salute this thing.” And then he’d run the ad in the newspaper or do a direct mail test or whatever‚ an online test‚ and we’d see what would happen.
And one of the life-changing things for me was Gary and I wrote an ad for a book that we tested in a magazine. I basically wrote the thing and then Gary looked at it and took some of the things I’d written‚ not all of them‚ and then rewrote the whole ad and told me basically he was writing it in the style of the old Joe Karbo, Lazy Man’s Way To Riches ad. And I thought it was a great ad. And everybody else who read it thought it was a great ad. We ran that in several newspapers and it was a complete bomb. We got so few calls and Gary didn’t even react. There was no emotion, he just shrugged it off and his only response was, Okay, what else we workin’ on?
We moved on to the next project and that for me was so liberating to see that, you know what? Gary Halbert‚ as good a marketer and copywriting as he was‚ still had his failures. And it was just a matter of getting it out there, testing it, seeing what happens‚ if we got something to work with, let’s go forward. If not, then that’s dead and let’s move on to the next thing. There’s no emotion involved. There’s no hand-wringing, oooooh this is a failure and I worked on it for months and it failed… No. It’s just okay… next!
BEN: When you guys used to run your tests, did you test multiple different versions? Or was it just that one version then if that didn’t work you just moved on to the next thing? Or how did that work?
DAN: For this particular thing it was that one version and that was it. And it was dead in the water. You know, Gary didn’t go into specifics. I guess he pretty much just knew this one was dead in the water. We could spend some more time on it and try to revive it. But we got other projects to test so let’s test them and see what happens.
BEN: So basically, if it’s a complete disaster, it’s probably not going to get much better just by changing a headline or something?
DAN: Pretty much so. Gary told me to look at Agora Publishing. One of the biggest direct mailers in the country. Probably in the world. They hire the best copywriters in the world. They have the best marketing minds in the country working there. They have years and years and years of experience in all kinds of different markets. These guys know their stuff. And they have millions of dollars to test ideas. And he said their numbers show 8 out of every 10 projects they test fail and they never move forward with it.
BEN: Wow! I had no idea about that.
DAN: I didn’t either. And Gary’s point was if Agora Publishing‚ with all the brilliant minds and the brilliant copywriters and all that experience‚ only hits a home-run or 20% of the projects are winners‚ don’t expect to have better odds than Agora. It’s probably going to be the same for us. You’re going to test stuff, it’s going to fail‚ next! Move on to your next project. You had a failure, great. Join the club. Don’t let that stop you in your tracks. Move on to the next one. You just got to keep swinging at them until you get a hit.
BEN: Since then do you apply that philosophy to everything you work on‚ if it bombs that first time you just don’t waste time on it and move on to the next thing until you get a winner?
DAN: I pretty much do. If it shows some form of life… I try to figure out how can I make this better or why didn’t this produce the kind of response I need. But if it’s just a dog… I had to learn the hard way. I should have just followed Gary’s example. If it’s a dog… I tried to beat a dead horse so to speak. I’ve had several projects where I just believed they were going to work and I thought my copy was brilliant. And they were complete bombs. But yet I wasted time on trying to revive those and figure out what was wrong when I should have just thrown that thing in the trash and moved on to the next project like Gary taught me.
So if it’s a dog and it’s just stinkin’ up the place with hardly any response and it’s just not working, it’s time to drop that thing and move on to the next one. But I do have things that I didn’t get that great a response on initially that I’ve stuck with and got advice from trusted marketers and have improved on them. But if it’s a dog I’m dropping it as fast as I can.
BEN: That is really good advice and definitely something I’ll be applying to my own business very soon here. Because like you said, it takes that pressure off. If 8 out of 10 of Agora are failing with all their millions of dollars to test and pay for the highest copywriters in the world‚ the average business owner who maybe doesn’t have a lot of skills yet‚ why screw around with the dead product like that? Maybe it’s just the product?
DAN: I agree. I’ll go you even one further. Let’s say that 1 out of 20‚ because we’re not Agora, and I certainly don’t put my copywriting skills up against any of these really good guys‚ so let’s say I’m a hack copywriter‚ and I still have a lot to learn about copywriting and marketing‚ so let’s say that my failure rate is 19 out of 20. But that one project that hits‚ trust me‚ even if all 19 in a row are failures, Ben‚ that one project that hits will more than pay for all the time and money lost on those 19.
The only problem is most people don’t push through until they get the hit. The disappointment they take it personal. They view the failure as a reflection on them. And they view failure instead of being a result‚ okay, that failed, that’s a result… that doesn’t make it a bad result… just a result‚ and then the hand-wringing and the “Oh woe is me” starts… and then they quit. They don’t push on through.
BEN: Are you pretty much in that camp of thinking where the list is 50%, the offer is 30 and the copy is only like 20% anyway… and really it’s such a small percentage that it’s out of the copywriter’s hand anyway?
DAN: You know what, in my experience that has proven true for me. I’ve had fantastic results with‚ and I’ll be the first to admit‚ with crappy copy.
BEN: One of the other guys I interviewed for this book was telling me, if the copywriters out there trying to sell their services weren’t beating their chests and acting like they’re the reason why a lot of these products are selling, maybe everyone else wouldn’t have this complex like, “man I must really suck if this ad’s not working…” When there are so many factors outside the copy that come into play that it’s almost kind of ridiculous.
DAN: Yeah… that’s true. And there’s factors affecting things that maybe you’re not even aware of. It could be a breaking news event that all the sudden has captured everyone’s attention and they’re not watching your ad or reading your direct mail or Lord knows.
BEN: It could depend maybe on the day they test, right?
DAN: It really could‚ there’s a lot of factors out of your control. And I used to get discouraged a lot about that stuff. Especially when I read and believed a lot of things I read on the Internet from alleged “gurus” who‚ every piece they write they get a 85% response and $10 million off of every mailing. I used to believe a lot of that stuff. And I used think, “Wow… I’m a real loser. I only got 1% response on my last direct mail piece. And geez… and it only brought in a a buck fifty for every dollar invested‚ I must be a serious loser and hang this up I guess.”
But there’s so many factors like you said. A good example is I’ve gotten fantastic results from crappy copy. I just cranked out some copy real fast that was crappy… and I thought, “Huh. This is half-assed copy. You know what‚ let’s do like Gary taught me, run it up the flag pole and see how many people salute this thing.”
But it was to a good list I had a previous business relationship with, or current business relationship with, and the offer was a good offer so my crappy copy was really successful.
BEN: And you can always improve on it later once you know it’s worth spending time on. Is that the way you look at it?
DAN: Yeah, exactly. Or… if you want to take it further. I got a piece of crappy copy that’s been running the past year and a half that is just kicking ass! And it is crappy. And I’ve had several people who I really respect be real nice about it and say, “Uuuhmmm this is okay… you could improve this or that and this or that…” And I think, yeah, they’re absolutely right. I could improve it. And I’ll get around to that. But in the meantime since it’s making me a boatload of money I think I’ll just keep my crappy copy out there. I will get around to it. I will do some split testing and I will try to improve it. But it’s working pretty darn good.
And like you said, there’s other factors. There’s the list, the market, the offer. Gary Bencivenga said it very eloquently‚ and I can’t remember what he said‚ but it’s basically, a gifted a product is much more powerful than a gifted pen or something like that.
BEN: Yeah… I believe he was quoting Rosser Reeves.
DAN: Ah… you know brilliant copy is not going to sell a turd. You can write a brilliant piece of copy to sell a turd and it just ain’t going to happen.
BEN: I remember reading some of those Gary Halbert letters and what I liked about those newsletters even more than just the content is he would show you an ad he wrote and he would say, “I don’t know why this didn’t work.” The one I’m thinking about is for a car dealership. And I’m thinking, “Man if I was a car dealer I’d buy this.” But we just can’t control this stuff. And why worry about it?
DAN: I agree. Gary had an interesting way of teaching. He didn’t come out and say that stuff, “Dan, you have a dog. Drop it!” He did his thing and let me observe and figure this stuff out on my own. But yeah, that’s one of the most important things I learned from him. You can’t control a lot of that stuff. So get it out there, see what happens, if it’s a dog drop it and move on to the next one.
BEN: When I was reading your website I remember one of the things that you talked about that Gary taught you was to quit being 100% online and start going offline. What’s a good way for someone who is maybe 100% online to start cashing in on offline media? How could someone go about that?
DAN: I feel like I’m the lone voice in the wilderness crying out this truth that nobody believes until they actually try it. But if you’ve got an online business and you’re not keeping a database of your customers’ physical snail mail addresses and sending them direct mail at least every month… I’m going to have to channel the spirit of Gary Halbert. If you’re not doing that then you are a complete 100% shit weasel.
If Gary were here and he met an online marketer who wasn’t sending direct mail I think he’d probably whack ’em upside the head and call them a shit weasel. Because that one thing alone… can literally double your business in 30 days or less. I love the response I get when I tell online marketers this. And I’ve given this advice away freely which I will no longer do. In fact, this is the last time I’m going to give this away free, Ben. Because this is million dollar advice. But when I give it away free people don’t seem to value it.
I spoke with an owner of one of the biggest online marketers of supplements and asked about how often they’re snail mailing their list. And he said, “We don’t keep a database of snail mail addresses once we ship the order.” And I thought you’ve got to be kidding. Here’s a company that‚ based on the current sales‚ could probably add an additional $5 million per month if they would‚ and that’s on the low side based on my experience‚ if they send direct mail snail mail to the list every month. But the response is, “Yeah, but we capture email addresses. And we send a weekly, daily, whatever email promotion.”
Well, for a lot of reasons the emails are not getting through to the recipients nowadays with spam filters and all the other problems. Or, people’s inboxes are so crammed full of stuff, they’re deleting stuff. You know this, Ben, stuff you’ve even subscribed to that you want to get you probably delete a lot because you don’t have time to read it. So an email nowadays has a very low perceived value. But an actual snail mail letter or promotion that somebody holds that they received in their mailbox and hold in their hot little hands still commands more attention than an email in my most humble‚ but accurate‚ opinion.
BEN: Yesterday some idiot cut the phone line somewhere along the road here. So, everyone who has Verizon service from Oregon through California for like 100 miles could not make long distance calls or access the Internet. And I was thinking, “Man I gotta call Doberman Dan tomorrow, I hope this thing gets back on track.” And it just made it completely painfully obvious that relying on the Internet or any kind of technology is just a real big mistake. The technology of direct mail doesn’t change. It’s paper, a stamp and you can do it whether the phone is working. You can do it whether the Internet’s working. And you are going to get it in their hands 100% of the time. I just wanted to add that in there.
DAN: That’s a very good point. And like I said it commands more attention. The first thing you gotta do before you can make a sale is you gotta get your prospect’s attention. And if he’s deleting your emails obviously you don’t have his attention. He’s not reading your message. But a direct mail promotion still commands more attention than an email and I learned that the hard way.
I’d had a little online business in the fitness-body building marketing that I kept going online, I was really concentrating more on client work at that time. But I kept my little business going in that market. And I was sending out weekly emails and everything and it generated a few sales. It was really small but it was something. I just got to a bad place in my life and was broke, moved to a new place in Miami, and it was Christmas time‚ the worst time in the year to try to sell something in that market. And I was completely broke and sent out an email promotion and it got a trickle of sales like always. I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was like the wolf was at the door like Gary used to say. And me and my wife at the time sat down and I wrote out a direct mail promotion for one of my products and me and my wife sat down at the kitchen table which was the only piece of furniture we had at the time. And hand wrote out a 1000 envelopes to my most recent customers. Stuck the stamps on them all by hand. This was like I said real close to Christmas. And I dropped that in the mail‚ the last little bit of money I had went to pay for envelopes, printing and stamps. And I dropped that in the mail with the hope that it would do something.
BEN: A Christmas miracle.
DAN: I was hoping for the Christmas miracle. And it’s a horrible time selling anything with direct mail in that market but I had to do something. And prior to that with this little business I had never sent any direct mail to them. I just followed the typical online thing that people do and just send email promotions weekly or monthly. And the orders just flooded in. And I thought, “I’ll be darned!” If I got this kind of response from direct mail‚ because these people knew me, bought from me before and had a good experience with me and I got a great response and little cash flow surge there‚ and I’ll be darned, I think maybe I should do the same thing next month. Did it next month and it was even better because January is a great month for direct mail. And I just sat down and got to figuring it out because I had that little business going at that point online for like five years. And I get to calculating and worst case scenario and thought ‚ “Wow! If I was sending out direct mail pitches all these years I would have made at least another $100,000 per year.”
BEN: Oh wow! Email is actually costing people money even though it doesn’t cost anything to send it.
DAN: Exactly. Gary always used to say email is cheap‚ or email is free‚ for people who place no value on their time. His contention was emails are getting deleted, people aren’t reading them, they aren’t getting through. If you spent the same time preparing a direct mail promotion and sending it out you’d probably get 5 to 10 times the response that you get on email. And he was right. That was the first thing he told me when he came to Costa Rica‚ I was living in Costa Rica at the time. That was the first time he and I met in person. And he asked what I was doing and I said I got this little business online. And he asks how well how’s it going. And I said it’s doing okay‚ you know it’s doing this per month and this is what I’m doing I’m sending out emails and blah blah blah. And he’s like if you take that offline you can add at least one zero to the end of what you’re doing right now in the next two months. And I thought, man, this guy’s full of crap, man. This can’t work. Snail mail is old fashioned. Email is the wave of the future. This can’t be true. I basically ignored his advice for a long time.
BEN: Until that Christmas when you decided then to implement it?
DAN: Yeah, that was about two years after Gary told me to do it. I’m just stubborn or thick headed sometimes. And two years later when my back was against the wall I did what he told me to do two years earlier.
BEN: If that doesn’t get the point across I don’t know what does. Let’s say somebody is on a shoe-string budget, how would you suggest they go about doing their first direct mail project? Should they just start small and work their way up, or how does that work?
DAN: I would do just like I did. Whatever you can afford to do, take a segment of your customer list, and take your thousand most recent customers‚ or if you’re really on a limited budget do whatever you can afford. A first class stamp nowadays is 41 cents. So if you can only afford forty some bucks in postage, then take your 100 most recent customers or whatever you can afford and get your promotion together and printed. You can usually get those printed inexpensively. Keep it simple‚ white paper, black print. Make it look like a letter just like Gary always taught. Get those printed and sit down at your kitchen table and hand write your envelopes out. Hand write your return address in the corner card with no company name. No personal name. Just your address. And then hand write your customer’s address on there. It’s a bootstrap way of doing it.
And second of all, Gary always said that you’ll get a higher response when you make your letter look like a personal letter. So if you hand write out the envelope it’s going to look like a personal letter with everything printed right on the envelope. If instead of a live stamp it’s got a postmark or whatever they call it‚ a printed indicia‚ it’s obviously not a personal letter. So even though you’re on a budget and writing these out by hand, it’s actually an advantage to you and it’s going to help your response. Stick the stamps on by hand or pay some neighborhood kid a few cents each one to address and stick the stamps on and stuff the envelope and drop it in the mail.
I think that’s the cheapest way to get started because you can do it based on your budget. If you can only afford to mail 100 letters this week then mail 100. Wait until the response comes in, take that money you’ve made, roll that into some more letters. If you make enough to mail 200 then mail 200 next week.
BEN: So if you’re really in trouble you can start with 20 or 30 and just do that or is there a minimum number they should try? Or how does that work?
DAN: Whatever you can afford. Obviously you’re not going to get real accurate statistical results if you’re only sending 20, 30, 40, 50, 100. Say you need to mail 1000, or 2000 to kind of gage what the response will be if you roll to the rest of your list. That may or may not be true, it depends on every circumstance. But the nice thing is you can mail out whatever you can afford. You can do your direct mail for $100 or less.
BEN: Now let’s say someone doesn’t have a list of customers necessarily. Maybe they just have an e-newsletter. Should they not do direct mail because they’re not proven buyers? How would you handle something like that?
DAN: Here’s something I did a few years back with that same business. I had a decent ezine subscriber list, but I only had snail mail addresses of people who purchased. So I wanted to get more snail mail addresses. So what I did is I wrote a special report and sent an email to the list. I didn’t offer the report free. I know I would have gotten more response if I would have offered the report free. And then I could have tested to see how good those leads were. I kind of wanted to weed out the mooches who only ask for free stuff because it’s free and I asked something stupid‚ like a buck ninety-five or two fifty or two ninety-five to cover postage. And by asking for a little bit of money I weeded out a lot of the mooches and the people who responded had credit cards because that was the only way to pay the two bucks or two ninety-five… or whatever it was.
So I knew I got a snail mail name of someone who is one of my ezine subscribers who had a credit card. And that got me more snail mail addresses and the list turned out to be good. They were a pretty good list of buyers, too.
BEN: So really somebody could whip up something with some value or maybe do what you and I are doing and just have a conversation with an expert, and offer to give it away free but maybe just charge for shipping and they’re going to get people who actually have an interest in the subject and are willing to spend a little money on it. And it’s almost like getting a paying customer?
DAN: To me a snail mail address of even just a prospect‚ some who hasn’t bought but somebody I know has interest in my niche or my subject matter‚ is infinitely more valuable than an email address.
And so, based on your numbers let’s say you sell a higher priced product. You could offer your report free. So you’ve got some out of pocket expenses sending them the report, you know the printing and the postage. But it may make sense for your particular market or product. Because let’s say you’re selling a hundred dollar product and you give away your report free, you’re going to get a higher percentage of mooches who just ask for something free that really aren’t quality prospects to get some good quality prospects in there, too. I just ask for the two bucks shipping in there just to weed out the mooches, because mine was a low priced product. But if I had a higher priced product I would have tested offering it completely free and then see how it does from there.
You know, whatever you’re offering‚ whether it’s a report or a DVD or CD‚ the content has to be good. You can’t put together something that’s crappy because you figure, “Ah… it’s free so I’ll just give them some crap.” The content really has to be good because you’re just going to blow your credibility out if they send for your report and it’s all crap.
BEN: Yeah because then they’re not going to want to respond to a sales letter I would imagine.
DAN: Exactly‚ if you’re content’s good they’ll be like, “Wow‚ if this is his free stuff, imagine what his paid stuff is like.”
BEN: Yeah, and that can go either way. If it’s a quality thing it’ll make it more likely I would think, and if it’s a crappy thing it’ll make them more likely to not want to buy it.
DAN: Yes, exactly.
BEN: Let me ask you this‚ now that we’re talking about direct mail. The swampy part of the direct mail world, from what I understand at least, is the list broker side of it. Do you have any tips on finding a good list broker and how would you go about finding one? I mean you probably already have one. But what about someone who has never done this before‚ how can they find a list broker?
DAN: You just have to ask people who have experience with that. I think I found the first one in the yellow pages or something like that. Or maybe it was an online search. It was years before I found a good list broker.
And it depends on your niche, too. Like my list broker specializes in certain things. Like she deals with health promotions and I forget what other niches because they’re niches I’m not in, but she specialized in that. But if you’re in a certain niche then there may be a better list broker for your particular niche. So if at all possible try to find an experienced direct marketer who is using the list broker and doing direct mail and ask who they use.
You’ll go through a lot of them on your own if you’re just trying them here and there‚ at least I did. You know this is a small industry and word gets out and a good list broker is really helpful. They know who’s mailing what to what lists, they know what promotions are working in certain lists. That’s some extremely valuable information. They’ll tell you who’s used this list, who’s gone back and used it a second or third time‚ really good stuff.
If you find a list you like and want to look into it more they’ll find you the promotion that generated the list. Yeah, a good list broker is hard to find. But when you find a good one they’re worth their weight in gold.
BEN: Just getting the ad that built the list‚ man, you can’t ask for better research than that.
DAN: Nope, that’s for sure.
BEN: Will they show that to you before you rent the list? Or do you have to rent the list first and then they’ll show it to you?
DAN: No‚ while you’re doing your research on the list.
BEN: So basically if I was going to the SRDS and I wanted to see the letter that created a certain list of maybe a million names in a certain niche, I could actually call a list broker up and they’ll be able to show me that sales letter?
DAN: Yeah, a good list broker who’s doing their job and wants to spend the time will do it. One who’s lazy and doesn’t want to do anything will blow you off. But yeah, they’ll do that. The only caveat I have or I should say is when you find a good list broker don’t waste their time. If you’re going to rent the list and you’re serious about renting the list then that’s cool‚ do all the research. But don’t just waste their time and have them go through all these hoops just so you can get free information from them. That’s really unethical.
BEN: I remember a few months ago when we first spoke, you told me this interesting story about another circumstance when your back was against the wall, and you had to basically persuade the magazine person to run your ad at a substantial discount. Not a lot of people can do that sort of thing. What are some ways people can get good deals on magazines and newspaper space ads?
DAN: Now that we’re into this interview I’m noticing a recurring theme about my life‚ I keep thinking of stories when my back was against the wall… for some reason that seems to be when I’m at my most creative.
I remember this time specifically. And I didn’t know anything about negotiating… or ads… all I knew is I had something that was working because I tested it on a small basis and I needed to get it in these magazines because I thought it was going to work. And they sent me what they call a rate card and it was like I had the ad all prepared‚ it was a full page ad‚ I don’t remember what the rate card was at the time. It doesn’t matter because whatever it was it was more than I could afford. It was something like $5,000. All I knew was that I could only afford to pay about six to seven hundred‚ maybe eight hundred‚ and so I didn’t know anything about negotiation. All I did was the “poor poor pitiful me” thing. I am a small time guy trying to put a roof over my head… I don’t have hardly any money. And I’m not even sure this is going to work. This could be a total failure and what little money I got saved could just be gone in an instant. I’ve got whatever it was‚ $700 for this ad. Is there any possible way we could do a just one time test of my ad for $700? And I actually got a magazine to agree to that thank God. Primarily because the ad rep was just a gem of a person. His name if I can mention it…?
BEN: Yeah, go ahead.
DAN: Bob Rose. And he works for Chelo Publishing. And he’s the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. One of those few guys where his word is his bond and you shake hands on it and it’s good. Bob’s a great guy. And Bob let me run that ad for $700 and it was supposed to be a $5,000 ad.
I got better at ad negotiation though as I learned more. One other trick I used simply because I didn’t how to negotiate and I actually felt uncomfortable on the phone asking for a discount‚ I’d call and ask for a magazine’s media kit. I’d look at the rate card‚ whatever it was it didn’t matter because I couldn’t afford it‚ I would have my ad ready to their specs that are laid out in the media kit. I’d write out a check for whatever I could afford. I’d send the check with the ad artwork‚ this is back when you actually physically had to send the artwork. Now you can usually FTP it or email it. And I’d send a letter explaining here’s my full page ad. Here’s a check enclosed for X amount of dollars. Which is the maximum amount I can afford to pay for this ad. Feel free to cash my check and run my ad for this. Or if you ever happen to get any remnant space‚ which is unsold ad space‚ feel free to cash my check and run my ad. That worked 100% of the time and I didn’t do it many many many times. But the times I did it worked.
BEN: Is that the whole mindset of “it’s really hard for them to give the money back once you send it to them?”
DAN: I think that’s what it is. I mean you got a check‚ you got an order with a check. So it’s like, “Okay, something’s better than nothing.” And it worked well.
BEN: Man, usually you hear about remnant space and okay, here’s a company that’ll help you do it. But I never thought of actually just doing it that way.
DAN: And you can’t get ridiculous with it. I’ve gotten ad space as low as 10-15 percent of the rate card. If they’re asking $10,000 for a full page ad you can’t send them a $100 check with a note to run your ad. If their asking $10,000 for a full page ad it’s possible if you send them a $1,000 check using the technique I just described it is very possible you will get that ad in there.
BEN: It may not be on your time frame right? But it could get in there within a few weeks or months or how does that work?
DAN: That’s right. It very well could. If you’ve got more money to spend it’s actually highly likely if you send a check for 20 or 30 percent of the rate card it’s highly likely you’ll get in there pretty darn quick.
BEN: You said it worked 100% of the time, but did you know when they were going to do it? Or did you just happen to see it was run and your check was cashed, or how did that work?
DAN: I think a few times I was contacted. And they said your ad will be running. One time I wasn’t even contacted. They just cashed my check, put my ad in the publication and the way I knew it was in there is all the sudden I started getting calls. And, “what the heck?” and when I got the publication I found I was in there.
BEN: That is a great little tip. I mean anyone who is reading this or listening to this there’s no excuse not to do this now offline‚ at least test it if you can scrape some money together like that.
DAN: It’s worked well and desperation was the mother of invention at that point. I had no negotiation skills and felt extremely uncomfortable doing it so that’s how I handled it. And it worked.
BEN: Talk about a million dollar tip. If anyone wanted to start cashing in on offline leads and things like that‚ I mean there you go. More on these offline sales letters and ads, another thing I wanted to ask you was what your process was for when you test them. Because it’s fairly simple now to test things online. It’s really cheap and easy. But if somebody was going to go offline how would you suggest they start testing their ads and sales letters?
DAN: Things have changed a lot since I first started in direct response marketing back in the mid to late nineties I guess. Back then for example, my first project how I tested it was a two step ad actually.
I was selling a self published body building course and I just took out a very small display ad‚ the smallest size I could. And had a headline whatever it was “Gain 15 pounds of muscle blah blah blah ‚ new free report reveals the secrets to gaining muscle mass and strength yada yada yada. Call this toll free 24 hour telephone number and request your free report.”
And that was set up with a voicemail number. They called the voicemail number, left their name and address for the free report and I sent a free report that was a sales pitch of course. And so, you had to wait for the ad to come out, which can be anywhere from two to three months. Then the leads came in, and you had to mail out that first sales letter and judge the response from there. So you got several months involved in doing it that way. But it was the cheapest way for me to get a prospect list going and see if my offer was going to fly because the ad was inexpensive, the voicemail was $20 a month. I did all the grunt work myself, I transcribed the names from the voicemail, hand addressed the envelopes, mailed them their report.
So it was a real bootstrap way of doing it. But it was cheaper than me putting my whole sales pitch in a full page ad. Plus if I did it this way‚ two-step‚ I captured the names and addresses so they didn’t just get one sales letter from me. Weeks later they got a follow up sales letter. So it was months to really test something the bootstrap way like that. That was how I did it. It is way faster to test stuff online nowadays.
BEN: When you send somebody a free report which is really a sales pitch, is yours a flat out sales letter or do you actually give away really good information the first half, then kind of segue into it… or how do you do that?
DAN: Initially when I was just first learning it was just a sales pitch. It was actually a darn good story. The story was fairly intriguing. But it was like some of the promotions Gary Halbert wrote. The story just sucked you in. But there wasn’t really much or any content in there because I just didn’t know. It worked. But nowadays if I were doing it, I would definitely put some really good content in there, too‚ that they’d read it and be like, “Wow! I can use this right now in my business‚ this is good advice…” rather than just a flat out sales pitch.
But then again, I’m gonna also say that you have to test it, too. You may get better results with a flat out sales pitch. You may get better results putting some really good content in there. But my first few projects done the two-step way like I just described was a flat out sales pitch.
BEN: Have you ever used newspapers or magazines or even direct mail to drive people online?
DAN: Yes I have. I have not done it recently. But back when I first got on the web, which would have been ’97, I was running full page ads that were a one-step that sold a product right from the ad. And the only ordering option was call a toll free option to order. But then after I got my website up I also put the website address in there as a response device in my particular instance my response stayed about the same. It didn’t cause my sales to go down. But instead of 100% coming in on the phone, now 70% came in on the phone and 30% came in online. I’m going from memory here not exact numbers, just an example.
So yes I have done it but that was a one-step thing. I’ve also tested small display ads. Same deal as before like I described‚ people could call and get their free report, but instead of using the phone option I drove them to a website to enter their email to get the free report. And that worked well, too. And it was inexpensive. A small display ad in certain publications was an inexpensive way to do that.
BEN: To me it seems marrying the two mediums that works better than either one by themselves makes more sense than going all online and not using all the tools at our disposal. But a lot of people just stay online and don’t even think about doing these things.
DAN: Yeah it makes sense to me and it’s worked extremely well for me and several other people who I’ve advised to do it. Sometimes I just think that it’s incredibly stupid to have your entire business come from one single company. And I’m talking about Google. If You’re completely dependent on Google for your business you’re like in my opinion one step away from being out of business. If they change their search engine parameters and all the sudden you drop from the top ten to number 400‚ you’re out of business. Or if your Google AdWords are the only thing bringing in leads and sales and all the sudden Google changes some small policy… or changes the rule about that and all the sudden your ads are deleted… or all the sudden you go from appearing in the top five to being 50 or below‚ you’re out of business. So it just makes sense to me to spread it around and use different ways to get business coming in.
BEN: I think Google‚ didn’t they do that thing the “Google Slap” they called it last year and people literally went out of business overnight.
DAN: Yeah overnight. And that’s scares the crap out of me. I use Google AdWords a lot to test stuff‚ and not just to test but to bring in business and leads, too. But if that were my only method of bringing in business I’d be scared to death‚ I wouldn’t sleep until I got other stuff going. And all this stuff I’m telling you to do offline‚ that’s what I’d be doing if I had something going on Google AdWords that was working, I wouldn’t sleep until I got other stuff going because I know that in a nano-second Google can change their mind about something and you’d be out of business.
BEN: Yeah or the Internet could have a fart or something‚ who knows…
BEN: Reminds me of that thing Dan Kennedy likes to say‚ that 1 is the most dangerous number in business.
DAN: That’s true.
BEN: Relying on one this or one product, one client, one media like a lot of people used to just use FAX and they couldn’t do that, or telemarketing and they couldn’t do that. What you’re saying here makes so much more sense to mix and match all these different medias. Especially offline which doesn’t really change. When’s the last time the technology of offline media changed? It is what it is.
BEN: You know who has a very, very good‚ he wrote an article about this‚ a guy named Bob Serling. He wrote something on his website‚ and I’m pretty sure this is free for anyone to read on his website‚ I think it’s bobserling.com. Or just put his name in the search engine and you’ll find him. And he talked about the absolute games these search engines play and how they have to keep screwing with your rankings‚ that’s just part of the game.
DAN: Is that on his website?
BEN: I believe so‚ and the click fraud and all that. It’s not like it’s bad to use those things‚ but to rely on them, like you said, how could you sleep at night just knowing one engineer could have an idea that might make sense for Google or Yahoo but kill your business in a nanosecond.
DAN: I have a friend who’s got an online information marketing business who checks his Google ranking like five times a day‚ nervously checks it five times a day‚ because he’s been put out of business several times. Google changed their mind about some little thing and he went from being in the top five under certain key words that were bringing in all his business to going to number 200 and all the sudden he’s out of business. He’s gotta scramble and figure out what he needs to do to get back up.
Wow… I don’t want to live that way. I want the multiple leg thing like Jay Abraham used to talk about. You have a table with one leg‚ that’s pretty shaky. Two legs you’re doing better. You know I want about a 50 leg table… so if this leg falls off I’m not even going to miss a beat and probably notice it much and it’s just going to keep going. That’s what I want and all that stuff that Gary Halbert used to teach in his newsletter is still applicable today and this stuff I’m telling you about is still applicable to online businesses, there’s all kinds of bootstrap, inexpensive off-line ways to get leads and new business.
BEN: The guy I interviewed last week for this book‚ his name is Michael Winicki‚ he was talking about how easy it is to just include a sales letter or catalog with your order when you ship it out…
DAN: Exactly! It’s amazing and nobody does it.
BEN: That’s exactly what he was telling me. He’s like almost embarrassed for our industry. I think people are looking for the sexy thing and not for the thing that works‚ the simple, basic thing. I don’t know‚ you just see all the money being left on the table and it just kind of bothers you.
DAN: It does… it’s crazy that‚ I mean some of the biggest online marketers out there don’t include a bounce-back offer‚ that’s what they call it when you put a sales pitch in with your outgoing order. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars are they missing by not doing it. It doesn’t cost anything‚ you’re already shipping the product!
BEN: Yeah… it’s just hitching a ride. It reminds me of what you were talking about earlier when you guys were modeling the Joe Karbo ad. And from what I understand Joe Karbo somehow got away with not collecting the names or anything. But everyone else since could never figure out how he did it. It’s like why even bother trying to follow that‚ his model I mean‚ why not just do these little things and include the bounce-back offer, put an up-sell on the order form and just all these little dumb simple things‚ and it just amazes me how much a difference they can make.
DAN: Yeah exactly. According to what Gary told me, Joe Karbo just didn’t know. Massive success with that “Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” ad and he just didn’t know. He was making so much money‚ he shipped out his book and threw away the names and it just didn’t occur to him, hey I can keep these and sell more stuff to these guys. Or, at the very least, rent his list to other people and make some money with it. Apparently from what Gary says, Joe admitted after the fact that was a huge mistake that cost him millions of dollars.
BEN: I was recently reading some Dan Kennedy thing about that. He was talking about how when he was just starting out‚ he was like I’m going to model that whole thing‚ put the ten dollar book in the full page ad and see what happens. He was like it just wasn’t working. He was losing money left and right. But then he noticed it was working for some people. But then when he did the numbers he found out, wait a minute‚ they’re not making a profit either. How are they staying in business? And the way they were staying in business is they were renting the names. So they could take a loss and unless you have that strategy in place…
But like you said, there’s another leg of the table. Renting the list. It’s just good to know these things.
DAN: It is. In my opinion, based on my experience, a snail mail physical address‚ customer list‚ is something that has immense value that can feed you for years and probably decades. As long as you do it right and treat it right and do the things you need to do to keep the list active. That’s been my case, that’s for sure. Way… waaaaay more value than just an email list.
BEN: These emails they just‚ people drop their email address on a dime. And it’s not like you can just move on a dime.
DAN: That’s right.
BEN: With the email it’s gotten to the point where‚ and I know a lot of people, myself included‚ I don’t even let people with like hotmail or msn join because all they do is push the stupid spam button and then it gets you in trouble because now you can’t market to anyone else because now you’re on a list and… AOL does that too. Email is just so shaky, it’s so unreliable now.
DAN: You know what that’s something I didn’t know. I think I’m going to implement that‚ not allowing hotmail addresses. You get a lot of complaints from them. Good idea‚ thanks Ben.
BEN: I kind of want to segue into some copywriting questions here if that’s alright because I’ve looked at your ads at your portfolio at your site and they’re just great ads. One of the questions I wanted to ask you‚ and I think you address this on your site‚ is how do you avoid things like writer’s block? Because you talked about how you sat down at the kitchen table with your wife and you just cranked out an ad when your back was against the wall. How do you avoid that dreaded blank page and where do I start and that sort of thing?
DAN: I have had that problem sometimes of feeling just overwhelmed and so overwhelmed I just couldn’t get started. And when it’s my own projects that’s not a real big deal because I don’t have a client breathing down my neck. But when it’s a client and you got a deadline that’s extremely stressful for me.
First of all, I’m a pretty voracious reader of stuff about direct marketing and copywriting. And I love to read promotions written by the masters. Like you’ve been sending me the Jim Rutz stuff you found and Clayton Makepeace, John Carlton and all the other the masters‚ I don’t mean to be leaving anyone out. I like reading those to learn from them and that seems to just stuff ideas into my brain that seem to come out at later points in time. So that’s been a real help to me, just always reading stuff about direct response and reading good direct response promotions.
Plus, what’s really worked is quit editing yourself as you write. And just write. Just because you’re writing doesn’t mean you have to use it. Just because you’re writing something doesn’t mean it’s going to go into your promotion. Just write even if it makes no sense whatsoever. Just write and get stuff flowing.
Gary had a technique which I’ve used‚ it’s worked for me. He guarantees it works every time and you’ll never ever have writer’s block. He said you just write. It’s as simple as it gets. If you don’t know what to write, quit sitting there looking at the blank screen or the blank piece of paper and just start writing “blah blah blah.” And literally B-L-A-H-B-L-A-H. And keep writing “blah blah blah” until a thought pops into your head.
“7 Mistakes Business Owners Make That Are Killing Your Profits” you go blank again. Keep writing, “blah blah blah blah blah.” Or whatever you want to‚ keep writing “my dog has fleas my dog has fleas my dog has fleas” and you get the next idea that pops into your head. “Are you making this mistake? You’re probably losing 50% of your potential sales if you’re doing this.” You blank out. So go back to writing “blah blah blah blah blah.” That’s what’s worked really well.
BEN: Is that that whole, “you just have to keep moving” basically?
DAN: I think so. And quit critiquing yourself and editing yourself as you write. You’re writing something and thinking, “7 Reasons Business Owners Are Losing Money This Year‚ oh wait a minute, that sucks… 7 Mistakes Entrepreneurs…” you can’t even finish the first sentence because you’re editing yourself as you go‚ just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s just pure crap or drivel. Just write and later you’ll pull the gems out of there.
BEN: Kind of like what you were saying at the beginning of this interview‚ you don’t have to get it perfect, just get it down.
DAN: That’s right. Just get it going. Motion beats meditation, that’s for sure. And the more you sit there fretting about it with the blank screen the worse it gets.
BEN: Yeah, definitely. I’m sure that most copywriters have had that problem. It just gets worse and worse. That’s great advice. When you look at other copywriters what they’re doing today‚ or I don’t know if people ever send you ads just to say, “Hey Dan, can you look this over and tell me what you think?” What’s the biggest mistake that you’re seeing that people are making in their copy?
DAN: Well a couple things. Not enough proof elements. If you make a statement and you can’t back it up you’re just bragging. “My course is going to increase your income by 50% in 60 days or less.” Oh really? Back that up. Tell me how, give me testimonials of people who have done it or whatever. You really can’t have enough proof elements I don’t think.
Here’s a mistake I’ve seen recently. Just promotions that are just really hypey. With all these hypey words and exclamation point after exclamation point. “Amazing” this… “Mind-Boggling” that…
DAN: Read something written by the masters. It’s funny it’s like the inexperienced guys‚ the copy is drawing attention to itself. “Look at me! This is amazing!” You know, a really good piece of copy written by a master it’s almost like it‚ at least if I could describe it this way‚ it’s almost like I’m reading and I’m not really recognizing the copy or the words. I’m drawn in by the copy‚ the copy isn’t drawing attention to itself. Trying to think of a better way to explain this. Read anything written by Gary Halbert and it just flows. And it just sucks you in. And the copy doesn’t draw attention to itself and I don’t know if I’m doing a good job of describing it but I think you know what I mean.
BEN: I think you’re doing a great job of describing it. You’re saying that if you notice the writing then you probably should go back and redo it. Even if you did want people to notice the writing it’s only 20% of the sale anyway.
DAN: Yeah‚ exactly.
BEN: It’s all these other things‚ it’s the inherent value of what you’re saying. Is that…?
DAN: Yeah‚ exactly. That’s what I was really trying to get at. That’s the mistake I see made a lot. You can’t hype people into buying your product. There’s got to be some good salesmanship. If people see a bunch of hypey words and “amazing” has got to be one of the over-used words and ends with exclamation points all over the place. It’s kind of like “uuuggh… yuck!”
Of course I’ll give a disclaimer. You know you have to test. You definitely have to test this stuff. But when I read something written by Clayton Makepeace or Gary Halbert‚ Gary wrote a piece shortly before he passed away for a colon cleansing product. That’s another case of I read the ad to read it just because Gary wrote it. And I have no interest whatsoever in that product. And I wind buying the product just because it’s so good. I don’t remember the headline exactly, “The Secret Of The World’s Oldest Man” or something.
The story was so compelling it’s like I got lost in the story. And I’m specifically reading this copy to study it as a copywriter. But it was so damn good, that now all the sudden that I’m in to it after just a few sentences… the copy is secondary. I’m not noticing the copy because I’m sucked into the story.
You know, here’s something else I’m thinking of now‚ and I’m not saying this to try and suck up to my interviewer either. But you wrote a promotion for Ken McCarthy’s copywriting course. And first of all, I would be real intimidated personally, writing a promotion for a copywriting course. Because I know the people reading this‚ a lot of them are going to be copywriters. It’s like I’m a guitar player and there’s this old joke how many guitar players does it take to change a light bulb? Well it takes six‚ one to change the light bulb and five others to stand around with their arms crossed talking about how much better they could do it. That’s how I feel about writing an ad for a copywriting course that I know copywriters are going to read. I’d think, “Wow… these guys are going to be critiquing my copy.”
BEN: Thank you…
DAN: That is a stellar example of what I’ve been trying to say but not doing a great job of expressing myself correctly. That ad is classic salesmanship. But without hype and without drawing attention to itself. It does the job of selling the product.
BEN: Now I wanted to talk a little bit about one of your newsletters. I thought this was really interesting. And you said you could teach people how to basically double their sales in 59 days or less. I think that’s what the newsletter was called. How does that work? What was that about?
DAN: Well, first of all I lied… I’m just kidding. Yeah‚ I’m going to try and condense that down because I’ve done that several times. I’ll try to condense it down. We talked about one of the things‚ if someone has an established business and they got snail mail addresses, one of the things they can do that very possibly will double their business in probably 30 days more or less, is to start sending direct mail to the list like we talked about earlier.
But another thing that very few people have the guts to do is‚ and I learned this both from Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy‚ is if you got a product or if you’re testing a product, give it away. And sometimes it’s a cheaper method of acquiring customers really fast. Just to give your product away.
Or like Gary would always recommend, Gary would recommend a 30 day hold. Now, that’s where you say, “Hey, my product costs $97 but to prove it works and to let you try it without any commitment, I’m going to let you have it now for free and you can post date your check for 30 days and not pay for 30 days later. If you don’t like the product for any reason, just send the product back. We’ll tear up your check un-cashed.” Or now in the days of credit cards we’ll hold the charge‚ “we’re not going to charge your credit card for 30 days. If at any point during that time you think our product sucks give us a call and say ‘hey‚ your product sucks’ and we will destroy your credit card information and we’ll never charge your card.” Very few people have the guts to do that because they’re afraid they’re going to get ripped off. And I will tell you this, you will get ripped off by a certain percentage of people. But it also will vastly increase your response. And you’ll get increased refunds, too. But it’s a way to bring in customers really fast. And we are all buying customers through investing our time and optimizing our websites for search engines or buying customers through the advertising we’re paying for. So this is just another form of buying customers. And I’ve also tried it with giving away the product free‚ but the condition of that is they’re automatically enrolled in a monthly continuity.
So those are several ways that I’ve used, either alone or in combination together, to more than double a business in 59 days or less. And the example on my website where I took a business and had a 1400% increase in sales in like less than 5 months I used a combination of those things. I took an online business, started doing direct mail, and offline advertising in magazines, and either did a 30 day hold like Gary taught, or did the first order’s free and then they’re enrolled in a monthly continuity program. And that worked extremely well.
BEN: I find that very intriguing. And one of the questions I actually wanted to ask you about was what are some ways that you use to keep those people from either dropping off or, even worse, doing charge-backs on you?
DAN: Well, several things. The charge-back issue I’ve handled by if they place an order online they immediately get a thank you email, “Hey thanks for your order. Just as a reminder you’ve enrolled in our monthly auto-ship program. Every 30 days you’ll get blah blah blah shipped to you. It’s easy to reschedule or cancel your recurring order at any time. Just give us a call at this number or contact us through our customer service email.”
That gets sent by email. The exact message gets sent with a product order just as a little reminder. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else. Those are the main things I’ve done. Just a reminder that if it’s a 30 day hold that their card is going to be charged in 30 days if they don’t contact us or they’ve enrolled in a monthly continuity program.
And also as far as like retention on a monthly continuity program, this is pure gold. This took one of my continuity programs from just being not very good‚ people canceling like after one month or people immediately canceling after the first auto-ship. This took it from that which was pretty crappy‚ it sucks to do all this work getting people involved in a monthly auto-ship only to have them cancel right after the first month or right before the first auto-ship kicks in. I was having a large percentage of people do that‚ like 50% or more. And then what I did is I started the bonus‚ they got a monthly newsletter. You could make it a monthly report or whatever you want to call it. They’re all the sudden not just an auto-ship customer… they’re now in the “Elite Blah Blah Blah” club. And as a result of that they’re going to get the special “Blah Blah Newsletter” exclusively for people in this exclusive club.
And here’s what you can look forward to in the following months… you know bullet. Really hot information that’s really going to pique their curiosity and every month I started sending them an actual snail mail printed newsletter. And it did not go out with their product. It was mailed separately the first week of every month. And the reason I did that, and the reason I did not do an online newsletter, is because first of all an online newsletter people would never get the notice about‚ or an online newsletter basically has very little perceived value. But a newsletter that’s printed has much higher perceived value. And the reason I didn’t send it with the product is because I wanted to be basically contacting these people twice a month. They got contacted by me when they got their product order and then later that month they also got their newsletter from me. And that really helped my retention go from a higher percentage of people canceling after the first month to basically having an average retention of four months. Which is really good in that particular market with that particular product. An average retention of four months made it really profitable.
BEN: How was that newsletter created in relation to the product? Was it just industry type news or how was that done?
DAN: Some issues were about the product and some issues did have some success stories of people using the product‚ “Joe Blow from New York has phenomenal success with this product. He’s gained X and here’s how he did it. This is what he did in addition to using the product like we recommend to make these kind of gains.” Because this was in the body building market. So we’ll detail his training and diet and he took our X product exactly as we recommend so we’ll feature it in some issues.
Other issues it’s just pure content like, “Okay guys, everyone wants bigger arms, here’s a quick trick to add some vast size to your arms.” Just pure content. I just make sure that the content is really really good in this newsletter.
BEN: Did you say that the retention rate was about four months? Is that pretty much about average on an auto-ship supplement type thing‚ four months?
DAN: That’s been my average for this. I know a couple other guys in selling health related products that three to four months seems to be about the average for them. So I don’t know if that’s the average for that market or if that’s just the average in general. I take it back‚ you know what, I did an auto-ship program years ago with another little business I had and it was‚ with shipping and handling it was over a $100 a month. And I had a lot of people stay on for years. I even had one guy contacted me and he said, “Hey I was wondering if I could be temporarily off my auto-ship. I’ve been out of the country for eight months and I’m not able to use the product. So could you cancel me temporarily?”
And I’m thinking this guy’s been getting a $100 plus a month charged to his card for more than eight months‚ and just finally got around to canceling it.
BEN: So with these auto-ships it’s basically like selling the product four times but with the one time expense if you have them on for four months.
DAN: Exactly. It definitely can add up and for certain products like in the body building market and health markets‚ to me it makes more sense because a lot of natural products are not at all like drugs where with a drug you’re going to start getting the effects or the benefits hopefully within a matter of a few weeks or a month or so. But a natural product usually you have to stay on it for several months. So it’s more beneficial to the customer that they receive them every month.
Another reason‚ some people do prefer a three month supply, four month supply, six month supply‚ but then the problem is we’re all procrastinators. Stick that in the cabinet and we might be good for a couple weeks taking the product or we go through the first bottle and then it just slips by our attention and the other bottles stuck under the cabinet and they don’t continue taking the product like they should.
But if we get one bottle for this month and 30 days we’re getting the next bottle it’s kind of like a constant little reminder that we need to keep taking this product to get the results that we need. That’s one of the many reasons I like auto-ship in that particular market.
BEN: When you send out the auto-ship product do you‚ I’m just thinking from a charge-back point of view‚ did you put a reminder in there too that they can cancel at any time and blah blah blah… or did you not talk about that? I’m just thinking what if they said, “Hey, who is this guy?”
DAN: Absolutely. A letter definitely goes out with the first order reminding them they’ve enrolled in an auto-ship, their credit card will be billed by this company name and it’s easy to cancel or reschedule your monthly shipments, just give us a call at this number. No hassles. Nobody is going to hassle you or bother you or anything like that. We’ll just cancel it if you want us to‚ it’s a piece of cake. And that goes out with the first order. I do not send that letter with every monthly auto-ship. But this is a consumable product, the company product information is on the product label, too.
I will be honest with you‚ I think there’s a higher likelihood of getting charge-backs with an auto-ship or with a 30-day hold. But, the increase in sales and the consistency of the sales in the case of an auto-ship that you’ll get is way worth it in my opinion. And if you do things right, you include your company information with the product, and you remind them that they’re on auto-ship and they can cancel any time… and you keep in touch with them by the monthly newsletter like I talked about, the charge-backs won’t be out of control.
BEN: Because you’re showing up every couple weeks in their home and they know who you are‚ and they know they can find you now. There’s a great idea‚ that newsletter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone doing that. At least nothing I ever bought.
DAN: It’s been very successful for me.
BEN: Speaking of these supplements… and I wanted to ask you this because this definitely is something that scares even information marketers… is all these regulatory laws and rules and I’m just wondering how you navigate some of those things. Do you have a lawyer who looks at everything? How do you handle that?
DAN: Well, the honest answer would be no, I do not have a lawyer look at everything. Probably not a bad idea‚ there’s been instances where I’ll have a lawyer look at everything. Hopefully it’s a lawyer who understands direct response. All the ones I know are severe deal killers.
But yeah, to be safe, you should have a lawyer look at this stuff.
I put the standard disclaimer on the health related stuff. “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA… blah blah blah… this product is not for the treatment of any disease or disorder blah blah blah… whatever it is… and before starting any exercise program or taking any supplements you should consult your physician…” stuff like that.
I put that disclaimer on there. So the honest answer is no I don’t always have an attorney look at this stuff. But I guess to be on the safe side you should‚ especially this is an area I don’t deal with‚ but especially if you’re in like the financial area. There’s some laws and things with the SEC, the Securities Exchange Commission, that I don’t understand that. But apparently if you say the wrong thing in some of those markets you can be in real big trouble.
I follow the lead of a lot of the heavy hitters that are in the health market‚ like Agora and Healthy Resources and all these guys. And when they make a statement they always back it up with certain proof elements like a medical study or clinical study done. And they always put the disclaimer on there that these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA blah blah blah.
BEN: As much as we want to make profits, it’s all for nought if we get busted for saying the wrong thing on accident.
DAN: That’s for sure.
BEN: How can people find more about you and your products and your services and your newsletter? I think everybody should be reading your newsletter back issues and your portfolio samples. Where can they find more about you?
DAN: Thanks, thanks I appreciate it, Ben. I have a website at DobermanDan.com‚ it’s “Doberman” like the dog‚ D-O-B-E-R-M-A-N D-A-N dot com.
I started that website almost two years ago with the intention of using it to get clients to do consulting on direct marketing and maybe some copywriting work too. And now I’m no longer accepting clients. It’d be very extremely rare that I would accept a client. Because I’m just focused on my own projects now. But I started really enjoying doing the newsletter and the last one I did was shortly before Gary Halbert passed away. And I’ve not been able to write one since then for a lot of reasons. And I finally, after having several months to think about this and to mourn Gary’s death, my new goal for the Doberman Dan website is‚ Gary Halbert was what Ken McCarthy said, the “Kitchen Table Entrepreneur’s Best Friend.”
And Gary’s newsletter‚ I was just always so excited to get it. I would drop everything the minute that came in the mail. This was when I was so broke I didn’t have any direct response projects that were working. But every time that newsletter arrived it just gave me so much hope that yes, I can do this. I can start on an extremely limited budget on my kitchen table and build a really good business and that was so important to me back then. And it’s true that Gary’s newsletter has taught thousands of people how to bootstrap their way to incredible businesses. I know numerous people who have started on their kitchen table from what they learned from Gary Halbert’s newsletter and have built phenomenal businesses making millions of dollars.
And so now that I’ve had time to think about it, my new goal and plan is to pick up the ball where Gary left off. I will never ever ever be able to fill that guy’s shoes. And I don’t delude myself into thinking that’s even possible. What I really hope to do is pick up the ball where Gary left off and have my newsletter be the kitchen table entrepreneur’s best friend.
So yeah, I’m going to write about marketing stuff. But I think my main focus is going to be, “Look, here’s how you can find a project and here’s how you can start this on a shoestring from your kitchen table and build this up.” You know, if you read all of Gary’s newsletters he’s just got some incredible information in it. Even today, even though a lot of those were written over 20 years ago, you could take that information today and just build an incredible business.
And so that’s my new goal for the Doberman Dan Letter.
BEN: Thank you Dan for doing this and I really appreciate it.