Here’s something Ronald Reagan used to say:
“Trust but verify.”
That could have saved me a lot of money and heartache if I would have done that in many of my personal and business relationships.
But what’s important is… I’m doing it now. And after a recent incident I’m DEFINITELY going to do it with one particular business relationship…
For those who don’t know, a lettershop is a business that prepares direct mail and drops it at the USPS for you. They sometimes handle all the printing, too, if they are a one-stop shop.
Here’s a recent lesson learned:
A few weeks ago I decided to test a 16 page magalog (that’s a sales letter with some editorial content designed to look like a mini magazine) to three separate lists of 5,000 each.
Granted, that’s not a big test but I was still into it for about $8,000 with printing, lettershop services and postage.
I was told the mailing dropped on a Friday. A week passed and no calls.
Two weeks passed and no calls.
Three weeks… nada… zero… zip.
At first I thought this was one of my biggest direct response failures to date (and there’s been plenty) but I knew it was almost a statistical impossibility to get NO calls from a 15,000 piece test.
So I put on my Columbo overcoat and started my investigation.
The first thing the lettershop owner said was… “Oh yeah, that mailing went out three weeks ago.”
Uh huh. Riiiiiight. I just knew the S.O.B. was lying.
How did I know that? Is it because I’m so perceptive and savvy I can detect a lie merely by the changes in voice patterns?
Well, yeah, that… and none of my “seeds” had arrived.
Always, always ALWAYS seed your lists.
“Seeding your list” means you add your name and address and friends’ and family’s names and addresses to every list you mail. That way you’ll know approximately when your mailing is arriving to your prospects… or if it even arrives at all.
I’ve never learned a rule of thumb about how densely to seed your list but I almost always use at least one seed name per every 1,000 to 2,000 prospect names.
Back to my story…
So I revealed my trump card and told this scum sucking lettershop owner that I had seeded the list and none of the seeds arrived.
He cleared his throat and stammered that he’d look into it.
I invited him to my office to see my arsenal of assault rifles… and for coffee, too.
He nervously assured me he’d look into the mailing.
Then he simply stopped answering or returning my calls.
After I left a message that I was traveling to his city with some large Italian friends who were attending an anger management seminar there, he hastily returned my call.
This lowlife admitted the mailing never went out because a key employee quit and to be honest all I heard after that was “blah blah blah.”
I don’t really care what the excuse is. Short of a natural disaster or the lettershop owner’s death it really doesn’t matter. Excuses are for losers.
So he assured me the mailing was going out that very day.
Again, I took this guy at his word. Big mistake… especially after his track record.
But in my defense, I had used this lettershop several times before and they did good work and always mailed the letters on time as promised.
So I’m sitting here almost two weeks after he said he dropped my magalogs and the numbers would indicate (based on data from previous tests of the same magalog to different lists) that he only dropped a part of the 15,000.
How can I prove that?
At this point I really can’t.
Oh sure, he’s got a receipt from USPS showing he left 15,000 pieces at their dock. But it’s a piece of cake to get a fake USPS receipt. Just drop Lou, the burned out 20 year USPS veteran who works the dock, a $100 bill and he’ll write any receipt you want.
If you’re a dishonest lettershop owner and you only print and mail HALF of each order, you’ll make a lot more money.
First of all, you can print much less, saving on costs, you’ll have less lettershop work… and here’s the BIG payoff… you get to keep HALF of the money the customer sent you for postage!
I don’t care if you’ve been doing business with the same lettershop for 15 years…
Trust but verify.
Here’s what I will do from now on and it’s what I recommend you do, too:
First of all, I’m using a new lettershop from now on.
And guess who is going to be waiting for the lettershop guy at the USPS dock the day he drops a large mailing for me?
You guessed it… Doberman Dan will be there… unannounced, by the way. I’m going to personally count all the pieces before letting USPS “do their thang.”
Or… at the very least, I’ll have a go-to guy there at the dock.
(A “go-to guy” is a guy you trust with your life. A guy who would take a bullet for you. I’m betting you have very few… or more likely NONE of these people in your life.)
Back to the story:
So there I am standing at the USPS dock when the lettershop guy rolls up with my mailing.
What I’m betting will happen is the guy will be surprised but not alarmed. And all my mailing pieces will probably be there and we’ll go to lunch afterwards.
But don’t you think that on every future mailing this guy is going to wonder if Doberman Dan is going to be waiting at the USPS dock on the drop date?
I’m betting that will always be in the back of his mind.
And most likely, I WILL be waiting for him at the USPS dock.
Trust but verify.
Look, if you can afford to piss away tens of thousands of dollars and don’t really care if only some or NONE of your mailing gets delivered to the USPS… then go ahead and take the lettershop guy at his word.
Not me, bub. I’m taking dear old Ronnie’s advice…
Trust but verify… ESPECIALLY with lettershops.
All the best,
P.S. Once your mailing is in the hands of the USPS, you’re pretty much at their mercy. But based on my experience, they’ve really cleaned up their act over the past couple decades. They’ve gotten mail undeliverability down to only a teeny tiny percentage of the actual number of mail that gets delivered.
As they say “Shit happens” but I think the USPS is doing a really good job these days.
And where else are you going to get a little salesman delivered right to your prospect’s door for only 39 cents or less?
Direct mail really is a great deal.
I personally LOVE the USPS. Every time I drive by a post office or see a mail carrier at work it reminds me that those guys are making money for me.
Why not put them to work to make money for YOU, too?