Trust, But Verify
THE SUCCESS MARGIN
Monday, March 15, 2004
Today I'm going to reveal some extremely shocking
I'll also provide inside tips on how to avoid the
dangers inherent in any form of direct marketing.
This includes the Web, direct mail, space
advertising, TV and radio. Once you have this
unique know-how, you'll be enabled to triple your
sales and multiply your profits by tenfold or more.
Amazingly, you won't have to change a single
marketing element to achieve these results!
You have possibly considered this important
Whom can you, a successful direct marketer,
The short answer is: NO ONE!
If you are surprised with this answer, I don't blame
you. Indeed, when I started out in direct marketing,
I foolishly trusted everyone. And lost a fortune along
the way as a result. I was naïve. But the hard-won
lessons taught me to know better.
Apply this hard-to-come-by information and you
will earn a fortune. And you will be saved from
bankruptcy as well.
Don't be surprised if your mailings pull three times
or more the previous response levels. And this is
without changing a word of the copy or offer.
Here is the real underlying problem. There is a
strong incentive for the less than moral to cheat for
virtually everyone involved with your direct
I don't mean to suggest everyone is dishonest.
Indeed, there are some notable honest and hard-
working suppliers who've worked with my
companies for years. But you have to know who
and what to look for.
Any one of the following can cause you to sink or
swim financially, as you'll soon see. These
-- Post office
-- Mailing list
-- E-mail list
Let's look at the above challenges one at a time.
Then I'll provide the best solutions I've found to
cope with each of them.
(1) Printers. In ordering printed materials, such as
sales letters, envelopes, postcards, brochures, or
flyers, you must verify the final quantity for which
you are billed.
Reason? It's far more profitable for a printer to
print less than ordered and charge you for the full
quantity. For example, you order 50,000 brochures
costing 80 cents each. The total bill will be $40,000.
But if only 30,000 are printed and you still get billed
for $50,000, the printer will have an additional
$16,000 in income without any cost.
Think this type of thing is a rare occurrence?
Unfortunately, it happens all too frequently.
Sometimes it's an honest error. But in most
cases it is deliberate.
Solution: Either you or your representative
should be at the print shop as your job is being run.
You must verify and count the actual number
printed. Make sure the ordered quantity is put on
a truck which then goes directly to your place of
business. Or to your lettershop.
When you receive the printed material, make sure
the number of units received is counted before the
bill is paid.
If and when you discover any deliberate dishonesty
amongst any supplier, there is only one action you
can take. You must immediately cease doing
business with them forever.
(2) Lettershop. The lettershop's responsibility
normally includes inserting, sealing and postage
stamp and mailing. For example, let's say the quoted
cost of these elements inclusive of postage is 48 cents
If the lettershop charges you for 50,000 units
but actually mails 17,000 pieces, here is the net result.
You are billed for 50,000 at 48 cents, or $24,000.
But if only 17,000 pieces are mailed, he can
potentially pocket the difference of $15,840.
And what you would lose in printing cost is not the
worst part. The sales and resultant decisions would
be entirely incorrect. Your revenue would be at
least 2/3rds less that what it should be. And, of
course, the loss in profits would be enormous.
Skeptical? Think this doesn't happen very often?
For example Gary Halbert, an old friend, seminar
attendee and well-known copywriter, reports this
result. After taking the above steps with the letter-
shop, his client generated more than three times
the previous sales results from a single major mailing.
Solution: When the printer completes the job, choose
one of these options:
(A) Have them deliver the job to you. Only
after confirming the count do you in turn take it to
(B) Have a representative be at the lettershop to
verify that it's taken to the post office.
(C) Or you be there yourself.
(3) Post office. A little-known but well-documented
fact is there are large mailings which were never
processed but found in the dumpster. I personally
know one successful mid-sized company which
delivered a 250,000-piece mailing to the post
office. It was never mailed. It was found in the dump.
While the postal employees involved got into some
trouble, nevertheless the company had to file for
Many direct marketers feel comfortable that
they've gotten an accurate count of pieces mailed
if they have a postal receipt stating a given quantity.
But experience shows this is no proof at all.
If your printer or lettershop delivers a large
quantity (e.g. over 5,000 pieces) of mail to the post
office, postal employees will routinely provide a
receipt for what they are told has been delivered.
This can easily be two or three times the
quantity received. Postal employees normally
do not count each piece of mail. So, while you
have an official postal receipt given you by your
printer or lettershop, the actual quantity received
at the post office may be, and often is, much lower
than the stated number.
Solutions: Verify the amount of mail pieces
delivered to the post office. This necessitates
having an employee count the pieces and being on
hand when they are delivered or being at the post
Tip: It's strategically wise to make friends with your
local and regional post office employees and establish
Plus, do not make basic mistakes, as do many
For example, do not deliver a huge mailing to
the post office at 10 minutes to 5:00 on Friday
afternoon and expect warm, friendly service.
Postal employees are human beings. It's wise
to consider them realistically, as important integral
human components of your business. And on
general principles, they deserve every courtesy and
Tip: Make an appointment with your local post-
master. Tell him/her you are a professional direct
marketer. Give him a sample gift of your products.
Acknowledge your dependence on the good
service provided by the post office. Inquire about
what you can do to help make their job easier.
Ask which day of the week and which time of the
day would best suit their schedule to receive bulk
mail. Explain you'd ideally like to have most of
your mail arrive to its destination on Tuesday or
Wednesday, the days which will give you the best
response. Adhere to the guidelines you are given.
(4) Mailing lists. Of course, nothing will ever beat the
response you get from your own mailing list. These
are people who know and trust you. But next to your
own mailing list of prospects and customers, you can
generate lots of business using proven mail order lists.
What you should be looking for are mail order
buyers who have these characteristics:
(A) Recency—bought a product similar to
yours within the last three months
(B) Mail order buyers who bought through
a direct response medium such as print,
TV or Internet.
(C) Paid approximately the same price as
When you ask for recommendations from a good
mailing list broker, they will happily provide
recommended lists. Plus, they will supply a data
card describing the mailing list.
Caveat. Over 90% of what's on the data card is
either completely untrue or overstated.
Solution: Do your homework. Before actually
renting an outside mailing list:
(A) Call a few previous mailers listed on the data
card and ask them to describe their experience
with the list. If very poor (for example a big
percentage of undeliverable addresses), stay away.
If the mailer is happy with results and has
repeated mailings, it’s a good sign.
(B) Ask the mailing list broker to provide you a
copy of the mail piece or ad which originally built
the mailing list. This is invaluable information.
You’ll better understand what kind of appeal
worked with them previously. See if the appeal
is compatible to yours. Or, you may be able to
change or modify your approach with outstanding
(5) E-mail list. Everything that applies to a mailing
list also applies to an e-mail list.
However, there is one major difference.
Unless the e-mail list you are renting specifically received
the written permission of the customer to receive other
offers such as yours, do not solicit them with your offer.
If you do, you will be taking the huge risk of breaking
the rules of recent anti-spam legislation. Penalties for
each separate violation can be huge, running into tens of
thousands of dollars.
Solution: In most instances, rather than rent outside
lists, it's far better to build your own "opt-in" list on the
Internet. Plus you can make your products available
through affiliates who in turn offer them to their own
"Trust but verify" former President Ronald Reagan
was fond of stating. I don't know if he is responsible
for the phrase. But I think this phrase can become
the basis of an excellent direct marketing policy.
Indeed, for many companies simply verifying that you
are receiving what you are paying for can be the real
secret to enormous prosperity.
Copyright 2004 Nicholas Direct, Inc.