Trust, But Verify


Monday, March 15, 2004


Today I’m going to reveal some extremely shocking information.

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 question:

Whom can you, a successful direct marketer, completely trust?

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 marketing process.

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 activities include:

— Printer
— Lettershop
— 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 per unit.

    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 the lettershop.

    (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 bankruptcy.

    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 normallydo 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 office yourself.

    Tip: It’s strategically wise to make friends with your local and regional post office employees and establish good relationships.

    Plus, do not make basic mistakes, as do many direct marketers.

    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 consideration.

    Tip: Make an appointment with your local post-master. Tell him/her you are a professional directmarketer. 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 you charge.

    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 results.

  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 opt-in list.

“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.

Wanted–Employees seeking lifetime job securityYour correspondent,

Ted Nicholas