In marketing parlance, your most successful marketing piece, the one that becomes your lead generation workhorse, is called a control.
Over the past couple hundred years, there have been a number of marketing controls that have had incredibly impressive runs. Two of the most famous examples from recent times:
- The Wall Street Journal’s “Two Young Men” letter, generated nearly $2 billion dollars in sales for the Journal during it’s 29 year run. It was mailed continuously by the Journal to select household mailing lists from 1974 to 2003. It is considered the single most successful direct mail sales letter in history, and is well worth studying.
- Self-help guru Tony Robbins has one infomercial that ran continuously in English speaking countries around the world for 18 years. It was literally broadcast 24 hours per day, always available on at least one basic cable channel or over the air broadcast network. Although at much lower volume, that infomercial still runs today. The infomercial sells his flagship “Unleash The Power Within” program, and to this day sales from that program generate $9 million per year in net profit for him.
The power of a control piece cannot be underestimated. Having a solid control, along with a well-defined target market to send or broadcast it to, is almost like an ATM that prints free money.
In 2012, I wrote what would become my direct mail control piece. I affectionately refer to it as the mug shot letter. This letter was the workhorse of my practice, across multiple niche tax resolution markets and a variety of different offers. It worked well for me in the western US, and it’s worked well for coaching clients from Texas to Florida to Chicago in it’s original form. Other practitioners have created heavily modified derivatives that work very well for them, including a CPA in Maine that created a version that has helped take his tax resolution business from just a few thousand dollars in 2013 to over $250,000 in 2015.
Last year, when my postcard sequence to drive people to a webinar wasn’t delivering the results I wanted, I went back to this letter, and results immediately improved.
The obvious question is: Why does this letter work?
Let’s step through it to see why. Digital Pass / Premium members can download the letter from the bottom of the blog post.
1. It shows a real human being.
The first thing most people notice on the letter isn’t the headline. Instead, it’s the photo of the practitioner. Why does this work? For two reasons:
- People do business with people, and financial problems are incredibly personal. By putting a face on the letter, there is an instant human connection. Psychology research clearly shows that humans have a soft side for other humans. This is also why we associate “cuteness” with puppies and anime characters: They have big eyes and round-ish faces like human babies do, so there is a psychological association. Use your humanity to connect with your target market.
- Really just a corollary to the first one: The vast majority of tax resolution firms, including every large, national tax resolution marketing company hide behind anonymity. People do business with people they know, like, and trust, and it’s almost impossible to trust somebody that’s hiding behind anonymity. When literally every one of your competitors is doing this, the quickest way to differentiate yourself is to put your name and face front and center. This includes on your web site, by the way. This is the single biggest problem I see with the web sites of nearly ever tax professional I work with. Compare your web site to a large accounting firm — names and faces are prominent.
2. I provide a real phone number to call.
The entire purpose of every offer you make is to generate leads. When I do any form of marketing, my real objective is to insert that lead into the top of a pre-defined sales funnel. I’m directing people to sign up for an offer on a web site, such as a special report or a webinar. In some mailings, such as to high dollar trust fund recovery penalty liens (6672), I’ll direct people to a 24-hour recorded information line (yes, even in modern times).
However… There will always be a part of the population that wants to talk to somebody now.
Thus, provide a real phone number that they can call. Less than 1/3 of my leads would come in this way from this letter, but those are leads that I would have lost without the phone number. I highly suggest using disposable tracking phone numbers for every campaign you mail out, and have those tracking numbers forward to your main number or to an answering service. An answering service is a worthwhile investment, as they can ask short screening questions and set appointments for you directly in your calendar, all for just a few hundred bucks a month. That’s cheaper than a receptionist, and is on call 24/7.
3. It uses a headline that directly addresses their concerns.
The headline is probably the most important part of any marketing message. This is true whether it’s your voicemail message, an Internet landing page, a Google ad, or a letter. In fact, for some marketing media, your space is limited, so your entire ad is simply the headline and call to action.
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