Chapter 21 How to think about offering a product discount

The author is feeling tired. Physically in terms not being able to complete his 'road work' in one go. And also mentally in terms of longing for freedom and feeling down in general.

Yet the writing continues.

[Lesson] The author uses the term 'proposition' to mean the 'deal' you're offering. He suggests that these propositions are very important. An example of a proposition could be 'buy one get one free'. Another more interesting example could be 'you can have any 10 records you want right now for $0.99 if you agree to buy one record every month for the next two years' This one is interesting as it's almost alluding to the oh so desirable subscription model. The recurring revenue model.

When you're offering a 'deal', it's also very important to have an explanation of why you're offering that deal. Why? otherwise people won't find your deal believable. Some acceptable explanations could be 'I'm going out of business' or 'I've got to make space for new merchandise'.

[aside] I guess those explanations seem fine. But what do you do if none of those reasons are true? I guess things like Black Friday are helpful in this case too. Why are you offering discounts? Oh it's Black Friday. No other reasoning needed.

[Lesson] Another way to explain why you're offering a deal is by something like 'I am offering you this deal because you (by virtue of some unique circumstance) are so special'.

I guess this works. There are senior discounts in public transit and museums and such. Also another example is when we promote our product by offering a discount code to all who are part of a given community or newsletter.

The example given in the letters is selling a 'family crest' to a family whose name it bears. So naturally there are limited number of families that it could be sold to. In the sales letter, the author writes:

And, therefore, since your name is So & So we'd like to offer it to you at a true and honest discount of X percent!

[And again with this approach he claims 40 Million in sales. Hm.]

Another relevant ways to offer a discount:

Since you have proven yourself to be an astute judge of art, we are willing to send you these paintings at half price but only if you will give us your opinion in writing.

So ask for something else valuable to you, such as written feedback for the product.

Chapter 22 The most common mistake

[Lesson] One trick to improve your copywriting is to read your copy out loud. Of course this advice applies to writing in general, just like copying good writing by hand. The author makes the point that advertising writing needs to be the best writing of all. It needs to flow from start to finish without 'bump or bubble'.

Another thing to do is read out loud other ads and pieces of good copy.

You see, by doing this writing and reading aloud of good material you will find that the process of writing good ads will be internally imprinted on your nerves, muscle fibers, brain cells and every fiber of your being.

The author describes how the business of direct mail works. Some things to note:

  • He first identifies a 'list' of customers he wants to sell to and then comes up with the product idea. Product is usually a report, what we'd call an info product now.

after I have identified the list I want to go after I then start thinking about a product to sell to that list.

  • He works with a 'banker' to test the list first with smaller amount. The 'banker' apparently puts up $5000 for this test and if the results are not good looses that amount. [Hm..so he is claiming no risk?]

The mail order model is simple but there are a number of ways people go wrong. One of them is by making it too complicated.

The most common mistake made by people who want to break into the mail order business...is finding or developing a product FIRST and then looking for a market to sell it to. This is backasswards.

All IndieHackers learn this lesson sooner or later. Another way of warning against 'if you build it they'll come'.

Products are a dime a dozen. They are important but much less crucial to success than finding a hot market. I'll tell you this: A guy with a new product cannot always find a hot market for that product but a guy who has uncovered a HOT MARKET can always find a product to fill the needs of that market.

Another way to reinforce the lesson about becoming a student of markets. Student of reality. Observing what people actually buy.

Chapter 23 Do the invisible prep work

This letter starts off with 'giving guilt' to the son for not keeping up with all the things the father has been teaching about - roadwork, weights, studying and reading good ads, etc.

I've got more important things to do and those are: (1) get my body in shape (2) educate my youngest son (3) make a lot of money and (4) keep up my important relationships on the outside.
And I'm doing it all. I am heartsick for my woman, I am living in 114 degree heat I have jerks for roommates, and, above all I AM IN PRISON!

The author offers a bit of perspective by comparison to his current situation of being in prison and still doing all his daily things. Also that clear list of priorities helps.

It doesn't matter how much you learn if you don't use what you learn. So when I tell you to do your roadwork and exercise with weights and study and read ads aloud and write them out in your own handwriting, I mean for you to do it and do it now!

[Lesson] The difference between people who make it (at anything) vs. not is awareness. What he means by this is not walking around with your head in the cloud. But being alert and on top of things and ready to catch a break at any time.

Here is an extensive list of what it looks like to be on top of things:

Mail order (and all other) fortunes are made by men and women who know what's going on in their fields. These are the people who stay up to date. They read the trade journals, they make sure they are on everybody else's mailing list so they know what the competition is doing, they read all the "HOT" mail order publications, they keep their "SWIPE FILE" up to date, they read and reread the classic books written by the best people in the field, they have idea files that contain newspaper articles, notes of unusual info, hot new ideas, good layouts, unusual propositions, and so forth. They
also know who the leaders are in their respective fields and they communicate with these people on a regular basis.

In other words, fortunes are made by people who do the 'prep' work, and sometimes that work is invisible work too. When I see some IndieHacker 'overnight' success story, I read between the lines to find out what type of invisible work they have been doing. And there is always is something, usually over a period of multiple years.

More advice here that resonates.

Sweat the details. It's an area I have been remiss in and I am working to correct this state of affairs.

I like details. Details are important. We care about details. We respect the details (regardless of if the devil in them and what not). This mindset I live by in the engineering world. I see that it has parallels to entrepreneurial world as well.

So after all that life advice. Back to copywriting advice.

[Lesson] Believability is one of the most important ingredients of good copy. One way to increase believability is to add exact details. Instead of 'most car owners' to '77.6% of car owners'

[Lesson] Time awareness. People who are on top of things and aware usually know what time it is within a few minutes without looking at a watch.

I relate to this. But not sure why is it important. I suppose it's about not loosing track to time such that you don't know where you've spent it. Have you ever noticed that time slows down when you're in a flow state and being productive.