The subject line of this email was worth millions to Boardroom, the company I’ve helped build over the last 30 years.
And the story about how “Deeply and Irrevocably Personal” became part of one of our most famous control packages ever is a story packed with valuable lessons.
In his prime, Bill Jayme was the most sought after copywriter in the world…every major magazine/publisher/non profit and every other major mailer in every category wanted him to write for them.
He charged top dollar and you had to wait over a year to get on his writing schedule.
He wrote some of the most famous (and successful) promotions in the history of direct mail and I am proud to say that we have every one of them on CD for posterity.
Bill became close with Marty Edelston (the founder of Boardroom) and I–which led to him helping us launch many products for Boardroom.
After one winning assignment, Marty sent Bill flowers…or balloons…or some other celebratory gift.
That was always Marty’s style.
Bill then sent Marty a note in a plain white envelope that simply said on the outside:
“Deeply and Irrevocably Personal…”
Enclosed was a thank you note filled with the pure poetry Bill was famous for –the guy could write eloquently about anything to anyone.
He was a one-of-a-kind talent.
Marty took Bill’s envelope, marched into to our art department, and told the artist who was mocking up a direct mail piece for one of our niche books, “The Encyclopedia of Estate Planning” (EEP), that he had an envelope test for him to execute.
The rest is history…
A plain, white #10 outer envelope with the words “Deeply and Irrevocably Personal” in simple typewriter font became the control for EEP for years…initially lifting response by almost 50%.
And we sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 copies of that book using that envelope.
Who said it was a niche? And somehow I never saw the book listed on the New York Times Bestseller List…
Not that we cared…direct mail bestsellers is the “unpublished list” I tend to follow…
So what’s the lesson in all this?
Well, one lesson is:
“Great copy and headlines (and subject lines) can come from where we least expect them.”
But let’s go deeper. Here’s the real takeaway for you (and me):
When Marty realized we would be able to mail millions of names because of the new envelope, he sent a check in the thousands to Bill Jayme for his “new copy.”
Bill tried to return the check…obviously surprised that Marty felt the need to pay him for using a line from a personal letter…but Marty wouldn’t have any of that and insisted that Bill keep the money.
The real lesson?
We must pay to play.
I’ve spoken on many stages about being generous with copywriters…in fact, when I tell people that there have been many years at Boardroom where an outside copywriter was the “highest paid employee” they cringe.
I just smile.
After all, without their promotion we’ve got no sales, revenue or profit; with a killer promotion from a top copywriter, we get to mail many more names and we get rich…why shouldn’t the copywriter who wrote it get rich too?
The difference between isolated revenue events and building a business for the long term begins and ends with great messaging.
But keep in mind that great messaging is not always free. And caring for your creative (messaging) “talent” must always be a top priority.
Legendary copywriter Gary Halbert said it best:
“Any problem in the world can be solved with the right sales letter”
And I will add:
Getting “the right sales letter” will cost you something…maybe a lot more than you ever thought you would pay…BUT it will not cost you nearly as much as refusing to invest in world class creative.
And this lesson is also about investing in yourself and your business.
It doesn’t matter how much your business is earning today. It’s all about your mindset.
If your mindset is “to get the best… I have to invest in the best”…you will ultimately get what’s best for you and your business.
That’s my story on copy and creative…and I am sticking to it.
Until next week…