Craig Simpson started making fake rocks in his parents garage.
What he learned first from a marketing book and then trial and error led him to sell 4000 of ’em.
When he joined a direct response company they threw the classics at him.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Unlike other guests on the podcast, though, Craig deals in what is becoming a more “hush-hush” media.
From an eye-opening study of lifetime customer value…
to what the internet is doing to copywriting…
This interview with Craig is spillling over with marketing nuggets.
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- How backyard rock-climbing led Craig into his current marketing career
- Which marketing classics? (The book he recommends if you want to learn how to persuade like a pro)
- Why the internet has scared people away from direct mail and the consequences.
- 150,000 people can’t be wrong. How to increase lifetime customer value five-fold in 18 months.
- Are we witnessing the death of copywriter royalties? Craig weighs in – AND copywriter blunders that drive clients crazy!
- The Advertising Solution
- Simpson Direct – Turning Mail Into Money
- The Direct Mail Solution with Craig & Dan Kennedy
- David Allan’s Make Words Pay
Intro and outro backing music: Forever More by CREO
David Allan: Hey, everybody we’re back with another edition of the podcast we have another exciting guest on today. He is a direct mail specialist and he has coauthored many books with some of people that I’ve learned from. And his latest one is called The Advertising Solution with Brian Kurtz… Craig Simpson…Welcome to the show.
Craig Simpson: Great thank you for having me. I appreciate being on the show today and get a chance to talk to you.
David Allan: Yeah you know you’re somebody I’ve heard about for quite a few years now when I got started in copywriting I heard your name sort of bounced around a bit. I’ve read some of the books you’ve coauthored with Dan Kennedy. And it’s interesting to sort of put a voice and in this case a face because I have the book in front of me and said that you’ve just heard about for a while in sort of a mix around in the same circles. So maybe like we like to do start from this sort of your humble beginnings and give us the trajectory of how you arrived at where you’re at today.
Craig Simpson: Sure. You know I got into marketing a really interesting way. I was about 18 years old and I had built this 20 foot high fake rock climbing wall in my parent’s backyard they live in the home I was really into rock climbing and so I scraped together a few nickel and dime. I built the you know everything I had. I built the rock climbing wall. And when I was done building it I had no money left to buy the little fake hold that you bought on the wall. And so I started messing around with some different polyester thing and then I found a formula that made these really cool fake rock climbing. And so my buddy came over and they climbed in the water I had made these holes and everyone loved them and they said
great you should start selling them. And so I thought OK all I’ll now these big rock. Well I went into business for myself at 18 18 years old making fake rocks. And of course you know I had to market the business so I started testing all these different types of marketing. I tried magazine and print campaigns and they are of course the direct mail and my first direct mail campaign I wrote this letter and I put a brochure in with it and I mailed it off to like 250 people.
And I stopped by the phone and I thought Man the phone is going to ring off the hook because I told people it’s going to be amazing. Right. That’s how we feel with you. Absolutely. We think we’ve got the best campaign in the world.
So I sat by my phone and it didn’t ring right.
I mean that we would find now though this goes on my part. All the money and I licked all the CMs individually in both the addresses and I got their response but I didn’t give up and I kept on testing and I eventually found a solution that worked a system that works and I ended up selling over 4000 fake rock to the bone.
Yeah. Nice so.
Yeah. So end you know they sold this you know 18 19 years old and they sold anywhere from $2 to $5 a piece so I was bringing in pretty good money doing that.
Awesome. And so what I found is that I love this marketing thing I’ll do a campaign. And I was so excited when the phone rang and I was so excited. A credit card numbers.
I mean who doesn’t like to I’m guilty and then processing them and then look at the bank account.
Those were wonderful days. But the part that I hated as soon as I took that order my stomach was thinking like oh I’ve got to go out to my sweat shop which my parents garage and make all these things because I made them by hand one by one by one. And I hated that part of it though. I love the marketing and fell in love with marketing and testing but I did not like the manufacturing side.
So I sold the business and I got on working for a large publishing company. I got in at the ground floor and they didn’t have the direct mail. And so I went for a meal and you know thousands of pieces to mail 30 million pieces a year. And I was working for the publisher was called the Ken Roberts company. And we sold the information products in the financial market. And so I worked there for about 10 years and then I decided to get out of my own. And for the last 11 12 years I’ve been a full time direct mail marketing consultant. So that’s kind of I guess a longer
version of how I got started in that.
Right now when you were first delving into it because I’m sure there’s people of that same age listening to this show. You know we’re about to embark on a marketing career of whatever form that takes. When you were first testing out you know these direct mail pieces for your for your fake rock business.
I mean you talked to afford rocks of the mail.
You know it’s awesome.
It’s a very interesting story.
And we’re taking direction like where you’re reading Mark the books and using techniques or you know I read like I had read co-marketing book I remember which one it was but I remember reading about handwriting addressed and putting lights up on there so I did those two things that were the only thing I did right that failed copying side was absolutely awful.
I think that’s why I didn’t sell anything. Plus the list was awful too I got the list the wrong place wrong time and it was not a good group of prospects to go after. So once I figured out some of those things out that’s when I really started doing well. But initially I had read some marketing books somewhere it wasn’t a well-known one I don’t know where I got it. Probably the library and I didn’t do well with my first campaign but after that I figured things out.
Right now when you. I guess it was probably from that marketing book where you hear about doing direct mail was asked from the same marketing book.
Yeah I had an idea and I do it. I wish I remember what book it was. It might have meant some kind of marketing textbook or something. But that’s where I had read about it. And so I want to give this a try and it made it sound so easy.
You know made it sound like Hey you send these things out and people are you know a truck backs up for cash you know and it wasn’t that way.
Definitely not. Now when you when you sort of graduated from you know working for yourself initially and then moved to the Ken Roberts company and they’re really mailing so many million pieces of mail were they all up to speed on direct marketing techniques and stuff like that.
Is that sort of where you got your estimation.
Yep they were there very much so. And I take and I had very little knowledge going into it I mean I had some but not a lot.
And that really took me to the next level.
And I had there I began to realize the importance of studying direct marketing. And I remember the first real marketing book that I read was a book by David Ogilvy called Ogilvy on advertising. And basically it was an introduction to direct mail direct mail direct marketing and really the difference between direct marketing and then frap brand advertising.
And they are so different. And David Ogilvy at the time was huge in the advertising world as one of the greatest sought after marketing wizard you know of his time and he talked about even though he had a big brand agency it was the most successful campaigns were done through direct response marketing. And so that was my first book that really got me into it.
And then there was a series of others that led me down the path of really becoming the ear of it and finding out what are the things that really make people tick that make it so that you can generate a response from a campaign.
And since then I mean it just fascinates me still and I get excited every summer campaign because I get to watch and see what comes back right now or people that can operate company where they the ones that are influenced you or told you about the different books or a.. Yeah. So they were like can read these books.
Yeah. Read these books studies.
I had a boss Jeff Robinson Some who was really into it and he was you know a real proponent behind studying these guys. And once I get into I didn’t stop I just loved it.
I read these books like Claude Hopkins and calling him up in fact so the book that you reference really the one to go with Brian Kurtz.
It goes back to all the legends that first studied and and there’s Robert Collier which recall your letters is one of the great book ever written on direct response direct mail marketing and creating ad copy that really get people to read on that when there was that was a reply.
That was one of the early books I read that really got me going.
So I have favorites it is.
It is. And I’ll tell you for those who you know are listening if they want to if they really want to study that’s a book to go to.
Now tell you it it’s a hard book to read it because the type it doesn’t always entertain.
I mean it’s it’s like that copy in there it’s tough to get through but you’ve got to pull up the nuggets and that partly you know the book that I wrote Brian Curtis.
I mean it was let’s pop a nugget for everyone so they don’t have to go through the pain of reading this book or the arcane language and so forth of the Estre That’s right. Oh that’s right yeah yeah.
That’s what to read to you I mean the language back then was just different in the 1920s.
Those were kind of funny to read some of that the way they wrote add back and it’s really comical but it was very persuasive and it motivated people to respond.
Yeah I remember when I cracked him in the rubber collar book and a lot of those other books you’ve written about in your advertising solution books and what sort of was interesting was like you sort of saw where these things came from.
Now you know being not of that era you you know have are familiar with through other avenues perhaps like oh like this is a scratch and dent sale or whatever you know they come from it’s like oh man this is this is where the stuff comes from.
Yeah you know I don’t if you know what I’d like to one more thing that’s really interesting about that because you’re right.
I mean all of the things we do today came from them and you’ve heard of the one bill now. Right. Right. Everyone’s saying that. And Gary halber was famous for them. He really pushed that. But Robert Collier was as far as I know the first one to ever do it. And he mailed out an actual physical dollar dollar bill in the 1930s maybe in the 1920s actually and it was for a nonprofit organization and it was about. It was for a hospital you know had supported and worked with crippled children and the offer just as there was that the into. Hey here’s a dollar bill and we would ask that you
would simply return it with a few more of your own to help out. And he got a 90 percent response rate and then.
You know what know what an example many people are still using the dollar bill mailing today jaggies personally.
Actually you have. I have wonderful. Yeah. So my consulting services actually awesome.
And so I just need you know that Robert Collier was the first one to do in the 1920s or Gary Halbert.
I didn’t know it was Collier because I read or saw Essel and it must have been socks.
And also it appeared in his books but I definitely saw a video of Gary halber talking at a seminar and he had suggested reading that book and I don’t know. So sad that it was from there or if he just said you know there’s things like this in this book and this if you haven’t read this book you know side done that but it’s still well and alive today almost 100 years later.
So and I’m sure I’m sure you know if you are smart people you will be one of those hundred year old tricks of marketing that’s still being used.
Yeah. Know being a direct mail specialist yourself of course. And Brian I think talked about this on on the take over Tuesday.
Like I said to Brian where you know it seems like Troy and for whatever reason I guess because everyone’s sort of rushing to the internet out asked that a lot of these direct mail techniques and so forth and just the process of using direct mail to solicit customers or prospects.
That’s kind of fallen by the wayside.
Tom followed by you know I don’t favor somewhat but a lot of people who are not like the super savvy marketers but sort of in general. Yeah. Yeah. And yet you base your business around direct mail. So maybe speak to that a bit sort of like how it’s not gone away and the end user still specializing it. But you know I you think it’s just been forgotten because of the deal.
You know what do you call it. Yeah is the.
You know I mean people don’t want to spend the money on it. Right that’s it. You can go and send an e-mail for free. And here you know with direct mail you’ve actually got to pay for postage on for printing.
So a lot of marketers stay with me because there’s this huge you know cost involved. So we send out they’ll right. My company about over 300 different mailings per year so that 300 different print job 300 different list orders 300 different you know. It’s a huge high volume. And then the one I’m trying what I’m getting at here is that there’s still a lot of business that you can get at the savvy marketers are still finding ways to use direct mail. And the thing is is every you know Fortune 500 company is using it. You got Google who at one point was the eighth largest technology mail in the country using it. The
garment business is like in the dot com. I mean there’s just you know dozens and dozens and dozens of these large businesses that still use it. It’s more of this small business middle sized you know companies that aren’t using it because of the cost or because they don’t understand it. But the big ones are still using the Usenet aggressively. There’s 46 billion dollars a year spent on direct mail advertising every year. But that’s a huge number. 46 billion. So it’s still a mass appeal it’s just it just has a lot of businesses are using it but it’s still a huge business. So it’s not like it’s gone. It’s just not
as publicized as what it used to be.
Yeah I think maybe just people are talking about it less. It seems like it’s fallen out of favor because of the lack chatter sort of around it but the real people that are dead are doing and obviously 46 billion is like doing it or maybe just delete it.
Yeah yeah. Think about it.
And you know the thing let me just share one thing with Eric no one of the reasons why I love it is we’ve done these tests where we’re talking about the value of the customer and how much they’re worth and I had one company where we took 50000 direct mail buyers 50000 TV buyers and 50000 the online buyers they all bought the exact same product for the exact same price within a month and all of the variables are the same. And what we did is we took those 250000 people we looked at the value of the customer. You know after six months nine months a year year and a half and we found that the direct mail buyers spent three times as much as the
TV buyers and the TV buyers that twice as much as the online buyers. So we found that you know clearly with this sample size of 150000 people the direct mail buyers had significantly higher customer lifetime value. And we found that a lot of different niches but that was the biggest sample that we’ve run. So even though there’s a cost to getting the campaign out think getting responses. There’s also a reward that comes later on that really gives a good solid reason why people should be using it today.
No that’s that’s very important that’s a very interesting test results.
So basically you’re saying that the best customers came through the direct mail solicitation and that’s important like you’re talking of a lifetime value the customer that’s super important I don’t think I’m a business owner because I’ve dealt with them enough myself that day.
You know take that into account that everyone sort quarter seems to have sort of short sighted you know of always wanting customers new customers but they don’t care where they come from. But I find that to be true in my own consulting thing is the best people sort of came through the direct mail stuff when I’m like out leads off you know doing these podcasts or e-mail or stuff like that. More often than not the direct mail one went out and stayed with.
You know there’s that over a customer and. And.
And these kids are older or more savvy or I never sort of broke it all down but she has a variety of reasons but I noticed that myself so that’s interesting that I bore out over such large testing samples.
Yeah. And you brought up something to me I think age has something to do with it too.
I mean this was based off of people who are 45 plus. So when those numbers change if it was you know 20 to 40 I would guess. So my weight. Right. And you know the boomers and seniors I mean are the ones that got the money anyway right now.
So naturally they’re going to get a lot of money but you know I guess the age is across the board for the sample they were all older but they did prefer you know they did. They did spend more money if they were generous through direct mail.
So now when you’re working in your own business to get these mailings out for the different clients that you have are you doing the cop running yourself or do you have a team or how does that work.
No I mean we outsource a lot of it and then a lot of companies they have their own you know the big companies have their own in-house writers you know like a beach body or a great audience for the whole team of writers.
And so in many cases they’ve got their own creative staff. And if it’s only if the smaller businesses then we then we we outsource the copywriting and find our copywriters to work with.
It seems to me nowadays I’ve talked with a couple of you know had a sort of a who’s who of copywriters and stuff on my show and on John show and John had other people that some of them especially the older ones seemed to have an opinion because the Web is in many ways a cheap media to slap up a web page pretty easily if you know what you’re doing and run a sales page and so forth to text and drive traffic to it that that breeds a markedly different caliber if you will of copywriter overall versus the direct mail.
You know so little quote unquote old school people where your copy had to be like super tight to justify you know sending spending that kind of money I like to talk about on direct mail.
Exactly right. Yeah. I mean 100 percent and that’s I would say that’s come up.
Unfortunately the my world has has some ways damaged the quality of copyright because you can do stuff so cheap that cheap and they just kind of run with whatever right. Whereas when you’re spending you know 50 cents to a dollar or two meal a piece and there’s you know tens of thousands of them. You really have to make sure you have a dialed in print so a couple of things happen one. Also the copperas have popped up everywhere and they may not be that good but they can get it done or unmooring but they’re not great. And then the other thing is that probably the biggest detriment to copywriters is because of the cheap copywriting world in the way that a
change is there’s no more. It’s really hard to find companies that are willing to pay royalties copywriters. Right. And they used to be this relationship where you would hire a cop rather they would want to see you succeed. And so long term they would get you know a loyal piece of per piece fee oftentimes you know that they get with you for every piece of mail. So then if they didn’t put as much effort as they could have peace knowing that there’s a long term relationship with they could be paid for it. And that is really going away. I mean there’s only a few companies that are willing to pay those royalties. And because there’s no other coppers willing to do it without a deal. Right.
And so it’s kind of damage that and I’m not a Kopra and I know that you do copywriting tech I’m sure you’ve probably seen it all with as well.
That’s one of the reasons why I sort of branched out further into other marketing sort of angles if you will and doing more overall marketing consulting too because I do love doing the copy. It’s fun and I the psychology behind it. I sort of came from a different field so I was originally and still am a professional magician.
So I sort of came from the field of deception if you on the psychology of that got me interested in copywriting.
And so yeah what you’re saying is right there are not a lot of people they’re not people familiar you know if they’re not one of those big direct mail companies like a Gore or some of these ones you hear about from the past that have gone through different you know shifts and change names and so forth.
Yeah there’s not a lot of people that are even familiar with that set up you know getting royalties on the back end and stuff. And so their more resistance to an arrangement of that nature is get it selling you can toss some people into the things because the value is there if you can make that case and people will can be convinced but it is seems to be dying out sort of thing that’s getting getting less and less and less and B and that has to do I think with those less people understanding it and the lack of direct mail discussion and the lack of those you know that demographics of that age are people who are familiar with all that stuff has moved on.
And so you’re right. Yeah. So that’s why I sort of stepped into more of a broader marketing aspects which still really involved all copywriting principles but just apply a little bit differently now because you’ve been in this for a while.
What sort of advice do you have for freelance copywriters who are maybe looking for clients in regards to using direct mail. And maybe because it sounds like you are more on the end of having to deal with copywriters as more of a client than a you know doing copywriting yourself and when you do any contract that we sort of always hear from the copywriters we sort of oh you know on this show a lot we’ve we’ve talked about some of the horror stories how to protect yourself as a copywriter as a freelance cuppers civically and maybe talk from the other perspective like you know having to work with copywriters and stuff like that some of the things you don’t like or some of the trouble
spots that you’ve encountered to sort of inform copywriters how they work how they should conduct themselves.
Well I think we’re fortunate I mean I’ve really gotten some good writers I’ve worked with. I think that the downfalls are those that the ones the ones that I’ve gotten in trouble more copyrighted than they.
I asked them the question how and when you try to piece and it takes three weeks for a short letter. And then I say ok and I go tell the client that and then if it turns out that me and I get this creative process going on and I’m OK with that but I’ve had some writers who have taken you know twice the time I’ve had writers where the pieces can be done in three months which is a generous amount.
And it was nine months and it really makes you look bad.
I consultant when I help my. No I really I try and stay away from people who I’ve had the kind of experiences with.
But I think it’s just do what you say you’re going to do. You’re going to have it done by the time they get it done by then.
And if you cannot do the job in the time that you did until rather than being up front about it what I can do at this time. Well I think that I think that probably one of the biggest tips I could give that the other one too is I always like to writers you know and I know everyone does this but I can tell is well how many pages do you want. You know they right. As many as it takes to get the job done. If it’s a two page letter a four page letter and you feel like you can be everything you need to give you your best health metrics and I’m OK with that. If it’s 20 pages I’m OK with that but I think one of the worst things we can do at
businesses and business owners is to tell a copyright of the one that you hate letters. Well maybe that’s not enough faith for that. Or maybe it’s too much space for that. We have to let the copywriter do their job because they know how to write and persuade. Let’s not mess with that process too much.
No I think that’s a that’s a very good point because they’re you know if you’re capable of copyright you will be able to ferret that out very weekly in regards to doing your research as to where this might go in terms of the volume of material you’re going to have to use to persuade because it’s can now become from their market awareness and their awareness of the company that you’re writing for and what you know who that person is or what the service product is and all that kind of stuff and then quickly get a feel I think for how long that piece needs to be.
And I think those are good tips and we appreciate that because we do hear a lot from this side of the fence so to speak for complaints about clients and so forth.
I felt like to some degree we’re probably bagging on clients to talk about how it works.
You know it’s sort of montra what if you manage what I find is if you manage the project the project right from the beginning meaning you’re very transparent that this is going to take me.
Here’s the process I’m going to go through that client. Not when you think things go away you’ve got to live up to your part of the deal.
I mean I mean I can’t count on them or writers that say that they can’t get into the you know the writing thing until the deadline for when they wake up with that talk about when they were asked.
Well that’s not fair to the coroner now. And that’s why they stick it.
I mean that the is what say hey could take me six weeks to write the letter and maybe going a take your five but next week in which you can make sure your job is done you know.
Yeah. So I know you have to call it.
No they don’t. And it is an important thing. It’s like you should be as a copywriter.
You know having that time that you act in terms of time you actually need for the time that you know you’re going to say you need because you want a buffer zone in there so that you don’t make a mistake like that and then end up breaking a deadline because then it’s a chain reaction like you said you’re going to they’re working with you.
You’re going to go tell the client that this is when it’s going to be done and my shoe and you are in your business of primarily direct mail. That’s a really massive deal because the cost and everything I’m getting all that together and putting it out is pretty significant. Yep exactly. Well that’s great I think. I think giving people a lot to go on here today have been very forthcoming. And then with all of your information stuff and it’s been a real pleasure having you on the show.
Now if people want to get this book the advertising solution Craig where should they go they should go to the full Legin book Dot Com legend put dot com and what’s really cool is Brian I’ve put together an amazing resource package of free resources that you get if you buy the book for you to go to legends book Dot com.
Ill tell you how to get book off how to get things like a swipe file that goes back a hundred years. It’s. How to get access to a special edition of Scientific advertising by Hopkin and we’re going to give you some live video some rare live video.
Thorton have never been shared before with Gene Schwartz and Gary Halward. So you’ve got all those things free if you go to legend back home. Follow the directions and they’ll walk you through how how to get back.
Everything is awesome. That’s awesome. I was lucky enough to get a advance copy from Brian but I went ahead and purchased anyways and got those extra resources. It’s a great book. It does plot all the nuggets you sort of highlight. You know the six sort of famous copywriters in history and I’d add men that are in the best of the best and the you know who’s your personal favorite of the people the six people that you highlight in there where you are most influenced by one or the other.
I would have to say well my favorites are David Ogilvy because he’s so colorful and Frank and brilliant.
The other one is going to be rough with Hollywood just because even though his book was really thick and hard to read he was just a master of persuasion. He knew what to say and get people to work on.
You know he got started selling coal coal was his first.
Well like me was wrong. Right right. Even harder. Yes. That’s great.
Yeah. So he found I had a big get excited about that to sell coal.
And so I think he for me is a real hero. I mean he was he added dialed in I would say those two guys be my favorite.
Awesome. Now people want to get in touch with you directly to talk about perhaps you know I’m getting some direct mail diner or whatever what we’re actually reach you at.
They can go to my Web site and his contact form on their phone number on their Simpson dash direct dot com and dash direct dot com. What they want to know more about direct mail I’ve got another book called The direct mail solution that’s the one I wrote with in Canada you can get that on Amazon. So there are a couple of different ways to get in touch with me.
Awesome awesome. I know it’s been a real pleasure having you on the show today Craig.
Likewise. I totally enjoyed it. Is that a phone conversation. Thanks for having me.
Yeah I will definitely have to do it again for everybody else.
This is yet another exciting edition and I hope you take some real nuggets that Craig is giving you away from this and improve every aspect of your marketing whether it is using direct mail or not and probably should be.
But also you know the tips and stuff about offers and copywriting are pretty timeless and usable in every media.
So everyone listening will be back again with another edition of the podcast. And another exciting guest next week. All right thank you