You Got Questions… I Got Answers

Here are the answers to questions posted earlier:

1. When you’re deciding on the form your product takes, you’ve got to put Operation MoneySuck into action. The question asked was about whether to create a single book combining both “101 Ways To Prevent Carpal Tunnel”, and a remedy for the problem once you have it.

The answer lies within your market, and within the goals of your campaign. The actual question concerned the possibility of eroded credibility if the “prevention” side of the product didn’t work. Which, of course, would necessitate the need for the remedy.

In general, it’s tough to sell anything that has to do with prevention. The old adage is: People won’t spend a nickel to prevent something… but will give you everything they have to fix something important once it’s broken. It’s especially true in health matters.

So, applied to this specific question… you will have a hard time selling the prevention part of the book, alone, anyway. So, if you’re keeping the remedy as your backend, you may not have a very large list to sell it to.

In other words, it’s not Operation MoneySuck to even consider splitting this product up. An experienced marketer would know that the real salesworthy product was the remedy. The prevention stuff is actually more of a bonus.

And you should look for something else to use as a backend.

I realize there are tons of books out there selling prevention. I have books on stretching and yoga and resistance training, all because I used to have a bad back. But I bought them AFTER I had the bad back, not before. Though they present themselves as prevention, in reality they are part of my attempt to fix the problem. (By the way, I finally fixed my bad back with a regular exercise regimen — weights, cardio, the works. And lots of stomach work, which is the key to a strong back. Writers have chronic back pain, because we’re sitting all the time at the keyboard. We’re suckers for expensive chairs — I have an Aeron monster, with a dozen settings for lumbar and recline — and all sorts of things that attempt to get around the problem without resorting to exercise. None work. You gotta haul your ass to the gym.)

So, to sum up: You look at what your market will pay for. Then you create your product to appeal to that. Logic has no place here.

2. Does it matter if your sales letter is printed on both sides or not? I don’t know of any definitive tests on this. The reason so many long copy letters are printed on both sides, however, is cost. One extra page can put your package over the ounce limit for first class, and that instantly bumps your cost per piece.

That adds up when you’re mailing in the truck-loads.

The holy grail for many mailers is a lightweight paper stock that is still opaque enough so you can print on both sides and not affect readability. I remember writing a penny letter for a client that worked so well he began dropping hundreds of thousands of pieces a week. There was nothing they could do about the weight of the penny… so they found super-light paper. And they even tested the glue holding the coin. They were able to slap the cent on the 12-page letter, plus a reply envelope and order form (and one or two lift notes, as I recall)… and still get the whole mess under an ounce.

I was deeply impressed. The glue weight made the difference. (And no, I don’t know what they used.)

Side story: Another client had tremendous success with a dollar bill letter I wrote. But they resented mailing so many bucks… so they decided (without consulting me) to just print the image of a dollar bill on the first page.

Sales plummeted, but they never told me what they did. They just reported back that “yer letter ain’t workin’ no more.”

If postage is not a problem, I prefer to print on one side of each page. But it’s not a major consideration.

Test, and let me know what you find out.

John Carlton

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  • Dont’cha just lur-ve clients who change major things like that mid-stream??

    I’d be curious about any findings anyone has on front/back printing too. I’ll stay tuned to see if you get any feedback.

  • Michael Platt says:


    Thanks alot for answering my question. Deep down I knew that was the correct answer…I guess I just needed to hear it from someone else. The market I’m targeting also seems to agree with your thoughts. Testing will solve all questions. Perhaps my prevention information given away freely will be a great list building tool.

    Also, I wanted to alert you that I cannot syndicate your blog to my Feedreader. I’m not sure if it’s a problem on my end or yours. Check with your “geek” and see what your traffic numbers look like shortly after posting a new blog entry. If you’re not seeing a surge of traffic after a new entry, I suspect the problem might be on your end.

    Thanks Again,


  • Not to be a buttinsky, but the composition of pennies has actually changed over the years. Pre 1980 pennies had a lot more copper, and weighed .7 grams more than a post 1980 one.

    John’s right on about the opacity of the paper stock being important. Along the same lines, making sure the type is dark enough. Ted Nicholas always said that if enough ink wasn’t on the presses when his letters ran, response went down.

    I buy that.


  • gary halbert says:

    This is not exactly about the posts that have appeared before. It,s about how I was moved more than I thought I would be by the death of Johnny Carson. I believe he was one of the “anchors” in my life and the life of millions of others. He was on the air for 30 years during the most turbulent years our nation has ever experienced. Yet, somehow he made it a little more endurable. He was a “constant.” “Constants” are disappearing. I have known how to look at a watch ant tell the time for many, many decades. I know how to wind it to make it work and set it to a different time if I am going to Costa Rica or California or the watch is running a little fast or slow. No so now. Now, the most of the damn watches are digital and they come with instruction booklets written in one point type, 9 languages. Are they a technological advance? Hell, no! They just represent a new learning curve you have to endure to learn how to do something you already knew how to do before this “advance” came along. Used to be, I could march into Kinko,s , give the girl and handful of papers and tell her to make five copies of each for me. No more. Now {for my convenience] I have to put my credit card into a machine that issues me a KINKOS CREDIT CARD! Then I have to go to the photocopier and learn how to put the kinko,s credit card into the machine. Then I have to learn how to operate the damn machine. I went to brunch with three other people, including Mark Joyner, and the guy who drove me to the south beach resturant was joyous because he had a PARKING METER CREDIT CARD. You put it into a slot in the parking meter and it sucks say $l.50 outta your card. If you only use a dollars worth of time, you put your PARKING METER CREDIT CARD back into the parking meter and it smucks the .50 cents it owes you back into your card. I was outraged. The other guy [who, for real, is a rocket scientist for NASA] couldn,t understant this. He said there,s no learning curve. That,s bullshit. You at least got to know where to get a parking meter credit card. He said I could get one at any Public,s Grocery store. What if I don,t want to go to Publics? I,ve known how to use parking meters since they first existed. No more. Every time I turn around it seems I gotta go through a new learning curve to learn the “new and improved” way to do something I already know how to do. There,s a marketing lesson here. Nobody but an insane person wants their life to be more complicated. Start thinking about not only selling solutions but selling SIMPLE solutions. We are a nation of people STARVING for simple solutions. The government has sorta got the wrong idea about this. Did you know they added an exta 1000 pages to the tax code to simplify it? Did you know there is a book the size of the Farmer,s Almanac that tells you how to get the most out of your PDF. In other words, by trading in a major part of your life you can now learn the new and improved way to do what you used to do by scribbling notes on the back of an evelope. I hate the world. Gary Halbert

    • Gary,

      You were always a cranky bastard. I miss you.

      (And, someday I’ll share my stupid story about you. It’s lame so I won’t waste words about it today.)

      To stay on topic…

      If you want to STUDY and UNDERSTAND how to reduce complexity then you need usability.

      In short, you simply ask people to use something, shut up, and watch what they do. You do this with a “statistically significant” number of people (if you want to do it right). You record the episode(s) and review the results.

      What you find is this: Most products are CRAP. No one who runs the business wants to hear this, but it’s true.

      The smart folks at the smart companies use this data to improve — and simplify!

      Important: Most folks think that asking for opinions is good enough. Like, usability testing and focus groups are the same.


      Here’s why… Preference doesn’t equal performance. If I ask you what kind of car you want you’ll say “Lexus” but when it comes time to buy you fork over cash for the “Civic” because (1) you’re a cheap bastard and (2) you ain’t got the money.

      You’ve gotta watch (test) what people do. It’s that simple.

      ~ John S. Rhodes

  • Gary Halbert says:

    I,ve tried a few times to post messages on this blog and mostly, for some technical reason, they don,t get posted. I just want to see if this one does.

  • “People won’t spend a nickel to prevent something… but will give you everything they have to fix something important once it’s broken.”

    This clearaly explains why the anal itch niche is more lucrative than the teeth brushing niche…

    “The glue weight made the difference.”

    That is so cool. The literal fact ain’t so cool, it’s that I can now use your example with my clients. It really kicks you in the balls… you DO have to sweat the small stuff.

    ~ John S. Rhodes

  • […] Je pique la métaphore de John Carlton (voir son article de janvier 2005 ici). […]

  • Jesus Miguel says:

    Yeah, for me is the same. I get into prevention mode, whenever I got bitten before.

    We seem to think, that “we” are somehow an exception.

    Thank you John

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