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Archive for March, 2007

How Much Can You Charge?

March 30th, 2007 by Bob Bly

When you set your product prices or service fees, do you consider only what price is going to make you the most money?

Or does the idea of whether the price is fair and reasonable — and whether people can afford it — play a role in your pricing.

Reason I ask: an article in The Week (4/6/07, p. 13) reports that Halliburton billed the federal government $27.4 million for a shipment of natural gas from Kuwait that cost the company $82,000.

According to the article, Halliburton claimed the extra charges were justified by the danger of transporting gas over Iraq’s sniper-infested, booby-trapped roads.

Do you think Halliburton is:

A. Being fairly compensated for the risk involved?
A. Price-gouging?
B. Ripping off the American government and people which, given its White House connects with Dick Cheney, should be investigated with an eye toward prosecution?

And the bigger picture question: can pricing for a product or service be so high it becomes at best unseemly or at worst downright immoral?

If so, at what point does that occur?


Category: General | 311 Comments »

Tempur-Pedic’s Confusing Copy

March 28th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Tempur-Pedic, a direct marketer of mattresses and beds, does great direct mail.

But the offer in a Tempur-Pedic letter I got today has me a bit confused:

“Pay nothing for an entire year — absolutely NO PAYMENTS, and NO INTEREST if you pay for your items in full within 12 months of the date of purchase.”

When I edit out the middle part, it reads:

“Pay nothing for an entire year if you pay in full within 12 months.”

Am I missing something, or is “pay nothing for an entire year” the total opposite of “pay in full within 12 months”?

I can’t imagine that other recipients of this mailing aren’t also confused.

Am I dense? Do you get what the offer is?

Or does Tempur-Pedic’s copywriter need an editor?


Category: Direct Marketing, General | 67 Comments »

Double the Size of Your E-List This Year

March 27th, 2007 by Bob Bly

My goal is to double the number of subscribers to my e-zine, the Direct Response Letter, this year — from 40,000 to 80,000 subscribers.

That way, I can help more people who are interested in the type of advice I publish on writing, freelancing, marketing, and small business.

We are also preparing a guide on how to double the size of your e-list in a year, which of course will be based on what we learn in our own campaign.

Can you help me with this?

Specifically, I’m hoping you’ll share with me:

1. Your favorite e-list building technique (e.g., co-registration, pay per click, SEO) — the more specifics, the better.

2. How well it worked — how many new names did you acquire? at what cost per name?

If you contribute an answer, you will get my list-building report, which we will be sold along with DVDs for $97, absolutely free when it is ready — my way of saying “thanks” for helping us do the research!


Category: General | 50 Comments »

Content Pollution

March 23rd, 2007 by Bob Bly

Forget global warming and pollution from greenhouses gases….

The pollution I’m worried about is “content pollution.”

There is an overwhelming amount of content created every day on this planet — far in excess of our ability to absorb it.

For instance, self-publishing guru Dan Poynter told me the other day that there are 200,000 books published each year.

That works out to 4,000 new books a week — 800 new books every business day.

With all that content bombarding the consumer, how can we, whether we are content writers or copywriters, hope to grab even a small slice of the reader’s attention?

One writer — and I have lost track of the source — says that content pollution means branding will become increasingly important.

Unable to read and consume information on which to base buying decisions, consumers will increasingly rely on brand preferences.

Yet something seems off here: despite content pollution, the educational approach to marketing — using content rather than sales hype to sell — seems to be growing and working better, not declining.

If it’s true that people have too much to read and not enough time to read it, why is offering a free white paper still a viable marketing tactic?


Category: General | 91 Comments »

Ad Campaign Wanted

March 21st, 2007 by Bob Bly

My office is in the NYC area, and in the mornings, I listen to the Z100 Morning Zoo.

They recently ran a spot asking for help creating a new ad campaign.

And here are the qualifications they asked for: “Can you draw? Know PhotoShop? Familiar with YouTube?”


What does all this have to do with the core of successful advertising — a strong, compelling, well-crafted sales message stated in a fresh new way?

This is like help-wanted ads I see for freelance writers where the employer doesn’t seem to care about writing skill or subject matter expertise, but instead says they are looking for a writer who knows how to operate PowerPoint or Excel.

Has what’s important in marketing changed, or are the loonies ruling the roost?


Category: General | 53 Comments »

The Perils of Freelancing

March 19th, 2007 by Bob Bly

One of the dangers of being — as well as using — a freelancer is that if something happens to the freelancer, the work doesn’t get done.

Case in point: within the last week, my 75-year-old mother was rushed to the hospital emergency room, diagnosed as having had several small strokes, lost vision in her left eye (possibly permanently), and had surgery to remove a benign tumor — believed to be the cause of the stroke — behind her heart.

You can imagine how stressful — and disruptive — all this is to my life and my work.

But like any freelancer, I have multiple projects under contract — projects clients are counting on me to deliver, at a high level of quality and on time.

What would you do if you were me? How would you handle this emergency situation?

Am I bound to let clients know about it? I did. Was that wise or foolish?

Do you think businesspeople understand and allow for “Acts of God” in their dealings with their vendors?

Or is a catastrophic illness or other similar event simply not the client’s problem or concern — a circumstance that should in no way effect what they are buying from you?


Category: General | 38 Comments »

Reading This Could Save Your Life

March 13th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Recently, I got “spanked” by one of my subscribers, JB, who objected to the subject line on an e-mail I sent to my list.

It read: “Reading this e-mail could save your life.”

It was literally true, since the e-mail was about preventing a stroke and the 6 early warning signs that you are having a stroke.

“This is a horrific headline,” wrote JB. “I don’t appreciate such nasty tactics. If your skill as a copywriter has degenerated to this level, it’s time to unplug the PC.”

Preventing stroke is a personal issue with me, since I had one years ago — and my mother is in the hospital right now after having a series of strokes.

Other subscribers who wrote me were thankful for the information.

“A friend of mine had a stroke when he was 39 which could have been prevented,” wrote MF. “We never know how long we’re going to be on this earth, but I’d like to think we’ll last a little longer if we take care of ourselves.”

I wrote “Reading this e-mail could save your life” because (a) it was true and (b) I wanted to make sure my subscribers read my warning and advice on avoiding stroke.

Is JB right? Should I unplug the PC?

Or was the subject line effective and appropriate?


Category: General | 60 Comments »

Does Self-Publishing Your Book Hurt Your Credibility?

March 4th, 2007 by Bob Bly

If you want to establish yourself as a recognized expert in your field, which is the best option for building your credibility — an e-book, self-published print book, or a book with a traditional publishing house (e.g., McGraw-Hill).

Years ago, at a talk to the NYC chapter of National Speakers Association (NSA), my colleague Dan Poynter said words to the effect that the reader doesn’t care who the publisher is — noting that no one goes into the bookstore and asks “Do you have any Random House books?

And therefore, he concluded, whether the book is self-published or published by a mainstream publisher is irrelevant.

I respectfully disagree, and to illustrate my contention that a traditionally published book gives the author greater credibility and status than a self-published book, a quick story:

When I was in my 20s, eons ago, I was speaking at an event. As I rode to the event with my host in his car, he said — a little snidely, it seemed to me — “So, you’ve written half a dozen books?”

Yes, I told him.

The snideness in his voice grew: “Where did you get them printed? I may want to write a book, too.”

“I didn’t ‘get them printed,'” I replied evenly. “My publishers — John Wiley & Sons, Henry Holt, and McGraw-Hill — handle that.”

His eye bugged out wide in what was unmistakably awe, or at least a modicum of surprise and respect: “Your publisher is McGraw-HILL?” he said enviously.

In my opinion, from most to least prestigious and reputation-building, the ways to publish your book are:

A. Large traditional publisher.
B. Small publishing house.
C. Self-published paper book.
D. E-book.

Right or wrong, when it comes to impressing others, nothing beats a traditional “bookstore book” — wouldn’t you agree?


Category: General | 48 Comments »