When I first started The Newsletter Pro, the company was not called The Newsletter Pro. In fact, we didn’t even create our first newsletter for a client until the company had been around for five months, give or take. Originally, I set out to be a specialty direct mailer, which, in my mind, means creating campaigns for niches like dentists and restaurants. The idea was to create campaigns with new people on the list each month, that way the dentist or restaurant owner would be able to mail the campaign for as long as it was profitable. At the time, I felt that newsletters were in that category of specialty direct mail–you can’t send the same newsletter to your clients, you have to create another newsletter each month. Newsletters are evergreen, just like the other specialty direct mail we were sending each month.
My Incorrect Theory on Some Specialty Direct Mail
In business, I have always been anti client attrition. If I look back at my previous businesses, ALL of them in the last decade were designed (or so I thought) to have the ability to get and keep clients long term. My ultimate goal is to get a new client and convince them to never, ever, ever leave. My theory with my direct mail campaigns was that if I could prove to the restaurant owners or dentists that I could make them a multiple of additional money compared to what they spent with me, they would never leave. It is a sound theory, but in practice, I overestimated some business owners’ abilities to do math and answer the phones. Let me give you two examples:
- Restaurants: I have sales letters right now that, for a good sit-down restaurant, will return $4 to $7 per single dollar spent with us. We have mailed hundreds of thousands of these pieces, and the worst response we ever received was to break even. The average response was over $5.00 in sales for every dollar invested in marketing. I don’t know about you, but I would just short of kill for a letter that had those returns in my business. Unfortunately, we found out that the restaurant owners we worked with (even those who ran 50- and 100-store chains) couldn’t do math. I won’t go into details on how we tracked sales, but the restaurant owners themselves were the ones who gave us the data of how well the campaigns were working. Despite massive returns, they all cancelled, in a year or less… crazy, right?
- Dentists: We didn’t have nearly the same problem with math when it came to dentists—dentistry is more difficult to sell than food, but dentists can add. The problem we did have was that even if we were dealing with outstanding dentists, if they sucked at answering the phones, no letter I wrote could help them. Today, we still have clients whom we mail our multi-step dental campaign for, including one that got over 840 new patients last year from it. They know math AND can convert phone calls to patients.
Back in the early days, we saw a few dentists come and go with our direct mail campaigns (none had ever left the newsletter campaigns), and we saw ALL the restaurants come and go. That was frustrating to me, but what was even more frustrating was that we were too fractured in our marketing. Selling newsletters AND restaurant mailers AND new patient letters for dentists is all different. In reality, it requires three different websites, multiple different direct mail campaigns, and even different company names. For a small business like mine, it was too much. We couldn’t do it all, and after a lot of talking (and soul searching on my part), we decided to focus our business on one of the three products. Because of my passion for the newsletter business and my experience creating my own newsletter for a decade or so, I decided to make that niche the focus of the business.
Our focused energy EXPLODED! In a good way.
Maybe that headline is a little off. We did see an increase in sales once we started to focus our efforts, but we also had to retool the whole business, and that took a bit of time. But from September 2012 to February 2014 we increased sales 1,000% or more, despite losing all the restaurant mailers and one dental direct mail client.
At the time, the idea of focusing on one product was scary for me. I was worried about having enough revenue to pay the bills. In reality it was the single best decision I’ve made in this decade. No longer are my primary resources split between time and money. I know that it’s my job is to improve The Newsletter Pro, each and every day. That focus has grown the business faster than I ever imagined. That focus has improved our product. And that focus has improved my ability to serve our clients.