The Great Lesson Of A Dead Copywriter
Copywriter Martin Conroy passed away on Tuesday at the age of 84.
Conroy’s claim to fame?
He wrote what might well have been the most mailed direct mail piece of all time. It ran continuously with minor changes for thirty-one years from 1975 to 2003.
Just two pages long, it was the workhorse circulation builder for the Wall Street Journal.
Here’s the text:
“On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both - as young college graduates are - were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.
Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.
They were very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company, and were still there.
But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.
What Made The Difference
Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It isn’t always a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.
The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.
And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of the Journal: To give its readers knowledge - knowledge that they can use in business.
A Publication Unlike Any Other
You see, The Wall Street Journal is a unique publication. It’s the country’s only national business daily. Each business day, it is put together by the world’s largest staff of business-news experts.
Each business day, The Journal’s pages include a broad range of information of interest and significance to business-minded people, no matter where it comes from. Not just stocks and finance, but anything and everything in the whole, fast-moving world of business… The Wall Street Journal gives you all the business you need when you need it.
Knowledge is Power
Right now, I am reading page one of the Journal. It combines all the important news of the day with in-depth feature reporting. Every phase of business news is covered, from articles on inflation, wholesale prices, car prices, tax incentives for industries to major developments in Washington, and elsewhere…
And there is page after page inside The Journal filled with fascinating and significant information that’s useful to you. A daily column on personal money management helps you become a smarter saver, better investor, wiser spender. There are weekly columns on small business, marketing, real estate, technology, regional developments. If you have never read The Wall Street Journal, you cannot imagine how useful it can be to you.
Much of the information that appears in The Journal appears nowhere else. The Journal is printed in numerous plants across the US, so that you get it early each business day.
GREAT INTRODUCTORY PRICE!
A $28 Subscription
Put our statements to the proof by subscribing for the next 13 weeks just for $28. This is the shortest subscription term we offer - and a perfect way to get acquired with The Journal. Or you may prefer to take advantage of a longer term subscription for greater savings: an annual subscription of $107 saves you $20 off The Journal’s cover price. Our best buy two years for $185 - saves you $69!
Simply fill out the enclosed order card and mail it in the postage-paid envelope provided. The Journal’s guarantee: Should the Journal not measure up to your expectations, you may cancel this trial arrangement at any point and receive a refund for the undelivered portion of your description.
If you feel as we do that this is a fair and reasonable proposition, then you will want to find out without delay if The Wall Street Journal can do for you what it has done for millions of readers. So please mail the enclosed order card now, and we will start serving you immediately.
About those two college graduates I mentioned in the beginning of the letter: They were graduated from the same college together and together got started in the business world. So what made their lives in business different?
Knowledge. Useful knowledge. And its application.
An Investment in Success
I cannot promise you that success will be instantly yours if you start reading The Wall Street Journal. But I can guarantee that you will find The Journal always interesing, always reliable, and always useful.
Peter R. Kann
Executive Vice President
P.S. It’s important to note that The Journal’s subscription price may be tax deductible.”
Is that one smooth, clear-as-glass piece of persuasive writing or what?
If you’re interested in business success, the story hooks you right away…two men, same background, different outcome. Why? Don’t you want to know?
The answer given is something we can all agree with and nod our heads to. Useful knowledge.
Then the writer lays detail upon detail documenting that The Journal is an excellent source of useful and exclusive knowledge.
Once you’re sold on the premise - knowledge equals success and The Journal has the knowledge - then out comes the offer for the product. Three of them actually: Good. Better. Best. And the company wins no matter which option you choose.
Notice, the only option offered is action and that action is spelled out so there’s no possibility of confusion as to what the prospect needs to do to join the party: “Simply filled out the enclosed order card and mail it…”
Then risk reversal, saying in effect “if it isn’t exactly what you expected, you will get your money back.”
And then, a repeat of the emotional hook that snagged you in the first place: Will you succeed or won’t you?
Isn’t that what every business person wants to know? Is there any question that goes deeper? Is it a question we ever outgrow?
Then the plain talk finale: “I can’t promise that success will be instantly yours…but I can guarantee…”
Of course, one of the reasons this piece worked so well in that the Wall Street Journal already had a fantastic reputation, but reputation alone is never enough to get a customer to pull the trigger and buy.
There has to be a reason why.
And that reason why has to go deep.
If a product like “The Journal” has to structure its sales presentation with such rigorous care, how can we do less for our lesser known products and services?
Clarity, simplicity, emotional significance, a clear offer, a clear call-to-action, a risk reversal, a re-statement of the basic premise at the end.
It just doesn’t get any better than this.