Skip to content


Seminar prospecting — Online Trading Academy

Online Trading Academy trains students to use professional-level tools for buying and selling stocks, options, futures etc. on the Internet. Prospects are invited to attend a 4 hour workshop, where they are recruited to paid classes which run $1995 and up. The program is very successful and my letter has been the control through many mailing cycles.

However, the 2009 bottom in the stock market caused many traders to question their assumption that the pros know “secrets” that can make them rich. We created a hard-edged test called “Market Driven Trader” to address new realities. The test package worked well for registrations during the bad times, less so when the market improved, and it has now been retired. However, the conversion to paid classes was never as good as the control. Yet another proof that even the most creative negative advertising usually loses to an upbeat message.

View control letter for Online Trading Academy

View test letter for Online Trading Academy

Web Banners — Sendmail

Sendmail had infinite “geek cred” as one of the six founding applications of the Internet. These two banners speak to Sendmail developers and administrators at such sites as “Mothership” is a recruitment ad, while “If You Can Read This” motivates readers to click through to the developer community site. The latter had better than a 2.1% clickthrough rate even though there’s no offer of any kind–simply the opportunity to show how savvy you are by recognizing a line of Sendmail code.

View Sendmail “Mothership” banner

View Sendmail “If You Can Read This” banner

Mature Market — MetLife

This simple self-mailer invites aging Americans to consider the need for Long Term Care insurance. It was the control for more than 5 years until the underlying product was retired, beating all tests including my own efforts to improve on it. I believe the key is the opening paragraph, which I jotted down during a brainstorming session with agents: Every one of us would like to live well in our later years and leave some money for the next generation. Is that too much to ask? Hard statements usually lose to general benefit messages but I think this one carries just the right amount of anger and outrage.

View control mailing for MetLife

B-to-B Direct Mail — ProSeries Express

Intuit wanted to generate early leads for its new professional tax preparer’s product, ProSeries Express. Problem: the product was so early in its development cycle, not even a demo could be provided. Solution: a survey package that invites prospects to become part of the development process, by telling Intuit what they want in tax prep software. Nearly 3% of recipients completed the form and asked for an evaluation kit, and still others asked to be informed when the product was released.

View ProSeries Express Survey Package

Samples of food writing

Although it’s not my core competency, I love food and cooking, once trained as a chef, and have done an increasing amount of food writing for websites, examples of which you can find here. I maintain a separate food blog, Burnt My Fingers, where I am just as opinionated about eating, drinking as cooking as I am about marketing on Otisregrets. Just for fun, and because it’s so hard to find good food in my benighted corner of the world. I also write restaurant reviews on Yelp as Otis M from Saratoga Springs, NY.

Flash demo — Enterprise Content Management

Writing a Flash script is similar to writing a screenplay, and very different than writing for print media. Without printed materials to refer to, people can’t be expected to retain what they see so thoughts have to be clear and repetitive. You also can’t introduce sidebar comments that are not supported by what’s on the screen. And you have to accomodate the additional dimension of TIME: events unfold in sequence, not in parallel. My script, for EMC’s Documentum platform in this Flash demo created by Stormship, hopefully follows these guidelines.

Watch EMC Documentum Flash demo (total running time is 5 minutes)

Dimensional Direct Mail — Isuzu trucks

Isuzu “cab over” trucks are able to haul more cargo because the driver sits over the engine, instead of having a hood out in front. We dramatized this with a series of dimensional mailers to vertical markets. This one, to food distributors, promised “500 gallons of tomato paste enclosed” and then delivers a single can of Contadina because of course you’d need a big Isuzu truck to haul that much. Other versions targeted verticals such as contractors … “2 tons of 10 penny nails enclosed.”

View Isuzu dimensional direct mail

Business-to-Business Email: Anritsu Spectrum Analyzer

There’s an axiom in the business that only 10% of campaigns become so succcessful as to beat long-established controls. I’ve found this to be pretty close to my own experience. I do my dogged best to research the product and the audience and come up with with a marketing pitch to match, and every now and then I surprise myself with a home run. This email for Anritsu is an example… 38.8% open rate, of which 5.5% clicked through to the landing page. A direct mail version was even more successful, with a response totaling 10% according to this article in Marketing Sherpa.

What clicked? The headline “handheld analyzer that thinks its a benchtop” perfectly matched both the technical needs and the emotional curiosity of its target audience. At least, that’ s my Monday morning quarterbacking conclusion.

View Anritsu email

Consumer Direct Mail: Great American Recipes

This continuity program traditionally sold with a sweepstakes offer. This letter, along with an elaborate brochure and other package elements, became the first non-sweepstakes control. Yes, it got a much lower response than an offer to “see what you already may have won”. But by romancing the experience of receiving the recipe cards and restoring the calmer, safer lifestyle that they implied, it got a far better payup that drove more dollars to the client’s bottom line. Carol Worthington-Levy was the designer.

See Great American Recipes 4-page letter (pdf)

Business-to-Business Direct Mail: Geneva Companies

Geneva mails constantly to business owners, inviting them to invest a few hundred dollars and two days of their time in a seminar where they will learn how to sell their business for the most profit. After a long dry spell, this letter became the control in 1998 and remained so until Geneva was acquired by Smith Barney a few years later. I use it as as a case study in my DMA copywriting class because it faithfully follows the rules of establishing a benefit, supporting with product details, and anticipating objections up front.

See Geneva 4-page letter (pdf)

Web Seminar Invitation for Astoria Software

Webinars have become a b-to-b marketer’s bread and butter because they’re easy to put on, easy to attend, and far less expensive than trade shows or in-person seminars. A carefully focused invitation like this one, sent to 5000 prospects, might draw 200 registrants of which 100 actually attend the event. If the event is archived, it can be used for further prospecting and for follow-up to those who did not attend on the event date.

View Astoria Web Seminar Invitation

eBrochure for PayCycle

This two-page .pdf document bridges old and new methods of delivering a promotional message. It’s designed for someone who visits the PayCycle website to find out more about online payroll services, but prefers to receive their information in a traditional “brochure” format — even though the brochure is electronic. We found it helpful to think of the document as the equivalent of a site tour — taking the reader step-by-step through the questions they’d need to answer in order to try the client’s product.

See PayCycle eBrochure (pdf)

Fundraising Direct Mail for Atlanta PBS

Bruce Kennedy is a popular on-air personality who was based in Atlanta for CNN, then went abroad before returning to the local scene. I interviewed him and asked what it was like to come “home” and what he cherished about life in Atlanta. This formed an effective and successful message for an NPR affiliate that does a great deal of promotion to its subscriber base.

See Atlanta Public Broadcasting 2-page letter (pdf)

Dimensional Direct Mail — “Professor Xerox”

Xerox had a problem: a once-great brand identity had been watered down by a series of unexciting products. This campaign, directed at resellers, rekindled the excitement by spotlighting a great product from Xerox’s past and also presenting a science experiment based on that product. (In this example, by burning paper with a magnifying glass you can simulate the effect of a Xerox-invented laser printer.) It was inspired by the “Things of Science” mailers many in the audience remembered as kids.

View “Professor Xerox” dimensional direct mail

Social Widgets powered by