How to Start an Email Marketing Business

Last Updated on October 10, 2021

The Truth About Junk Mail and Online Spam

A promotional letter or online advertising message is one that introduces, plugs or promotes any product or service. Normally it offers something “not available in stores” and invites a response. For instance: “We will send you a wonderful ‘X’ for free or nearly free if you will send us, your Visa Card number and with it, your authorization to bill you later for an amazing low, bargain price on Product Y.” Normally the offer throws in a few extras, “absolutely free.”

If well done, most readers who usually click “delete” or chuck the snail-mail offer into a waste bin without reading should be greatly tempted. Perhaps driven by greed, an unrequited sex drive, or the saintly quest for universal truth, the reader will send the requested credit card number or the money. Then he or she will get his product. Hopefully, the customer will be pleased — at least pleased enough so that he doesn’t take up the usual offer of an “unconditional, iron-clad refund” 

Any promotional mailing (once it reaches the prospect’s inbox or mailbox) is called “junk mail” by the uninformed masses. We think successful marketing letters are nothing less than an art form. A beautifully composed letter will get a strong gut-response just like a masterpiece of art or music. Fortunately, you can be a master marketer with less talent than it takes to become a Beethoven or Picasso.

Marketing savvy is perhaps the most portable and potentially high-earning skill anyone can have. The literature you received about this very report was obviously an effective promotion. You bought this report, didn’t you? You were made to feel it would change your life for the better. Perhaps it will. 

The same talent for writing an effective mail order offer can be used for writing effective radio, TV or classified advertising offers. They are all part of the same bag, though different tricks of the trade must be employed for different media. 

Not Available In Any Shops 

Where a product is “not available in shops,” people are tempted. It may be something good. However, they also need to be especially motivated and trusting to send away their hard-earned cash to an unknown vendor. Although the reputation of mail order marketers is not nearly as bad as it was years ago, most people still prefer “cash and carry.” They would rather see and touch the thing before they buy. That is one reason why retail store sales are still around 97% of all sales. The internet gets closer to 3%. A few online products however are overtaking the traditional purveyor. Among them are news, how to information, leisure time reading, and last but not least, porno.

How Direct Mail Marketers Establish Trust 

Big mail order houses like Sears, Land’s End and L. L. Bean have overcome any negative image by offering quality merchandise, lovingly photographed in expensive multicolor catalogs. Similar catalogs are offered online or in hard copy form. We have found that while this seems to work for appliances and clothing, a well-written black and white promotion sells more “how-to” books. One thing to offer your potential customer is a no-risk deal. Always offer very generous return or exchange privileges. If you take credit cards, this alone gives every buyer a degree of protection. The great marketing guru, Jay Abraham has recently said, if it is a download product, offer it on an “approval basis.” The customer does not need to send money or even give his credit card number. You send out the product on the honour system. Only if the customer likes the product does he pay. Jay’s logic is that if a standard offer would bring in ten prepaid orders and perhaps one return, it is far more profitable to get 100 orders on approval and have maybe ten percent no pays. How many orders you get depends on at least two things: 

The quality of the mailing list or group of potential customers who see the ad. The quality and perceived value of the product 

Google Jay Abraham to get more of his tips.

The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches was the title of one of the greatest ads of all time. The product was a self-published book, more of a pamphlet written in the 1920’s by a man named Joe Karbo. Joe is today considered the world’s most iconic copywriter, headline writer and the granddaddy direct response expert of all time. With the Lazy Man’s Way To Riches, Karbo created the foundation for today’s direct response industry becoming a self-made millionaire in the process.

Joe’s ads for the “Lazy Man” ran for years in every major newspaper and magazine in the United States and most large foreign papers as well. The ads themselves became famous. The ads are still studied, examined, dissected, and used as models for direct response marketing and selling throughout the world.

He reveals his “secrets” in “The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” a classic book that explains Joe’s philosophy on life and how to live it richly, successfully, lovingly, joyously and without working too hard. The recently popular book, the Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferrissis an updated version.

I found both of these books to be inspirational and helpful.

There’s only one problem. There’s no such thing as a “lazy man’s way to riches!” The week that either Karbo or Ferriss actually worked only four-hours never happened. Both authors got to the top by being insanely hard workers. The thing is, they didn’t call it work. Fine. But then is the four-hour work week or lazy man’s way to riches is merely semantic? Because everything a “Lazy Man” does the rest of us would call work. They called it not-work. My guess is that Karbo and Ferriss probably engaged in 100-hour workweeks. It’s just that they’re doing things they like, so they say they only work a few hours. That’s great if you define work only as doing what you don’t like. Many people in sports or show biz say that they would pay others to do their thing in front of enthusiastic crowds. The truth is that many entertainers actually do pay for exposure. Authors like me don’t consider our long hours in front of a PC to be work either. I don’t do it for the money. I do it for fun.

You can download both of these books free online. The copyright on “Lazy Man” is long expired and Ferriss gives away the 4-hour work week to promote his other products, services and seminars. However, short of winning the lottery or inheriting a fortune, there is no such thing as a lazy man’s way to riches!

One secret of the Lazy Man’s Way To Riches, the all-time best selling mail order book was that in the old days Joe asked for a post-dated personal check from the buyer for around $10. This might be worth $100 these days. He promised not to cash the check for 60 days giving the buyer the assurance that he would tear up the check if notified that the customer did not feel the book was worth more than that to him. The check was to be cashed only if the customer was fully satisfied. 

Credit Cards 

It takes a few weeks to be approved as a credit card vendor but being able to accept Visa and Master Charge (and to a lesser extent AMEX and Diner’s) will increase sales by at least a third. 

Any product or service bought with a credit card can be returned or rejected for almost any reason. The credit card company will make the refund and charge it back to the merchant. However, for cash sales, any mail order marketer seeking to instil confidence says redundantly in his promotion: “Return anything if you’re not absolutely delighted, within (a specified time) and you’ll get a full refund. No questions asked.”  

“I’m Not A Crook”

You want to convince your customers you are not a crook. Just saying it won’t do the trick. These famous words by Richard Nixon, a former president of the USA had the opposite effect. There are other, more subtle ways of establishing your credibility. 

When an individual, or a small or unknown company is making a direct mail offer the reader is naturally wary. His money may disappear without any response. The buyer may not get anything nearly as good as the described products he visualized. The promised refund may never come. A mail order sale always carries the risk that the money will be banked by some fly-by-night who doesn’t bother to send out any goods. This is fraud. If a swindler is caught, he can do time for mail fraud.

Actually, there are fewer mail frauds of this type than in past years. Why? Because there are so many financial frauds and other criminal activities much easier to pull off. The con men in mail order these days are often selling silly products like breast and penis enlarger creams that won’t work. Alternatively, counterfeit vitamins. If you ever are tempted by a suspicious site, just Google it followed by the words, “Is this a scam?” You will soon find out. Most of their customers won’t bother to ask for a refund, but if they do, the refund is made.

In this report, we are teaching you how to make serious money in an honest way! Part of making money in an honest way involves having an honest product and convincing your customers you are honest. This is part of your pitch in a promotional letter. 

When you become a writer of promotional letters, you’ll have to be extremely creative and sincere to, among other things, create trust in the reader’s mind. You’ll also have to avoid obvious manifestations of the fly-by-night syndrome. Here are a few more suggestions to allay the fear that your particular offer might be a petty fraud: 

Avoid use of a PO Box. This should be an obvious thing to remember. The reality is that it is exceedingly easy to get a mail drop with a street address, but the public doesn’t know this. The average person will feel a street address is real and permanent while a box number is the opposite. 

Accept credit cards. 

Your copy on the letter itself should contain a personal element or story to get empathy and suspend natural scepticism. Learn from adverts that have been running for years how to write an effective direct mail appeal. A promoter won’t keep running an ad for years if it doesn’t sell his product.

Your Own Inbox Is Your University 

Promotional letters probably fill your mailbox every day. You don’t need me to tell you what they look like. You should read them carefully and judge for yourself the difference between a good pitch and a letter that is a failure. Within a few days, you should be able to write a good promotional letter.

If you feel that getting more marketing skills is important to you, go to your favourite search engines. Have a look at Rich Jerk for a few laughs. If you want a quiet comfortable place to read real books, visit the business branch of your local public library. Start reading books by the masters. We would recommend such titles as How to Make A Million in Mail Order Marketing. At the public library or on the net, check out people like Joe Cossman, Joe Karbo, Jay Abraham, Jim Straw. Google them and study all their links.

Insider Insights 

When planning any marketing campaign, it is a good idea to make a guesstimate of your costs and profits. This is part of the sound business plan that lenders and investors are always so impressed with. Fact is if your product or slant is new and original, you won’t know how it will work out until you test it. Yet there are certain rules of thumb. From the point of view of the sender, with an average-priced product that any Johnny Lunchbucket can afford, a less than 1% percent return rate on promotional letters is average. A five per cent response rate is phenomenal.   

Big Ticket Items 

A letter promoting a $50,000/$33,000 deal with a $20,000/$15,000 profit to the seller on each item sold can be highly profitable with only one out of a thousand (one-tenth of one percent) response rate.  

Will You Make A Fortune Offering Something That Is Very Expensive In A Single Shot?

Probably not. Nevertheless, Jay Abraham, regularly offers seminars by mail order. These are priced at $10,000 and up by mail order. His target list is marketers who are already successful, but who want to do better. High ticket items are normally sold through direct phone contact made after a promotional letter has elicited some interest. Abraham or a member of his staff will talk to high-roller potential customers on the phone to close the sale. Another mail order marketer is effectively promoting an expensive seminar by means of a YouTube video. You can Google it at “Billionaire Bill Bartmann’s Buying Bad Loans Seminar”

Usually, promo letters (without any telephone follow up) are used for selling things in the under $150 price range. Newsletters and magazine subscriptions, inspirational books are all common mail order promotional items.

Aside from Nigerians offering to share thirty million dollars with you, the vast majority of the so-called junk mail letters in your daily inbox are for genuine. Send the money and you will receive the advertised product. Most companies will promptly honour stated refund policies. They don’t want complaints to the authorities. In addition, they hope to keep you on their mailing list and sell you other products. A customer who has received good service on a refund is usually a satisfied customer. They will consider other offers from the same source. The success of many a retailer is based on the concept that “The Customer is Always Right.” 

You Will Generally Get A Better Response If You Offer A Telephone And Fax Number And A Bricks & Mortar Real Mailing Address.

You can always hire a local mail-drop for a local address. However, the lure of the exotic is always strong. Thus, it depends on the product. Lonely bachelors in the desert read the Nullabar (Australian) Farmers Gazette. There, an ad with bikini photos of gorgeous Hungarian women seeking Australian Bush farmer husbands will attract considerable interest. For them it doesn’t hurt to have a Budapest address. Likewise, marriage brokers and pen pal providers can be anywhere.

Mail fraud penalties can’t be enforced when a proposal comes from an “offshore” or foreign source. However, many newspapers and magazines won’t always accept ads from potentially dodgy advertisers abroad. Not unless and until they have qualified themselves. It’s like the kid who can’t get a job until he has experience but nobody gives you experience. Funny thing is that Google, in our experience, will let anyone buy ad words. In the realm of “second passports” for instance, there are 100 scammers for every legitimate outfit you will find on Google ads.

The answer is to start with free publicity from popular reviewers and bloggers. Place ads in free ad papers and with outfits like Google who accept anything from anyone. 

There is or at least was a magazine called Good Housekeeping and every advertiser used to covet their “Seal of Approval.” Homemakers and others looked for the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” It was proudly displayed on many consumer goods. These days it is bloggers and people like Oprah Winfrey who can deliver a valuable “seal of approval. “How do you get it? You ask for it! These days, Intel the chipmaker uses the same branding technique with its “Intel® Inside™” logo stuck on most popular computer brands. Many sellers use celebrities as part of their branding and marketing strategy. 

Bogus Financial Offers In The Mail 

A few letters relate to what seem to be investment plans or off the wall business proposals. Perhaps a general or high official in Nigeria has sent you a “personal” proposal to transfer $30 Million in slush or bribery funds he has received. He needs you to get this money from his Swiss account into an account at wherever you happen to live. He wants you to help launder his ill-gotten gains for him by having it deposited in your bank account. For your trouble you will get to keep ten or twenty per cent when the admittedly corrupt General Abu Ngeboya (or whatever) comes to pick up the cash. 

All you have to do is to furnish your bank account number and a blank signed sheet of paper with your signature so that the BLACK money can be paid to you as a commission for non-existent services. Many people fall for this swindle. The only result is that the Nigerian empties out your bank account by filling out the blank page over your signature with an order to transfer your money to his account. Then he empties his account and your funds have disappeared without a trace. You look for the Nigerian, but he never existed. Nigerians pay for courses and kits in how to do variations on this fraud. Their letters these days may seem to come from anywhere, but the common thread is a stranger asking you for help. In return, you will get a huge payout. My advice? Click delete and never get involved in any dodgy schemes. 

Finding A Suitable Product To Market 

How can you make money out of promotional letters? Assuming you want to do it the honest and ethical way, you must find or create a product. That is not as difficult as you think. Before I finish writing this chapter, I will purchase today’s paper and show you how to look at any daily newspaper to get ideas. But first a bit of background and rules of thumb for the mail order business: To make any money, an item sold by mail order must have a four to one mark up to break even after advertising, promotional letter costs, packing, mailing and postage.  

How Ordinary People Learn To Write Effective Promo Letters 

You must be able to write an effective advert to sell online or by direct mail. How is this talent learned? You can always copy other ideas, but in the end, you must carve out a special place, a style of your own. The best advice is to learn by doing. Get your education in the school of hard knocks as just about every successful entrepreneur or tycoon has done.

The most important thing to remember is that the best copywriters are not academic types. They use bad grammar like “Doublemint Gum Tastes Good Like a Good Gum Should.” If you didn’t recognize that a proper sentence would have ended with the word “taste” you are on the right track. You have an excellent chance of writing successful advertising copy unhindered by standard grammar. 

Our friend “Harriet Walters” was an ambitious 19-year-old without any resources when she graduated from college only a few years ago. We suggested she approach various charities with a proposal to write a promo letter about their good works. The letter would make a pitch for tax-deductible donations. Harriet would get the standard fund-raiser deal: a third of all funds raised for her efforts.

As it turned out, Harriet became a very successful fundraiser for charity. Her idea was original and simple. She’d enclose with the pitch a “free gift” to make the recipient feel guilty about ripping off a wonderful charitable organization. Therefore, for an orphanage for poor African kids she sent off a small plastic replica of an African doll. Of course, the letter still had to be a real heart-wrenching tear jerker. For diseases, she sent off stick-on, postage stamp size pictures of appealing black or oriental kids saying in tiny print, “I saved a child from Leukemia. Learn how you can help,”

She’s been at the game for two decades now and we understand her gross annual collections are in the fifty million dollar range. Two-thirds to the charity, one-third for her. The charities are happy with the arrangement as they go from nickel and dime outfits when she takes them on as a client, to the big time. There is no rule that says people who work for charities and non-profit organizations can’t be paid well. The head of the Red Cross is one of the highest paid business executives in the world, and the Pope doesn’t live like a slob either.  

If you need a final example, executives of the United Nations from African countries where the average annual wage is under $100, average over $500,000 a year, plus expenses, plus whatever they can steal. They wangle an appointive job in New York City or Geneva. If you want to get seriously rich, get into government, religion or charity work! Harriet still does this work. She has a big staff of hired hands, many working on contingent fees. Their job is to meet with rich people and get them to donate.

Can you hit the big time? A Russian was raising funds for a little religious (Hebrew) school he ran in his living room for six neighborhood kids. He prepared a promotional letter, sending out appeals for financial support by placing the letters under the doors of other recent immigrants. They didn’t work very well. Then he began writing “public service announcements” for TV and radio stations making a pitch for donations. These brought in such a good response that he decided to reinvest the funds raised to purchase advertising spots. His announcements about his school and its activities were written to sound like public service appeals. This format gave them a certain institutional quality and the implied endorsement of the TV station. Later on, he had the idea to solicit donations in kind, like used cars. In another section, we tell his success story in more detail.  

However, why purchase airtime if it’s already something you can get free? Here’s why! Public service announcements come on at 3 to 4 AM or at such similar times when the listening audience is at its lowest ebb. There are no paying customers for these spots, so the stations give them away. The Rabbi knew you always get what you pay for and what you get as a gift is usually worth what you paid. So our hero, who by this time is calling himself a Rabbi (but isn’t really) grows long curls and really looks the part. 

Then, with a new idea, he becomes as rich as an Irish Sweepstakes lottery winner. How? By registering his non-profit Hebrew school for young children as a charity and then coming up with a unique and original fund-raising pitch. “Donate your used car to Rabbi Lubin’s School and get a tax deduction for more than the value of the car. You will get a receipt from a registered charity that gives you more cash in your hand (after tax savings) than if you sold the car.”

What happened to the cars? The Rabbi kept a few for himself and his friends, but sold the rest. At a stroke, he became the third largest used car dealer in the entire United States. The cars are sold at bargain prices — usually less than a quarter of their “appraised tax value.”

The Rabbi, who just got off the boat from Russia, couldn’t read or write English. His school is as small as ever, but he is affluent, in spite of some criticism from newspapers (including the Wall Street Journal) that he is abusing his charitable status for personal gain. To this criticism, he answers in a jolly, good-natured way: “Vell, ven a new mensch makes good, zere are alvays gonna be zoze people who are zealous.”  

Magazine Articles 

Living abroad? Traveling? Folks back home want to hear about your adventures. The more you engross yourself in a foreign culture, the more you learn. You’ll have stories to tell. People don’t want to hear your criticisms unless they are funny or very cleverly presented. It takes little imagination to complain that non-English speaking restaurant personnel don’t always bring what you ordered, or that they don’t have your favorite desert, Apple Crumble and hot Vanilla Pudding sauces.  

To enjoy yourself abroad and have a positive tone, “go native.” In Asia, forget potatoes. Learn to eat rice with every meal. Learn to smile a lot and say things like: “I like it” and “never mind, you did that very well” in the local lingo. Repeat these phrases in the face of regularly recurring disappointments and you’ll enjoy your travels.  

You cannot hope to experience a foreign country positively unless you shrug off your previous culture and accept the new culture. With acceptance comes understanding. Your readers will appreciate your insights, not your gripes. 

Once you have adopted the local way of life and have largely forgotten your former homeland’s ways, you will find that there is much more to the people of your new environment than you realized. You start to find that some aspects of your former lifestyle now appear odd or restrictive. No longer will you be a naive, innocent holidaymaker. You will have become streetwise.

When you reach this stage, you will become an expert (at least in comparison to most of your compatriots). Now you will be able to comment incisively on your adopted country. 

Original insights that you can share are a new opportunity for making money. You have an expertise. You are able to write original material about X-Land. There is a very strong market for magazine articles on previously unknown aspects of any country. With a little effort and investigation, you will soon be picking up enough specialist knowledge to prepare a series of articles. Subjects of interest will come to mind from your observations. With regard to Thailand, these might include: 

  • Eating French fried grasshoppers for snacks and dousing vegetables with fermented fish sauce.
  • How a society without social welfare deals with poverty, health care and similar issues  
  • Local culture and history  
  • Economics and growth of the country  
  • Local unique sports  
  • Unusual forms of local entertainment like mongoose vs. cobra fighting and fighting fish  
  • The Royal Family and their secret scandals 

Women’s magazines, tabloid newspapers, popular monthlies like Readers Digest or in-flight airline magazines are always seeking human interest or topical stories from abroad. A few photographs to accompany your manuscript are always a good idea. Before you leave for X-Land, flick through as many magazines as you can find back home. Take note of editor names and addresses and where to send material for publication. This sort of article is easier to sell than something less exotic. 

If you’re looking for more ideas on what to write, study material already in existence in the local English language press. Look for inspiration in news stories.

One exciting and successful novel was written when the author read of a girl who was arrested and jailed because she stole flowers from a grave. She told the police she wanted to give these flowers to a boyfriend sick in the hospital and they would do him more good than being left behind for a person already dead. These bare bones facts served as inspiration for invented characters and a great novel ending with this incident.

Other good sources of information and inspiration are the many free tourist magazines found on hotel reception desks. These magazines are free. Go into any hotel. Help yourself to a selection of tourist-oriented publications and walk off with them. Respond to the ads. You will soon have many an interesting story to relate. You can always publish and distribute your own e-zine, blog or ebook. 

One place to advertise or get a review is Escape from America. Amazon/Kindle will publish anything you write and take only a small 10-30% commission for listing and selling it online.

If nothing else, you can trade free tickets (which cost a promoter nothing) for free ads and announcements, which cost you nothing. Your back end can be any products or services you offer. Expat Worlde-zine out of Singapore does this very effectively.

If you learn to read the local language, stories in the local lingo press that you select and translate can be the basis as a regular job with a major wire service as a “stringer” or regular contributor, on retainer!

I hope that this report with its shotgun approach and many unrelated stories has stimulated you and given you some ideas to follow up.