Don Hauptman 5:39
Well, as you mentioned, I’ll probably be forever remembered for those language ads speak Spanish like a diplomat. Those were enormously successful. And that was an anomaly because mostly I didn’t do space ads or coupon ads. The publications and products I worked for had to be sold through direct mail. So one good example Early in my career was for a financial publication called the retirement letter. And the teaser copy on the outside of the envelope said his social security doomed, classic fear approach. For a mutual fund newsletter, I came up with the headline, if you’re out of the market now you’ll hate yourself later. And that ran for years and years. For a newsletter called the organized executive for managers, we said here’s how the most successful executives in America get so much done in so little time. And one last example for a newsletter called tax angles on cutting your tax bill. The teaser I came up with was if you’re counting on your tax advisor, to help you cut your taxes, you’re making the most expensive mistake of your life. So those are five or so, examples of the kinds of things that I did that were achieved a certain measure of success.
Jeremy Weisz 7:04
So Tony, I want to ask you about speak Spanish like a diplomat. And tell me a little bit about how long did it take you to come up with that headline?
Don Hauptman 7:15
Well, it took me about zero seconds because the platform was handed to me on a platter. This was my first client and mentor a bobcat part who founded what’s now kci communications still a successful publishing firm in the investment area. And he had somehow found out that the Foreign Service Institute, the Department of State was putting out these language lessons. And at the time, apparently you couldn’t copyright government created things because the philosophy was, it all belong to the taxpayers who paid for it. So he just remastered the tapes ordered the manuals the printed books from The Government Printing Office and then we resold them. And because they were created to teach diplomats and Foreign Service personnel I just came up with speak Spanish like a diplomat, it was the easiest headline I ever wrote. Because I was reading
Jeremy Weisz 8:14
one of your articles, and it said, you know, you don’t want to do boring type headlines that said, You gave the example of speak Spanish like a native? Well, yes,
Don Hauptman 8:23
it feels like yeah, if it had been speak Spanish, like a native, you wouldn’t have had that curiosity element. I think people looking at it said why diplomat, and so that the headline gets you to read the first sentence and the first sentence gets you to read the second sentence. And before you know it, the guy is writing a check or charging his credit card.
Jeremy Weisz 8:43
Right. So in Don, so you mentioned the diplomat, the retirement letter, organized executive tax angles, post a little bit about why these campaigns worked, what were some of the lessons you drew, that can help others?
Don Hauptman 8:54
Well, I think two words kind of sum it up and that’s big idea. There’s a Big, unique selling proposition in each of those headlines and envelope teasers you’re targeting the prospect needs his problems, his concerns. And that’s really where you want to go. You want to drill into the pain point, or the otherwise insoluble problem that this guy has. And then say, here’s an easy, inexpensive way to solve it. And all this has to be achieved by a creative process first, at least in my case, because I dealt with so many information products, you do a whole lot of reading, you take notes, you mark things up. And then after you’ve done the research stage, you go through it all the second time, and you say, what can we use what’s really surprising? What is counter intuitive? What is it that can really benefit the reader and you translate the benefits of the products, benefits and advantages and selling points into persuasive copy. And it all sounds like a formula. But there is a lot of creativity involved in it. And when you get it right, and although I sometimes compare it to a Broadway show, if all the elements are right, then you’ll have a hit. Yeah,
Jeremy Weisz 10:17
yeah. So do they come back after you’re done with some of those, you know, when the the the mailing goes out or wherever it goes? Do they tell you the metrics and the success or they just say it was the winner? And we’re gonna run it again?
Don Hauptman 10:32
Well here because I’m retired have to think back over 3040 years. Most clients shared their results with me there were a few that were paranoid and they wouldn’t want any, any number getting out not even to the copywriter, but it certainly helped me to learn not only Yes, it worked, or it beat the control, or pre existing package, but to know exactly the numbers and especially helpful was to see a spreadsheet at that time. They were done literally by by hand on pieces of paper. And it would show every list that was mailed, usually you’d mail 612 15 mailing lists, and you’d see exactly how, how much was spent, how much came back. And of course in direct marketing, so many of your viewers know, we are accountable, we know things down to the penny, which is not the case when a billboard says drink Coca Cola. And you never know. The Coca Cola people will never know whether that billboard paid its own way because there’s just no way to track the sales. But I certainly appreciated it when the client shared with me the metrics and the results and that in turn helped me helped him I it helped me help the client when I because I could say Oh, if these two lists work, maybe you should go out and rent another list like it and I often gave that sort of advice beyond simply the copywriting.
Jeremy Weisz 11:54
Yeah, so Tom for learn Spanish like a diplomat. Will you talk about for people Don’t know, how did it what format? Did it go out in? How do people receive it?
Don Hauptman 12:05
Well, I could have your foot your approach here is not to use visual aids. But of course, I could have shown the ad, if you Google it, it may turn out. These were, oddly enough. I don’t think we ever did direct mail. For these tapes. It was entirely what we called space ads, which means ads and magazines and newspapers with a coupon. Although in this case, the whole ad was the coupon because it had a heavy, broken rule around it. And we found that in flight magazines worked pretty well. We discovered that most of the customers, at least we thought or intuited were business people they needed to learn Spanish for their work. These weren’t people going for a weekend in Guadalajara or something, and just had a touristy need to master some Spanish. These were people who had a real pressing need it was dollars and cents. It was their livelihood. And we had also French, German, Hebrew, several languages, and it just ran and ran, I have I made up a montage showing all the publications in which it ran Harper’s Atlantic New York Times Magazine. So it definitely had a certain currency I even if even contributed a phrase to the language because I’d see newspaper cartoons and articles and comic riffs on it. So when that happens, when a when an advertising slogan becomes part of the language, you know, it’s really embedded itself into the culture. Especially if a comedian thinks Oh, if I make fun of this, everybody will know what I’m talking about.
Jeremy Weisz 13:43
Yeah, no, I love that. And that’s gonna be a proud moment. You see your headline come up in common vernacular common, you know, talk. Do you mind? Can I link up that? that add up in the
Don Hauptman 13:56
Oh, sure. Okay. Oh, yeah, absolutely. If you have any trouble finding it. Just let me know. That’d
Jeremy Weisz 14:00
be great. So I also want to hear for you, obviously, those are the things that worked. What are some of the common mistakes people make in their advertising and and how they can be avoided?
Don Hauptman 14:12
Well, here’s where I think I could help your audience because I’m sure
Jeremy Weisz 14:15
it’s our audience, our audience to
Don Hauptman 14:17
our audience. And I assume they’re all watching because they’re in business, they have something to sell some product or service. And one thing that has always surprised me, I’m sure everyone has had this experience. I’m in New York City, but no matter where you are, you’ve got a local newspaper. Now maybe it’s online. But here we often have community handouts in St. boxes and retailers will run ads. And invariably I shake my head in disbelief at these because they make the same mistakes. I often say suppose you’ve got Joe who’s a florist while he buys an ad, pays money for it. And the headline is, Joe’s flower shop. Well, that’s not the head That’s the logo. And the real headline is roses half off this week only because it’s going to be the guy who’s almost forgot his wife’s birthday and or you need flowers for some other occasion. So basically the problem is not understanding the customer, his or her needs targeting him not focusing on the reader. The Joe’s flower shop headline is an example of like years and years ago used to be called manufacturers copy. You don’t hear that phrase much, but it referred to where they’re boasting about this is our factory. This is our office, this is our inventory, and the customer doesn’t care about that. He only cares how do I solve my problems and is giving this guy some money going to help me with with my problem. So years ago, I formulated this with a little rule I call Hartman’s law. It goes start with the prospect, not with the product. Start with the prospect Not with the product. And it’s a way of rephrasing what they used to call features versus benefits. One example I remember is that if you have a portable dishwasher, the feature is that it’s 29 inches tall, but the benefit is slides easily under any kitchen counter. So that’s one of the things we copywriters do all the time. We try to take the features and translate them into benefits, some other common mistakes or where you’ll make claims without proof. They’re just boasts. You need to have something to add to credibility, we’ll talk about that. There are no specifics, just vague promises where it’s specifics like hard numbers, facts, figures that convey the credibility. And finally, there’s the omission of a human interest element storytelling, which as I’m sure you know, can be enormously powerful when it’s deployed correctly.
Jeremy Weisz 16:56
Yeah, yeah. And then I want to talk about storytelling in a second, but I To go back to the successful campaigns because the Learn Spanish like a diplomat keeps what you just described and how it went out was so valuable. Can you talk about one of the other ones like tax angles and what medium? Did it go out in? How do people see that? Oh, sure.
Don Hauptman 17:17
Yeah. Well, tax angles is certainly my favorite story. And I really have to give credit to Bob Kemp, who was my mentor, and my first client, unfortunately, he died after a long illness A few years ago, but I owe I owe everything my whole career to Bob. And shortly after I began working for him, he came to me with this proposal, this idea he had to start a newsletter on taxes, and I was so young and inexperienced I it took me a while to grasp what he was saying, but he had something he called the business man’s lament, and it went like this. I have two attorneys and an accountant, but they never come to me with tax cutting ideas. All I get from them is routine paper. work and a lot of sympathy, what do I have to do to cut my tax bill? And Bob’s response was, in effect, you, the taxpayer executive are making a big mistake. You can’t wait for these guys to come to you because they’ll never come to you with ideas. It’s not their job. They’re conservative. They don’t spend their days thinking how can I help this particular client? So the argument, the proposition we laid forth was, you need to find these ideas you need on your own you have to keep up with developments and then go to your professional and say, Look at this, can we use this and that was what tax angles provided it was a forum was edited by a fellow named Vern Jacobs very experienced in taxes and tax cutting. And so every month the reader would receive a short articles on new interesting overlooked ways to cut your Taxes. And we hoped the reader would do what we told him to we would he would see, oh, maybe I can use this, I’d better ask George. If this is something we can do, I might point out finally the name tax angles, which was my suggestion, it had just a little bit of edginess to it. It’s suggested These aren’t the ideas you would get from h&r block, there might be a little bit of risk, but there’d also be a big advantage. And we will tell you the risks as well as as the benefits. So that’s the tax angle story. One thing I might mention it was I because of a little bit of PR, Bob stone, whom your readers might recall a big name and direct marketing. He had a column in Advertising Age, the weekly tabloid about direct marketing, and he did an entire story about the launch of tax angles, a full page of Ad Age, mentioning Bob mentioning me and he agreed that it was he called it like this is a classic direct marketing launch story.
Jeremy Weisz 20:05
I love that. And I don’t know if you were gonna plan a mention this later, but you have a great story about the subscription renewal for tax angles and the advice Bob gave you. Were you gonna mention that later?
Don Hauptman 20:19
We could talk about that now. I think you like your interviewees to talk about their mentors and what they learned from them. And I’m happy to talk about it here. I
Jeremy Weisz 20:30
knew you were going to talk about it later. Just save it for the for for talking about Bob and some of the good advice I just don’t want to miss that story because it’s no good story. So I’m gonna I’m gonna make sure we hit on that. And before I go to the storytelling, anything else I mentioned about like organize executive that would be interesting. How did that go out? And what was the
Don Hauptman 20:50
well this? Yeah, this is another good story. I sometimes like to say it made me more money in royalties than anything I had written which shows you how successful it was because the royalties are based on the quantities that are mailed. And believe me, no one is going to mail and spend money unless it’s working and, and continuing to work. But,
Unknown Speaker 21:09
Don Hauptman 21:11
this was a tear sheet. I don’t know if your you and your viewers have
Unknown Speaker 21:15
seen what appears Well,
Don Hauptman 21:17
this was something that a few people I worked with created in some cases that got them into trouble because it, people thought they were being fooled by it. But basically, it was an ad that looked like it had been torn out of a magazine. And very often it would be a post it note and it would be handwritten, Jeremy, really worth looking into and signed by John or something. So we tried to create the idea that this came from somebody you know, and magga logs use this and, you know, it’s just it’s a way to get through that barrier, the junk mail barrier. And so we had a picture of probably, I think we just took a stock photo and it showed a wealthy good looking executive In front of his at airplane, private airplane, and the headline was, how America’s most successful executives get so much accomplished in so little time. The newsletter was edited by Stephanie Winston, who was probably the queen and diva of professional organizers. And she had done massive research into how managers and executives conduct their professional lives and how they avoid time wasters. And so on and so on. So basically, I just read a lot of Stephanie’s work and pulled out that headline, we may have tested some other things, but it just ran and ran and was mailed in the hundreds of thousands, maybe the millions for this particular newsletter. Other than that, I have no great secret. There was no eureka moment of how I came up with it. It just seemed like a new natural way to convey the big benefit of the publication
Jeremy Weisz 23:03
you done, you were talking about, obviously, some of the comms stakes people make with features and benefits and focusing on the prospect. What were some things in that organized executive that you think made it so successful?
Don Hauptman 23:18
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written it or even read it. But I know we told some stories, some real life stories of executives who had certain problems, maybe it’s underlings coming into their office all the time or delegation where they’re micromanage micromanagers and can assign work to other people. So we told some real stories that was also one of the secrets of the tear sheet technique. And that gave it some real credibility, that proof element that I mentioned earlier, when you’re dealing with real human beings, and their problems and solutions that adds a real element of believability. And maybe this is a good segue into the whole human interest area we were going to discuss Yes,
Jeremy Weisz 24:10
yes. We’ll talk about the storytelling and human interest because I know you have some really good examples of this. Well,
Don Hauptman 24:22
I do have one good example. But first, let me say, I think there’s an old phrase, I forget where it comes from, but its inherent drama. You find the inherent drama, and this requires some real work. It takes time and effort, and that’s why it’s probably not done that often are done right. You have to do research. You have to interview you dig. When you find someone to talk to, you have to be part psychologist and part detective because people are not natural storytellers. And you really have to use some effort to get the facts out of them. You want to tails color to add vividness and credit ability. And if you’re if it’s a real story with a beginning middle end, you want plot, pacing, creating a sense of excitement, maybe even a twist, or a surprise ending in the style of Henry. Here’s one good example of this and it’s a longtime favorite. For many years, I worked for Philips publishing, which is founded by Tom Phillips. At one time, it was the largest newsletter publisher in America. And one of Tom’s earliest publications was a newsletter called cardiac alert, which helps people with heart disease and heart conditions. And Tom told me his story, and I translated into what’s called a lift letter. A small You know, there’s always a long long letter in a direct mail package, but then sometimes there’s a secondary letter. So on the outside of this letter I had in a handwriting simulated pen script. When I was 16. My father died of a heart attack. And then when we got into the letter it told Tom story his
father did pass away when he was a teenager.
He knew that cardiac ailments tend to be inherited, he began, he said I in his, it was a first person story. He said, I began reading everything I could on the subject and I subscribed to cardiac alert, which at that time, had another publisher and he talked about how it helped him and then in a twist, he had an opportunity to acquire the publication and become its publisher. So we concluded by saying, I hope you know you will now join me you know, just as I became a subscriber, I hope you will subscribe to if you have these problems and the I don’t know if anyone was able to separate out the results of the lift letter from everything else, but Tom was convinced it was powerful and he even included it in packages that other copywriters wrote because he was convinced that it added to the power of the package. One more negative example just recently
Jeremy Weisz 27:06
learned about that example for a second. So conducting your research with him, how did you uncover? Was this obvious that, you know, after talking to him, that’s what you were gonna include, or how did you conduct the research with Tom to decide to make put that information in the lift letter?
Don Hauptman 27:25
Well, at that time, you know, Tom eventually went on to, you know, he was enormously busy with dozens of publications. But at the at the time, he had only a handful of newsletters, and we were close, and we were able to talk about things face to face. And I forget whether this was done in person or by phone, but we must have sat down one day and I said, Tell me, the background of this publication. How did you come to become its publisher? What are the personal details? And you reminded me of Eugene Schwartz, who is what was one of the great masters of copywriting. And he used to talk about how he did he said, sit down with the client and bump the hell out of them. And just get everything you need to know. And you know, just let them talk and talk and have it recorded and take notes and put them on index cards and and somewhere in there is is going to be the you know, the the secret the nugget you’re looking for one of Jean stories is when he met that famous memory expert, what was his name? I remember it was Harry Lorraine. And when he first met Harry, Harry said to him, give me five minutes and I’ll give you a push button memory and that became the headline. Now you might say again, it was handed to gene on a platter but how are you probably said many other things. Three hours of conversation. Yeah. You’re going to get some kind of pays and from the buffet and so So, but that he was smart enough to recognize that that was the headline. Yeah. So that was the the cardiac alert story. And I’ll mention one other amusing detail. I was once at a conference of publishers, and there was a guy giving a plenary session. And he said, I have this great lift letter here. And I, I don’t know who wrote it, but it’s, so I’m standing in the back of the room. And of course, I couldn’t say, I’m the one who wrote it. But afterward, I told him, and he did apologize. But I thought if only he had mentioned my name, I probably would have had a dozen people coming to me to hire me.
Jeremy Weisz 29:42
Do you have a set of questions that you would ask when you conduct the research? Or do you just kind of start off with asking the background and just let them run with it?
Don Hauptman 29:52
As a matter of fact, I created early in my career, what I called an agenda, a new client agenda, and I had about 30 questions. On it has actually gone viral. It’s on a web site. The school for copywriters which is a wi online.com. If you search my name there it’s not behind a paywall. So it’s it’s that’s my copywriting research agenda. And I would always one of the early questions was that one I’ve mentioned before, what are your customers or readers? biggest problems concerns? What are they worried about? What keeps them up all night? And then on the other side, what opportunities do they say what are the positives? What do they want to know? So, again, I would learn some of that from interviewing the client, but other aspects of it. I would get from from the reading of the in a way perhaps I was fortunate because so many of my clients were publications and being something of a record. Have hermit I could just say send me the last two or three or five years of issues and I would just read them all cover to cover and make notes and extract things. If you’re selling industrial machinery or something, there’s only so much you can read and other things, you’ve got to get the product demonstration, you’ve got to talk to the engineers and the people who use the product. So it may be a little more complex to get the information you need. I had one other story on the storytelling or human interest. Just a week or two ago, I do some pro bono work for think tanks and educational groups. And somebody asked me what I thought of a fundraising email we had just received it was in my box, just as it was in his and it told the story of a young black guy from a poor ghetto. And he said something to the effect of there were people who were victimized and he was somehow able to extricate himself, but that’s Where it stopped? And I thought, you know, this is a lazy or ignorant writer, because we never got any of the details who was victimized how, what did he experienced personally? Was he in mugged and attacked and get into fights? Was he? Did he use drugs? Did he sell drugs, all that was missing. So there was that inherent drama that was just ignored. And that’s why, you know, if the writer whoever he or she was, had done a little bit more digging, had gotten this guy into a room and pumped him for several hours, took notes how to tape recorder on, there would have been so much more in that story that would have I think, the the drama and the excitement of it would have motivated people to give money. Again, this was a fundraising appeal, which may be even more difficult because you’re asking for people to park with their funds without a quid pro quo. necessarily so I’ve always thought I’ve done fundraising copy. And I’ve always thought it’s, it’s more challenging because you’re trying to extract the cash from people. But you’re not saying Well, here’s a book or flowers or chocolates in exchange.
Jeremy Weisz 33:15
So what are some of the fundraise, you remember any of your fundraising campaigns that you did?
Don Hauptman 33:20
Well, I have to tell you, I started out back in the
in the mid 70s 1975, with Bob kept barred, and he was a libertarian as I am. And he put me in touch with a number of organizations that try to raise funds for political purposes for social change for free market kinds of things. And I discovered that I did some of it, but I didn’t like it quite as much. Perhaps because of that challenge. I was more comfortable offering the quid pro quo, you give us your money and we give you something that’s going to help you and I think it’s tougher to sell an abstraction like changing the world. But I did learn that many of the same rules apply, and people make many of the same mistakes. The absence of specifics the human interest factor. I see this all the time. And perhaps in my experience, it’s the nonprofit’s and the charities who are weakest at this, although there are some that do it extremely well. And there are about 20 organizations that I give money to. So I get all their stuff, sometimes daily. And so I’ve seen the worst of it, and I’ve seen the best of it. But I sometimes say that copywriting isn’t rocket surgery as the joke goes. It’s something that can be mastered. Although I found that very often it’s it’s tough to teach these things. Not everybody is the natural copywriter or boring marketer, which is why copywriters Well, I think always be in business.
Jeremy Weisz 34:57
Yeah. So tell me about this actually, because you might And okay, you get letters and nonprofit, you know, campaigns sent to you. Which would you remember which ones because the ones you donate to that you’re like, wow, this is a really good letter or what hooked you in to one of the letters have you gotten?
Don Hauptman 35:15
Oh gosh, I would have to think about this. I guess the one that comes to mind is that classic I don’t know, if they’re still using it. It was for one of those Save the Children. organizations and would show the poor, helpless but rather cute little girl in the third world country. And the headline would be, you can help little Maria or you can turn the page. And I always thought it was a magnificent illustration of creating unearned guilt. And again, it must have worked because it ran for years and years. And so that was a good example. I learned something for I don’t know how many people remember earnest Dictor. He was the founder. of motivational research. He was the guy who said when people buy soup, it brings back memories of being in the womb floating and all that amniotic fluid. So, frankly, I can’t vouch for that. But he did say that people feel good when they give money to a cause. And therefore maybe instead of showing the recipients as in the Maria ad, we should be showing groups of happy donors after they’ve, they’ve given the money. But I’ve never seen any group take his advice on that point. But he had some he had some good advice on both consumer research and for nonprofit fundraisers.
Jeremy Weisz 36:39
Yeah, I like that. So you’ve talked a lot about market research in general, what do people do wrong?
Don Hauptman 36:46
Yeah, they do a lot of things wrong. In fact, a couple of years ago, I decided I would stop answering surveys, because it was so frustrating to look at them, and to see how many of the wrong questions they ask that the approach was wrong, they all tend to make the same mistakes. They ask about themselves, when they should be asking about the reader. And I saw this happen in my clients who publish newsletters and magazines, they would ask questions like, what sort of articles? Should we be running rate, the content of the past issue from one to 10. And really what this is trying to do is turning the reader into an editor, but the reader isn’t an editor. He’s not qualified to be an editor. So the questions they really should be asking are, again, you know, what sort of problems you have in your work, if it’s a business publication? What are you concerned about right now? What are the trends that you’re, that’s that are going to affect your business in the next 12 months? And then, once you know, the answers to those questions from the prospects or customers or readers perspective, then you can shape both the editorial content of the publication and the promotional copy, but people just don’t seem to realize that and I constantly see these bizarre questions. And I sometimes I wonder that one of the rules is, what are we going to do with this answer once we get it? And I think if people ask themselves that question, half or more of the survey questions that are used in market research wouldn’t even be asked. But if you do it right, it can pay off. It’s this really a goldmine out there. Here are some examples of how I used market research in my work. years ago, I did a direct mail campaign for a Canadian publication called the bank credit analysts. This is read by all the super hedge fund, Masters of the Universe. And I did a survey and one of the things one of the subscribers came back and said, it keeps me out of trouble. And that was such so succinct, so perfect. We use that in the advertising another newsletter was called commercial lease law Insider. It went to the owners of shopping centers and office buildings and told them about how to do their their leases. And one of the things we discovered from the survey is that they really loved it when we gave them explicit language that they could use verbatim in their leases. Now, it didn’t have lawyers, maybe maybe some actors their own loan, maybe they just prefer to see what we would tell them. So this was one of the features of the newsletter. I didn’t invent it, but we learned how important it was. And we emphasized it in the promotion when we were trying to get people to part with their money. Many of these newsletters By the way, are hundreds of dollars a year. They’re not cheap. And when we would try to convince them to subscribe, we we were able to emphasize that point, I launched a newsletter called bank mergers and acquisitions and we discovered through research The big problem when two institutions merge is that they were culture clashes, that there was a different culture in one than the other. And we were able to give little cases and examples of how these problems were solved. We use real names Wells Fargo, and so forth. And then finally, I wrote copy for a newsletter called the successful hotel marketer, which was aimed at hospitality people and how to book more rooms and get more guests. And there we told success stories. I did a lot of interviews and we found ease relatively easy, inexpensive ways that hotel, people could get more guests. One of them I remember was, they invited a bunch of hockey stars to stay free and the hockey players attracted guests. So these are some of the ways that in my experience, doing Market Research correctly pays off, you just get so much information. But again, like most things in life, it takes time it takes effort. Not everyone is willing to expend that. So you either need to hire somebody who’s going to do it correctly for you, or you learn how to do it yourself. But it’s to me it’s like money on a table, and no one is picking it up. They just don’t know. If they would just do the research and do it right. There’s so much you can learn that can then be redeployed to make you money.
Jeremy Weisz 41:37
So I have a note here to ask about testimonials.
Don Hauptman 41:40
Yeah, that was the last. well hear testimonials come out of market research. That’s how you find them. Now there are cases where they just drop into your lap because the customer sends you a fan letter or an email or something, but you can’t count on that. That is like land Yap. It’s like manna from heaven and it’s great when it happens, but really you have to get out there. Encourage the testimonials. And to me, the most important thing is you just don’t want somebody to say, if it’s a publication, I read every issue, or almost any product, I love it, I wouldn’t be without it. Those are empty. They’re just superlatives. What you really want are case studies where someone says, your product helped me in a particular way helped me avoid a problem made me money, or whatever. And one example that comes to mind is in for a stock market newsletter. And when I did this, we sent it out to some percentage of the customers subscribers, we didn’t know who would respond. But one guy said he was a bartender, and I guess this is a kind of freelance profession, but he said he didn’t have a pension plan and Ira and so he depended on this newsletter to help him build your build his portfolio, and I think we had a little bit about, you know how much it had appreciated. In effect, he was thankful to the publisher for giving him the assuring him his retirement security when the tips, you know that the drunken customers would leave, would not do that for him. So that’s yet another benefit of market research. It can give you really solid, powerful endorsements that can convince more customers to buy your products.
Jeremy Weisz 43:26
For them, how did you and the company actually conduct some of the surveys?
Don Hauptman 43:32
Well, technology changed this early on, we would do it mostly by mail, we would send out a maybe for questions and a covering letter. Maybe that would be an offer of an incentive free report or an extension of your subscription if you complete it, and then that would be the postage paid return envelope so it would take, you know, a week for it to go out and another week or two to come back. Then when fax came Long we did the same thing by fax. Sometimes I did it by phone. But of course, that’s the most time consuming way. But it could also be the most rewarding way. Because when the bartender says something you can say, Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me more about such insight. So in a phone conversation, you have that interactivity. And then finally, Survey Monkey came along. That’s the, the big one. There are others. And before I retired, we did some of these with Survey Monkey. And the beauty of that is that I mean, you can still be sending out the surveys when, literally minutes later, you’re getting back the first replies. And I read recently, there’s now a certain amount of resistance to surveys people, you know, they’re overwhelmed with advertising. They’re afraid of the CIA, you know, of surveillance kind of intrusions. And even the pollsters like Roper and Gallup I think are having difficulty now. Well, you know, it’s more of a challenge. But, you know, we marketers thrive on challenges and there. Some people are probably thinking as we speak of ways to overcome that. That problem.
Jeremy Weisz 45:12
Yeah, I mean, that brings me to my next question, which you sort of alluded to, which is, so how did you get people to actually fill out the surveys? Because you could spend all this money and time sending it to them, whether it’s via mail or on the phone or, you know, via their email? How do you actually get them to fill it out?
Don Hauptman 45:29
Well, certainly not everybody would do it. I forget what percentages but I there were times when I went through literally hundreds of responses. People like to talk they like to communicate, and maybe I would hope that because my my way of doing it was more you focused reader focused. Maybe that boosted the response somewhat. But we got amazing Remi people would we’d leave spaces for them to fill it out. They do. In the margins and on the back end, attaching their own it’s Yeah, people, some people will, will respond especially with subscription newsletters, which often have a kind of, there’s almost a personal bond, you have a the writer editor tells you what stocks to buy and what financial decisions to make. And these people are worshipped almost like rock stars, or gods. So a real sense of connection or bonding develops between the newsletter guru and his subscribers, and that also in like, in the case of the clientele that I had, that probably boosted the response.
Jeremy Weisz 46:42
I mean, is there a certain wording you use in that when you send out the surveys that gets them thinking that they want to respond to this guru or? Well, I think my sentence also But
Don Hauptman 46:55
yeah, I think we simply said, you know, we could use your help. We may have Put a little flattery as a longtime subscriber, you’re in a position to help us and we didn’t you know, with the the incentive, you always run into the problem of whether this, a bribe will bias the results. But these were things like you know, will will extend your subscription a few months, we’ll give you a special report, the sort of thing you give people in renewals. There was nothing. I’ve received things in the mail where there’s $1 bill, and to me that’s a bit over the top. I sometimes wonder how many of those were just mulched? No, they were tossed in the garbage and with the the bills still in them. But that’s a that was a common sort of incentive. And sometimes they would say, you know, we we’re not pretending that the dollar compensates you for your time. We suggest you give it to a favorite child or a charity or something like that. But I had my own business. ticular way of doing it. And I was again, I wasn’t trying. It was different from the ones that many magazines and TV stations do their their demographic surveys. They want to know how many people buy cameras, how often so that they can go to the camera manufacturers and say, This is why you should advertise in our publication. But that wasn’t of interest to me. The newsletters I worked for, almost invariably they didn’t take advertising. So that’s sort of demographic research wasn’t what I was after. And I wasn’t doing public opinion polling, you know, to for candidates or things like that. But I had my own particular goals to find out what they liked and disliked about the publication. Stories, anecdotes, testimonials, endorsements, that was the sort of thing even the wording, like the keeps me out of trouble to see how they express things in their own words. And by the way, that’s why I will He’s a big fan of the open ended questions, not the checkoff, I tried never to use the, you know, multiple choice kind of thing was I wasn’t interested in that I was interested in their own words, which in my view was more candid, more believable, more honest, more accurate than simply checking off true false or a multiple choice. listing.
Jeremy Weisz 49:26
Yeah, that makes sense. And that gives them you know, your their words, you can kind of use it in town. So I want to talk about your background a little bit. What was it like growing up? How’d you break in advertising?
Don Hauptman 49:38
Well, I had a fairly uneventful childhood. I grew up in a suburb of New York. My parents were both schoolteachers, and I developed somehow an interest in the advertising interest industry. From an early age it was the Mad Men era. And that was what fascinated me all those big advertising agencies young going to Rubik, ham and Doyle Dane burnback and seemed terribly glamorous. I didn’t know direct response or direct marketing. And my father knowing of my interest, he bought me a copy. I must have been in high school or junior high school. And he bought me David Ogilvy, his book confessions of an advertising man. Again, your viewers. Our viewers, probably know that David Ogilvy was one of the legends of advertising. And I read the book and found it. Interesting. He Ogilvy, in fact was an admirer of direct marketing. He called it my first love and my secret weapon, but he did the usual Madison Avenue kinds of things, Imperial margarine and Rolls Royce and so forth. Anyway, I went to college and then the Navy and then when I got out in 1974, I began looking for a job at advertising and was turned down by dozens or hundreds of of employers. And then I picked up a newspaper and there’s this full page ad from Ogilvy’s agency, Ogilvy and Mather, and they’re looking for they’re going to add announcing a contest, a competition to find one Junior copywriter at $10,000 a year. So I entered the competition. And I was one of 10 finalists and got an interview at the headquarters of the agency with a woman named Riva Korda, who headed his us division, but unfortunately, they gave the one job to someone else, and nothing was ever done for us nine runners up. So fast forward a few years, and another book by Ogilvy comes out called Ogilvy on advertising. And in the introduction, he gives his address he lived in a castle in France, a Chateau. And so I couldn’t resist writing him and I included some of my work. indicated that I had achieved some measure of success. And I told him about the competition and how I was one of the losers or runners up. So I get back in the mail a postcard had written by David. And he wished me well and concluded with the words. Sorry to have missed you when you were so cheap. So that’s one of my favorite stories and I have regaled audiences of 300 copywriters with that, that particular tale. So it does have an interesting kind of irony or closure to it. But really looking back, I’m glad that I did not get a job with these agencies. I learned that direct marketing is far more rational. We’re more accountable. We know what works. Unlikely, hypothetical, Coca Cola billboard I cited earlier and I I maybe I would have just been an anonymous drone. And some Madison Avenue shop all these years instead of carving out a career in achieving some fame and accomplishments in the world of direct marketing.
Jeremy Weisz 53:12
We you would did when an ad contest when you were 13 Oh, yeah, that’s people that story. That’s a good one. Well
Don Hauptman 53:24
1314 I forget exactly how I was certainly young and I the suburb I grew up in Staten Island, which I don’t know if people know much about it elsewhere, but it’s certainly not Manhattan. I middle class kind of bedroom, community and the local. In the local newspaper, there was an auto dealership that invited people to write it out. So I didn’t know much about cars. I think it was used cars, but I did a cartoon of a buyer examining an engine with a jeweler’s loupe. And the headline was Nothing escapes us. In other words we look at we go through every used car to make sure it’s in perfect shape before we sell it. So I did win that contest and there was $100 check and picture of myself in the newspaper shaking hands with a guy who ran the dealership. And it actually leads to a an interesting irony as I grew up, I never bothered learning how to drive. People are still amazed at that. And at one point, I was asked to, I had a client who published an automotive magazine, and everyone poke fun at me. Here I am writing to car lovers without being a driver of cars. But of course, there’s nothing particularly amusing or ironic about that. Every copywriter writes about things about subject matter and to people and he you know, his audiences. Somebody who’s not a member of I mean, I’ve written to bankers and chemical engineers. And my favorite example with owners of women’s clothing stores that was somewhat distant from my usual everyday life. So it’s, you know, the copywriter, one of his or her main jobs and challenges is to put himself into the shoes or more accurately the mind of the prospect, and some of the best and most successful campaigns, and ads and headlines were those that somehow got into the mind of the prospect. And it’s perhaps one of the toughest things to do, but when you’ve cracked that code, that’s the secret. And again, that’s one of the reasons the market research and the interviewing are so important to unlock what’s going on, in in the mind of the prospect and also something which he or she might not be willing, you know, to talk about openly. If it’s some embarrassing thing, like I’m a procrastinator, or what have you. You so you’ve got to approach it in an oblique kind of manner or you’ve got to Intuit certain things that the person is not going to tell you outright.
Jeremy Weisz 56:12
Yeah Diane when we were talking about some of the your stories that Nothing escapes us headline just stuck out even from an early age you were writing these these great headlines. And have you seen that used or?
Don Hauptman 56:26
Well I probably would do it differently today. What also amazed me is I I did this rough sketch. I do have some artistic talent though. I’m not a professional artists, and they just ran the, you know, ran it as I did it. And I said to the guy who owned the dealership, I thought you would hire a an artist. Oh, no, we wouldn’t change what you did. Certainly, I think I mean, I was just intuiting even at that age, it does say something I guess that I was destined to be a copywriter. And I just had a hunch that if somebody buys a used car, the first thing they’re going to be concerned about is what sort of condition is this? And and what did the previous owner do to it? You know, what do they say? Now? They don’t even say used cars, they’re now repurposed or there’s some euphemism that the industry uses. And still today, I do see, you know, it’s certified, right? It’s, yeah. There’s all sorts of assurances to the buyer that this isn’t a lemon. But it was just something even at that tender age, I was able to, to Intuit or guess from what little I knew. So that’s my story. And now the whole world knows that I don’t drive a car. So what if my shocking secrets
Jeremy Weisz 57:48
if you don’t drive, what are some other personal details that may surprise people?
Don Hauptman 57:53
Well, these are probably less embarrassing. Oh, I’ve had a passion since childhood for a musical theater. live right near Broadway so I can, in a matter of minutes, I can see a show. And for half a century, I’ve been in the audience of all kinds of, you know, Phantom of the Opera and cats and wicked. And all of these shows your audience has heard of if they’re not passionate as I am about it, but two years ago, I was able to bring back I was able to help revive a favorite musical via Kickstarter. Everybody knows about crowdfunding. This is a show called man with a load of mischief. If I start talking about it, it’ll take several hours. So I’ll just mention that the page is still up on Kickstarter with the video we created but we were able to raise about 25 $30,000 which was enough to bring back a small scale concert revival of the show here in New York. You know, with the unions, just if you move a piece of scenery, adventure, paying $3,000 just for that, but it was really exciting. To be behind the scenes of show business and a producer in effect, after being simply a spectator for all those decades, and I should say that my copywriting skills helped me, because I was able to pitch the request for contributions. Using all the techniques and secrets of copywriting, the rewards we offered, I just read something recently. That may be obvious, but it said that some people had done some research on Kickstarter. And they found that the precise words that are used, I mean, just the change of one word to another word can have an enormous effect on the people, you know, convincing people to donate money or how much they donate. Well, again, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to you and me, but it seemed to for the people who, who conducted this, this survey.
Unknown Speaker 59:58
So it was a big revelation. Copy effect. Yeah, how much people get?
Don Hauptman 1:00:04
The I should go back to that email and save that.
One more interesting personal fact.
Jeremy Weisz 1:00:11
Done. So what did you do for the Kickstarter campaign? or What did well clewd that that you thought, Well,
Don Hauptman 1:00:18
basically I worked with the composer John Clifton, we became friends, we’re almost neighbors. And this was a show I discovered when I was a teenager in college. I’ve loved it. And I found even people in New York who think they know musical theater backwards and forwards have never heard of man with a load of mischief. But it’s just a charming, delightful, wonderful show with a great music and great story. And I thought more people should know about it. I’d like to see it revived personally, and we simply read as they do say that the video in crowdfunding is important and John has some he has a home studio he has more talent in audio In Video Production than most people do. So we did a terrific two or three minute video, I have a brief cameo with a testimonial. And we just played some of the music and told some of the background on it. And many of my friends Personally, I think that often happens with crowdfunding. It’s your personal list your friends, your relatives, who are going to contribute, but we also had strangers contributing people we never heard of, and many people came back and said, Oh, I, I love this show too. And people think I’m crazy because I talk about it so much, and quite a few people. I came out of the woodwork and turned out to be fans of the show when we had our opening night party. And of course, for a certain level, you know, you got to the performance in the party. One guy told us he flew from Oregon just to see our modest concert production. So that’s a little bit about the the show We’re still hoping for a major revival with sets and costumes. But again, that costs even more money. And we might have to do another.
Jeremy Weisz 1:02:08
I mean, obviously, you have your hand in the copy aspect, what worked with some of the the copy, whether it was in the video or in the rewards that you came up with?
Don Hauptman 1:02:19
Well, I have to go back and think I know one.
One thing I think people told us is that I think you have to contribute $100 to get two tickets for a performance in the party, which is a pretty good deal here in New York, when you can pay $400 for a seat for some shows on Broadway. And we had many people, several people telling us, I was going to contribute $10 or $25. But when I saw I could get to the show in the party, I upped it to the hundred dollar or more level, and we had people contributing thousands of dollars. And we you know, we never quite knew knew why. What motivated them but you know, with The Kickstarter mainly it’s for gadgets there the, you know, the the iPad cases and things like that. We were doing something a little bit different than less tangible. But
Jeremy Weisz 1:03:11
you have another interesting story done about related to musicals where someone wrote you a letter, you know what I’m talking about?
Unknown Speaker 1:03:20
Yeah, of course I do, I
Unknown Speaker 1:03:22
Don Hauptman 1:03:23
well, it’s a fun story. I don’t know if it has much of a moral. I, this was in 1980. I was in London for a client’s conference. And I saw a show a review may not matter what it is, but I thought maybe if this comes to New York, I would invest in it. So I left a little note for the producer. And when he was in New York, he called me and we chatted for a while and then I must have wound up on his mailing list because I got This invitation to invest in another show. And at the time I was married, and my then wife came back from her job. And I said to her, this is the stupidest idea for a musical I’ve ever heard. It was cats which I later learned had broke a record did or at about $2 billion worldwide. Certainly one of the most successful musicals in in history. So that shows you my judgment as an investor or as a producer. So I thought you know, dancing cats on stage just did not did not sound like it was a moneymaker to me.
that’s one one tail, no pun intended, that that demonstrates my lack of acumen in certain areas. And speaking of patents, I might just add on the personal level. Some, most people who know me know I have a special interest in language and words Play. I’ve written two books that were published by Dell. I still write articles on the subject. I love playing with language. Some people call it recreational linguistics. And I have a little theory which I think there’s some research behind. There’s so much illiteracy in this country. It is it is. It’s shocking. And many people, you know, if you had habit, literate circles, you don’t even realize it. But people graduate from high school and even college and they can’t write a sentence. And you hear this I have a whole file full of news articles about employers who say they hire college graduates and the job requires writing, it requires communication, it requires speaking, and they literally cannot put together a coherent paragraph. So my view is that if we can get people, especially kids interested in playing with language and seeing the fun aspect of it at an early age, then maybe that can make some small things. In the literacy crisis, when I think back to my being in first grade, third grade, I remember the grammar and the rote learning. But I can’t remember ever a teacher saying, Look at this, how we can play with language. However, there’s a fun element to it. And so that’s my particular social cause. And I’ve spoken on it and donate it to literacy organizations. But I think more more can be done in this area. Through
Jeremy Weisz 1:06:26
down what are your favorite puns that you personally have come up with? Because you have a couple of books on the subject?
Don Hauptman 1:06:32
Yeah, I was afraid you would ask me this. And so I’ll tell you why. That’s not mine. But it is something of a classic among monsters. A length of rope walks into a bar. And the bartender says, We don’t serve your kind here and throws him out. So the rope stops the passer by and asks him to tie him up and unravel his edges. Then he goes back into the bar, and the bartender says, say, aren’t you the same rope I just throw out and he says, No, I’m afraid not.
Unknown Speaker 1:07:04
Okay, you got it.
Jeremy Weisz 1:07:05
I got it. Yes, I was worried I wasn’t gonna get it and look down. But
Don Hauptman 1:07:10
well, that was there used to be a young publication and it would, every year it would announce the 10 best stressed puns of the year. And that was one of them. And I should point out that it may not have happened in reality exactly as I don’t. But there is an example of a homonym and the way words could have a double sense. And it’s ridiculous and absurd, but it makes you laugh. And there is where I think kids if we look, you know, growing up and remember kids like elephant jokes and how many elephants Can you put into your lunchbox and so and that sense of absurdity appeals to kids at an early age later on, there’s a more cerebral aspect to it, and even adults you have, I have a friend who teaches literacy to adults and people from other Countries are from the slums who never, you know, never were taught properly. It’s also an indictment of our educational system. But that’s a whole other story. We won’t get into
Jeremy Weisz 1:08:12
those. And we weave throughout this interview have talked about some of your favorite personal headlines that you’ve come up with. I want to hear about some of your favorite home headlines that aren’t yours.
Don Hauptman 1:08:23
Yeah, I from an early I was a pack rat. And I had a swipe file like most copywriters where you tear things out and you stick it at it, and maybe it will inspire something later on. And I can remember two things that caught my attention. This goes back decades. One of them was an ad in a magazine and the headline was, how to buy the best portable TV from Sears or anyone else. And it was the last three words that really hold the secret. This is an early example of what we’re now calling content, marketing or native advertising. You see those phrases everywhere and There was the secret they you knew when you read it, you were going to get some useful information. And they weren’t just trying to rope me into buying the ad from Sears from their store. But this is something I can use, even if I go to whatever Best Buy or, you know, whoever was around at the time. So that to me was a classic add another one was that no one seems to remember, I even googled it. The New York Times? Well, you know, I’m not sure how the times is viewed in other parts of the country. Here. It’s considered like the God of newspapers, but ignoring the political aspects of the times is liberal and that we’ve got tabloids, the news and the post, which are more conservative and right wing, but one of the things that people would say is, the times was huge, and these tabloids looked a lot faster and easier to read. And that was a barrier for them. So I remember this campaign, which was And transit advertising, it said, you don’t have to read it all. But it’s nice to know it’s all there. And to me that showed such incisiveness. I mean, it drilled right out, I could see people say, yeah, that right. I know, I don’t have to read every word of it, but they’re the authoritative source. I should say that in the case of the series ad of the New York Times, I have no proof that either of these work, these were not direct marketing. They were general advertising where, you know, as we know, I think Madison Avenue they, they think they know what works, but they really don’t, because it doesn’t have that instant trackability that direct marketing has where you’re coded, you know, if the order was generated by Don’s package or by Bill’s package, but I still kept them and file them and looked at them every few years as a source of inspiration, as I thought they were both both really on target.
Jeremy Weisz 1:10:54
who also what was your your personal what was the tax angles headlines? Again, that worked a lot.
Don Hauptman 1:11:04
If you’re counting on your tax advisor to cut your taxes, you’re making the most expensive mistake of your life. Yeah. And I say I when I first wrote it, it was biggest mistake. And then I realized there was something weak about it anemic. I often use the word anemic, and suddenly most expensive came to mind. And that just seemed to ring.
Jeremy Weisz 1:11:25
Right, right. So I want to Yeah, I have a note on that because I remember you talking about we had a previous conversation that you switch the word around, and how how long does it typically you write like just a number of headlines or do you just write one and trying to change the words what’s your What was your format for coming up with once you had a headline for modifying it?
Don Hauptman 1:11:55
Well, I’m this may be I had a note to talk about the use of computers versus Plain old paper and pencil, and this may be a good time to mention that I would put something I would have a yellow pad blank, unlined yellow pad and I would just write, I would free associate. And then when I was done free associated I would I would use a thesaurus or Roget’s thesaurus. And there are other books of words to inspire copywriters, and reading. As I read material associated with the project, certain words would pop out, I put them on the list. And that’s how I came up with the name tax angles. By the way, I had words like loopholes and dodges and tactics. And suddenly I had angles and I said, Wow, that fits so perfectly. Bob agreed immediately. The previous he had acquired the newsletter from the editor and it was called tax tricks and techniques, and almost everyone agreed that tax angles was a better, shorter, more concise So, I find that this technique works for me. There’s something called mind mapping that your viewers may know about the the I don’t haven’t read all the books that was coined by a guy named Tony Buzan Busey i n. And when I went to Amazon, I found he had written 10 1215 books on mind mapping, and it’s a kind of cerebral form of doodling, and you put down the words, and after you’ve exhausted the dictionaries and thesauruses, then you just try to see which words generate other words, and you’ll find they come into little constellations. There’s a group having to do with this particular topic of that there’s another one on that. And I find that this works for me because it gets it down. In one place where you can look at it. I try never to go to a second page. I want everything to be in one view, so I can see the links and the connections. Somebody once said that all creativity is connectivity. You’re just assembling elements. And the point I wanted to make. There’s a story I was speaking at a gathering of copywriters and marketers, and there was this young guy in his 20s. And he knew I hadn’t even spoken yet. But he knew that I was the guest speaker. And he came up to me with his laptop, and he said, Would you look at this draft of a promotion that I did. And when I looked at it, I was amazed, because I mean, he said it was an early draft. And yet, when I looked at the screen, he had everything all centered, the fonts were chosen. I mean, it looked like it was ready to be printed or posted online. And I happened to be carrying one of my trusty yellow pads, and I tried to convince him, which may be an impossible task with kids today, because they’re so glued to their cell phones and their iPads and so forth. But I tried to convince him that there’s something to be said for the old fashioned paper and pencil, and you couldn’t do it. I don’t think that kind of brainstorming on a computer screen. Maybe somebody could convince me that you could use a stylus Listen, so on, but to me, even after computers came along and laptops and everything else, I was still doing the ideation stage, coming up with the ideas, you know, with the old fashioned pencil and paper. And I once gave a talk on this. And I even mentioned, you can go to companies like levenger levenger.com, which has all sorts of tools for writers, pads, and pens, and so forth. And as I say, I don’t want to sound like any Andy Rooney complaining about the younger generation. But as in that particular case, I think this young copywriter was missing a bet because once you see something on the computer screen, it tends to be frozen in stone. I mean, even if you don’t intend it, I think subconsciously, you’re going to be blocking out all the other possibilities, because this is what you’ve got on your screen and it looks so
Unknown Speaker 1:15:56
Don Hauptman 1:15:57
Yes, exactly. And so when you early on when things are malleable. I think the brain is open to inspiration. So that’s my mind lesson from an earlier age before we had computers. I mean, these people have grown up, they never knew a time when there weren’t computers and cell phones. So sometimes it pays to, to get back to earlier ways of doing things.
Jeremy Weisz 1:16:26
Now, Don, you mentioned with the headline you go to go to Bob, and you’d say, what do you think of this? How did you test your headlines or other components before obviously, you’re mailing it in? You know, some of these companies are spending lots of money to mail these pieces. Is there a way you tested things before actually sending it out?
Don Hauptman 1:16:48
The short answer is no.
It was really my judgment. It was the client’s judgment. I know of copywriters who swap work with each other they will show their work to another writer. I sometimes did that some of them will pay for it. And I’ve gotten some good advice from other writers. And I’ve given other writers good advice. So sometimes another set of eyes will be useful and will tell you something you’ve overlooked, but you’re never really certain if something is going to work until you mail it, or you place it out there. This is why the kind of market research they sometimes do on Madison Avenue where they show ads to be the Which one do you like? Would you buy this? And of course, you’re going to get bad answers because all sorts of factors they people are going to say what they think makes them look good focus groups. I’ve learned some things from focus groups, but in many cases, what happens is that a leader emerges. There’s some loud mouth who dominates the group and then everyone follows him so they don’t look embarrassed. So by Yeah, interviewing and focus groups, people try to do all these things. But the only thing that really matters is writing the cheque or charging the credit card when people are willing to pay for something. That’s the only test that matters. And I wish there were some magical way to learn what’s going to work beforehand that would have saved my clients a lot of money at agony. Yeah.
Jeremy Weisz 1:18:22
I wanted to talk to you obviously mentioned Bob a lot about mentors, and some of the best advice. Who your mentors and what are some of the best advice they’ve given you?
Don Hauptman 1:18:33
Well, certainly Bobcat Park was my first client, my teacher, my mentor. I certainly made some mistakes with him and he was very indulgent, and he would correct things that I would have done wrong. But I did learn two interesting early lessons from him. After we launched x angles. Some weeks or months went by and he assigned me to write a renewal series when everybody knows, if you subscribe to anything, you’re going to get a reminder To renew and another and another and another, sometimes 10 or 12. And people find them annoying, but they’re mailed because they work, you get money from the 12th letter. That’s a whole story in itself. But I had never written a renewal series before. And Bob was really taking a chance on me. And I said, I must have asked him something to the effect of how do we do this? What do we say? And he said to me, we don’t know much about these people. But we do know one thing. They all subscribed on the basis of your acquisition letter, the original package that I described earlier, by the way, the circulation at one point reached 71,000, which is pretty big for a newsletter. And I don’t know if it was then or much later, I realized the wisdom of what he said, we don’t know much about these people. But one thing we know for certain is that they all subscribe because of something you said in that initial letter. So that taught me Trick which I later learned, other people practiced, I simply cannibalized my own original letter, I took bits and pieces of it and sprinkled them through the 10 or 12 letters because if the guy subscribed because of capital gains, deductions, something around there, then we put the capital gains deduction, something rather in the second or third letter to remind him, you know, that’s why he subscribed and maybe next year, he’s going to need advice on that subject again. The other lesson I learned, which is kind of embarrassing or amusing. Before I started working for Bob, he had written an ad for a commemorative gold coin, and he wrote it himself and the headline was the most unique coin ever minted, well, even then I was a language Maven or thought I was and concerned about grammar. And so I pointed out that most unique is a mistake. It’s a an absolute something can’t be most unique anymore. Then you can be a little pregnant, so you can’t qualify it. So his response was, I know, but it’s making me so much money, I’m not going to change it. So there was another lesson. It wasn’t a grammar lesson. But it shows that you’re not. As with the tax Atlas case, you’re never going to know exactly what it is that made the work the copy the ad, the direct mail piece, what made it work. And so you change anything at your peril. I mean, even a simple word, as we were discussing with the Kickstarter point, if you’re going to change it, then you have to test it, you have to do an A B split. I’m seeing that now. people on the internet are using a B split testing. There was an article in Wired magazine about this, and the guy writes it as if we just invented this, not even realizing that we were a B split testing way back, you know, in the 1920s when John caples, the great copywriter was taking small newspaper ads and one has one headline one as the other headline and then you can learn, you know if it’s done right, exactly which one is the it which one works, which is the most successful? So if you’re going to, you know, it’s okay to change things, but you you would change it and test it if you possibly can. So because otherwise you’re never going to know for sure
Unknown Speaker 1:22:19
you know, who, what are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Don Hauptman 1:22:24
Well, the one I always cite as something I’m most proud of in terms of virtue or changing the world was a it was a company called knowledge products, and they put out a set of recorded cassettes at that time called audio classics. And these were great works. translated into audio things like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith, Karl Marx. I have a great love for the Humanities and there were things I wish I had read or read more carefully in college. And there are A lot of adults, retired, are still working. And they too, have that poignant sense of remorse or regret that they didn’t read all these things when they were in school. So these were dramatized not just read, there was music and dialogue and so forth. And try to remember him by headline, but it was, you know, the the greatest works of all time, now you can absorb them as easily as listening. And we did direct mail, we did some space, we did some inserts, and it all worked quite well. And today, we’ve got this company called the Great Courses. It used to be called the teaching company. And I have this theory that they wouldn’t be around. If we hadn’t shown them. Way back then how it could be done. It even turns out that their market, demographically, politically, socially is identical to the one that audio classics had. So here again, I said, I’m interested in literacy, language literacy, cultural literacy, and the fact that I could have helped bring these works to people who might never have, say, picked up a book. That is a proud accomplishment. But also, I thinking back not long ago, I realized that all the work I did had value, whether it was a newsletter on your health, a newsletter on investing these things, managing a business, how to be a leader, how to run your small business more profitably. These were all things that people paid for because it could help them in some way and some bottom line way. Money health, doing your job better. And so I think all the work I did had real value. People would pay sometimes $39 a year for a newsletter, but they got tremendous value out of it and sometimes You know, they might have been cured or prevented from some disease or something. So I think I in my clients really did some good things. I never, you know, I didn’t advertise recreational drugs or, you know, illegal gambling or things like that I try to stay on the side of virtue rather than vice.
Jeremy Weisz 1:25:25
But then there was another fact is, you want a lifetime copywriting achievement. Tell me about that experience.
Don Hauptman 1:25:37
Well, I’m not sure how fascinating This is. I was at bill Bonner, who had to go around. He’s a very successful publishing company. He lives in France, where he has a Chateau and just like David Ogilvy did, and he often invites his staff members, there, and so I went there a couple of years ago and spoke. And they gave me this award which I hadn’t expected. It’s a beautiful silver bowl, which is in my living room. And I guess as I did my work, I never really thought of myself as heroic or having anything deserving of lifetime achievement. But I do think I taught some lessons. The some of the points we’ve made on market research on content marketing on, you know how you do advertising, right and not in a bad, unproductive way. I think I’ve contributed some of those things to the profession. The advertising is ephemeral. They speak like a diplomat is gone, although who knows maybe it’ll be revived someday. But I have taught the people at a why I’ve spoken at several of their conferences. I’ve written for them. Online newsletters. And so I’m passing some of the things that I learned on to a younger generation. When I speak at AWS events in Delray Beach, Florida, there are these, you know, they can get 300 people there, and many of them are young, you know, their kids in their 20s. Maybe some of them are older and looking at a second career. And I find that they do have many of them do have a respect for people who came before them. They read Claude Hopkins, they read John caples. They read Ogilvy Jean Schwartz. They know who these people are. And so it’s certainly true that the the lessons of the print world are applicable online. The ABX testing is a good example. But it does make me sort of sad or furious that there are people who had been there doing everything online. They don’t know or care that something came before them. And I think the most successful people who enter advertising and marketing will have some respect for the past for people who have gone before and who will know that really, the fundamentals of human psychology don’t change. They might change every billion years or so with evolution. But so much of what Jean Schwartz wrote, for example, his book, breakthrough advertising was a Bible for me and for so many other people. And so much of what made sense and worked back then before there was a single computer or maybe there were the computers that filled entire rooms. So much of that is still relevant today. You know, find the benefit, find the pain point. understand people’s concerns, what their problems are, how they think how they buy, you know, that is as relevant online, to website marketing, email marketing. apps or what have you, as you know, it was back then, you know,
Jeremy Weisz 1:29:06
and I know, you know, from the proudest accomplishments to low points, and we were talking about some of the low points. You’re, we’re talking about it and there wasn’t too much that came to mind except for one thing when I was reading online was when your mentor passed away. And you actually gave a eulogy. Right?
Don Hauptman 1:29:31
Well, yes, there was a gathering in
Aspen. And that was a tribute many of the people who knew Bob were there. And I probably told some of the same stories, the story of the gold coin ad. And yeah, it was it was a sad event, certainly for me. We were never enormously close. Personally, we lifted different cities. He had interest like sailing Which I don’t much care about. And usually when we got together, I mean, I go to his office and spend an entire day there. And we would just be talking about, you know, a stack of assignments he wanted me to write for him. But I certainly think back on bob with great fondness and gratitude for everything he gave me.
Jeremy Weisz 1:30:22
Yeah, what would you say your fondest memory is?
Don Hauptman 1:30:26
Well, gosh, well, as I say, we weren’t all that close. I remember that conference I mentioned in London. That was his conference. And one day I was having breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and he passed by and join me. And that may have been the first and only time we were just together alone. And we could talk about something other than business. I remember he told me he had been an accountant, which may be why he understood the all of that stuff. About taxpayers and accountants and their advisors and the IRS and so forth. And he told me about his love of sailing and he wanted to circumnavigate the globe which I don’t think his time ever, you know, his busy schedule ever allowed him to do. And he sold discovered that he then became ill. I remember once I learned there would be a birthday celebration, so I found an old antique sextant. You know, that they use to do longitude or whatever. And back to this beautiful wooden box. And his wife, Janet, shy, this was even before cellphone cameras but she had the foresight to see you know, to get a camera and took some pictures as he opened the package and then was even, you know, pretending to use it but I, I think he got a kick out of something that was related to his nautical interest.
Jeremy Weisz 1:31:56
With nice and done thought I often want you To talk a little bit about the versatile Freelancer post about it, how’s it gonna help the viewers?
Don Hauptman 1:32:06
Well, I did write this ebook for the, my friends at a Wi Fi. And it’s based on this. I think if I had it to do all over again, I would choose a different name. And I would call it share what you know, and get paid for it. The idea is that we all possess knowledge and experience if we’ve been around for a while, and this can be redeployed to help others and you might even get paid for it. So I’m talking about things like consulting, corporate training, where you go into a company and teach their staff, public speaking. And even something I call critiques and evaluations and charging for that and I did all these things throughout my career. There’s nothing in the book that I didn’t do. And there are all these opportunities and benefits. I find that doing them was fun and enjoyable. You learn a lot you get out of your house. If you’re a reclusive freelancer, I originally wrote it for copywriters because that’s a who is audience but the more I got into it and wrote it, I realized it could help anyone, lawyers, doctors, architects, anyone who has a lifetime of experience that could benefit others. So, I, there is a website with a sales letter that I wrote myself. It’s very simple to remember versatile freelancer.com
Unknown Speaker 1:33:28
when we get up Yeah,
Don Hauptman 1:33:29
and I think it’s also I hope, a good example of effective copywriting. And the book has gotten very nice reactions, positive ones for people who said this has helped me, I’ve made money with it. And I think personally, all biases aside, I think it deserves a wide readership. And I have some lessons, ideas, tips, recommendations that you don’t see elsewhere. At least I didn’t come across some of my points in my in my recent For the book, I can share one or two tips. Yeah,
Jeremy Weisz 1:34:03
talk about a couple tips from it.
Don Hauptman 1:34:06
Well, one of them, which again, this is one of those points that seems obvious when you but people just don’t seem to realize it. And that is there are opportunities to speak everywhere. If you’re in business. No matter where you are, as long as it’s a fairly substantial city and not a country, town. There are going to be business groups that meet regularly weekly, monthly for breakfast for lunch. There are annual conventions. There are conferences, seminars, webinars, all kinds of events where people get together to listen to presentations to swap talk, I was just reading.
There was something about
whether it was the book industry or computer industry or something that they were cracking down on the people who don’t pay but they just schmooze in the hallways. Well, those are You know, aren’t going to help you if you’re giving a talk, but there are still a lot of people who will play by the rules and pay the price of admission, because the networking comes with that. So I found that it was I spoke to newsletter, people, publishers throughout my career, who was a captive audience. And I would always give helpful information such as what we’ve been discussing here. But invariably afterward, I would six or 10 or 12, people would crowd around me and say, here’s my business card called me. What’s your schedule? Like? When can you write a promotional package for me, and it’s just the perfect venue for generating business. And many or even most of my clients throughout my 30 year career came to me through that kind of speaking engagement. And there are other cases some of these things you’re not going to be paid a lot, but in other cases, you will be paid I was paid right? Well, for when I went into a company and spent the day sometimes two days trading their staff and how to write, copy, how to do marketing all of the the lessons that I know. And I found it was a nice break from just sitting at my desk and writing. So the other technique, I’ll pack call it the shoe box tactic. Some people might say, Well, you know, this can apply to me, what would I speak on? Or it even applies to writing, which is another way of generating business generating clients. So the shoebox technique is you take a shoebox, and whenever you get an idea in the middle of the night, or when you’re doing and you just scribble it on a piece of paper and toss it into the box. And repeatedly. I was amazed when I wanted or needed to write an article or give a talk, I would go to the box really I used to file file folder. But the shoe box is a nice metaphor. And I had forgotten all the things I had dropped into the box and I had more than enough to do a presentation or To write an article for a trade publication, you just don’t remember everything you’ve done. But the flip side of it is that if you don’t do that, if you don’t create that habit, then you’re going to forget them. And when it comes time when somebody says, Would you like to talk to our group and you think, Oh, this could be a great opportunity, but then you have to scramble for ideas, because you weren’t jotting them down all along. If there’s anyone out there who has a photographic memory, then I apologize. And my rule doesn’t apply to you. But I know in my case, I don’t that I think most people do not. So
Jeremy Weisz 1:37:33
what was something memorable? You remember pulling out of the shoe box?
Don Hauptman 1:37:37
Oh, gosh, you should have warned me about some of these questions.
Unknown Speaker 1:37:43
Well, I had a
Don Hauptman 1:37:47
something I was going to discuss later on.
Whether I disagreed with a client or whether they have certain fallacies and and this was probably one of the shoe box things. Well all through My career from clients and from things I read, I would hear people don’t buy for rational reasons they buy for emotional reasons or they buy on an emotional basis. And then after the fact they justify it on the basis of of reason. Well, I’ve always disagreed with this may be part of this, I come from an iron Rand background of where reason is part of my own personal philosophy. But I always thought there was something wrong with this idea. I mean, Take, for example, the I mentioned at the beginning, the retirement letter, teaser copy is Social Security doomed? Most people would say, ooh, this is a fear approach. This is 100% emotional, but maybe Social Security is doomed, in which case, it’s the headline is as much rational as it is emotional. So I’m sure at some point, I must have jotted this down and put it in the file folder. And then later I wrote about it. I’ve spoken about it. I and
I think it was, there was some
direct mail guru I’m hesitant to say his name, but he moves
Jeremy Weisz 1:39:10
in the editing. So yeah.
Don Hauptman 1:39:12
But he actually wrote about this and said that I changed his thinking on this. And he I heard him say, people buy for emotional reasons that I got, I went up to him and said, I think there’s a different way you can look at this. And then he later wrote an article and said, Don completely changed my thinking about this. So I think if you’re looking for a moral here, I think the idea is that, you know, it’s like the old Saturday Night Live routine. It’s a floor wax, it’s a dessert topping. You’re both right. So here it’s it’s people buy for both emotional and rational reasons. And so and in many cases, it’s difficult to separate out all the elements. I bought myself a year ago, a beautiful new flat screen TV, and I certainly bought it I did a lot of research and did it for Or, you know, on the basis of all the pros and cons, but also there’s probably some element of emotion that it looks attractive or I can boast about it. And, you know, although some people might say that those are kind of rational, too. So I always, as I say, I still see this fallacy. And I think it’s one that could lead people in in a bad direction where they think, Oh, we’ve got to make everything emotional, sell the car on the basis of the new car smell, because that’s emotional rather than on the horsepower all the the technical specs, but I think as I say, you can look at it at a different and somewhat more balanced way. No,
Jeremy Weisz 1:40:38
Tom, there is a balance between the client copywriter relationship, what else have you disagreed with, with with clients?
Don Hauptman 1:40:47
Well, yeah, there are a couple of these I never put them all together into one article, but that that would be a an interesting idea. Another thing which is kind of analogous to the emotional rational dichotomy is I heard from clients We don’t want to be negative, we want to be positive. Well, in fact, you can sell by being negative, you can use scare approaches for money, promotions for things having to do with health, almost anything can take. And of course, everybody knows that one of the great rules is fear versus greed. Do you take the fear approach of a scare? Do you emphasize what you could lose? Or do you take the greed approach, which is positive? And there’s a benefit to be gained? But and very often, I would ask myself, why should we take the fear of the greed approach? And sometimes we’ve actually tested them. And as I recall, very often when we’ve tested them the fear, the negative approach one, ah, because it’s motivating. And there have been all kinds of psychological tests that show you know, when people play games in a laboratory, they will go to much greater lengths to protect what they already have, rather than take a risk for a hypothetical gain. Even if You know, you’re just playing for matches or small sums of money. So there are a lot of psychological factors here. But I was always amazed when people would say, Oh, we don’t want to be negative. And there was a third final example, that I found all the time, where the client where I suggest some kind of concept or approach. And the the client would say, we don’t want to do that our readers, our customers are too smart for that. But, you know, this always puzzled me. First of all, you know, they were probably overestimating the intelligence of their audience, but also, I came up with a rule. I called a smart person in a hurry, can act dumb. One of the people you interviewed told me what he cited this at a conference. So at one of his attendees said this was one of the most valuable things I learned. If people if somebody Has genius IQ, but he’s deciding, you know what shoelaces to buy or something, you know, he’s not going to spend a lot of time cogitating. And he may make a decision on, you know, some relatively insignificant base. So you can’t, you don’t want a cerebral kind of argument had of course it’s been said that you know you could be Albert Einstein but even he had, you know a daily tasks in which he genius kinds of things weren’t required. So if somebody is no one is going to give as much attention to your product or service as you are going to get it’s your whole life, but it’s only a tiny part of the life of your customer or a prospect. So you’ve got to get to them fast you’ve got to communicate simply, which is why even though I love big words, I try to keep them out of my copy. And I try to communicate on a simple, basic human level with everyday language that people are going to understand. So I think that you know, they’re too smart. That is another fallacy. Yeah. So
Jeremy Weisz 1:44:05
I have another question. You know, we’ve talked about successes. And we also talked a little bit about some of the mistakes other people have made, what some of the ones that that you’ve made?
Don Hauptman 1:44:17
Well, first, let me say that I’ve certainly made mistakes. I’ve had failures. I’ve had campaigns that didn’t work and where I was beaten by the other copywriter in the split tests. But one thing that’s a problem or an obstacle is that there isn’t always a lesson sometimes you don’t know. Or you can only guess but there was one. One story that may hold a moral for your viewers I was assigned to, to write copy for a book really, it was like a loose leaf binder that you would buy for a large sum of money and then you’d get updates and these were basically form letter form letters for a small business. What to do when you have to To collect and overdue debt, what do you what do you say when you have to fire someone? Well, just yesterday I checked online and you can find lots and lots of form letters free. But back then this was 1520 years ago there was no internet with these with with this stuff. So I did what I thought was a pretty good package on why you mister or miss small business person would find this a useful product. It didn’t work. And if I recall correctly, the publisher hired another copywriter. And that didn’t his package didn’t work either. But a few weeks or months went by and I was chatting with someone I don’t remember who and he I told him the story and he suggested the line. The right letter can get you anything you want. And I thought, whoa, what a concept. If only I had thought of that, but I didn’t think of it. By this time the product had been aborted. It was never launched. Frankly, I don’t know if that would have made a difference. It could have been the price point of this thing. It was like several hundred dollars, which may have been more than people wanted to pay for four letters. But that was an example of where I think he put his finger on the ultimate benefit. And so it there’s always that thing about, you know, when you find that somebody has beaten you to wit or comes up with a better idea. And you think, why didn’t I think of that? And maybe you would have if you had thought more dug deeper. And so that was was a lesson for me and perhaps some of the people watching. Yeah,
Jeremy Weisz 1:46:37
yeah. Done. You’ve been incredibly generous for your time. So I have one last question for you. And what’s one of the best things our viewers can do in their marketing to get immediate results?
Don Hauptman 1:46:52
Well, this is a nice segue from the forum letter story, where I mentioned the ultimate benefit. And I think that that’s my lesson where you dig for Not just the letter will save you a few minutes. But it could change your life or get you get you get you what you most want. So the idea is to identify your customer’s most urgent needs, and then offer him some solution some benefit to his problem. We’ve talked about this quite a bit. And you may think you know what it is, but then if you dig deeper, you may find it something else. And that that often happens. There’s something below the surface. And somebody it wasn’t I didn’t come up with this, but somebody said years ago to ask yourself, what’s the single biggest promise you can make? And so if you look for those things, the ultimate benefit the biggest problems, you you don’t accept what superficially on the surface, but you you know if I’ve tried to think of a good example, but if you know you’re it’s not just saving time or solving a business problem, but it’s deeper into issues of pride and status and feelings of accomplishment you’re getting into more serious psychological benefits than the everyday one that your product appears to solve. And years ago, they used to compile lists of human needs, security, food, sex, status. And so you know, you can you can learn something by studying these lists, and maybe reading some books on human psychology there are so many that especially for a business and marketers that attempt to tell you what’s under the surface. And it’s it’s that digging I think that leads to the big successes and that’s the the ultimate lesson I would leave your viewers with.
Jeremy Weisz 1:48:56
No, what’s the single biggest promise you can make? Yeah, Done. I just want to be the first one to thank you so much. This has been super valuable. Everyone should check out the versatile Freelancer and check out your works at AWS AI. And just thank you so much.