Marketing Myths

Are these Marketing Myths costing you money?

Myth 1: “Marketing is easy and not that important”

Fact: Nothing starts in business until a sale is made. And nobody stays in business without a solid marketing system. Until you’re marketing your products and services effectively, your “business” is just job or an expensive hobby…

Myth 2: “Marketing is an expensive luxury you can afford after your business is successful”

Fact: Marketing brings in money. Everything else is a cost. If you rely on hard, manual labour to get customers then you’ll probably have to quit long before your business becomes successful and sustainable. Why not get serious about marketing now?

Myth 3: “You need lots of money for marketing. So if you have a small business you shouldn’t even try”

Fact: It costs nothing (or almost nothing) to change the words on your website and in your emails. But just changing the words can often give you a 100-200% increase in response. And that can sometimes mean 4 or 5 times more profit because your costs don’t usually rise in direct proportion to your gross income.

Myth 4: “I can’t market effectively because I don’t have a team! My business is just me.”

Fact: Many 1-person businesses market themselves very effectively. Technology helps a lot, as long as you understand the fundamentals of marketing. You can use technology to “multiply your effort”. In fact, a great definition of marketing is “Selling multiplied through media”. For example, you can have a sequence of emails sent out automatically to anyone who registers on your website. This will market for you, even when you are asleep.

Myth 5: “The best way to learn marketing is to hang out at business networking events and copy what other people are doing”

Fact: Business networking events are full of wannabes who think they have a business just because they have a website and some business cards. If you copy people who are not measuring, testing and tracking their marketing then you’re just wasting your time and money. They don’t know if their marketing is working – and neither do you.

Drayton Bird

How will you benefit from Drayton Bird’s 50 years in marketing?

Drayton Bird is a veteran copywriter and marketer so you’ll find plenty of useful insights in this exclusive interview recorded in London.

In this interview Drayton gives detailed answers to questions on direct mail and copywriting. You can use his answers straight away in your business.

Drayton Bird:    I have always tried to correspond as far as possible with people I think I might learn from. One of whom was a man called John Francis Tighe, T-I-G-H-E, a good Irish name, who had the wonderful line in the 1970’s and 80’s of, “The world’s second best copywriter”. The best everyone, in the industry acknowledged, was another friend of mine called Bill Jayme. John Francis Tighe tested yes/no/maybe enough and he said it was very interesting what happened. He said the yeses and the noes were coming in at exactly the same rate as they normally would with the straight ye/no option, then in the last week, all the maybes started coming in. From this I concluded it was reasonable to assume that this was definitely a useful approach.

The idea of yes/no/maybe not this, maybe something else came to me from another friend of mine whom I hope to see next year in India. David Ogilvy asked me to go to India and there I become very friendly with a guy Shrieda. I think his name was Radikrishnan Shrieda. On a road trip I said, “I don’t know your surname,” only your christian name or first name.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    He said to me, he said, “I come from the south of India, you’ll never remember it, but I’ve just discovered it’s something like Radikrishnan.” Any how, he when once … I went to India twice to try and train people up. He suggested this idea of “not this, maybe that”, yeah. Then I thought “not me, maybe my colleague” and so on, you give people a choice.

I confess, I haven’t tested it as much as I should. My approach to this sort of thing is sub-pragmatic. It’s not even a choice not to be pragmatic. It’s just that I look at it and say, “Could it do any harm? Could it be wrong?” Probably not and then I sort of say to myself, “There are only so many things I can do at a given time. I have a very small business now. People keep saying, “How many people have you got?” I don’t know. It’s only seven or eight. People who sometimes want to do work with me and people who want to write a copy for me, they do it for nothing sometimes and sometimes it’s a good idea, more often it isn’t.

Matthew:    Often I see well-written ads that end with a very weak offer …

Drayton Bird:    End with a very weak offer. What do you mean …?

Matthew:    Well in general, it’s an engaging ad, it look interesting and the offer itself is quite uninspiring.

Drayton Bird:    By the offer, you mean the incentive or the offer?

Matthew:    I mean the offer itself. Let’s say you have … Say a blind ad, you don’t know what you are really getting until towards the end. A very famous example of that would be the “Lazy Man’s Way to Riches” that doesn’t really tell you you’re getting a book until the last few words.
Do you start by crafting an offer? I know you dislike the word crafting. I think maybe it is suitable when …

Drayton Bird:    No I …

Matthew:    By offer I guess, let’s say you’re doing a lead generation ad and you’re just offering an uninspiring free report that says, ‘How to Save Money on Your Car Insurance.’ That what I would class as a weak offer.

Drayton Bird:    That’s not an offer, that’s a proposition.

Matthew:    OK.

Drayton Bird:    Again the problem is language. I used to use the word “offer” a lot. Then I decided there is an “offering”; this is what I’m flogging, there is a “proposition”; this is why you should buy it and there is an “incentive”. In the Lazy Man’s Way to Get Rich there’s no incentive. He was talking about the proposition.

Matthew:    Yes.

Drayton Bird:    The proposition is implicit in the statement, “the Lazy Man’s Way to Get Rich. Most people are too busy earning a living to make any real money”. On the other hand, another Joe Karbo ad, which I’ve never seen but which he told me about, because he offered me a job at one point, was something like “Ingenious but perfectly legal way to avoid paying your debts”, that’s the proposition, that’s what I’m offering you. He perhaps offered it with a book on 16 or 44 legal ways to get out of serious trouble or whatever. If you take the famous mailing for the Wall Street Journal, their incentive was this book on the “World of Investment” which was presented so well, you’d pay for it. The rule to me os that the incentive should be presented so well that you would pay for it. If it’s free, it’s worth nothing.

Matthew:    Yes.

Drayton Bird:    Where you put that is a matter of judgement. I generally … Someone was actually interviewing me. Somebody in America, I think, I can’t remember, the other day. Oh, yes, yes, a guy in America and he said, “What are the mistakes that copywriter make?” I said, “One of them very commonly is to bury the incentive, not to make it very clear.” The question you have to ask yourself; I think in everything, this doesn’t apply just to marketing, it applies to life, is, “If I did this, would it do any harm?” This is something I decided a long time ago and ignored on many occasions in life. If I did this, would it do any harm and if the answer is no, then the question is then would it do any good? If the answer is, yes, it would do some good, then the odds are in the case of incentives that you should stick it up front. The problem with what you’re talking about is should I make the offer or the proposition  extremely clear at the front? If I make extremely clear at the front, why should anyone want to read on? You’re then giving them the opportunity to say yes and no earlier on. That’s one of the reasons why something that we’ve been testing, which is communications which don’t give you the opportunity to do anything until the end, go on for half an hour, people say they find it very annoying that you don’t give them that opportunity, but apparently it worked.

On the other hand at the moment, we are testing at what point should you give people the chance to say yeah …

Matthew:    I know sometimes you put in the trial close in the first paragraph.

Drayton Bird:    Because I copy what salesmen do.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    I know that a salesman, a good salesman starts talking to a prospect and if they see that prospect is really keen, they will try and close there and then. That’s something that one tries to do.

A lot of salesmen say that a great many sales are lost by salesmen who keep talking when they should shut up and ask for the money. It’s amazing to me that a relatively simple matter of selling things to people should be so bloody hard.

Matthew:    When we write a letter, we often have the incorrect assumption that the prospect is going to read it from the start to the end. I don’t think there is any evidence that people necessarily read in that way and I know, you’ve said that one of the reasons that the “PS” is probably the most memorable part, is that when people get the letter they jump to the end to see, “Who is it from and what are they offering?”

What are ways that you can structure a letter so that it makes sense from any part? In the US Direct Response we see a lot of these subheads running through the letter so that people who jump through we’ve just     mentioned the trial close at the beginning saying, you know if this …

Drayton Bird:    Amongst my many faults, I certainly … My partner, Marta, who is much more intelligent than me, has often criticized me and so have other people. They said why haven’t you put the bloody cross-heads in there? Because you should, if it’s long, then there is an argument for having cross-heads. You can always compare these things with other forms of communication. Say, if you’re going to the newspaper, if it’s a long piece, if it’s a good newspaper, they will put in lots of cross-heads. As Denny Hatch has pointed out, some newspapers, the New York Times in particular; which he seems to have an animus against, are so badly written that it is difficult to comment. The good newspapers, they will pepper the prose with cross-heads. So you can see what’s it’s all about. And I think that’s an important thing to do – if it’s long.

Again all these things you have to ask yourself if in the end at some point judgement comes in. I think that judgement is something you have to develop. There was a very good chairman of one of the big American banks at the time when they, either they were all honest or nobody found out they weren’t honest. Who said on good judgement, he talks about the importance of good judgement, he said “The unfortunate thing is the only way in which you can acquire good judgement is by making lots of mistakes.” That helps me a lot, because I’m bloody sure nearly everything that I wrote for the first few years… I really believe that most of the things that I wrote between the the time I started writing which is 1957. I started writing before then but the time that I started writing advertising in ’57 or ’58 and the time I became a creative writer which was ’64, I wasn’t very good. Often downright bad, and I was bad after that! I still remember with horror the advertising I wrote for Audi in 1966, I can’t think that any advertising firm … Well I can think actually car advertising now is so bad that they’re even worse than I was, it was a bad ad. I think a lot of the stuff I did was rotten. Then as a result of that I was able to develop judgement.

One of the problems with people in advertising, apparently there is somebody in Portugal, either in Portugal or in Brazil, I’m not sure, they’re running a seminar and I’ve sent them a thing called the ‘Lost Art of Advertising’, which they’re running. People don’t know what they’re doing because most of them in the agencies don’t require a response, or rather they ignore what they should be looking at and could be looking at which is how many people went to the bloody website. They are unable to develop any judgement and senses. The only criteria from which they operate are, “Did my pals like it? Did I like it? Did my wife like it? Did it make me laugh?” But not …

Matthew:    Which doesn’t necessary have any correlation at all to people buying …

Drayton Bird:    No, none whatsoever. You’ve got to go beyond that. Your first question is, how many people went to the website? And then your second question, when they went to the website, what did they do? Then you have to ask yourself a lot of other questions, which a lot of big marketers should be asking themselves, such as, is a website the place to send people to? The answer is no, they should be going to a landing page and so on and so on.

Matthew:    When you’re writing a sales letter, how do you make decisions about the structure of the copy? I noticed in your book, ‘How to Write Sales Letters That Well” the letters are all relatively direct and straight forward. You don’t seem to go in for things like the extended testimonial where the letter is sort of in a testimonial form. You don’t have sort of story-style letters, before and after letters. Your writing style is pretty much straight forward.

Drayton Bird:    Probably lack of imagination. I think some of the things that … I’m trying to think, did I use any stories? Not really, I was in Canada about six weeks ago and a guy stood up, and I’m glad you asked me this, because it reminds me, I should go and have a look at it. He is a very widely admired creative director in Canada which I’m not willing to comment on. And he was good. He was selling something to do with caps and he’d sprayed the mailing with catnip to get people interested. That I thought was imaginative, I said to him, it was really funny. I said, “About 40 years ago, I sent out a mailing for fire retardant where I’d run a blow torch up and down. But no, I don’t think I did tell many stories. No, I don’t think I do, and it’s wrong, probably wrong. I do now, if you notice now, because I don’t … People say, “What do you do differently for emails?” I say, “Nothing really, same principle, I’m talking to people, the context may be different…

Matthew:    Two of the things that come through in your emails are humor and personality. Humor is quite difficult to get right in marketing and, is it Claude Hopkin’s line “people aren’t going to buy from a clown”.

Drayton Bird:    “No man buys from a clown”.

Matthew:    It’s very very difficult and personality is very important for customer retention.

Drayton Bird:    For customer retention?

Matthew:    Yeah. For example the people like Agora and Boardroom Reports, for example with their newsletters, they’ve traditionally, they  haven’t had personality. It’s “This is coming from Agora” and I’ve heard that their renewal rate on subscriptions kind of suffers from that because of the lack of personality.

Drayton Bird:    How very interesting. Where did you here that?

Matthew:    I probably heard it from Dan Kennedy, who …

Drayton Bird:    Really?

Matthew:    Yeah. I’m just sort of interested in … Particularly with corporate clients, you’re often dealing with corporate clients and they have a corporate look and feel, that presumably they want to maintain in their mailings. For example, I’m just interested do you often say “This would work better if it were more personal”?

Drayton Bird:    I am very governed by … First of all, I had a conversation about humor, just after I sold my agency to Ogilvy And Mather. I had lunch at the Savoy with Bill Phillips, who was then made chairman or chief executive or whatever the hell it was called then of Ogilvy And Mather Worldwide. We talked about entertainment and advertising. Should the entertainment, as Bill Bernbach said “All this talk of creativity has me worried, I fear less the creativity obscures the sale”, or something like that. Bill and I talked about it and Bill said, he said, “Well I think if the joke is more interesting than the product, you’re in trouble.” So I try to make sure that if I’m trying to inject personality, which I do, it doesn’t obscure what I’m trying to say.

I don’t want people to say, “What a funny guy.” I want them to say, “That’s very interesting. By the way, what I do get is a lot of comment, a lot comment from people who write to me and say things like, “I like your style or I like the way …” I mean, oddly, you just mentioned Dan Kennedy. Somebody wrote to me a while ago comparing me to  him. He said, “You’re not like Dan Kennedy.” He said, “You’ve got a bit of …”, well David Ogilvy once said to me and I’ve said this to many people, because I’ve never forgotten it. He turned to me and he said, “Do you know the secret of success in this business Drayton?” I said, “No, David.” And he said, “Charm.”

It’s true, we like to do business with people we like. Again going back to what we were talking about originally. The great salesman very often is … You like the guy. I’m trying to think, I think people buy from people they like more than from people they don’t like. I’m not saying they don’t buy from people they don’t like …

Matthew:    And yet in many corporate sales letters there is no person there. It’s not written in first-person.

Drayton Bird:    Well they’re idiots. The reason for that is due to the nature of the corporate beast. The nature of the corporate beast probably means that that communication has been seen by several people, some of them, God forbid, sitting in a meeting. Any personality that was originally in it would be extracted forcibly. Also the agency or the copywriter will be told, “This is the kind of of voice we have.” I think you’ve got to be really pretty … Yes you can say “This the kind of thing that we’re going to talk about”, but you don’t need to extract all sense of personality.

Matthew:    Yes.

Drayton Bird:    A good example, I worked for American Express for about seven or eight years and handled the account and this, that and the other, which is a lot because I’m not capable of handling anything. They said that the tone of voice should be business like. That was just about it, but it didn’t say it shouldn’t be personal. Maybe the better letter I wrote for them began with something. It said, “Have you ever paid a little more for a better seat at the theater?” That was a bloody smasheroon.

It was a personal thing. It was a very personal thing. Just because you’re         in a corporation, doesn’t mean to say you should be impersonal.

Matthew:    Kind of related to personality I’d say. Particularly important with mail order and online stuff is the sense of place. I’m curious how you … How much you use that. For example, in your portfolio, there is a piece that you wrote, someone selling a radio kit. It actually begins with a little testimonial email. A father sending an email and with his daughter, 11 year old daughter building a kit. You use sense of place about three quarters of the way through that piece, where it mentions “May I send you one of these kits from my small shop in blah blah blah”. Now, Gary Halbert, this is one of the things that he said sense of place was about the most important thing in mail order. He famously wrote things like, “If you’re ever in …” Wherever he was, “I’m sending this from my little house next to the post office by the tree.” What sort of … ?

Drayton Bird:    Of course it is because this is a word picture. That copy incidentally was not written by me, it was edited by me. Most of the copy that goes out today,f rom me, not all of it, is written by my young brother and edited by me. Some of it is completely bloody rewritten by me. Sometimes it goes back and forth quite a few times. That was edited by me. I can’t remember who wrote it, but it is important to have that. I remember that bit of it.

Matthew:    Particularly in mail order when often there this fear of sending money to a random company particularly of you’re sending cash and …

Drayton Bird:    This is the word picture. It’s a small thing but there’s a whole series of things, E.E. Cummings, I think it was, the American writer. Was it he who had the the series of a thing called Archy and Mehitabel which were all about a cat and a mouse or something. I can’t remember so much. You had this picture of this mouse that worked, that could type.
I used that a lot. I used to use it particularly in letters to get people to pay money. You would write and say, my financial director is going to break my neck if don’t get this money of you and blah, blah, blah.

You have to get out of the world of marketing and get into the real world of people living. Imagine, yeah, the guy’s breaking his balls to get the bloody money, so you have to make it real. It’s not real if you’re in this silly world were people have bloody meetings and talk shit all day about strategies and God knows what else.

Matthew:    One of the things we have to do in the real world is to get the letter open. You touched on that briefly in “How to Write Sales Letters That Sell”, so obviously a little bit about teaser-copy. What are your thoughts on things like, you mentioned about selling the fire retardant fabric where you had sort of scorched the envelope, or you could send lumpy mail.

Drayton Bird:    I scorched the letters and if I had been really smart, I would have got them to scorch the bloody envelope as well, maybe. I’m not sure how that would have worked.

Matthew:    What are some good ways to get a mailing piece opened?

Drayton Bird:    Well the first thing to remember is that very often, the best way is to have … Is nothing. Just have a plain envelope, sometimes that works better than anything else. Envelopes of strange shapes will work very well or a very small envelopes. Large envelopes tend to do better than the average DL envelope. Envelopes that are textured paper, that increases response. Envelopes with particular colors, yellow, bright yellow, certain color of yellow seem to work very, very well.

Envelopes, I was dictating something yesterday about the book I’m rewriting, writing, whatever I’m doing. I was talking about the envelope, it had two address things showing through. That worked for the logical reason that we know that the thing that on average people spend most time looking at in the email is their name.

So that was two chances. I had a great line, I stole it from Woody Allen about your chances of being bisexual doubles your chances of a date on Saturday night. Putting things inside increases response, it’s anything that will make it stand out. If you’re a famous brand, if I put Harrods on the envelope, then they get more responses than if I put nothing on the envelope …

Matthew:    Do you do things like, do you test a franked envelope against one with a real stamp?

Drayton Bird:    We have done, yeah. It does increase response, yeah. Very little of the work we do now is direct mail, more than I thought, there are still a lot of people using direct mail and rightly so. Because now, as everyone is, marketers are like the gathering swine; they run as the same way as fast as possible, to the nearest cliff, which at the moment tends to be social media.

Matthew:    One of the things that we can do in in direct mail which people like The Reader’s Digest often do is have these engagement devices inside the mailing piece so they often … It’s a bit like in …

Drayton Bird:    Oh, the things for people to do?

Matthew:    Things people would like, well like in face-to-face selling, we might use a summative language trying to get them to think about which color of something they’d like even when they haven’t agreed to buy. In a mailing piece we might have little bits of squares that they stick.

Drayton Bird:    There was actually in one of the groups that I belong to on the Internet, there was somebody writing about, I think it was Bob Bly who I have lots of time for.

Matthew:    His writing style is quite similar to yours I think. At least his …

Drayton Bird:    I don’t think … He is much more straight than me.

Matthew:    Really?

Drayton Bird:    Yeah. Well, yeah.
Denny Hatch maybe is a bit more similar, but he was … Somebody had written and said, “Do you respond to these things?” Charity mailings, which have these stickers and things. All the people were saying no, no, no, I don’t. Well I know that’s bollocks, they do …

Matthew:    They do.

Drayton Bird:    People do. Golden rule, don’t ask your customers what they think they are going to respond to. Golden rule number two, for Christ’s sake, don’t ask copywriters. They live in this weird world of copywriting.

Matthew:    Do you like lift notes? I noticed in your portfolio there was one with a little Post It note.

Drayton Bird:    Lift notes work, yeah. I have to say, we haven’t used one for a while. The truth of the matter is with most of the clients that we get now, just doing straightforward, sensible stuff is going to work better than anything they’re doing now. Actually I’ve got some good writers …

Matthew:    Have you ever tested a lift note in a “no envelope”?

Drayton Bird:    No.

Matthew:    You open up the piece and you see this envelop and it says, “Open this only if you’ve decided not to take me up on my fine offer” or whatever. Open up the envelope and it’s basically a letter from the wife or whatever. “My husband often forgets to point out the obvious, such as …”

Drayton Bird:    I have never trusted that. One of the problems you see, there is a great benefit from doing what I do and the sense that I work with a wide range of clients and always have. The short coming is that the likelihood of you being able to test all the variations on the many series of techniques is much greater if you’re just working on one client. If you’re sitting there and you’re working for Money Week, for instance

Matthew:    Are you ok for time? Because you’ve got to whizz off, I think.

Drayton Bird:    I’ve got my client, who’s been a client of mine off and on for a very long time, around the corner from here, which is why I thought, “Oh, that’s good.” That’s why I suggested meeting somewhere in between.

Matthew:    You’ve said that even quite smart marketers often forget to enunciate the benefits of the guarantee. They have a guarantee, but then they don’t explicitly say the benefits of the guarantee, that why is is it good that I can get my money back with no questions asked or …? What are your thoughts good ways to do that? Do you like to put the guarantee at the top? At the top of the landing page or first paragraph of the email …?

Drayton Bird:    There’s a guy who writes to me. A lot of people write to me for advice. They are usually surprised when I reply. I think they think that … I think a lot of people that might think … or relatively well known people don’t … They’re too busy, too grand. I try to reply. This guy wrote to me, and he is in Bulgaria. He said, I’m thinking of throwing this thing out, look at it.” I had a long at it, I have now looked at it five times. I kept on saying to him, maybe it’s because he is Bulgarian. His English is not bad. Alex Popkov is his name. I kept on saying to him, “Stick your offer up front.” Maybe I was being … Again, stick your proposition, you know?… He didn’t really understand what I was saying, so finally I said, “What I mean by stick your offer up front, if this doesn’t work, you don’t have to pay. Stick it up front.”

I said something like … and he said money and he said something about money. I said, “Don’t say money, say cash.” It’s much better. You’ll have more cash in your bank account, or you will pay nothing! I said, “That’s your fucking proposition.” I said, “If that doesn’t work? What will?” So yeah, get it up front unless you’re one of these really clever people who, like Joe Karbo, who have the skill or say another friend of mine whose name I’ve immediately forgotten, Joe sugarman. Again Joe Sugarman broke … Joe sugarman is a wonderful copy writer. A very funny man and a very nice man. His ads broke all the bloody rules in the sense that you had no … The headlines were incredibly short and I know that from … On average, long headlines were better than short headlines. I have just discovered three days ago that on average long subject lines work better than short subject lines, which I didn’t know. These guys can break the rules.

Matthew:    You know that Joe Sugarman, I think he claims Joe Karbo wrote the ad the day after going to Sugarman’s course. I think that’s … I have no idea if it’s true, but I’m …

Drayton Bird:    My dealings with Joe Karbo were limited to … We met once. With a Canadian friend of mine, no longer with us unfortunately, wonderful man, a wonderful man. We got to talking and he said, “How would you like to come and work for me?” That was one of the three job offers that I turned down because I had my first family, my first wife and children and I didn’t want to leave England. So Ogilvy were interested, Karbo was interested and Gene Schwartz … Oh, actually four Gene Schwartz and then there was a wonderful rogue, a Belgian guy, Raymond Janssen . What a character, he was hilarious. These are people I learnt a lot from when I was very young.

Raymond Janssen used to import these appalling American tatty mail order products, sell them in France at sort of double the price, and I said to him, one day I said, “Raymond, how can you bring this rubbish and charge so much money for it, he said, “Drayton, if it’s not expensive, how can it be any good?”

Actually Raymond Janssen, and this has got nothing to do with marketing but it’s really funny. Raymond Janssen, because he would dead now, as I imagine everyone else involved would be, went to Thailand, met a young lady and brought her a home, sort of more or less installed her. And, it’s the ultimate comeuppance, to the vast amusement of everyone that knew about it, was that his wife then ran off with his mistress.

Going back to what you were talking about, what I’m trying to do, parallel to what I was saying at the beginning about the first aim of business to avoid making a loss. The first aim of getting the copy written is to avoid or to minimize the chances of failing. I’m saying to people, do this because you are less likely to fail. OK, if you’re a bloody, if you’re Gene Schwartz, if you’re Joe Sugarman, maybe you can do it.
Somebody told me that Joe Karbo apparently just sat down and wrote the ad just like that.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    Incredible.

Matthew:    One of the things that, a bit of research you often quote is that, ads that tend to do well typically have the main proposition three times in the ad.

Drayton Bird:    This is something from research conducted by the McGraw-Hill. I believe if they had done a bit more of research, they would have found out that if it was repeated five times, they’ll do better still.

Matthew:    An interesting thing about the Karbo ad is that the guarantee is really the main proposition. And he restates it in the coupon. He says something like, “Joe, you maybe full of beans but …”

Drayton Bird:    You maybe full of hot air or whatever.

Matthew:    Yeah, but it’s $10 and I know you’re going to keep your word. I’m going to send you a post-dated check. It’s sort of interesting, you often see, again, you often see good mailing pieces and yet in the coupon or in the order form, they haven’t bothered to restate any benefits, haven’t made it …

Drayton Bird:    There is a reason for this. It’s not that easy to write a good copy. The process is such that if you … You know how hard it is to have ideas. When you have an idea, you go, “Whoopi, I’ve had an idea!  Isn’t this wonderful? That’s so wonderful, isn’t life wonderful? Let’s go and have a drink.” You start with great vim and enthusiasm and very often when you get to the end, you sort of … write “Please, blah, blah, blah”. That’s why some copywriters used to say the first thing they would write would be …

Matthew:    Write the order form first, yeah. Because often that is where either the buying decision is taking place or at least someone’s decided to buy, they’ve got the order form and then they don’t buy. The’ve forgotten what the order form is for. They’ve cut out the coupon and it doesn’t …

Drayton Bird:    Oh, yeah, the only thing that I am only good at in that area is that nearly all the copy that my people write, I will take and I will strengthen the close. I won’t … I always have this joke that I like about, “For God’s sake never write, “we look forward to hearing from you”. Because you’ll die before you do.”
How many bloody minutes have you got on that damn thing? Plenty? All right.

Matthew:    I think one of the best order form I’ve seen is the Peterman catalog order  form. Which is fantastic, but one thing I noticed is that when they  mail out the catalogs, they don’t have the customer’s details in the order form, which you have said, and many people have said, if you’re …

Drayton Bird:    Got to make it easier.

Matthew:    If you’re mailing something for someone, you’re going to need the contact details again in the order form, put them in.

Drayton Bird:    Absolutely, never make anybody do any work.

Matthew:    Yeah, I know for charity mailings having it hand written in or at least fake handwriting works even better.

Drayton Bird:    Any kind of mailing is going to improve with it. My second wife was married to a maniac who was the best salesman for Encyclopedia Britannica in the world as far … I know he was a millionaire and we’re talking 1963, no, we’re talking when they were married. So you can imagine what a salesman he was. And I had lunch with him one day and I’m very curious, I’m always eager to learn. And his name was Glenwood Marr, and I said, “Tell me Glen, you were obviously a phenomenal salesman. Why were you so good?” He said, “Look, I haven’t got time kid to go into all that.” He was Canadian. He said, “I’ll just show you the close.” It was very clever because it was an assumptive close and the thing was that … He said, “After I’ve sold them the book …” then there is the thing which is the additional volume that you get for very little. He said, “I would start telling about the … ” Then he said something like, “And you know something? Nobody ever turns down this …” Then he said, “Then I reach down and take a pen out, push it over to them without looking at them. For him it was all how did he sell? It was the close that made it. It wasn’t what he said. In the same way that your yes/no/maybe or whatever can make it.

Matthew:    Yeah. Who are the sort of marketers around at the moment that you respect? Not respect at people, but things that they’re sort of at the top of their game. You’ve mentioned Clayton Makepeace. He does so many financial stuff, doesn’t he?

Drayton Bird:    Clayton Makepeace I thought. he’s the best. Particularly at the close. He is also exceptionally good at the writing headlines that shock, that you want to read. A lot of the Americans are like that. The people who write for Agora, who write for particularly the Daily Reckoning, very very good at it.

I think Ryan Deiss is very very very clever. My partner Al swears by him. I saw him speak when I was speaking in Miami. Not Miami, Delray Beach last year or the year before I can’t remember. I was impressed by him.

The thing is I was very very fond of and influenced by an extremely funny man. If can’t find funny people, I’m really very depressed. I worked for a guy called Sammy Gould in the 1970’s when I was in deep shit. I worked as his marketing director and copywriter …

Matthew:    Is this when you were living under an assumed name?

Drayton Bird:    Under a false name, yeah. Sammy Gould.

Matthew:    You often mention Bill Jayme, who was …

Drayton Bird:    Well, Bill Jayme was a  … The thing about Bill Jayme was he wrote for himself. He said so, he said, “I write for people like me.”

Matthew:    He worked for Boardroom did he? Or Agora?

Drayton Bird:    Well he may have done. Bill Jayme was an extremely sophisticated very witty and extraordinary well-read individual. He introduced me to international speaking. He invited me to speak in Monaco.

Matthew:    Didn’t he write the line about what you should never eat on an aeroplane? Is that one of his?

Drayton Bird:    No. Someone else.

Matthew:    Because that was for Boardroom, wasn’t it?

Drayton Bird:    There are many of these people who are very good like Mel Martin and so on.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    Bill Jayme wrote so many good packages. Actually somebody’s offered to send me them all, because I went and got drunk, terribly drunk with Bill and his partner Heikki, in San Francisco and they gave me lots of their mailings. Which somewhere in a storage somewhere in Bristol. He wrote probably the most famous envelop message which was, just a huge great “damn”. He actually had the other one, “Do you lock the bathroom door …”

Matthew:    … “when you are alone in the house?”

Drayton Bird:    He wrote for a particular audience.

Matthew:    I have to ask you that because I think it’s quite hard to sell yourself as a marketer on the basis that you are very broad.

Drayton Bird:    It is.

Matthew:    It’s one of the main things you seem to sell yourself on.

Drayton Bird:    Probably wrongly!

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    It explains a lot … Well the things is …

Matthew:    Typically the more niched we are, the easier …

Drayton Bird:    That’s what they say. It probably makes it easier for people to choose.

Matthew:    I think it makes you a far better marketer, but I wondered about the actual selling of your services …

Drayton Bird:    Well Alexander Pope said the proper study of mankind is man. I am fascinated by people. As it so happens because of the way that I came into the business, I ended up writing all sorts of different clients. Right at the very start of my career I was writing for people like Imperial Leather, who sell soap. Then I got involved in writing for retail. That was very good for me because you knew immediately if you wrote an ad that ran on a Saturday, as we did, you knew how well it had done.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    When I became a creative director, again purely by chance, half of our clients, more than half our revenue came from people who for one reason or another needed to get replies. Again because I started studying, even before I got into advertising, I’d learned a lot about what worked. I quickly discovered that the early people  who wrote, in fact that’s all there was then. Ogilvy hadn’t been published. Claude Hopkins, I hadn’t heard of. The other people who wrote, nearly all from the early days in advertising when everyone counted their responses.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    So that I naturally drifted that way and then being a Creative Director and having say, the British Tourist Authority, the Greek National Tourist Board. A firm that sold washing machines door to door, another firm that sold sewing machines, believe it or not, door to door. These people have to get responses so one way or another I was reading stuff that was about, by people who believe in getting replies. I found that I was working for clients who needed to get replies. The difference between selling Britain or Ireland I had at one point, Northern Ireland, “You’ll have an explosive experience.”

I sort of fell into it, and then I was approached … I had always been very interested in being an entrepreneur. I had started trying to start a business when I was in Manchester when I was about 22 years old, I wanted to go into business. When I became a Creative Director, I tried twice to start my own businesses and then when I left the agency and went to work in the mail order business, again I was interested in being an entrepreneur. I think one of the common view of a lot of people who write copy is they’ve never had to risk their own money.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    There is a young man that I hired at Ogilvy And Mather who became … Who was an Art Director. He was so bloody good and I hired some bloody good people. Five years in a row, he was voted the best Creative Director in Asia which is quite a large place. Andy Greenaway is his name, I think he was the creative director for Satchi and Satchi.
Well one of the things …what did he do when he was a young Art Director? He started his own mail order business because he wanted to see how it works. This is because a lot of these people, they’ve never got their hands dirty, that’s what you’ve got to do.

I got my hands dirty and I’d been by chance, because chance is very important, don’t underestimate chance. A lot of people who think they are brilliant, they were just lucky. I don’t think … I remember dealing with the guy who started the Carphone Warehouse. I was asked to go and talk to him. I said to him, you should build a database. He just ignored me. He had to build a database eventually but he was just a guy who perceived that people who want to buy telephones should know what phone to buy. That is not a stroke of bloody genius.
You don’t have to be a genius to make lots of money, you just have to have this sudden insight. I’m not a genius. I’ve just been in a situation by chance where I have learnt in a certain way. When somebody came along to me and said, “Oh, can you write copy for charity?” Which happened to be 1975, somebody came along to me in ’77 and said, “Can you write copy for insurance?” I had no idea. I thought, “I better get on with it.”

To me anyhow, for me, this might get more interesting. I’d hate to think that all I ever wrote was for this particular category, how bloody boring can you get?

Matthew:    Did you have sort of favorite things that you like to write about?

Drayton Bird:    Not really. What do you mean?

Matthew:    Well do you have …?

Drayton Bird:    Oh, do you mean I have favorite things? Right.

Matthew:    Yeah, particular industries that you like or … ?

Drayton Bird:    I’m generally happy if somebody comes along and asks me to write for something I know nothing about. David did a very good talk, I’m sure I must have somewhere. Unfortunately I’ve got a ocean of stuff that I’ve …And I’m forgetful to the Nth degree. He did a good talk on what makes a good copywriter. One was insatiable curiosity. I think a good copywriter, a really good copywriter is able to get into anything. Actually, I think if you want to be a a happy and fulfilled individual then one of the things you should do is try to be interested in everything, because otherwise, if you’re not interested in just about everything, you’re not going to be interesting. As interesting as you can be.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    Moreover, the art of having ideas is to do with putting together things … there are things that are very often familiar, things that are not familiar in unexpected ways to create something that’s seems different but it’s just two things. If you’ve only got five things that you know about, the number of combinations is going to be fairly limited. If you are constantly fascinated by everything, then you’re going to have a better chance. I’m not, I don’t think remarkably talented or particularly intelligent or even all that diligent, but I’m fucking interested in everything. There are very few things that if somebody comes and talks to me about something … I had a client in Oregon, they make complex measuring equipment. When they came, I knew nothing about measuring equipment and they said, “Will you come along and talk to our creatives, our eighty bloody marketing. I knew nothing about, what they were selling, or anything! For some time I used to revise their stuff,  yeah.

Matthew:    Yeah.

Drayton Bird:    I had to learn a little bit about it…

One of my favorite lines is from Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel when he is writing about the the Earl of Shaftesbury. ‘A man so various that he seems to be not man but all mankind’s epitome. Fiddlers, statesman, scholar and the fool, all in the course of one revolving moon.’ That’s me.

I just find everything interesting …