This past Sunday, June 17th, was the anniversary of Lyman Wood Day…
A 1993 proclamation given by the Governor Howard Dean, M.D. of Vermont cited Wood for:
- Spending “half a century developing and improving dozens of Vermont direct marketing businesses.”
- Providing “a model of socially responsible, values-based business management, long before the notion of ‘a bottom line’ was invented.”
- Serving “as guide and mentor to innumerable Vermont entrepreneurs and direct marketers; ” and
- Being “a ‘silent giant’ who has helped foster a $500 million a year industry in Vermont.”
Lyman Wood (1910-1997) formed his first company selling candy and washing cars to summer vacationers when he was 13. For seven decades he marketed and sold everything from used motorcycles to prayer books to earthworms—mostly through mail order.
What a Way to Live and Make a Living: The Lyman P. Wood Story a book by Roger Griffith, outlines what Wood calls “the joys of having your own mail order business.” Griffith tells you how Wood created a life he enjoyed through making money through mail order and how you can too.
While the book was written with the intent of teaching you about mail order, many of the tips and Wood suggestions apply to online businesses too.
In fact, one series of suggestions is perfect for avoiding pitfalls when testing out a new product or service with either mail order or the Internet.
And, if you aren’t already using both mail order and the Internet, the ideas will help you expand your business by providing you with the know-how you need to successfully conquer the one you’re not currently using.
These suggestions will help you start a business in your spare time with very little money and almost no risk…grow a business as big as you want…and run a business from anywhere in the world.
In What a Way to Live and Make a Living: The Lyman P. Wood Story,Griffith gives Wood’s eight suggestions for avoiding pitfalls when testing a new product or service through the mail. Of course these are also perfect for testing on the Internet. Here are Wood’s tips on how to move a new product or service through mail order (or the Internet) successfully:
1) Start small. Never invest a large amount of money until you know you have a winner. Test on a small scale first to see if your idea, product or ad will work before you launch into a bigger campaign or business.
2) Set up a system to keep detailed records. Wood says to be good at mail order you must test and understand your results. Set up a system that details the response to your mailings so you can base all of your decisions on results.
3) Quickly have more than one product to sell. Wood says your customers for your first product will be your best customers for your second. That means you need something to sell them as quickly as possible while they’re still “hot”.
4) Guarantee your product. No secret here. You will boost your sales when you offer a money-back, “no questions asked” guarantee because you are taking away the risk from your prospect.
5) Write your ad first. Before you ever create a physical product, write your ad. You should be able to state exactly what you intend to do or sell. If you can’t state this clearly, then you don’t have a strong plan in your mind for your product yet. Serial entrepreneur and marketer, Ted Nicholas also recommends you send the ad out before you even create the product to see if there is any interest. If there is, then create the product.
6) Set your price at about double your product’s cost to you. Wood says that if the price is under $100, “you can go directly for the order, not for inquiries, with your advertising.” If the item is higher priced, he says, “usually you want to get the inquiry, not the sale, from your advertising.” There are exceptions to this rule of course, but generally higher priced items will sell better if you start a conversation with your customer about the item you are selling before you tell them what the price is.
7) Find a problem and create a product or service that offers a solution to it. A great example of this is an ad I saw in one of those magazine shopping guides. The problem the ad solves is repairing a bad credit rating. The ad addressed this by offering a software program that helps repair your credit by reversing late payments and late payment fees for $5.95.
8) Offer a good proposition. Just as Dan Kennedy teaches, “the proposition drives the copy” and makes it work. Wood reminds us that, “You can have the best copy in the world about a proposition that people don’t want and it won’t work.”
Wood tells a story of how he had a “Grandmother Table” designed and a few manufactured. The tables were made of walnut with glass tops that people could put photographs under. He had photographs of the tables made. Type-set the ad for $1000. They tested the ad in just one paper and got no orders.
Wood said, “That was a perfect example of not having the right proposition. The ad copy was good, the price was right. The table just didn’t sell, probably because the style of it didn’t fit well in the homes of the people who were potential customers. The copy was good; the proposition was lousy.”
Follow Wood’s advice. When you have a new product or service idea, test the idea first. Start small with an ad instead of creating an expensive direct response campaign, buying lists, and running up your expenses. If you don’t have anything to sell, find a problem and solve it. Then write your ad first to test your solution and see if there is any interest before you create the product. Besides saving time, you’ll save yourself lots of money by ensuring you only create and roll out successful products and services on a large scale.
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