A Different Kind of Long Copy
You probably have never heard of an eccentric entrepreneur named Andrew Harper who lives in Sun Valley, MT. Not unless you maintain an income level in excess of $600,000 and frequently vacation to safari lodges in South Africa and the country inns of Western New England.
These affluent individuals subscribe to the Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report, a monthly newsletter about off-the-beaten-path, unspoiled getaway spots written by none other than Andrew Harper. While running a small operation in the mountains of Montana with an intimate staff, Harper records his eclectic travel experiences and delivers an exclusive, underground-guru report to 25,000 readers worldwide. In its 24th year, Mr. Harper's personal travel journal remains a must-have for any big spender with cabin fever.
From a direct mail standpoint, Mr. Harper's story is intriguing. According to Ted Johnson, chief of the subscription office for the Hideaway Report, Harper started using direct mail to sell subscriptions in the early 80s. And since the first acquisition effort, Harper has insisted on including a sample issue of the newsletter for potential subscribers to page through. The newsletter publisher treats ex-subscribers and non-subscribers equally, sending them the same package, save for the letter.
Recently, the Archive received a lapsed-subscriber appeal with the same strategy at play. It is a #10 outer envelope package comprised of five elements: a one-page letter, buck-slip with testimonials, order form, a one-page index of the past year's editorial content, and the newsletter sample (250HIDREP1002).
"Andrew Harper has always taken the contrarian approach with the newsletter and with direct mail," Johnson avows. "Ninety-eight percent of marketing people have told us not to put the newsletter in the package. But Mr. Harper has always said: 'No one's doing it, so we'll do it.'"
Johnson admits that the Hideaway Report has considered the possibility of a recipient disengaging when receiving an offer. For example, a prospective reader, without getting the full breadth of the publication, may speak too soon: "There's nothing in this month's issue on Europe, and I travel frequently to Europe. Why would I want to read about the Pastoral River Valley Lodge North of Seattle?" In this instance, including the actual newsletter could be detrimental, since the publication is only eight pages long, and does not focus on all geographic regions.
Harper, however, refuses to see it that way. As Johnson has stressed, he has never been a proponent of the long sales letter, and often remarks: "I know what happens when I open a [direct mail] package with a long letter. I just chuck the package." He figures subscribers are like him, asserts Johnson.
Perhaps the ultimate reasoning for including the newsletter in the package is summed up in this statement from Johnson: "The newsletter is extremely well-written, and people could see the style and skills of Mr. Harper first hand."
As happenstance would have it, this month marks the first time Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report will test without a sample issue; also, a direct marketing consultant will review the package.
But up until now, Johnson says: "We've been happy with the results. The mailing always pays for itself."