The Secret of Starting an Instantly Successful Business
“If you were a paying member,” I replied, “I’d have to send you regular information so you would know what was in there. And that sounds like a newsletter.”
I came home and told Peggy I wanted to start a newsletter based on our files. She said that cash flow for a newsletter couldn’t be any worse than that for a freelancer and immediately agreed. I wrote a direct mail package for a nonexistent publication called WHO’S MAILING WHAT! and sent out 10,000 pieces. We got 150 subscribers at $99 cash with order, which brought in enough money to do a 35,000 mailing and we were in business. The year was 1984.
The monthly newsletter offered analysis of current direct mail efforts and listed all the mailings we received in the prior month—usually 1,500 to 2,000 packages, or up to 25,000 a year. As well as offering commentary on current direct mail, we offered to make photocopies—folding dummies—of direct mail pieces for a fee, which meant ancillary income.
The point is, Harry Walsh told me he would pay for this service. In effect, this was a focus group of one. But as a freelance copywriter, I would pay for such a service, too. So that made two of us that believed in the possibility.
The Directory of Major Mailers
A number of vendors subscribed to the newsletter—printers, lettershops, list brokers, etc. Peggy and I got frequent calls from these folks asking how they could get the names and addresses of the mailers, so that they could bid on the business.
In June 1986 I heard a speech at the Newsletter Association meeting in Washington, D.C., by Russell Perkins, then—and now—America’s foremost expert on directory publishing. I showed Perkins what I had and asked if we were looking at an ancillary business. He immediately said yes, and we became partners. Today, “The Directory of Major Mailers and What They Mail” is still in business—and profitable—some 20 years later.