From 1975 until I went to college, I bought no fewer than 50,000 Topps baseball cards. I figured if Mom landed the Topps account, she'd have an expert copywriter (me!) who knows the company's products, and I'd get paid in precious cardboard.
We're still working on that project.
Direct Marketing Lessons in Real Life
Direct marketing skills have helped me in many areas of my life. For example, I was taught the power of a "stand-out" cover letter. So when I moved to D.C. and was looking for a job, I applied the direct marketing principles learned during the years. Since thousands of people are competing for jobs on Capitol Hill, I knew my resume had little chance of being read unless I had an exceptionally compelling cover letter.
Instead of bragging about my accomplishments (limited) or academic record (even more limited), I decided to include "an involvement device." I attached a quarter to each letter and asked the recipient to use it to call one of the references I'd listed on an attached sheet.
The response was overwhelming. Some people called to ask if I was serious. Of course, while I had them on the phone, I was able to set up a few appointments. Other people sent the quarter back with notes saying, "Bribes are not accepted."
Either way, it gave me a great "in" with each office. When I made my follow-up phone calls, they all remembered me. I'd say: "Hi, this is Paul Geller, 'the quarter guy.' May I please speak with the congresswoman's office manager?"
"Oh, you're the one who sent us 25 cents! Sure thing, hold on while I get her for you."
I received an amazing response rate of more than 50 percent! Most people in my position were lucky just to get postcards acknowledging their resumes had been received. Eventually, I did get a job on Capitol Hill through this mailing.