Surround Your Customers and Clients
Case study: Bill Bonner, master marketer
Oct. 20, 2005: Vol. 1, Issue No. 41
IN THE NEWS
Secrets of the "Untourist" Revealed
Never go where tourists go...
Never sleep where tourists sleep...
Never eat where tourists eat.
--Pop-up Internet Ad
Oct. 16, 2007
In 1979, a fledgling entrepreneur named Bill Bonner was bloodied by three failures and was $70,000 in debt. In his head he conceived a newsletter to be called International Living for people who wanted the good life, but couldn't afford it in the United States. He sat down at a typewriter to write a subscription letter and began to peck away at the keys.
The letter ran a staggering 3,710 words, defying the old shibboleth that people won't read long letters. The offer was for "12 information-packed issues for $34," plus "A FREE copy of "The 5 Best Retirement Destinations in the World."
This sales letter--for a newsletter that did not exist--was cash positive from day one, bringing in 300 percent of breakeven.
This letter launched Agora, Bill Bonner's $100 million publishing empire with 340 employees working out of of six magnificently restored houses in Baltimore (including a Stanford White masterpiece), sumptuous digs in London and a 17th century fixer-upper castle in the Loire Valley in France.
Twenty-five years later, right now, this same letter--slightly updated and currently running 4,032 words--is going gangbusters on the Internet.
What's more, instead of just bringing in subscribers, it's creating streams of revenue from travelers, investors, book buyers and overseas real estate buyers.
Bill Bonner has surrounded his customers.
Many years ago I had a rather fanciful article on direct mail accepted by Folio: The Magazine of Magazine Management. The editor, Charles I. (Chuck) Tannen, invited me to lunch near his offices in New Canaan, Conn.