Are You Interesting?

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When you finish this post, I want you to read a sales letter that raised $180,000, in 2011 dollars, in less than a day.  The sales letter was fund raiser aimed at people who had no interest in the charity, interrupted them on their way home from work, and yet was incredibly successful.

What is your instant reaction to the first sentence of this sales letter?  Curiosity?  A refusal to comply?  A more cautious approach - wait and see how many other people will comply?  Do you read the rest of the letter?

The Amazing Sales letter is from David Ogilvy.  This particular sales letter was distributed to white commuters on their way home, shortly after the race riots in the US in 1968.  The charity was UNCF, the United Negro College Fund.  Ogilvy raised $26,000 in less than 3 hours,  the equivalent of $180,000 today.  One single sales letter.

His opening line:

"When this train emerges from the tunnel of 108th Street this evening, look out the window."

The reader's interest is grabbed, rattled and shaken.

But there is more.  How many of these commuters would have normally looked out the window, towards the light automatically as the train left the dark tunnel?  Likely, many  This innocent, automatic, mere twitch has been transformed by social proof.  "Why look, we are all following Ogilvy's order.  Best stay in line and continue complying."  Even being aware of the manipulation won't inoculate you. 

Four short paragraphs later,  he frames his request for money as the fulfillment of a creative act.  "After dinner, will you do something imaginative?  Will you  write a check ..."

With the reader fully emotionally invested, Ogilvy then lays out the factual basis for his request in four or five paragraphs with snappy statistics.  The penultimate paragraph has just one testimonial from John W. Gardner who says,

"... I can tell you with some authority that that the predominantly Negro colleges need help."

Finally, Ogilvy spells out the bargain, with a simple call to action - the 1968 equivalent of 1-click buying.

"Please decide now what percentage of your gift to your own college you wish to send to UNFC, and mail it in the envelope that I have enclosed.  Perhaps you will then sleep a little better during the long hot summer."

(Recall that this letter, dated June 24th, 1968, was only two months after the infamous US race riots in 100 cities which lasted for almost two weeks.  The refrain and chant of  the Watts rioters, "Burn, Baby, Burn", was aslo less then 3 years old.")

Ogilvy delivered up interested, impressed readers to an intriguing sales proposition

-- many could not escape from the emotional pull

-- they gave in and gave.

In terms of the traditional sales funnel, we have interest -> impressed -> intriguing sales proposition = close.

The IAFD cannot make you into David Ogilvy, but with our key partner program you can create your own interest -> impressed -> intriguing sales funnel and close leads, generate warmer leads, or create a bigger audience.

For more on the IAFD's key partner program, please click here.

To read David Ogilvy's Amazing Sales letter, click here..

(This post was inspired by Elaine Fogel's post on Ogilvy's sales letter.)


Glad my post inspired this good one, Michael! Ogilvy was quite an amazing marketer.

This blog is somewhat interesting. I am delightful I found it because I discovered great tips today. Keep posting.

Thanks Elaine, I found that a careful review of Ogilvy's letter very instructive.

Michael, thanks for sharing. Something to think about as we engage with our prospects and clients.

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