If you made it this far to open up this email, stick with me on this one. You will be glad you did 🙂

While I was growing up, my dad used to always give me books on copywriting.

While marketing has significantly evolved, the ability to communicate effectively through the written word is a timeless art as valuable today as it was back then.

One of my favorite marketing copywriters of all-time is a guy named Joe Sugarman. He is the founder of BluBlockers, which has sold over 20MM pairs. Engaging infomercials featuring a freestyle rapper on Venice beach in the 90’s put them on the map in a huge way. Their phenomenon was reignited when Zach Galfinakis wore their sunglasses as Alan in the Hangover.

Prior to founding BluBlockers, Joe had success selling many other company’s products through mail orders via Wall Street Journal advertisements.

One day, one of his suppliers called with “great news”.

Joe had done well selling the latest and greatest calculator, and now, the supplier had a newer and faster calculator available from the same manufacturer with even more functionality… And it was even cheaper! Keep in mind, this was the 1970’s  when calculators were actually hundreds of dollars each!

Most in Joe’s position would have been very excited, but Joe was at a crossroads…

He knew the value of his relationship with his customers. His company was known for selling the latest technologically advanced products, but he also prided his advertisements on urgency.

If his customers knew a better version of the products he was currently offering would be available just months later at an even lower price, why would they continue to buy them from him today when they could wait for the next version?

To a conventional marketer, Joe has two options:

1/Don’t sell the new calculator and run the risk of not having the latest technology available in your array of products

2/Sell it and run the risk of upsetting your loyal customer base and removing urgency from future purchases

Are there any other options? What about the third door?

Was there a way Joe could reach an entirely new audience to sell the calculators without sacrificing his company’s brand equity or customer loyalty?

Or even better, what if Joe could make the offering of the new calculator satisfy both potential customers who hadn’t bought a calculator yet AND those who already had? But how?

After much deliberation, Joe came up with the idea to reach out to the Chicago public school system with an offer to donate lots of calculators. His only request was to receive the tax write-off’s for the donations.

He proceeded to run an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal as usual for the new calculator. However, in addition to toting the numerous benefits of the product for potential first time calculator customers, he also had a message for his loyalists who had already purchased the last version – in summary, it was a much prettier version of this:

Return the old calculator and get a full tax write off so you can buy the new calculator.

The write off wound up coming with an added luxury: it was blank, meaning his customers could actually fill in any number they wanted. Joe’s customers were ecstatic!

Not only did he sell a TON of calculators to first time buyers, but 99% of customers who purchased the original calculator bought the new calculator as well. Yes, 99%… Back then, if you read the WSJ one day, you read it the next!

In other words, while the market for the new calculator would have likely been only those who didn’t already own a new calculator, Joe was also able to sell his previous customers a SECOND calculator too.

And even better, his philanthropic efforts enabled underprivileged students access to calculators throughout the Chicagoland area. He was even recognized for his contributions!

If you can design an offering which converts at just a 1% rate, you will be rich. However, to truly breakthrough, you must innovate and step outside the normal forms of distribution and marketing messaging as Joe did.

The solution may appear unimaginable… Until you think of it!

If you’re struggling come up with it, feel free to talk to those around you about it as that’s where the best ideas come from.

The third door is always yours for the taking.

P.S. If you want to read about Joe’s journey, various marketing activations, and many great ideas turned failures, you can pick up his book Triggers. I keep giving mine out so just bought another one!

Leave a Reply