A-List Swipe File
The Great Retirement Betrayal

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The Great Retirement Betrayal
Promotion Title: The Great Retirement Betrayal
Product: The Retirement Letter
Client: Phillips Publishing
Product Manager: Richard Stanton-Jones
Designer: Greg Zerovnik
Results: Three-year control, 20 million pieces mailed

Dear A-list Copywriter,

I would never have had such a fine career if it weren’t for this one promotion. In one fell swoop, this promotion elevated me from the ranks of the also-ran right to into the battle royal against legends such as Gary Bencivenga, Eugene Schwartz, Jim Rutz, Jim Punkre, and Clayton Makepeace, to name just a few.

When “The Great Retirement Betrayal” was finally beaten after three years by the late Gene Schwartz, Phillips had not only mailed over 20 million pieces but also made millions of dollars.

Let me tell you how I wrote it, and then I’ll give you an idea of the lessons that you’ll learn by reading it.

The year was 1991. I was a young writer with a few good samples that I picked up from working with The Ruff Times, one of the largest newsletter publishers in the country. I had heard about Phillips and did the unthinkable for a new writer—I sent my samples to Richard Stanton-Jones, the creative force at Phillips and its VP publisher.

And while he saw potential in my work, he was not convinced that he should hire me for a project. So he agreed to pay me $1,000 to brainstorm ideas with him to see what we could come up with. At that point in my life, I became an idea machine that faxed ideas almost daily: headlines, story ideas—you name it—for eight weeks.

GRB-tocI can admit this now; I would spend at least eight hours a day writing and rewriting ideas to send them to Richard—ideas that would often be shot down. Not intentionally, of course. He had been in this business for years, so he knew what he was looking for. My job was to bring him the idea.

After about eight weeks or so, we came to a point where he decided to give me a shot to write a new package for this publication. The funny part is that it didn’t start with a headline. It started by simply taking the areas that affected investors the most and writing about them: stocks, mutual funds, bonds, retirement, insurance—you name it.

Over the next six months—that’s right, six months—I wrote and faxed my copy to Richard only to have it sent back for revisions and redos. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this thing—working nearly 12 hours a day!

In fact, I wrote as though this were the most important direct-mail package I had ever written—because it was, and I knew it.

grb-exerptI didn’t know it at the time, but as each section started to come together, I was learning intuitively how to write compartmentally. This compartmental approach would allow me to learn how to write new leads on old copy and give fatiguing controls new life.

I also learned the value of working as a team player, leveraging the knowledge of someone who knew more than I did, and—most important—putting it all on the line.

When the promotion was finally complete after six long months, Richard creative-directed this promotion with Greg Zerovnik, who had designed many great promotions for Phillips.

When I finally received my printed sample, I remember asking Richard if I could get a recommendation. Half jokingly, he said, “Absolutely not!” Curiously I asked why not. His response was something like “Let’s see how it does first.”

grb-exerpt2It was at this at point in my career that I learned that the name of the game was results. I could show this well-written-and-designed promotion to family, friends, and new clients. If they liked it, that would be great. But the real measure was, quite frankly, would it work?

That said, I’ll never forget the day when I received the call from Richard congratulating me on my big winner. Not only did it beat one of the widely mailed controls of two years, but it smashed through it.

The end result was one of the most successful and widely mailed packages for the next three years. At that point, they quickly hired me for many more promotions—and with a royalty, to boot!

At the same time, Denny Hatch, from Who’s Mailing What, got a hold of the piece and featured it as his No. 1 direct-mail package for that issue. That’s when the calls started to come in from Boardroom, Forbes, Prevention, and other major mailers, and my life has never been the same. Once you read this piece, you’ll fully understand why.

Here’s what you’ll learn by adding this
promotion to your swipe file

Check Mark You’ll learn the importance of identifying a compelling theme for your promotions and how to tie everything to that theme.

Check Mark You’ll understand why transitions are so important in linking your thoughts together. As you look at this piece, I want you to scan the introductions of each paragraph and see how they build the argument.

Check Mark You’ll learn how to use the news-style approach to grab the readers’ attention, build interest, pique their desire, and move them to action. It’s the AIDA approach, but you’ll be able to see it in action.

Check Mark You’ll learn how to build personality into your promotions. As you’ll see, the piece comes from a 60-year-old named Pete Dickinson. As you read through the lines, you’ll see how I take on that persona and talk to you in the appropriate voice.

Check Mark You’ll learn my “guiding-hand approach.” When you sell information products, you have to present yourself as a leader—not just any leader, but a leader who really cares. Think mentor, if you will. In your copy, you’ll see exactly how I do this and how you can create the same persona for virtually anything you sell.

Check Mark You’ll also see my formula for writing long copy that makes money work. When you read it from this point of view, you’ll see how I do much—if not all—of my selling between the lines.

Check Mark You’ll also see that you don’t have to scream or shout or make outlandish claims to write a winner. You’ll also understand why a consultative selling approach can be applied to your products.

Check Mark Most important, you’ll see what Denny Hatch, founder and editor, Who’s Mailing What!, said about this piece, “The magalog format is not only alive and well but has reached the state of perfection with Doug D’Anna’s effort for “The Retirement Letter.”

If you would like get a copy of this grand control, I’m making a limited number available for my A-list members under one condition: that you do not share, copy, sell, or distribute this in any manner. It’s from my personal collection and for your personal use. By keeping it to yourself, you’ll be keeping it to your advantage.

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These copywriting samples are the property of Doug D’Anna and are protected by copyright and other restrictions. They are being made available to you on the express understanding that you agree that these materials:(1) remain the sole and exclusive property of Doug D’Anna, who retains all rights to the materials;(2)are solely for your use and may not be made available to anyone else;(3)may not be copied in whole or in part; and (4)may not be resold or otherwise distributed by you, whether or not you receive any benefit from their sale or distribution.

Doug D'Anna, Direct Response Copywriter
Phone: (650) 274-7326 Fax: (650) 401-7327
Email: dougdanna@mac.com
Copyright ©2017 Doug D'Anna. All Rights Reserved.