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#176 Web-NetSol Lttr
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Tuesday, December 13, 2022



#176 Blog Post - Tuesday, December 13, 2020

Posted by Denny Hatch


The Textbook Example of a CEO's
eLetter That Is Awful to Read



Here Is David L. Brown's
Letter Retyped for Readability



                   Dear Loyal Customer,
I have great news for you! NetworkSolutions is now a Web.com company, and with that everything just got easier.
Not only will you still have access tothe Network Solutions products and services you currently enjoy but you willnow be able to take advantage of Web.com's acclaimed Build-it-for-Me productstoo! Web.com is focused on helping small businesses succeed online with our broadrange of Build-it-for-Me services. So, what do we mean by that? Each website wedesign, Facebook page we launch or online marketing campaign we build iscustomize-to meet your specific needs, starting with an in-depth interview withyou. We want to understand what makes your business tick in order to build themost powerful web presence for you. You say it, and we build it.
Plus, our designers and copywriters areexperts in optimizing for Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Facebook and many others. Wemake sure your business gets found in the places where you customers aresearching, whether it's a site we've built for you or a site you already have. Overthe coming weeks, you'll be introduced to the many ways in which Web.com canoffer its support and expertise.
Still prefer to do it yourself? You'llcontinue to enjoy the same portfolios of products from Network Solutions thatyou do today, supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by our customer serviceteams.
Network Solutions is excited to offerthis expanded portfolio, and Web.com is excited to serve you. You say it. Webuild it. It's as easy as Web.com!
/s/ David L. Brown
David L. Brown

This email was sent from a notification-onlyaddress. Please do not reply to this message. For Network Solutions customerservice inquiries, please visit


TheBackstory of David L. Brown's E-letter to Me

On August 3, 2011,Web.com acquired Network Solutions for $405 million plus stock. I was (and am)a Network Solutions customer having used them to acquire several domains.


Shortly thereafter Ireceived the above letter from David L. Brown, head honcho of Web.com. I readit and was about to click on the trash can icon.


I read it again anddecided it broke so many rules of copywriting it deserves a prominent place inthe hierarchy (lowerarchy?) of direct marketing mediocrity. I filed it forfuture use.


AboutSending a Letter

The entire purpose of contactingsomeone at home or in the workplace—either via e-mail, direct mail, FedEx or telemarketing—isto generate a response.


If you get no response, you haven't aclue whether anybody read your message. Whereupon the entire effort was a wasteof time and money.


Here's DavidL. Brown's Preposterous P.S.

This email was sent from a notification-onlyaddress. Please do not reply to this message. For Network Solutions customerservice inquiries, please visit



David L. Brown, CEO of web.com, sent theabove letter to my email address. His computers know my name. Yet hissalutation is the lazy and insulting, "Dear Loyal Customer."


IMO the correct salutation to a strangeris: "Dear Denny Hatch."


Not "Dear Denny." (We've nevermet. Friends and family call me "Denny.")


Not "Dear Mr. Hatch." (It'sdumb to assume gender these days. I know of a woman named Sidney and wellremember the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue.")


Were I known to be an M.D. or Ph.D.,"Dear Dr. Hatch," would be correct.


The Lede

• "The first 10 words are moreimportant than the next ten thousand."
—Elmer "Sizzle" Wheeler.


Here are David L. Brown's first 16words:

Dear Loyal Customer,
I have great news foryou! Network Solutions is now a Web.com company...


The lede of a letter should be an instant stopper that drives you to keep on reading. As founder ofthe newsletter, WHO'S MAILING WHAT! for over 30 years I read roughly1800 mailings a month in 249 categories. Below is my favorite lede for thefour-page masterpiece written by a Franciscan Priest in 1972.


                                                      Friday, 10:40 PM


Dear Friend,


     A ladyshould never get this dirty, she said. 


   She stoodthere with a quiet, proud dignity. She was incomparably dirty -- her faceand hands smeared, her clothes torn and soiled. The lady was 11.
—Fr. Bruce Ritter, Covenant House


Ritter's 4-page, typewriter font letter launchedthe New York City runaway children's shelter that mushroomed into 34 free, saferefuges in cities across six countries that provide food, beds and counselingfor 1.5 million young people a year, victims in the streets of homelessness andtrafficking. The "dirty lady" letter was the control for many years.


"Normally the best lede paragraphfor your letter is buried somewhere in the middle of your first draft copy."
—Pat Friesen


DavidL. Brown's eMail: Visually Cold and Uninviting

Imagine the above letterappearing on your computer screen, iPad or iPhone. It's a forbidding 295-word graywall of type.


"Avoid graywalls of type."
—David Ogilvy


"Short words! Short sentences! Shortparagraphs!"    
 —Andrew J. Byrne


"Typesmaller than 9-point is difficult for most people to read."
—David Ogilvy


Where's David L.Brown's Headline?

"The wickedestof all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline."
—David Ogilvy


"The headlineselects the reader."
—Axel Andersson


"The headline isthe ticket on the meat. Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for thekind of product you are advertising."


"The headline isthe hot pants on the hooker."
—Bill Jayme


On a direct mailletter, the headline can be a powerful teaser on the outside carrier envelope.Or it can be a short boldface attention-getter or a Johnson Box at the top of theletter.


In email, theheadline can be the subject line or an old-fashioned boldface headline atop themessage.


David Brown'sheadline/subject line is ho-hum:
A message from CEO David L. Brown from NetworkSolutions to you


Harry Walsh: About theDirect Marketing Letter

"The tone of a good letter is asdirect and personal as the writer’s skill can make it. Even though it may go tomillions of people, it never orates to a crowd, but rather murmurs into asingle ear. It’s a message from oneletter writer to one letter reader.


"Tell a story if possible. Everybodyloves a good story, be it about Peter Rabbit or King Lear. And the direct responseletter, with its unique person-to-person format—is the perfect vehicle for astory. Stories get read. The letter Iwrote to launch the Cousteau Society twenty-some years ago has survivedhundreds of tests against it. When I last heard, it was still being mailed insome form or other. The original of this direct mail Methuselah started outwith this lede: 'A friend once told me a curious story I would like to sharewith you...' "
—Harry Walsh


Malcolm Decker: Aboutthe Letter

"Theletter is itself is the pen-and-ink embodiment of a salesperson who is speakingpersonally and directly to the prospect on a one-to-one basis. The letteris the most powerful and persuasive selling force in direct marketing, once theproduct, price and offer are set. The writer creates the salesman, usually fromwhole cloth, and you must be certain that this sales representative is trulyrepresentative of your product or service as well as of your company. 


"Theletter is likely to be the only 'person' your market will ever meet—at least onthe front end of the sale—so don’t make him highbrow if your market is lowbrowand vice versa.


"Makesure he speaks your prospect's language. If he’s a Tiffany salesman, he writesin one style; if he’s a grapefruit or pecan farmer or a beef grower, he writesdifferently  (‘Cause he talks diffrunt.) Idevelop as clear a profile of my prospect as the available research offers andthen try to match it up with someone I know and 'put him in a chair' acrossfrom me. Then I write to him more or less conversationally.


"Thesalesperson in the letter is doing the job he obviously loves and is good at. Heknows the product inside and out and is totally confident in and at ease withits values and benefits—even its inconsequential shortcomings—and wants to get theprospect in on a good thing. Here is someone with a sense of rhythm, timing,dramatic effect and possibly even humor—getting attention... piquingcuriosity... holding interest... engaging rationally... anticipating andassuaging doubts... and ultimate winning the confidence (and the signature onthe order) of the prospect. The personal technique is seen most clearly in longletters.


"How long should a letter be? The best-known answer to that age-oldquestion is: 'As long as it has to be.' That doesn’t tell you much, butperhaps it suggests two important criteria: economy and—above all—efficiency. As a sometime angler, I get a bettersense of length by remembering a fishing trip to Maine when we used dry flieswith barbless hooks. Unless you kept up the tension all the way to the net, youlost the trout. Try it.  You should feelthe same sort of tension when you write and when you read a letter.  If not... reel in the slack.


"Whatever your marketing stance, a good designer can help you expressit, and that helps your reader identify you. The objective is individuation—to standout in the increasingly competitive marketplace of the mailbox—so that when itcomes time to toss the me-too mail, yours won’t be part of it.


"The letter MUST be quickly scannable: that is, a reader should getthe gist of the proposition simply by reading the (1) eyebrow, (2) ledeparagraph, (3) crossheads, (4) wrap-up, (5) P.S. If not, send it back for surgery, becausewithout a strongly integrated skeleton, the body of the argument will slump.


"The letter MUST be easy on the eyes, open, inviting and varying inits texture—with normal margins... individual paragraphs with line spacebetween... at least one crosshead or subhead per page (two per page for longletters)... occasional variation in paragraph width... a quotation, underlinedsentence or phrase... numbers or bullets to list benefits... and/or other bitsof “color” to maintain reader interest by promising visual variety. The longerthe letter, the more important these techniques.


"Don'toverlook the color, size and vitality of your signature. Your signature is yourhandshake. Ugly is good. A neat, tidy computer-generated signature font killsbelievability."


"Make surethe right person signs the letter. (e.g., NOT Joan Pendergraft, Executive Assistantto Sid Pulitzer. Obviously Joan did not write the letter, so believability goesout the window.)"


"The lettercan have handwritten notations in the margins, a scrawled P.S or underliningfor emphasis. Make sure the handwritten notations match the handwriting of thesignature."


“Of all the formats used in direct mail, none has more powerto generate action than the letter.”
—Dick Hodgson


Christian Holtz: Characters per Line

"Having the right amount of characters on each line is key to thereadability of your text.It shouldn’t merely be your design that dictates the width ofyour text, it should also be a matter of legibility. . .


"Inorder to avoid the drawbacks of too long and too short lines,but stillenergize your readers and keep them engaged, we suggestkeeping it within the range of 50-75 characters per line."
—ChristianHoltz, Baymard Institute


Walter Weintz: Variations of Direct MarketingCopy
"There are three kinds of copy: you copy; me copy; andit copy.


 "You copy is themost important. It is found in theletter where the writer is talking intimately to you, the reader about you.Your wants, your loves, your wishes, your salvation.


It is found in the circular orbrochure where it—the product or service being sold is described andpictured.


"Me copy turns up in twoplaces.  First of all, you’ll find meon the order form, which is a reprise of the offer in the reader’s own voice.  ('Yes, please send me, the product and charge myVisa. I understand that if at anytime I should become dissatisfied...'


The other occurrence is intestimonials or lift letters.  ('Frankly,I’m puzzled...' or 'I tried this product and I am a true believer.  Here’s my story'...)


"The beauty of direct mail and email isthat it enables the salesperson to use all parts of the English language, plusillustrations, graphs, charts and any other bells and whistles to captureattention and engage a reader."
—Walter Weintz


Note: There ain't nowe copy in direct marketing. Yet David L. Brown uses we seventimes in his letter. We is not I. We is not a real personwriting the letter. We is the impersonal voice of everyone in thecorporation—all those wimps hiding out because they fear being mentioned byname.


The I's Have It.

“The most important word in direct copy is not ‘you’ —as many of the textbooks would have it—but 'I'. What makes a letter seem‘personal’ is not seeing your own name printed dozens of times across the page,or even being battered to death with a never ending attack of ‘you’s.’ It is,rather, the sense that one gets of being in the presence of the writer… that areal person sat down and wrote you a real letter
—Richard Armstrong


"A letter is NOT a monolithic corporationaddressing a computer-generated market profile; it is not impersonal in tone,form or content.

"A letter is NOT a letterhead on top and asignature on the bottom with the most cherished sales pitch of the VP marketingsandwiched in between.

"Direct marketing is not advertising in anenvelope."
—Bob Hacker


The 2 Hotspots in Your Email Inbox:

The From line: If the sender's name or organization isnot recognizeable, chances are an immediate delete.

The Subject line: If the msessage doesn't immediatelygrab attention, chances are an immediate delete.


Try to limit your subject line to no more than 9 words and 60 characters. 

• Many copywriters spend as much time on the subject line/headline as they do on the messages.

• When I send an important email, I always test it by sending it to myself. I wait until a number of emails have come in and then see how my subject line compares to the others. If it doesn't pop, it's back to the drawing board.


The 12 Most Powerful and Evocative words in the EnglishLanguage:

You — Save —Money — Easy — Guarantee — Health — Results — New — Love — Discovery — Proven —Safety
—Goodman Ace


"FREE isa magic word."
—Dick Benson


The7 Key Copy Drivers—the Emotional Hot Buttons That Make People Act:

Fear - Greed- Guilt - Anger - Exclusivity -
Salvation - Flattery
—AxelAndersson, Bob Hacker, Denny Hatch


Takeaways to Consider

• The entire purposeof direct mail or email, as well as advertisements and telemarketing calls—isto change behavior: get a reply, an order, a payment or a donation.


 • It's been a long-held tenet of mine that corporate CEOs should run their correspondence and speeches past the eyes of an experienced copywriter before clicking SEND.




Word Count: 2472





The Most Fun You Can Have
In the English Language
At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press.He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletterand archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 yearshe has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.



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