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#63 The Most Astounding Sales Letter You Will Ever Read in Your Lifetime
From:
Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, July 23, 2019

 
Issue #62 – Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Posted by Denny Hatch

The Most Astounding Sales Letter
You Will Ever Read in Your Lifetime
Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN (1888-1957)

In 1965 Ernest Frawley, an old friend who was business manager of the Harvard Business Review, called me about an idea the Dean of the Business School had.
     The Dean's idea, to raise funds, was to form the Admiral Byrd Society- selling a trip around the world, including both the North and South Poles and all the continents. This would be the first public trip circling the world north to south rather than east to west. I accepted the challenge even though it was obvious we couldn't possibly make a profit.
     My cynical hindsight tells me the Admiral Byrd Society was born when Ed Bursk and a friend of his who had been with Byrd on one of his polar expeditions were sitting around over drinks, brainstorming for a project for the friend, who needed a job.
     I accepted the challenge even though it was obvious we couldn't possibly make a profit. 
—Dick Benson, Secrets of Successful Direct Mail

The Logical, Traditional Selling Technique: Lead Generation
     Cost of this deluxe month-long adventure travel excursion: $10,000 (the equivalent of $72,720 in 2018 dollars).
     Selling a $72,720 product or service via direct mail (or email or a space ad) absolutely requires a multi-step campaign.
     You start with an irresistible lead generation offer. You never mention price at the start. The entire thrust of the various steps is not to make a sale, but simply get the prospect to say yes to the next step. And the next. For example:
     • If you are selling an automobile, you romance the hell out the car and include a certificate for a free test drive.
     • Selling villas on an Arnold Palmer golf course with membership in the association? Include a certificate for a free round of golf, free night at the local hotel with free dinner, free wine, free breakfast, free camping experience for the kids (while you’re on the golf course) and promise a guided tour. All free. No obligation to buy anything ever.
     • Never - OH NEVER! - mention price until the guy is thoroughly intrigued. (Talk price too early in the sequence, and the goodies pale beside the $72,720 price tag. (“Oh, jeez, I don’t wanna get involved with these people… We’d be in for a hassle.”)

Aarraagh! OMG!
     The total allowable budget for Benson’s direct mail marketing launch effort was a minuscule $5,000 for everything: copywriter’s fee, list rental, envelopes, paper, printing on automatic typewriters, inserting, mailing and First Class Postage (6¢ for each one-ounce piece of mail).  
    That meant no money for testing. No money for multiple steps. No money for glossy photos or a brochure of any kind. No bells and whistles. No fun stuff.
     Benson’s challenge to the copywriter:
Create a letter—little black words on paper—so
powerful, believable and persuasive that 50 people
who never heard of us will sign up for $10,000 a pop
and send a check by return mail for the down payment
of $2,500. Just a letter. No response device because
I frankly don’t know what to use. An order card seems
totally inadequate.

If this mailing did not produce 50 orders for ten grand each—a total of $500,00 revenue to pay for the round-the-world flight and have a nice kitty left over to launch the Society—all bets were off.
     I don’t think anything like this—a letter to strangers from a stranger asking for $10,000 with $2,500 up front—has ever been done before or since.

Daunting List Research


Dick Benson was a curmudgeon. When he called you on the phone, he never said hello—just started talking. When he felt the conversation was over, he did not say good-bye. Just hung up.
     But what a direct marketing wizard and visionary!
     This was not a test. Benson had to get it right the first time. No second chance. After many hours of list research, Benson settled on:
     • Members of the Young Presidents Club.
     • Owners of two-engine private airplanes
     • Arabian horse breeders
     • Owners of boats of 40 feet or longer.

The Key Player Was the Copywriter.
One of the greatest copywriters during those years was Hank Burnett, Dick Benson’s creative chief at the time. How good was Hank? His subscription mailing to 92 thousand names that launched SASSY—a magazine for young teen-age girls—pulled an average of 6.02%, with 5 lists pulling an unbelievable two digits. Hank was the best of the best. If anybody could pull this off, it was Hank.

“The letter is the most powerful selling force in direct
marketing, once the product, price and offer are set.”
                                                     —Malcolm Decker

At the end of this post you will find Hank Burnett’s actual letter—7 pages in plain-Jane typewriter Courier type. It was mailed in a personalized typed envelope and matching salutation on high quality vellum paper.
     Hank slavishly played by these ironclad rules:

“A letter should look and feel like a letter.”—Dick Benson

“Avoid gray walls of type.” —David Ogilvy

“Short words! Short sentences! Short Paragraphs!”Andrew J. Byrne.

“Specifics sell. Generalities do not.” —Andrew J. Byrne

“The seven key copy drivers—the emotional hot buttons that make people act—are:  Fear - Greed - Guilt - Anger - Exclusivity - Salvation – Flattery. If your copy is not dripping with one or more of these, tear it up and start over.”?—Bob Hacker, Axel Andersson

An aside: Marketing guru Axel Andersson once analyzed 1127 direct mail letters selling myriad products and services. He discovered 42% of them were pinned to Flattery. The apotheosis of the Flattering letter was Ed McLean’s 15-year control for NEWSWEEK, which began:

Dear Reader:
         If the list upon which I found your name is any indication, this is not the first -- nor will it be the last -- subscription letter you receive. Quite frankly, your education and income set you apart from the general population and make you a highly-rated prospect for everything from magazines to mutual funds.
         You’ve undoubtedly “heard everything” by now in the way of promises and premiums. I won’t try to top any of them…

An Avalanche of Benefits 
In 7 pages, Hank Burnett piled on an unbelievable array of goodies in short pithy paragraphs that played on: Flattery, Exclusivity, Salvation and Fear. From the Hank Burnett letter:
1. Flattery - You will endure some discomfort and may even face some danger

2. Flattery - You will personally have the chance to help enrich mankind’s fund of knowledge about two of the last earthly frontiers, the polar regions.

3. Flattery - You will become a Founding Trustee of the new Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, sponsor of the expedition.

4. Flattery - Your biography will be recorded in the Center’s archives, available to future historians.

5. Flattery - And your name will be inscribed, with those of the other expedition members, on a bronze memorial tablet.

6. Flattery - You will also be presented with a framed certificate from the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, affirming your appointment as a Founding Trustee and expressing appreciation for your interest in, contributions to and efforts on behalf of the Center and its objectives.

7. Exclusivity - expedition which is destined to make both news and history…

8. Exclusivity - rare privilege of taking part in a mission of great significance for the United States and the entire world. A mission, incidentally, which has never before been attempted by man.

9. Exclusivity - I am inviting you to join a distinguished group of 50 people…

10. Exclusivity - the first commercial flight ever to cross both poles and touch down on all continents.

11. Exclusivity - You and your fellow members will be honored guests (in many cases, even celebrities) at state and diplomatic receptions throughout the itinerary.

12. Exclusivity - meet and talk with some of the world’s important national leaders and public figures, such as Pope Paul VI, the Emperor of Japan, General Carlos Romulo, Joan Miro and many others who are already a part of history.

13. Exclusivity - During our stay [in Rome] we will have a private audience with the Pope.

14. Exclusivity - The highlight of your stopover in Japan will be an opportunity to meet the Emperor and Premier. (Fishing; excursion to Hakone and Atami by bullet train; tea ceremony at private homes.)

15. Exclusivity - General Carlos Romulo, the legendary patriot and statesman, an old friend of Admiral Byrd, will give the expedition a warm welcome in Manila.

16. Exclusivity - Admiral Byrd was the first man to fly over the South Pole. In all of history, probably fewer than 200 men have crossed the pole, by air or otherwise. As a member of this expedition, you will join that select group.

17. Salvation - The flight will be made in a specially outfitted, four-engine commercial jet with lounge-chair-and-table cabin configuration.

18. Salvation - A full flight crew of six will be headed by Captain Hal Neff, former pilot of Air Force One, the Presidential plane.

19. Salvation - Special clothing and equipment, such as Arctic survival gear, will be provided by the expedition and carried aboard the plane.

20. Greed - You will note that here and elsewhere we have prearranged a considerable amount of hunting, fishing, and so on. These activities are optional. (Members of the expedition will be asked to indicate their preferences 30 days before the flight.) For those who do not want to participate in any of these events, there will be sight-seeing, golf and many other things to do.

21. Greed - As mementos of the expedition, you will receive a leather-bound, personalized copy of the log book and a piece of the fabric from Admiral Byrd’s original plane, mounted in crystal.

22. Greed - The price of $10,000 includes food and beverages, all accommodations (the best available under all circumstances) transportation, special clothing, insurance, side excursions – virtually everything except your travel to and from Boston.

23. Fear - But a word of caution: reservations will be accepted in the order received – a total of only 60, including ten standbys. The departure date, remember, is November 8, 1968, so there is little time to waste.

24. Greed - P.S.  We have just made arrangements for a professional camera crew to accompany the flight, and as a result we will be able to provide you with a short film clip and sound tape of your experiences.

Imagine receiving this long letter with all these
goodies and having no idea what the price is…
Your thought process:
      “This sounds fabulous! But could I afford it or is this thing a waste of my time?”
     You start skimming the next 5 pages looking one thing: a dollar sign. On page 7 you discover the price.  Okay, you can afford it. But a rude interruption in the magical spell of being woven in the letter could be a deal killer.
     (In the world of email marketing, all you would need to do is click “Search,” type “$” and you have your answer in a nanosecond—and probably click “DELETE.”

Hank Burnett Broke a Cardinal Rule with 
These Eye-popping First Two Paragraphs:

Dear Mr. Archer:   

      As Chairman of the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, it is my privilege to invite you to become a member of an expedition which is destined to make both news and history.

      It will cost you $10,000 and about 26 days of your time. Frankly, you will endure some discomfort, and may even face some danger.

Wham! The reader is immediately hit between the eyes with the exorbitant price. The reader’s thought process:

     Gee, this letter isn’t going to everybody. They must know I’m special.
     $10,000? I wonder what this is all about…

Results of Hank Burnett’s Letter
The trip was sold out, and by reconfiguring the plane 72 people were able to go. The total promotion costs stayed within the $5,000 budget. In addition, we actually had a small waiting list of people who had signed up to go. The Direct Marketing Association gave us their Gold Mailbox Award for this promotion. I think this mailing was a near-perfect example of proper list research.
     The Admiral Byrd Society mailing was such a breakthrough that I'm reproducing the letter in its entirety:
—Dick Benson, Secrets of Successful Direct Mail

EDITOR                          Please reply to me in care of:
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW         Transpolar Expedition
                                Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center
                                18 Tremont Street
                                Boston, MA 02108

                                   September 3, 1966
                                

Mr. Richard Archer
121 Corlies Avenue
Pelham, N.Y. 10802

Dear Mr. Archer:

      As Chairman of the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, it is my privilege to invite you to become a member of an expedition which is destined to make both news and history.

      It will cost you $10,000 and about 26 days of your time. Frankly, you will endure some discomfort, and may even face some danger.

      On the other hand, you will have the rare privilege of taking part in a mission of great significance for the United States and the entire world. A mission, incidentally, which has never before been attempted by man.

      You will personally harp the chance to help enrich mankind’s fund of knowledge about two of the last earthly frontiers, the polar regions.

      I am inviting you to join a distinguished group of 50 people who will fly around the world longitudinally, over both poles, on an expedition which will commemorate Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s first Antarctic flight in 1929.

      Among the highlights of this transpolar flight – the first commercial flight ever to cross both poles and touch down on all continents – will be stopovers at the American military/scientific bases at Thule, Greenland, and McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

      Because this expedition has the interest and support of much of the Free World, you and your fellow members will be honored guests (in many cases, even celebrities) at state and diplomatic receptions throughout the itinerary.

      You will have the opportunity to meet and talk with some of    the world’s important national leaders and public figures, such as Pope Paul VI, the Emperor of Japan, General Carlos Romulo, Joan Miro and many others who are already a part of history.

      By agreeing to join this expedition, you will, in a sense, establish yourself in history too. For you will become a Founding Trustee of the new Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, sponsor of the expedition.

      Your biography will be recorded in the Center’s archives, available to future historians. The log, photographs and memorabilia

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of the expedition will be permanently displayed in the Center. And your name will be inscribed, with those of the other expedition members, on a bronze memorial tablet.

      Before I continue with the details of the expedition, let me tell you more about the Byrd Polar Center and the reasoning which led to its establishment this summer.

      Located in Boston, home of the late Admiral and point of origin for each of his seven expeditions, this nonprofit institution will house, catalog and preserve the papers and records of both Admiral Byrd and other Arctic and Antarctic explorers.

      But the Center will have a more dynamic function than merely to enshrine the past. It will be a vital, viable organization devoted to furthering peaceful development of the polar regions, particularly Antarctica.

      It will become, in effect, this country’s headquarters for investigation and research into the scientific and commercial development of the poles. The Center will sponsor, support, initiate and conduct studies and expeditions. It will furnish comprehensive data or technical assistance to the United States, or to any university, institution, foundation, business organization or private individual legitimately interested in polar development.

      In other words, the Center has set for itself a course which the Admiral before his death endorsed wholeheartedly. He foresaw that mankind would one day benefit enormously from development of Antarctica’s vast potential. And he perceived that Antarctica’s unique and diverse advantages and resources might best be developed by private capital in a free enterprise context.

      The Byrd Polar Center is dedicated to these objectives. And the essential purpose of this commemorative expedition is to dramatize the role that private enterprise – and private citizens – can play in the opening of these last frontiers.

      At the same time, the expedition should help prove a few other important points. It should demonstrate the feasibility of shrinking the world through longitudinal navigation. It should also help blaze a trail for commercial air travel over the South Pole. Presently, to fly from Chile to Australia, you must go by way of Los Angeles, even though a straight line trans-Antarctic route would be far shorter.

      There is another factor I should mention, one which I think lends a certain urgency to the work of the Center. Development of the polar regions enjoys a high official priority in the Soviet Union – higher, some believe, than in the United States.

      The Center’s activities can provide a tangible, effective complement to those of our own government, and over the long term, contribute meaningfully to preservation of the Arctic and Antarctic regions for peaceful purposes.

      These objectives, I think you will agree, are entirely valid. And important, for the future of humanity. It is for this reason that the inaugural activity of the Byrd Polar Center will be an expedition of such scope and magnitude.

      The expedition will be led by Commander Fred G. Dustin, veteran of six polar expeditions, advisor to Admiral Byrd and one of

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the intrepid group which spent the winter of 1934 in Little America on Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition II. Commander Dustin is a member of the U.S. Antarctica Committee and President of the Byrd Polar Center.

      Considered the ranking American authority on the polar regions, Fred Dustin is probably better qualified to lead this expedition – and brief members on virtually every aspect of the polar regions – than any man on earth. The Center and the expedition are fortunate to have Commander Dustin, as you will discover should you decide to participate.

      The flight will be made in a specially outfitted, four-engine commercial jet with lounge-chair-and-table cabin configuration. A full flight crew of six will be headed by Captain Hal Neff, former pilot of Air Force One, the Presidential plane. Special clothing and equipment, such as Arctic survival gear, will be provided by the expedition and carried aboard the plane.

      The expedition members will meet in Boston on the evening of November 7, 1968, for briefing and a reception and send-off party with the Governor of Massachusetts, Mayor of Boston, local officials and directors of the Byrd Polar Center. Next day, we will take off, head due north from Boston’s Logan International Airport and follow this itinerary (as I have not yet visited all these places myself, I have drawn on the descriptions submitted to me by Commander Dustin and the other experienced people who have planned the expedition):

Thule, Greenland

      Far above the Arctic Circle, past the chill reaches of Baffin Bay, lies desolate Thule, the northernmost U.S. air base. Almost 400 miles further north than the northern tip of Alaska, Thule was originally surveyed as a possible military site by Admiral Byrd and Commander Dustin. Here, in the deepening Arctic winter, you will get your first taste of the rigors of polar existence. You will have the chance to inspect the installation and meet the men for whom Arctic survival is a way of life.

North Pole

      According to those who have crossed the North Pole, you will completely lose your day-night orientation. Sunrise and sunset can occur within minutes of each other, a strange and unforgettable phenomenon. After Thule, you will cross the geographic North Pole, just as Admiral Byrd in his pioneering trans-Arctic flight with Floyd Bennett in 1926. A memorial flag will be dropped.

Anchorage, Alaska

      After crossing the pole, the plane will bank into a 90-degree left turn and head south, over the Arctic Ocean and Beaufort Sea,  
past Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak, and on to Anchorage. There, you will meet the Governor and key officials.

Tokyo, Japan

      The highlight of your stopover in Japan will be an opportunity to meet the Emperor and Premier. (Fishing; excursion to Hakone and Atami by bullet train; tea ceremony at private homes.)

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Manila, Philippines


      General Carlos Romulo, the legendary patriot and statesman, an old friend of Admiral Byrd, will give the expedition a warm welcome in Manila. (Folklore performance; hunting for duck, deer, wild boar and a special species of water buffalo; fishing for tuna and marlin.)

      You will note that here and elsewhere we have prearranged a considerable amount of hunting, fishing, and so on. These activities are optional. (Members of the expedition will be asked to indicate their preferences 30 days before the flight.) For those who do not want to participate in any of these events, there will be sight-seeing, golf and many other things to do.

Darwin, Australia

      Hard by the Timor Sea, tropical Darwin offers some of the world’s most superb beaches. You will have time not only to sample the sand and water sports, but to see Australia’s great outback. With its spectacular chasms, canyons and gorges, the rarely visited outback is a scenic match for our own West.

Sydney, Australia

      You can look forward to an enthusiastic reception in Sydney by the Prime Minister and government officials. For one thing, Australia is on particularly good terms with the United States. For another, Australia has traditionally been in the vanguard of nations involved in Antarctic exploration and development. (Hunting for kangaroo, crocodile, buffalo, wild boar, duck, and geese; or off-shore fishing for rifle fish, salmon, and giant grouper.)

Christchurch, New Zealand

      This is our staging point for the flight to Antarctica, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. Most of the early expeditions departed from New Zealand, and Admiral Byrd is still considered a national hero there. New Zealand is Antarctic-conscious and its people take almost a proprietary interest in the frozen continent. You will be something of a celebrity in New Zealand, and can expect a thoroughly enjoyable visit while the expedition awaits favorable weather reports from McMurdo Sound. (Deer hunting – where deer are so plentiful that they pay a bounty; fishing for all of the great species of – in an area known for the greatest marlin fishing in the world – also Mako shark.)

McMurdo Sound, Antarctica


      I am told that only a total eclipse of the sun is comparable, in emotional impact, to the first sight of Antarctica. Once experienced, neither can be forgotten. If you prove to be like most who have seen Antarctica, you will need somehow, someday, to return. And when you do, the emotional impact will be just as profound. That is what the Antarctic veterans say.

      For Antarctica exists well beyond the boundaries of the world you know. You will see there a sun you have never before seen, breathe air you have never before breathed. You will see menacing


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white mountains towering for thousands of feet over a black ocean in which, with luck, you might survive for 45 seconds. You will see the awesome Ross Ice Shelf, as large as France, with its 50 to 200 foot ice cliffs cleaving the sea for 400 miles. You will see the active volcano, Mt. Erebus, 13,000 feet of fire and ice.

      And you will see the huts, so well preserved they seem to have been inhabited only yesterday, which Shackleton used in 1908 and the ill-fated Scott in 1911. Antarctica, apparently, is not subject to the passage of time as we know it.

      At McMurdo Base, you will meet the military men and scientists who inhabit this strange, alien territory. And you will inhabit it for a while too – long enough to feel its bone-chilling cold, to hear its timeless silence, to perceive, at the very edge of your composure, the terror of its mindless hostility to human beings.

      While you are there, you will learn, as few men have ever had the opportunity to learn, about Antarctica. You will learn about survival, but more important, about what men must accomplish to truly open this formidable frontier.

South Pole

      Admiral Byrd was the first man to fly over the South Pole. In all of history, probably fewer than 200 men have crossed the pole, by air or otherwise. As a member of this expedition, you will join that select group.

Punta Arenas, Chile
 
      From the South Pole, you will fly to Punta Arenas, on the tortuous Strait of Magellan which separates continental South America from bleak Tierra del Fuego. The visit here will be brief, but you should get some idea of the flavor of this nearly forgotten outpost.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


      This memorable stopover will include a diplomatic reception. You will also have a chance to relax and sample the sights and sounds of fabulous Rio. (Special plane to Belo Horizonte for hunting boar, duck, jaguar, panther, water buffalo, crocodile and deer.)

Dakar, Senegal


      You may never have expected to see Dakar, but you will on this expedition. (Tribal dancing; safari.)

Rome, Italy

      No trip would be complete without a stop in Rome, where we will be received enthusiastically. During our stay there we will have a private audience with the Pope.

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London, England

      From London, the expedition will fly back across the Atlantic and terminate with a debriefing, critique and farewell dinner in Boston, on December 3.

      As mementos of the expedition, you will receive a leather-bound, personalized copy of the log book and a piece of the fabric from Admiral Byrd’s original plane, mounted in crystal.

      You will also be presented with a framed certificate from the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, affirming your appointment as a Founding Trustee and expressing appreciation for your interest in, contributions to and efforts on behalf of the Center and its objectives. In the future, you will be kept fully advised of the plans and activities of the Center, and be invited to participate to whatever extent you wish. And of course, you will have lifelong access to the Center’s archives and services.

      Most important, you will take back with you a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The day may come when journeys to and over the poles are commonplace. But today, the privilege is available to very few.

      It is true, I think, that this privilege does carry responsibility with it. By the time you return, you will have received a comprehensive indoctrination course in the polar regions by the world’s leading authorities. Your responsibility will be to make the most of the knowledge you will gain, to become an active advocate – perhaps even a disciple – of polar research and development.

      It is a responsibility which, I trust, will weigh easily upon you. For once the polar air has been absorbed into your bloodstream, there is no cure. Like others who have been stricken, you will probably find yourself reading every word you can find on the North and South Poles. And, most likely, thinking about your next trip.

      But first of all, you must decide about this trip. If you have a sense of adventure, a certain pioneering spirit, and if the prospect of taking part in a mission of worldwide significance and historical importance appeals to you, perhaps you should consider joining the expedition. It is doubtful that you will ever have another chance like this.

      Obviously, you can’t make a decision of this magnitude instantly. But a word of caution: reservations will be accepted in the order received – a total of only 60, including ten standbys. The departure date, remember, is November 8, 1968, so there is little time to waste.

      The price of $10,000 includes food and beverages, all accommodations (the best available under all circumstances) transportation, special clothing, insurance, side excursions – virtually everything except your travel to and from Boston.

      Money received will go into escrow at the United States Trust Company in Boston until the time of the flight. To the extent that 

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revenues from the trip will exceed costs, the activities of the Polar Center will be accelerated.

      To reserve your place in the expedition, just drop me a note on your letterhead or personal stationery, with your deposit check for $2,500, made out to the United States Trust Company. Incidentally, if anything prevents your leaving as planned, you can send another in your place; otherwise, cancellations cannot be accepted later than 30 days before departure.

      If you have further questions, please write to me in care of the Trans-polar Expedition, Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, 18 Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02108.

      I hope we may hear from you soon – and that we will welcome you to the expedition.

                          Sincerely yours,

                          Edward C. Bursk

ECB:EHK

P.S. We have just made arrangements for a professional camera crew to accompany the flight, and as a result we will be able to provide you with a short film clip and sound tape of your experiences.

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Word Count: 4821
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! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he 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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Denny Hatch
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dennyhatch@yahoo.com

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