If You’re Lucky Enough To Be In The Company Of A Successful Businessman, Ask Questions – And Learn

I recently had lunch with Ted Nicholas, the advertising guru and “self-made millionaire” – not very impressive by today’s standards. Still, he leads an enviable life. Married to a beautiful, intelligent, younger woman, he lives in Switzerland and Florida, travels extensively, plays top-level tennis, and works when he wants and as much as he wants. He was in my neck of the woods (southern Florida) for business. We met to “catch up.”

The conversation started small – how’s the family, nice weather, what about those Yankees and so on – but that didn’’t last long. Ted wanted to know about me. What was I doing? What new projects was I involved in? What new marketing tests had I observed? It occurred to me that this habit was one of Ted’s success secrets.

A Conversational Trick That I Promised Myself I’’d Practice More Often

If you are lucky enough to be in the company of a successful businessman, why waste your precious time talking about baseball . . . or worse, yourself? Why not take advantage of the situation and ask a few questions? Here’’s what will happen if you do: First, you will be surprised at how forthcoming your conversation partner is. As Dale Carnegie pointed out so many years ago, there is nothing that distinguishes the great conversationalist more than curiosity.

Second, you will be astonished by how much you learn. People will tell you the most amazing things – sometimes even their most valuable secrets – if you let them. I’’m From New York, So I Don’’t Ask Questions Very Well

New Yorkers are an interesting lot, a colorful and opinionated people. You can take us anywhere and we have no trouble getting a table in a restaurant or asking for a refund. But don’’t drop us off in a strange neighborhood. We’’ll be lost forever. For a New Yorker, asking directions . . . in fact asking anything . . . is tantamount to admitting inferiority. So it’s not easy for me to ask questions, particularly of someone I consider my competitor. But when I realized how much good information Ted was getting from me, I forced the conversation back to him, his business and his business ideas.

Here are a few things I learned:

1. Ted is a big believer in what we call in direct marketing “the back end.” Most companies, he correctly points out, spend most of their time and money on acquiring customers and then neglect (and disappoint) them thereafter. (Just yesterday MN, CFO at API, told me about a business we are looking to acquire. This is a multimillion-dollar, celebrity-based diet program. The guy who was running it had – literally – no back end working at all! No wonder they were selling.)

2. Smart companies realize that the new customer, properly treated, is a source of income for life. Rather than ignore him, you should “astonish” him with attention. He provided one good example: he likes to give new mail order information buyers a free, unexpected book along with a short thank you note sometime during the first week after they buy. He tells them he appreciates their business and that he hopes the book is helpful.

3. Ted has found that since he “retired,” he makes plenty of money, all the money he needs, without working so hard. He recommends selective working – picking and choosing the work you do and the people you do it with. I know this sounds like “Advice from a Rich Guy,” but I believe it’s profoundly true.

Ted Got All Kinds Of Information From Me

I told Ted how all my businesses are doing. I told him about my new projects, even revealed to him my theories about which are going to work very well and why. “This is information I shouldn’’t be telling him,” I thought to myself as I talked on. I told him I was looking at the purchase of a list management company in New York . . . I even told him where it is located . . . He’’s probably making a counterbid as I write this. I told him about a hush-hush public offering I’m marginally involved with, one that could make a lot of money.

Yeah, Ted got a lot of good stuff from me. But I’’m happy to have shared. In the long run we will both profit from the exchange. Some day in the future I want to talk about why hiding your secrets – even from your competitors – is a bad idea. I’’ve promised myself to leave my New York smugness in New York and ask more questions – especially when I’’m in the presence of someone I can learn from.

A Classic Direct Mail Promotion: This One You Can Learn Wonders From

The original promotion for the now famous Neotech success program is a masterpiece of promise and imprecision. The claim is nothing less than the discovery of “a new field of knowledge” where any person can “prosper monetarily, personally, romantically and financially anywhere in the world – even during personal or financial hard times, inflation, boomtimes, recession, depression, war.” It promises everything, but reveals nothing. It is marvelous to read, and well worth the trouble.

This wacky sales letter has generated tens of millions of dollars in sales over a period of more than ten years. It is a prototype of a certain type of income opportunity offer that has been repeated hundreds of times, but never in such an unfettered way. It is also distinguished by its use of some selling techniques seldom used before its introduction to the marketplace almost a decade ago. These include the pseudo interview, the illogical contrasting charts, the apocryphal diary, the cornucopia of testimonials, the anti-media disclaimer – and one of the most unusual and clever lift notes I’’ve ever seen.

One of these days soon, I’’ll analyze this amazing and amusing promotion. It’’s the 6×9 “NTP News Report” that begins “The Most Important Money/Power/Romantic Love Discovery since the Industrial Revolution.” If you’d like a copy of it, send us an e-mail with your mailing address and we’ll send it to you. Sorry, it isn’’t available electronically.


[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]