Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Buggy Whip Industry

Copyright © 2005 By Ray Thomas

You may remember a time when you couldn't open a mail order or other opportunity publication without finding one or more of my articles in it. Then one day, they disappeared, and with a few exceptions occasioned by publishers printing articles they've had in stock for a long time, running the ads that came with them, all of which are now outdated, they haven't returned. There's a good reason for that. It finally came to me that mail order has degenerated to the point where there are very few serious opportunities in the business. It is overwhelmingly filled with illegal pyramid schemes and chain letters masquerading as "opportunities."

When I first got into mail order there were actually real opportunities to be had. I made a lot of money selling American Unifax products, principally a typing ribbon that made an "executive typewriter" out of just any old typewriter, allowing these manual typewriters to put out sharp, black typing that looked almost like typesetting. Also a carbon paper replacement that obsoleted carbon paper where you could buy 20 sheets for about the same as 100 sheets of old-fashioned carbon paper. But the 20 sheets far outperformed the 100 sheets of common carbon paper while giving you a "carbon paper" that put out sharp, black typing, did not "tree" when wadded up, and which you couldn't tear in two with your hands alone and gave you more sharp copies than a box of 100 sheets of carbon paper. It was what I called a "breakthrough product" that obsoleted several industries -- like the automobile obsoleted the buggy-whip industry and ruined the market for horse-drawn carriages.

But with the coming of the home computer and cheap copying, it was, itself, obsoleted. You no longer had to type a sales letter and have it expensively printed at the copy shop. Now you could create a letterhead inside your computer in several colors if you want, use it as a template by simply saving the original file under a new name. That way, you could do the same with a sales letter. Type the letter and make a template out of it, then when your get inquiries to your ads, you simply send a personalized letter in answer instead of a pre-printed, non-personalized sales letter. Just type in the inquirer's name and address, save it under his/her name, and you still have your original template. You can write the letter once, and send it to many people. And if you want to change it a little later on, it's easy (It's a good idea to have a backup copy or two of your original letter in case you forget and save something over it.).

But having my product obsoleted is not why I got out. There were other "breakthrough products" I could market, one being synthetic oil. I got out because I saw the entire opportunity seeker-small mail order business going to the dogs through the proliferation of the "pyramid scheme/chain letter programs" that had no product, only the "opportunity." There was one I call the "four-report scheme," where you had to buy all four "reports," (which usually were one-page reports that taught you nothing but were there only so the originator could say he had a "product" to sell.) one from each participant, with the hope that you could reprint those reports and sell them to new suckers.

I'm still selling through the mail and in person, using my web site and writing articles for another market and allowing them to be published in the same way as I did all over the small mail order market. Instead of the ads they ran in return for my articles selling my product, they only gave a hint of what it was, while directing the reader to my web site, which not only tells the whole story, but also allows them to order product right from the web site and even sign up as a dealer for a real networking program, right from the web site, or from me. My web site is connected directly to my company with a code number to make sure I get credit for my sales and prospects Plus, I get prospects from the company as well. But it's still essentially mail order since those who come to me instead of dealing through the web site must be corresponded with.

I have a letter for each contingency, right in a file in my computer. If you write me asking about my product, you'll get back a personalletter addressed to you by name and address that was computer-generated. Any personal comments and questions would be answered, usually in the first paragraph, which can always be changed easily and that name and address entered in your customer database. The bulk of the letter would be a standard sales letter that looks like a personal letter, but I am able to speak to the writer's personal concerns as well, at the same time.

This is something that has revolutionized my operation, no matter what I'm selling. Even without the web site-supported products, I can still operate this way whenever I have to write the same letter over and over again with little or no change. I don't mind being "computered out" of my profession of billboard pictorial artist because the very computer that ran me out of my 45-year profession opened the door to a new profession: simple web site design. That's in addition to my major product. I'm doing okay without having to advertise in hundreds of small mail order publications. I survived the obsoleting of not only my profession, but of the obsoleting (mostly by me) of my system of operation.

Always look for ways to find something positive in the negatives that come your way. Don't just whine about the way things have gone, just look for other ways that will work for you.

People liked to whine about the "plight of the buggy-whip makers" when the automobile was invented, but it is those who looked for opportunities of which you can take advantage who prosper (such as automobile aftermarket products). Every door that closes causes another one to open. Be sure you're looking for that opening door when bad things happen.


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