When marketing guru Dan Kennedy was in debt and collections agencies were chasing him, they did something interesting…

This was long before he was the marketing guru we know today.

He was a struggling entrepreneur, in a little over his head, and trying to make things work.  But in the process of trying to get ahead, he was behind on a few payments.

And the collections agencies were doing exactly what they’d discovered works time and time again to get money out of people who supposedly have none.

— They sent him a letter.

— Then, when that didn’t make him pay, they send him a second notice.  It clearly referred to the fact that this was NOT the first time they were getting in touch.  And restated their case.

— Then, they sent him another letter — stamped FINAL NOTICE across the top.

The first letter had been straightforward.  They made their case.  They were kind.  They asked for payment.  The second letter was forgiving, but more urgent.  And the third was the most urgent of all, demanding response.

This has a name.  In collections, this is called The Dunning Sequence.  That name simply describes the methodical process of communicating with customers to ensure the collection of money owed.

As Wikipedia explains, “communications progress from gentle reminders to threatening letters and phone calls and more or less intimidating location visits as accounts become more overdue.”

This has long been a “best practice” in collecting debt…

Exactly how long it’s existed in various media — such as direct mail — I’m not sure.  But its name comes from the 17th Century verb “dun,” which means to demand payment of debt.  So it’s likely that variations on this go back centuries.

Well, Dan had an idea.  He figured that if this worked to get money out of people who had none, for products and services they’d already used…

MAYBE, just maybe, he could model a series of marketing letters on this process, sent to people who have money, for products and services they had yet to benefit from.

And so, he tried it.

He tells the story in his original Magnetic Marketing and in his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter.

Instead of sending a single sales message and hoping the prospect will see it, much less respond to it…

Create a series of sales letters that become impossible to ignore, with your demands for response growing more urgent through the series.

This flies in the face of common assumptions…

“My prospect will make their decision on the first message — I don’t need to send it again and again.”

“I don’t want to annoy them or be too aggressive.”

“What works in debt collection is not right for what works in marketing.”

Blah, blah, blah.

He tested it.  He tried it.

And you probably know what happened, because otherwise I wouldn’t be telling this story.

It worked!

Sending out three separate letters generated more revenue and profits than sending out one alone.

Now, each letter is almost never EQUALLY profitable.

Sometimes the first is the most profitable.  Sometimes the last.

But the point is that the system works.

Send more messages.  In a planned sequence.  Designed to repeat your message and increase urgency for response.

The net result is pretty much always that doing it this way leads to more money in the bank, in the end, than a single-shot or even simply sending the same message multiple times.

There’s even a REALLY LAZY way to do this.  Send the same letter.  But stamp SECOND NOTICE on the second send, and FINAL NOTICE on the last.  (This is part of what we did when I sold more than $1 million worth of back-up solar generators.)

Often times, even that alone will do it.

This has continued to evolve…

Have you ever heard of an email autoresponder?

This is nothing more than Dan’s multi-step follow-up sequence, in the medium of email.

Have you ever heard of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula?  It’s simply an implementation of the same principles.

Create a CAMPAIGN instead of a single shot.

Give it a deadline.

Create a series of communications that go out, through time, growing more urgent as the deadline approaches.

Embrace this idea that your prospect MUST respond, and let each communication grow more urgent.

Frank Kern’s 4-Day Cash Machine was also yet another variation on this.

As was Ryan Deiss’s 3-part Gain, Logic, Fear email campaign.

And frankly, Dan could’ve seen it in marketing elsewhere, even before his fabled run-in with the debt collector.

In fact, I just searched through the pages of The Robert Collier Letter Book, written by one of the most successful direct mail copywriters around the time of The Great Depression.

And — surprise, surprise — even Robert Collier himself was using this principle.  In describing a campaign for “The Harvard Classics,” Collier describes a 5-letter sequence sent to prospects, with explicit results.

— 4.5% from the first letter…

— 2.5% from the second…

— 1.5% from the third…

— 1% from the fourth…

— And 2% from the fifth and final letter…

In total, about 11% of prospects who went into the front-end of this sequence bought — more than double the numbers of who responded to the first letter.

In fact, The Robert Collier Letter Book is chock-full of references to series of letters with increasing urgency that sold well — up to and including the “final notice” letters.

In one example, he describes how even with the final letter, they were getting $39 sales at a cost of $2 per sale.

This is an easy way to make money — for yourself and for clients…

I love campaigns.  I wish my clients — who love those one-shot sales letters for converting cold traffic — would use them more.

When you create a campaign, it can easily take a moderately-successful sales message, and turn it into a much bigger winner.

It’s a way to “cheat,” of sorts.  You don’t have to do a ton of extra work to make your marketing more effective.  You simply create a series of similar messages that shift from selling on the benefits of the product, to selling on the urgency of the deadline.

You can adapt the strategy to any media.  You can even use this for phone scripts for telemarketing follow-up.

The power is in the principle — not the tactical implementation.

You simply find a way to turn your selling message into a coordinated sequence of messages, following this general trajectory.

One more forward-thinking way to do this…


You don’t even need people to be on your list.

You simply need them to engage with your marketing in some way.

Maybe they watch a video of yours on Facebook.  Maybe they visit your website.  Maybe they engage with you in some other platform-supported way that allows you to then target your paid advertising at them again.

Once they do that, create a series of ads using the principles I’ve explained here.

You could do a weekly or monthly campaign, where you run ads to a specific dated deadline.  And rotate the ads through the month to convey this same urgency.

Facebook even allows you to create a series of up to 50 ads to be shown consecutively to prospects.  Which you could implement using these principles.

Again, it’s all about using the media available to you, following this proven principle.

This has been creating breakthrough after breakthrough in marketing response.

How will YOU use it to create your own breakthroughs?

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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