Jack Reed of Real Estate Investment Monthly probably sets the record for number of marketing and customer customs he proudly flaunts.
* At this point, after 22 years, he does no marketing. Prospects have to find him at his website where he tells them that if his price of $125 for the monthly seems high, they shouldn't be subscribing.
"I'm not going to beg them to take the damn thing."
* Through the website you can place an order only through Visa or MasterCard. "If you send me a check, I'll shred it. They have to fill in all the numbers and get the authorization. If they can't get it, I never have to hear from them.
"People say, 'I don't have a credit card,' I say, 'Get one.' Or, 'I'm not computer literate.' I tell them, 'You need to be.'"
* He doesn't believe in customer service. If subscribers complain, he "fires" them and returns their money. "People who take up your time are not profitable. I don't need them."
The birth of a real estate reporter
Now, after pausing a moment to collectively exhale and think, "Wouldn't it be nice to run my business that way," let's go back to the beginning and see how Jack Reed came to this point.
After graduating from West Point and military service, he began working for an MBA at Harvard. The summer after his first year he got a job writing stories for a real estate newsletter. "The publisher was a Harvard MBA and he wanted to use summer interns," Jack says.
"This was great," he thought, "I write stuff and people send money. They asked me back. I think the plan was to use interns regularly, but they got architects who wanted to write about design and lawyers who wrote about deed restrictions and easements.
"Eventually I stayed nine years with the Real Estate Investment Letter, published by Harcourt Brace until they sold it out from under me. RIA was the buyer and I was willing to go along, but that deal fell through and by the time they found another buyer, I decided the hell with it and launched my own newsletter. I had borrowed an idea from J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax--postcard inserts offering updates. Eventually I had 9,000 unique names and I used those for my launch."
Learning to be an editor
"The most difficult thing about publishing my own newsletter was that I had to learn how to make things 'fit.' Before I had just written articles. I had to learn how to make them end at the bottom of the page.
"Over the years I've had a lot of competitors. I've acquired several and some just left the field. It takes a level of intellectual stamina to write a newsletter issue after issue and many just don't have it.
"Through the years I calculate that I've written more than 5,000 articles and, counting all the editions, about 70 books. No teacher--not in high school, college or grad school--ever told me I was good writer. Not one. My friends and relatives did."
"I never did much marketing. I used to mail a catalog. It took about a month of everyone's time and effort to get it into the mail. Now I do zero. People used to laugh and point at me, but they are just about all gone and I'm still here.
"Everything now comes through the website. I think my site is in the top 100,000 of 100,000,000 existing."
"In the old pre-internet days I'd sell a book and often the buyer would return and buy the newsletter. Now, through the website, I find we sometimes get initial orders for $400.
"The materials that I provide free on the website have replaced that initial small purchase as my introduction to new customers."
I count about 40 articles available on the website. Jack also publishes his candid evaluations of other real estate investment "gurus" (there appear to be an astonishing number), and he lists information about every real estate investment he has ever made--plus a page of his commentary on news items unrelated to real estate that interest him.
Jack has published 13 titles on real estate investment, newer and updated editions from earlier works (the only way new readers can get access to past articles from the newsletter), titles on success, and a how-to-self-publish a how-to book.
The surprise in his book stable is the offering of eight titles on sports coaching. The newest is Coaching Freshman and High School Junior Varsity Football (June 2007). "There wasn't anything available for this market. The coaching market is a very low pyramid. You can write for the highest level, the NFL, and have a potential market of 32 copies."
Books on coaching sports?
So, how did Jack wander onto the field of dreams? "My oldest son began playing in little league. I only planned to be a dad in the stands but the coaching was just awful. I estimate 98 percent of youth coaches are inept and about 75 percent actually make their teams play worse. I've never been a coach but I have common sense."
In keeping with his usual m.o., Reed's books are only available directly from him, "Not Amazon, Barnes & Noble nor any of those guys.
"I dealt with bookstores for about 20 years. They can be arrogant and sometimes outrageous and I finally told them to go to hell. My first year as totally independent, profits from books went up 257 percent.
"Actually, once you're established, newsletters are a fairly simple business. I do all the writing. We use Yahoo Store and Filemaker. I've been with Omniprint forever. My wife retired this past January and has taken over administration; she's probably better at 'customer service' than I," Jack said with little risk of overstatement.
Asked about his plans for the future, Jack said, "Have you read the book The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki (2004)? The thesis is that a group reaching a consensus will make better decisions than any individual.
"It reminded me of my days at Harvard. I'd work on a case-study assignment and identify what I thought were the key points but then, in my study group with five or six others, I'd find they might have missed something of mine but had viewpoints I hadn't seen. We'd get to class with 85 points, and that process repeated itself.
"I don't know where the practical limit is, but I may try it with the newsletter. Fire out an RSS to say, 'I'm thinking about working on this ...' and see what comes back."
John T. Reed, 342 Bryan Drive, Alamo, CA 94507, 925-820-7262, firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Title Annotation:||Publisher Profile|
|Publication:||The Newsletter on Newsletters|
|Date:||Sep 14, 2007|
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