Hi. Welcome to the More Cheese Less Whiskers Podcast. Today we're going to be hatching some evil schemes with Craig Olson. Craig is a rare book dealer in Maine and I was opening up the call with him I kind of felt like I should be hearing some Masterpiece Theatre music in the background and be in a wood panelled library in a smoking jacket preparing for this episode.
Craig has a really cool business that serves a very niche market. We talked a lot about target markets. We talked about the opportunities that he has in the way he communicates with his group of 1900 email subscribers and the opportunity he has in ramping up the communication with those people.
We also talked about some of concepts we've used very successfully with email using a super signature in the email he sends out, giving people an inside look into what it's like to actually be a rare and antique book dealer.
He's got a pretty neat business. I'm excited to let you hear how we hatch some evil schemes for him today.
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Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 015
Dean: Craig Olson.
Craig: Hello. Good morning.
Dean: How are you?
Craig: I'm well. How are you?
Dean: I'm good. I feel like we should be playing some masterpiece theater music, and I've got my coffee, and I am sitting in my reading room which is all true.
Craig: Yeah, with your velvet smoking jacket, correct?
Dean: Exactly. There we go. I'm a little disappointed that you don’t have a British accent though to be honest. That was my whole picture of this.
Craig: No, I try. I am lucky enough to live on the little island off the coast of Maine but I don’t have that.
Dean: Awesome. Tell me about Craig Olson and about your business.
Craig: It’s a fascinating business. I've been doing this for about 12 years, selling books. Really selling high end rare books for probably the last six years but this is what I want to call my third career. I started out in an odd way with a degree in Criminal Justice of all things. I was an investigator. I guess, it all comes back to research. Then, I stumbled into the world of history museums and went to graduate school for history museums. I became a museum director, mostly in the midwest where I grew up. Then, made a U turn around 2001, and ended up in Maine, and have built up a rare book business because, I guess, it comes down to I like information, I like learning about things but …
Dean: Yeah, I can see the difference. The criminal justice. Fact finding is really what it is, right? You're looking for clues and all that stuff.
Craig: Yeah, and it’s so rich and that’s what’s so much fun.
Dean: How long have you been doing the antique book business?
Craig: Really since 2004. Then, the really high end …
Dean: It’s pretty mature.
Craig: Yeah. It’s been 12 years. Then, the high end rare books, probably the last six or seven years.
Dean: What kind of process? How does it work right now? If you were narrating how the business works in terms of your before unit, your during unit, your after unit thing, how would you describe how it works right now?
Craig: Right now, the before unit for me, it’s interesting. I live in a small community but we have a large summer population, books from New York, Boston, Washington DC. What’s happened is I become their go-to person for rare books, gifts, and things like that. Right now, the before is really getting the information out there to that community. I also have an email list that’s not huge, people who have bought from me online and all of that that I actually give information out to. We have that.
Dean: I got you.
Dean: When you look at the people that you have right now, do you have a lot of regular clients that will continue to buy, build their collections with you, come back again and again?
Craig: I have a couple but it’s somewhat sporadic. I have a few people that I've worked with over the years building different collections but it’s interesting. I don’t know. In the world of collecting, people’s taste can change. They can be all over collecting books on Nathaniel Hawthorne, or maritime subjects, or something like that. They get to a point, they complete that collection, and sometimes, they’ll sell the collection, and they’ll just move on.
Dean: I am sure.
Craig: What’s interesting that I find that the book collectors are in aging population. It’s an elderly population but we don’t seem to be replacing them with many new or young book collectors. Young means anybody from about 30 to 50 in this business. What I'm seeing quite frankly are some of my better clients dropping off for various reasons and we're not replacing with new younger clients. I think a lot of that has to do with not just electronic books but people’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be, I don’t think, and they're looking at lots of different things. What I want to do is get myself positioned in such a way that they begin to think about rare books or creating a legacy for their family, or heirlooms for their children, but they necessarily don’t have the time to sit down and do it, and I can help them with that.
Dean: Wow. I'm fascinated by this whole business because it’s new to me, but I love the shot of seeing how parallel other business is. When I look at this, I think about the parallel to it. Where does antique and rare book collections fit in the world of, say, compared to art, or compared to coins, or compared to other collectibles?
Craig: That’s a good question. It probably fit between coins and art and that it’s something I tend to see. I don’t see people being as obsessed about their collections. If they're art collectors, they’re very interested in their art. They know their artists and things like that but I think with books, people get pretty obsessive. I sold some material to a person once of Mark Twain. One of his first stories is published in a magazine in 1850. They bought it because they were a completist. That meant they collect every single thing that Mark Twain ever published and be a bit obsessive.
I find with my clients is that they have an interest spark in a certain area and they begin to pursue it. Sometimes, they’ll go down other avenues. They're going there but as far as collecting and how it compares, it probably compares more closely with antiques in particular and decorative arts than it does with art. I think it probably falls between antiques and art in that area.
Dean: I got you. Do you have a sense of what the average client will spend on their book collection? I am curious about how the economics of the business works for you.
Craig: I had one client who was just trying to slowly build a collection of items relating to polar exploration, both the South Pole and North Pole. He was averaging out $1500 to $2500 per month. The hard part about the business is that nobody seems to be consistent. Now, I've had somebody who I could sell a $100 book on my website today. Tomorrow, somebody could order one for $3000. You just don’t know. One of the reasons that I wanted to speak with you is to figure out what ways there might be to even that out and make it more of a recurring income every month, or over a quarter, or something like that. It’s up in there. I could have somebody call me up and say, “I found this book on your website. It’s $6000. Can you ship it to me to London?” You never know.
Dean: Yeah, you never know. It’s interesting. I have a friend who owns a pen and paper store in Toronto. It’s in a very high rent area. You would never think that they could make a lot of money selling pens, and paper, and diaries, and that kind of thing, but he said what really drives that business is about once or twice a month, somebody will come in and buy four or six Aurora pens or some similar $3000 to $5000 or more-dollar pen to commemorate a big contract signing, or a merger, or something like that. The retail business is not what drives it. It’s the big item type of thing that drives it.
Craig: Right, and that’s what I will have here. I have somebody who is looking for something for not necessarily a high school graduation but maybe a law school graduation or somebody getting married. A lot of my clients who are purchasing these books, they have everything they need. These are not necessities for them. What they want is more of a unique item that’s going to stand out amongst all the other things that are given and something that will last over time. It’s interesting. if I have a unique ability, it seems to be my way to get into somebody’s head and pick the right book for them.
Dean: For that, I got you.
Craig: Yeah, and that’s just from knowing how to read people, and knowing books, and knowing how to answer their history, and all of those.
Dean: Yeah. Let me look at some of the assets that you have here. How many clients would you have that have purchased books from you?
Craig: Gosh. Probably, a couple of thousand I would expect. That’s everything from somebody who’s purchased a $6000 to $1000 book to somebody who’s purchased something from $25 online.
Dean: Sure, perfect. How many of those would you have their contact information that you could right now …
Craig: As far as, say, email list or some things like that?
Craig: I've got them broken out. My high-end clients are probably about 307 of those. My general overall clients, probably a thousand.
Dean: Those are all people who have already bought books from you?
Dean: What we would call your after unit. How much of your business comes from your after unit? From people who purchased again and again?
Craig: That’s a good question. I would say probably 50%. I’d say because I do have some recurring clients and they're not predictable but, often times, I would have sold them something else, and all of a sudden, something will pop up and they’ll grab it.
Dean: I got you, okay. One metric that I would be very interested in tracking and being aware of here is what we call your return on relationship. Every business is different in the way that we calculate that number because some businesses are transactional. There’s no delay for necessary for somebody to be a return client of yours. They could buy a book this week, and they could buy one next week, next week, and forever unlike, say, somebody buying a house. It’s going to be maybe five to seven years before they do that again. You’ve got whatever they felt like it, they could buy additional books from you. That’s an advantage.
What I would look at is, first of all, calculating, getting an awareness of what that number is for you. If you say that you’ve got 2000 people in your after unit but you’ve got 1375 or 1500 of them that you could communicate with, it will be very valuable to see over the last 12 months how many of the people who are in your family there, kind of thing, you're the incumbent book dealer and how many of them actually purchased additional books with you over the last 12 months. You get a number that would be a number of people relative to the number of the list. If you had 150 of the 1500 people bought another book from you this year, that would be 10% of the people. It would be that return on relationship. The other number would also then be the monetary value of that so you can see the value of your after unit.
If you had to guess, it sounds like that’s not maybe a number that you consciously track although you could discover what it is.
Craig: Yeah, I could tease it out. it wouldn’t be a simple two or three clicks of a mouse but I am sure I could tease it out.
Dean: Exactly, especially for an investigator like you. That’s really what this is. That’s the way I look at it. I am an investigator in that way too, looking for the clues here. I suspect that this is a big opportunity for you in your after unit. How often do you communicate with your after unit?
Craig: At this point, I usually have an email that goes out every Friday morning and it, generally, is offering something within the collection with a piece of my inventory with an explanation, and sit me at the front of their mind when they're thinking about books. For the shelter rate, those aren’t huge but every once in a while, a larger item will go, but it keeps people in mind and I will have people come back and say, two months later, “Did you sell that Winston Churchill set because I am interested in it if you still have it,” and we’ll deal at that point.
Dean: Right. Yes, I love it. Do you also have people sell their books to you? Are you a buyer as well?
Craig: I do. I do buy and I also take things on consignment. If I don’t have the cash flow at the time to purchase a collection or purchase books outright, I do a consignment with clients. I get fabulous things that I necessarily don’t have to pay for until I sell it. That’s nice. One of those things that’s been beneficial for the business is that with the location of where we are, this large summer community, people have libraries that they’ve accumulated, or that they’ve inherited, or in process when they bought their summer house, it came furnished with a library. They don’t care, they don’t know, they're moving on, and so a lot of opportunities to buy books and that’s how.
Dean: It seems like you're in a hotspot for the northeast themes. That would be where most of the antique books would reside. Is that fair to say?
Craig: That would be fair, much greater than in the midwest where I grew up but there are some very big collectors in Chicago, Minneapolis, and all areas like that, St. Louis, but there’s a very heavy concentration here. The thing about what I find with the books here is that I am walking into multigenerational libraries, things that definitely have had and it worked out. It’s not necessarily somebody sat down and created a location, and then moved on. These are things that have simply accumulated for people over the years. Often times, they really don’t know what they have. I've offered this service where I go in and do assessment for them and tell them what they have so they can make better choices.
Dean: That’s the service that you were writing me about is doing the assessment for them to have a start to helping them understand what they’ve got and what their options are. Would that be something where you would help them sell it or?
Craig: It is. I've done that. I've done, I think, it was almost half a dozen, a little bit more than that where I've gone and I do an assessment of the collection. Their assessment is different from an appraisal. An appraisal is something where you're doing for an estate or you're doing it for insurance purposes, and what a willing buyer would pay to a seller for a lot or for a book. What I go in and do is I go and review the entire library that they have. Libraries sometimes sounds like a highfalutin word but it’s just their collection of books that they have.
I’ll go through it. Then, I can do probably about 750 books in a day doing a review. I've seen so many tens of thousands of books in my life that I can just go through a shelf and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then, I pull the ones that I feel that are significant, do additional research on them. For me, for a day on site, it takes me about two days at my desk to generate a report, pull my notes together, and then also come up with an inventory for the client.
What I am bringing forward to them then is a report saying, “This is the type of library you have. These are some things that you should be looking about as far as care and preservation. These are some highly significant items in this collection that you should probably think a little bit about.” Then, I also give them an entire inventory in an Excel Spreadsheet giving the title, the name, and all of this, and the retail value at the time that I did it. That’s the retail value. If you had to go out and replace that copy of T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, this is what you would pay.
Dean: I got you.
Craig: What we do get in an estate are how you pay taxes on it, but what you would pay if you need to replace it because I have done appraisals where people have come back, and have done the appraisal, and they said, “Gosh, if I've known it was worth that much, I would have given it to my grandson because he’s interested in ships instead of now having to pay a tax on it.” They have looked at that. Quite frankly, a lot of instances, people, it’s not that they don’t care but they're not interested in the books that are high value and some points, they have actually taken them to auction or sold them just because why not have somebody else enjoy them.
Dean: I wonder if that would be a really interesting opportunity for you in your Friday emails or as part of it. What I thought was doing something like the antique road show type of situation where people could send in a video or how people could say they're either curious about this book and you could do as it might be an interesting thing to select a couple of the more interesting books that people have and do the story of them or your assessment of it.
Craig: Yeah, that’s a great idea because I have …
Dean: Almost like a podcast type of situation. I can imagine. I think it will probably be more suited for a video type of podcast.
Craig: Yeah, I think you're right.
Dean: Do you have a nice setting? I imagine with the shelves. Are you familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk? Do you know?
Dean: When Gary was doing Wine Library TV. I think that your personality and approach to the show would be very different but the mechanics of it would be very similar.
Craig: Yeah, I think it would be pretty easy to do once you set up a camera because I can just remember seeing him doing that with his jet climb.
Dean: That’s it, exactly. That was the whole thing but I imagine you, with your book shelf. When you say a rare and antique book dealer, that’s a tone with paneled libraries and all that stuff. I imagine that if you have a shop on an island in Maine that you probably have somewhere a nice wall or a nice setting. That would be perfect that.
Craig: I do. I have what we call my Wall of Bling. It’s all nice leather bounds. It’s not necessarily perfect but they are pretty.
Dean: I think that might be a really interesting approach there to not only create interesting content but to perhaps draw out people who are curious about their collection but not maybe committed enough to get the whole … Having an assessment, it sounds like a big commitment. It sounds like there’s a lot of work in that. I am not sure because I don’t know what the value of some these books are and I wouldn’t want to have you come out, and do this, and then find out there’s virtually no value in these books. Do you know what I mean?
Craig: I think yeah. We usually have a conversation either often times, folks will send me photographs or if it’s somewhat nearby, I’ll go do an initial and just look through. I've turned things down. I have told people, “You don’t really need it. Not to denigrate what you have but you really don’t have the level that would need something like this done. I could certainly help you find the highs and the lows.”
I've done a little bit of that with people and I call it assessment light where I actually go in with them, and I pretty much go through their collection, and say, “Yeah, nope, nope, nope.” Then, I've helped them put things in boxes and say, “This goes to Good Will, and this could go to your local library, and this is something you should think about to give your family, or if you ever want to sell it, you might talk to a dealer.” We call that assessment light. You don’t get an inventory but I help you make decisions that people just get locked up and can’t make because they, out of ignorance, just don’t know.
Dean: Yes. I think a couple of things that might happen from that would be that somebody might start to dip their toe in the water that way by sending in to you a picture or a description of one of the books in their collection that they think or suspect might be the crown jewel of the collection. I imagine that that would be the thing, right? People, of all of their books, they might think or suspect that this is the one that’s the valuable one. Am I right in that?
Craig: You're right. It’s usually not the case. It’s usually another one that’s lurking nearby.
Dean: Right, exactly. Very interesting. The one that maybe looks the old and first edition or whatever, but then, next shelf over, here’s the one.
Craig: Exactly. I had that situation occur with probably the most expensive books so far that I've sold and it was bound in with a scholarly journal from 1776.
Craig: It was the first treatment on how to treat scurvy that Captain Cook had written about. Then, the man had written a 42-page pamphlet on the treatment of scurvy.
Dean: What his method to put a lime in your beer.
Craig: Pretty much and lots of wine. It was bound into the scholarly journal because this organization called the Royal Society of London which published these philosophical transactions and still do it. They were the leading scientific channel. They published it and Cook had published a letter in this journal that same year. Then, this man followed up. Pringle followed up and wrote a treatment on it, 42 pages. There it was in the back. Things weren’t setting up. I was counting the page because we do what we call collating, checking the pages making sure the book is complete. I was like, “This odd, this extra thing.” I looked at it, and looked at him, and we sold it for $20,000.
Dean: Wow, that’s awesome.
Craig: I think it probably sold. Ultimately, it was in a few months to somebody for $30,000 to $40,000.
Dean: Wow, that’s great.
Craig: You never know what you're going to find and you never know what’s going to walk in the door.
Dean: Right, it sounds like …
Craig: I think I can put that through in some type of video or blog, or something like that that …
Dean: I think there’s the thing where you present that there’s the opportunity for somebody to start the conversation. Start it. Yet, you're doing something. It’s creating something that is valuable as entertainment or as interesting content for people who are book lovers. That might be a neat opportunity to start the conversation with that. I meant to ask about the 1300 or so people with contact information that you have. Do you have in your before unit a list of prospects who have not bought anything yet or?
Craig: Yes, a few. Those would be names and addresses I've picked up. I do exhibit rare book fairs. Somebody might get interested in getting our mailing list and I probably have a couple of hundred people who have not purchased things from me or just in the day-to-day.
Dean: Okay, great. When you look at this, would you say, where does the other … If you estimated that maybe 50% of your business comes from your after unit, where does the other 50% come from? How do people find you? Do you have any predictable engine that?
Craig: Not really. They're finding me through the internet. Mostly of this sell online through all the rare book sites and Amazon. They're coming in that way. Often times, I’ll capture somebody who bought a $25 book will later on buy a $500 book.
Dean: Right, exactly.
Craig: Once they're in the door, they're aware. Then, they're then getting my regular emails. Once they bought from me online, they're getting my regular emails. Probably 25% come back, I would think as a cold call type of client in a reverse and that they’ve given me their information, and then eventually, they do buy something.
Dean: A lot of these things is your listing each of your books individually.
Craig: Right, that’s how.
Dean: You're consciously going through the …
Craig: We have probably about, I don’t know, 5500 books online that run the gamut from a $10 book to something for $50,000.
Dean: I got you, okay.
Craig: We’re very much a general rare book seller. I have some special areas that I know a lot about but what I enjoy about this business is that with collectors and with certain collections that come in, I can become an expert in that area for a short period of time, enough to be dangerous and enough to sell that niche of the rare book market. Then, often times, they’ll move on to something else.
Dean: That’s great that you brought that up because I was going to ask about selecting different target markets within the before unit kind of thing. What would be the categories that would be good to break people into. You had mentioned marine books or …
Craig: By subject matter?
Dean: Yeah, or is subject matter the niche or is it antiquity, the age of them? Is it historical books?
Craig: Yeah, there’s a niche. I look into it as subject niche and customer niche. The customers tend to be. You have your active high end collectors who are very committed to what they're doing and very knowledgeable. Quite frankly, I learn more from them than they learn from me. That’s one area where it’s almost an autopilot type of situation where they're highly attuned to their subject matter, and I just keep my eyes open because I have a network of over a thousand dealers both here in the US and abroad. Things come across my desk or across my screen every day. I, at the back of my mind, go, “Someone still might be interested in this.” The next level would be probably those folks who are high net worth individuals who are buying that one book every once in a while. I know their interest. If something comes up, I’ll them know.
The other area that I haven’t cracked as well, the whole realm of academic libraries and rare book collections where you're dealing with universities, large institutions, large archive and professional library. They're not buying as actively as a lot of them used to in the ‘70s and ‘80s but it still can be a fairly good business but it’s something of a hard nut to crack because you have to be more out in these types of thing within fairs and stuff like that.
Then, subject areas, I would say that we do a little bit of everything here. We’re good with or I shouldn’t say we, it’s only me, good with architecture and design. We also have a large collection of the history of physics from a client. I also have a fairly sizeable collection of books related to gardening, landscape, architecture, and I've got some stuff on photography as well.
That’s all across the board. What I would like to do is to have this with my business folks with the assessment. Then, the other thing that I am thinking about with trying to get people into the collecting rare books by doing it more almost on a subscription basis. A little bit more focused because we are a general book seller but it’s hard to keep it all in the air when at one point, you're doing something with 20th Century fiction, and then somebody is interested in early history of physics, and then you're over there doing something in photography. You could do that but you sell a book here and there. I’d rather drill down into having some very reliable client and some reliable cash flow that comes out of being their guy on the street and elsewhere.
Dean: Now, this would be perhaps as an advisor in a way of curating somebody’s collection as an investment or as patron thing? Is there an investment case for rare books?
Craig: It is in one sense but I don’t think you can ever collect solely to make money off of it because you always get burned. You have to collect something that you have great interest in and that you're passionate about. Usually, you’ll do just fine. I haven’t seen any real big drops in any of this, the major things that I've sold to people. What I’d like to do with what I am thinking about which I've been doing the assessments and I’d like to fine tune those.
The other area that I'm really interested in developing a business model is within almost like … I want to call it the Book of the Month Club but it’s rare books and you're on a plan where you pay so much per month. First, you start off with an initiation fee that gets everything set. I meet with you. We catalog your books as you buy them. You get a quarterly report and all of that, and that you begin to build a collection of things that interest you.
It could be boats, it could be Africa, it could be whatever but it would allow me as the book seller to drill into that subject area for you because what I am finding in my target market for that are people who are in their, as we spoke before, 30s to 50s. It’s underrepresented in my client base right now. They're busy professionals. Often times, they come from inherited wealth or they're extremely successful in what they do. They're very well educated, most of them. They're probably raising a family. They simply don’t have the time. They love the books but they got so many things going on. They maybe don’t have the time to look at all these auction catalogues or to look at the listings online, or go to all the book fairs.
What I am hoping to become is their trusted advisor which I do for some people already and say, “This is the areas that you want to collect in. These are some of the titles but every month, $2500, $5000, whatever. If you want to invest, I am your man. I am on the ground finding these things for you and developing relationships with dealers. Then, we help you build this collection.”
Dean: Yeah. Is that something that people have approached to you about? Is that a desire that people have or is that something …
Craig: I've done two. I've done two for people. One was a collection, as I've spoken of before, of polar exploration. The other was a collection just on New York City, everything from architecture design to early documents. This person, they live in New York and they just want to build this collection on New York. We did it for a couple of years. In the back of my mind, I've always been thinking about that but in such a way that it would be, for me, at least for our business, it would be a steady source of cash flow and repeat predictability, but also, we’d be active collecting and drilling down in certain subject areas.
Dean: Yeah, it’s very interesting. My thoughts go to when you were saying New York, there might be some interest in physics and maybe psychology. I was just thinking about psychiatrists. If you're thinking about high net worth or high income people that there might be an interest. I just look for things where you can create some breadth to it as well rather than finding one individual and then, finding one collection for them one at a time. Is there a way to be a curator of the certain categories and reach out to people who might have a specific interest in those?
Craig: Right. That’s my question of you and your knowledge of marketing is how to find those audiences because the people that I have, they’ve been getting my information to people in my database. I am going to get this set up and do an info sheet and all of that, but my question is where could I find these people beyond the list that I have, and is it a Google AdWords thing?
Dean: Certainly, I think that if you presented this idea to the 1300 people that you communicate. How many people do you send your newsletter to?
Craig: About 1900. I think it’s about 1900. I don’t know what …
Dean: You have about 1900 people. Have you proposed this idea to them?
Craig: I have. That’s why I am in the planning stages because I've done the assessments and that’s something I want to tweak. The subscription, this rare book club thing, is something that I'm just developing now and just want to go through the steps in a very measured manner and ensure that things are the best that they can be before I start dropping things. I have some test list. I have one list that’s just my folks who are here in the summers. I have another list of people who have purchased from me. I was thinking about doing a test drop on one of them. Then, see what the return rate is. Then, a test drop on the other and we compare what the return rate is, and see what I can pick from up there but I am not at the point of having a material ready yet but I have lots of notes.
Dean: Wow, that’s great. Do you mail people as well?
Craig: Physical mail?
Craig: Yeah, I do. not on a regular basis but I have more things that are very specific to the individual, more handwritten pieces and things like that. That is real direct mailing. I could have. I address. It could be something that I could do.
Dean: It’s really interest. I could imagine something with your … The people who you have are probably difficult people to buy Christmas gifts for.
Craig: Yes, it’s terrible. It’s terrible.
Dean: It might be an interesting approach. I did this with another business of sending a direct mail piece to the home. It’s actually perfect timing for this right now to test this but to send a letter addressed to the person in charge of making sure that Craig Olson has the best Christmas ever. It’s not to be opened by Craig Olson with the highlighted thing on it and explaining to that person how you know that John is a client of yours, he loves to collect these books, and they may probably know that, and that you’ve got a great selection. Saying something like that. Saying that you would be happy to talk to them to help find the perfect book that would be a great addition to their collection for Christmas.
Craig: Yeah. I have one client. I’ve got a couple of clients who called me or I have it on my tasks on my computer and it pops up to call so and so about a gift for their goddaughter. They're consistent every year for Christmas. It could be $300. It could be a $1000. you never know.
Dean: That might be something that would be … Could you see you self-testing something like that?
Craig: Sure, yeah. Yeah.
Dean: Yeah because that will be something you could test to a small group and see what could come from that but that could be an interesting thing. The other thing that if I’m just thinking out loud now of ways that we could really maximize the relationship with the 1900 people that you have right now. Can you describe the weekly email to me, what format, and what goes out, and what they would get?
Craig: Sure. It goes out, an email, every morning except today. Friday morning at 9AM, it drops. It could be something I saw on television that made me think of something, but it always leads back to a book that’s at the end of an email that I am trying to sell. It could be anything. From last week, it was E.E. Cummings’ birthday, and I have in my stuff The Enormous Room. To my email, it’s E.E. Cummings’ day. We did that. That’s a quick and dirty one that I can do, but it’s a way to highlight new material that comes in. It’s basically an explanation. It’s almost written in some ways, I hate to say it, like a J. Peterman ad. Like a J. Peterman ad.
Dean: Right. It’s just so funny. I was just going to ask you that, about J. Peterman.
Craig: It’s very breezy. It’s bam, bam. It’s not scholarly. If you’ll notice this with the four heads of these, it’s nothing like that. It’s like, “I driving on the street and I saw this. Wasn’t that cool?” I just run through that. Then, there’s always a hook at the end that just says, “If you like to see more, click on …” It would be like, “Order this book,” or “If you’d like to see the signed inscription by E.E. Cummings, just click on the image and you can buy it replying to this email, or going to the website, or giving me a call.” I've had fairly good response with those.
There’s something about it about having it go out every Friday morning at 9AM. Every once in a while, I miss. I happened to miss today but people are like, “I missed your email,” or “I am glad you're still doing that.” Then, I think I got some contacts. Often times, I’ll wind them up if I am going to be on the road or something like that and I already have them ready, and they’ll go. They go off at 9:00 on a Friday. I’ll do this one later today.
Dean: I think that the opportunity there is pretty big then. Is it an HTML email or is it a text email or?
Craig: It’s an HTML. There’s a photograph of the book. It’s common. It looks the same. The border and everything looks the same every week, the content. Then, there’s photographs of the book down below and the hot link out to my website.
Dean: It looks like one article from the J. Peterman catalogue kind of thing? Okay.
Craig: I’ve also done that every Friday. Then, on Tuesdays, although these, I haven’t been doing them lately, on Tuesdays, I would do an email that was more less informational about books and the book business or I was going to go on this or I went to, I was doing a book fair, but I tried to get another form of communication that was information-based as opposed to trying to sell something or if I have to sell something.
Dean: I think there’s the opportunity then. It’s this group that you’ve been in communication with them and you’ve got a pattern of communicating with them that there’s now, I think, the opportunity to add just a couple of things to that email. One of the things that we use very successfully is something I called the Super Signature. By that, I mean at the end of the email between where you’ve signed off and where all the subscribed information is to have an opportunity that presents people with some action items like one of the things that we do with the realtors is when they’re sending information to people who are looking for a home that we have them send an email, and then say, “Here’s what to do next.”
We offer what I call cookies where rather than just say, “Hey, if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can help you with, feel free to give me a call,” we say very specific things like, “Here’s what to do next. Join us for a daily tour of homes. We do tours between 10:00 and 1:00 or come to a home buyer workshop. We do home buyer workshops on the first and third Thursdays of the month at the library or get a free home loan report where we monitor hundreds of different loan programs, and we find the best low downpayment loans. Low interest loans, lowest total cost loans, and put all our find together in the report,” that offering those three things each time we send out an email addresses what is going to be the trigger that somebody is going to take the next step.
If you look at the 1900 people that get this, something that might be an opportunity there is that they may have a specific book that they're looking for. If you were to formalize, and by formalize, I mean name the process that somebody could specifically search for or have you do a search for a specific book, that might be even though … Like a book find service or something. Not even naming of the service but something that if they knew that they could just enter in the specific title of the book that they're interested in that that would be starting a dialogue with you, but if you could make it seem like it’s an automated search in a way that you’ve got this database that you have access to book sources that the general public does not have access to which his true. That might be a good way that anytime people get that email that they know if they’re looking for a specific book, there’s this easy way to potentially find it.
Craig: Sure, you consistently have the same two or three items at the tag at the end of each email.
Dean: Yeah, I look at it. the way that we do it is that I reverse engineer the psychology of it here of what’s actually going to happen? What do we really want to have happen? One of the things that we do with the real estate agents is they’ll send out a postcard offering the free September 2016 or October 2016 report Winter Haven lake front house prices, and that will get people to raise their hand. Now, every month, we’ll send out the information about what’s been going on in the lake front homes along with a get-top-dollar newsletter with tips on preparing your house and getting it ready to sell for top dollar.
Then, every month, the cover letter that goes with it says, “Whenever you’re ready, here are three ways we can help you.” We have pinpoint price analysis. We have a room by room review and we have our silent market. Each of those is addressing the things that are going to trigger somebody to take the next step. Somebody gets a report about the lake front house prices, they may want to know, “How much is my house worth specifically,” because this is going to give them an idea of what all of the lake front houses are doing but they may want to know how much is my house worth or they maybe want to know, “What should I do to fix it up or what kind of repairs or things do I need to do, and what can I leave alone?” or they may be in a situation where they’re not ready to put on the market yet, but if you had a buyer, they might sell it.
Those are the psychology. Those are the conversations that are going on in the mind of those people. Instead of saying to them, “Hey, if there’s anything I can do for you or any way I can help you, please feel free to reach out to me.” We say we package it in a way that makes it seem like this is normal like, “Here, you can take advantage of this. We’ve got a pinpoint price analysis. We’ll show you exactly what your house would sell for compared to other houses on the market today. We’ve got a room-by-room review booklet where we can go from the curb to closet, show you exactly what to do or not do to get your house ready to get top dollar. We’ve got a silent market. We may be able to sell your house in as little as 24 hours without even putting it on the market.”
All three of those things, no matter what one they asked for, all lead to the next step which is that, ultimately, we want to be in a conversation with somebody at their house about potentially helping them sell their house. If they want to pinpoint price analysis, perfect. “Let me pop over, I’ll take a look, and we can see what your house is, and then I’ll prepare the report for you,” or “I’d like the room-by-room review.” “Perfect. Let me pop out. We’ll bring the room-by-room review booklet. We can go through and point out the things that you could and shouldn’t do to get your house ready to sell.” Or the silent market, if they say, “Maybe if you had a buyer, perfect. Let me pop out. I’ll take look.” See how they all lead to the same thing? What you want is you want to be in conversation on the phone with somebody who is either looking to sell a book, or buy a book, or multiple books, or a collection of books.
Craig: I was just jotting that down quick. You could tag. You could have three different but something along the lines of, “Are you searching for a book?”
Dean: Yes. That would be my question. Yeah, what is my book worth?
Craig: Asking “What is my book worth? What’s the book worth?” or “How can I collect rare books on a budget?
Dean: That could be. A lot of things, if you were to offer people things that you could send them, if you did a book on how to start collecting rare and antique books, that would be something that you’ve got that or these are book people. They understand more than anybody the value of books and would appreciate the offer of a book as a way to raise their hand to start the process.
Craig: Exactly. I've done a lot of talks on that. It’s not anything to just list it down and just expand upon it.
Dean: There you go. That will be the perfect thing. If you're able to talk about things, that’s exactly what the 90-minute book is about, that whole process of just imagining that you’ve got one hour to do a presentation to an audience of people who are your exact target audience. What would you say? Then, you could package that into a book? That Super Signature, you’re on the right track there with saying the things. Sometimes, it is crazy, but it can be as simple as just saying, “Here’s what to do next,” and having a numbered list of one.
We did this. I’ve been working with a client in Toronto that has an app for people searching for homes. They’ve got the number one app in Canada for home searches. We just added to the bottom of a very simple email, “Here’s what to do next. One, find out how much your house is worth, click here. Two, join us for a daily tour of homes, 10 AM and 1 PM, click here.” Just adding that, 150 people a month now are jumping out from a list that people were not responding to.
Dean: I think that could be a big opportunity for your list there but there might also be an opportunity within these 1900 to find out if there are people who are looking to build a collection. I think that that might be a nine-word email type of approach to this or a PS is always good. A PS, imagine if you did a class, or a teleconference, or a webinar, or a Hangout, or something like that where if you said … I just did this yesterday actually on my email mastery class. I sent out an email that said, a nine-word email, “Brainstorm call.” I said, “Hi Craig. I am getting together with some people on Thursday to brainstorm some nine word emails and subject lines. Would you like to join us?”
Craig: I got that email.
Dean: You got that email. Okay, there you go. There you go. You’re familiar with that. If you said the same thing, if you sent to the 1900. Then, the PS, when you send out today’s email, let’s do it today. Let’s do it just to see. Send out the email and say in the PS, “PS, I’m getting together with some people,” let’s say, “next week on the phone to talk about collecting or building a collection in 2017,” or something like that. How would you articulate that for what you’re actually looking for and just ask them, “Would you like to join us?”
Craig: That’s good.
Dean: First thing is we got to get you off of constant contact and get you into gogoclients.com so we could use some intelligent links and landing pages for you.
Craig: I’m always looking at all of those things now. As far as the video and stuff, I have daughters who are very tech savvy. I'm tech savvy but they’re much better on that type of thing.
Dean: I think, for you, it’s all about the email because your people are readers for sure.
Craig: I’ll tell you, in my nine-word email that I did for positioning the assessment process, it worked well. I got four to five jobs out of that and a couple from people I’d never heard off before which is unusual. Most of my business is word of mouth, people who know people that I’ve worked with. That out-of-the-blue client is unusual and sometimes, they’re the most interesting one.
Dean: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, and very interesting.
Craig: It’s an interesting business.
Dean: It really is.
Craig: It is interesting because people from all areas that it tends to be people of higher net value or net worth, and they’re intelligent, and they know their business, they’ve been very successful in their business, and they're passionate about what they're collecting. They're very informed. Occasionally, I will sell. I have sold books by the foot as well to interior decorators. Sometimes, those things come through as well.
Dean: That’s so funny. That’s great. They need them look old. Then, pour it.
Craig: That’s right. My Wall of Bling are perfect for interior decorators.
Dean: That’s awesome. Very cool. I think that’s the most actionable thing. I think it’s really about you're maximizing the 1900. Right now, there’s so much more that could be done in the before unity but would take more time to really figure out those opportunities, but your immediate opportunity is those 1900. I think, the ideas that might really have some legs are this idea of the antiques road show meets one library type of thing where you’re serving a couple of purposes. First of all, you’re going to be encouraging people to get their book. If they’ve got a book that is a part of the collection that they think might have some value, that would encourage them as an easy way to get your opinion here. They wouldn’t feel comfortable just reaching out to you to tell me what this book is worth but when you offer it as an opportunity, I think, that’s a cool thing.
Craig: It also puts a face to the email if they haven’t met me and it just creates a little bit stronger relationship.
Dean: Yeah. I think that’s it because it is definitely …
Craig: They don’t care to part a couple of thousand dollars once in a while.
Dean: Right. I think there’s that great opportunity where you could … I think the people who collect these books would be fascinated by the day-to-day life that you live in terms of as a book dealer and you can make anything fascinating. I remember there was a blog and still is actually from a tailor in England who’s a Savile Row Tailor who’s got a blog called EnglishCut.com.
Craig: Wow. What’s with that?
Dean: This guy would, he was blogging and just educating people about the process of bespoke suits. If you make it interesting, and fascinating, and educational, I think that’s going to be a cool thing, becoming the personality of it.
Craig: I’ve done a little bit of that with the emails that I send on Fridays and Tuesdays and that there’s some reoccurring characters, and I refer to my family, and where we live. I remember a couple of weeks ago, I told you about X, and now we’re going to do Y. You have to have some degree of confidentiality with clients. You can certainly show books to the other clients who don’t want to show them or they don’t want to get in the picture but I've got the opportunity where I’ve actually gone from this island to fly to another island on a small plane to look at the person’s library. Those types of thing. People like to read about some things like that. It’s exciting.
Dean: Fascinating. They love to see some pictures of stuff like that or you talk about it in your …
Craig: Seeing the life of an island rare book dealer.
Dean: That’s really it, right?
Craig: That’s fabulous. I hadn’t really thought about that. I've used the emails in that way and have a Tumbler page but it’s not as active as it could be.
Dean: Craig, it’s been fascinating having a conversation with you. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Craig: I really appreciate the insight, and I’m listening to the podcasts, and I’m scribbling things down in a regular basis. I really appreciate you taking the time to walk through the process with me.
Dean: Awesome. When you listen back, you will probably be able to have more clarity on your notes. We get it transcribed. You can check the transcript and everything.
Craig: Great, perfect.
Dean: Awesome. Let me tell you, we can’t let you end without telling the people where to go to look at your website and get any rare books that they might be interested in.
Craig: We’re at www.artisanbooksandbindery.com.
Dean: Perfect. There you go. Thanks again. I will talk to you soon.
Craig: Thank you.
Dean: There we have it, another episode of More Cheese Less Whiskers. If you want to keep the conversation going, you can download the More Cheese Less Whiskers book at morecheeselesswhiskers.com. If you’d like to get a book out into the world in the simplest easiest fastest way possible, go to 90minutebook.com, and download a copy of the 90-Minute book and we can help you get your book down to the world. That’s it for this time. Talk to you next time.