A breakdown of Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” upselling technique

Napoleon Hill. Hill, who is best known for his 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, was a prolific writer in the self-improvement genre. Beyond this, however, he was also a very shrewd individual when it came to the art of upselling.

“Would you like a side order with your meal?”
“Would you like a gift bag for your purchase?”
“Would you like to opt for an extended warranty with your new appliance?”

Even if you’re not consciously aware, you will regularly be faced with some form of upselling in your daily life. This is for good reason, as upselling can be the lifeblood for a business.

Looking at it from a less drastic point of view, this form of marketing helps organizations to maximize profits with minimal effort required.

The customer, after all, is already invested in a product or service – the upsell simply provides an add-on to enhance the purchase.

This takes us to the famous author, Napoleon Hill. Hill, who is best known for his 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, was a prolific writer in the self-improvement genre.

Beyond this, however, he was also a very shrewd individual when it came to the art of upselling.

The perfect example of this is a direct mail advertisement that was sent to those that purchased the aforementioned book Think and Grow Rich.

The upsell consists of promoting a new course of books for “post-graduates”. Below I take a closer look at this ad and what makes it a masterclass in marketing the upsell:

The Headline

The headline, despite consisting of only 12 words, achieves a number of things.

Firstly, it makes reference to the author and the item that is being publicized. Opening up in this way gets straight to the point as to what is being advertised, while mentioning Napoleon Hill adds credibility immediately to the product in question. The words “POST GRADUATE” are also accentuated, drawing eyes to one of the key phrases that will be most alluring to the target audience (the typography is on point throughout).

The next line, “For Readers of,” connects directly with – you guessed it – the reader. As you will notice, this is a common theme throughout this particular piece of advertisement.

The headline is concluded by highlighting “THINK and GROW RICH”, the past item that recipients of this mail ad had purchased. The product itself was (and still is) something of real value, so there was no qualms about emphasizing it right off the bat.

Napoleon Hill was obviously confident that the mention of Think and Grow Rich would not only grab and retain the attention of readers immediately, but it would enhance the chances of converting interest into sales for the promoted supplement.
Credibility, building a connection and making both the past product and the add-on the focal point – all accomplished in one simple headline.

The Pronoun

“YOU are one of them”

Directly following the headline is the above quote. Again, this is speaking in a personal tone to the reader, further building up that business-to-consumer relationship. The stronger the relationship, the more likely an existing buyer will come back for more and become a repeat customer – a crucial aspect to the upsell strategy.

The Opening Paragraph

The first paragraph to this mail letter continues to hammer home the relationship side of things. “For you, the author has prepared…” implies that this collection of books have been written solely for the reader. While that’s not true of course, this informal approach makes everything sound that bit more special for the consumer.

The Product Image

There’s nothing blasé about the product image, but that is not a bad thing.

This clear image, something that was obviously more difficult to produce at the time, depicts the product accurately. It lets the reader know the product is books, and that is all that needs to be accomplished. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Product Description

The opening line, “It reveals for the first time in the world’s history…” straightaway establishes the product as something that is new and potentially ground-breaking for the reader. The description also notes that the course is accredited by professionals within the fields that these books are aimed at, which complements the product with integrity – always a plus point when it comes to the marketing side of things.

“It does not duplicate the book you already have”

If there is one thing people object about when it comes to the upsell, it is that the supplement adds nothing of value to the original item bought. With the quote above, that theory is dismissed immediately.

The Endorsement

The endorsement, from the US president no less, is that added bit of validity to the products cause. It is the last effort to help convince those that remain undecided on making a purchase, the final sales pitch to assure customers that, ‘yes, you need this item’.

This tactic, known as “social proof”, is still as useful today as it was back when this mail ad was produced. Yet attaining social proof has taken on a number of different facets since then, having evolved thanks to the Internet. Ratings on review sites, popularity on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, customer testimonials, subscribers – all of these also help characterize the social proof of a business.

The Overall Depiction

The saying, ‘less is more’ is certainly applicable in this instance.

With just one page, minimal imagery and less than 150 words, Napoleon Hill’s direct mail ad covered everything that needed to be covered. The ad was produced over 85 years ago, and yet it remains one of the finest examples when it comes to selling the upsell to customers.

Concise and direct for the reader, but packed full of marketing techniques behind the scenes – if you’re looking for inspiration when it comes to promoting the upsell, then look no further. All of these techniques are just as relevant and applicable today – except we're not having to pay per letter to print what we type.

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