Lyman Wood was one of the trailblazers of direct marketing. His experiences set the example for the rest of us, including internet marketers of today, to follow.
Lyman grew up in the country and loved the slower-paced country life.
Then he went to work writing advertising for the J. Walter Thompson agency in New York City. He hated city life, and dedicated his life to promoting country living.
His initial adventure as a self-employed mail order operator was selling "lucky rabbit’s feet". It was very successful, but he quickly ran into regulatory issues. The Postal Inspector shut the business down.
Since he learned many people were looking for hope, he created a non-denominational, not just for profit organization, the Life-Study Fellowship, selling prayers and inspirational books and magazines. This organization was the cornerstone that initially financed his other ventures. Notably, the subscribers of the Fellowship magazine, Faith, were "members".
Then Lyman sold books and plans for how to become a gentleman farmer, called The "Have More Plan", with The Country Bookstore/Garden Way, and also was successful in selling rototillers and wheelbarrow carts by mail with The Vermont Company, Inc.
Lyman believed in starting a business on a shoestring at your kitchen table and having it finance its own growth. This is the "slow but sure" method of building the business. The risk is someone else will leap-frog you by copying your business and getting outside financing.
In addition to his direct mail businesses, Lyman had some significant marketing consulting assignments, including generating leads for White Cross accident and health insurance of Bankers Life and Casualty Co., and Ford Motor Company. Both of these were big direct mail assignments, requiring Lyman to spend a lot of time in cities away from his Vermont home. The Ford campaign was especially controversial, because it named a competitor – Chevrolet. The campaign flopped. Lyman encouraged Ford to devote more of its advertising budget to Ford owners instead of owners of competing makes who were less likely to buy Fords. He believed Ford should spend as much as 70% of its advertising budget on getting new business from old customers. The corporate ego remained focused on capturing business from a competitor. Lyman was anxious to get back home to Vermont.
Ironically, Lyman lost his businesses in a coup by some of his key executives. They didn’t like financing Lyman’s marketing tests and experiments with their profitable operations. They didn’t buy into Lyman’s "not just for profit" philosophy.
As students of marketing, Lyman Wood’s story is worth studying. Lyman wasn’t just concerned with building a business for profit, but in designing a lifestyle. This is an objective many entrepreneurs are concerned about today. So, study What a Way to Live, and you, too may decide that the place for your business is in the country!
Buy it on Amazon: What a Way to Live and Make a Living: The Lyman P. Wood Story.
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