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The Risk of Not Taking Risks

Updated: Mar 14, 2018

In this tough economy, many companies are deciding to focus on what they know works.


They want to use proven copywriters to write their copy. They want to mail to lists they know have worked before. They want to stick with formats and marketing approaches that seem to be working for everyone else.


But if you’re not taking enough risks with your business, you could definitely be hurting your business—even in the short-term.


If you’re not failing enough, you’re not trying enough new things


Back in the early 1990s, when I first went to work for Phillips Publishing, the economy wasn’t doing all that great either. Yet the company was growing by leaps and bounds.


One of the reasons why the company was growing was they tapped into the alternative health niche at the right time. It was just starting to take off. With the launch of Dr. Julian Whitaker’s Health and Healing newsletter, they touched on a nerve…people were frustrated by conventional medicine. Older adults, in particular, were fed up with prescription drugs, invasive surgery—and doctors that were fixated on both as the only solution for their patients’ problems.


So by tapping into this niche at just the right time, the company managed to take a newsletter from nothing to over 300,000 paying subscribers in just a few years. This created a huge marketing opportunity for the company in terms of selling products to those subscribers.


When I came on board in 1992, my job was to test as many alternative health products as possible to this audience to see what would work and what wouldn’t. It was basically like throwing a bunch of balls against a wall and seeing what would stick.


As Bob King, who was president of Phillips Publishing’s consumer division at the time, would say, “if you’re not failing enough, you’re not trying enough new things.” It was a great environment that encouraged and rewarded risk-taking.


During my first six months at the company, I had some huge winners—like an air purifier that sold for $395 via a newsletter insert. And I had some huge losers—like a weight loss book called “Love Your Fat Away”. Fortunately, the winners more than made up for the losers.


How a “crazy” idea turned into tens of millions of dollars in profit


One of the biggest success stories that came along during that time was the realization that what people really wanted was to buy Dr. Whitaker’s supplements. I played a key role in launching a new subsidiary, called Healthy Directions, which offered his own formulations used with patients to his newsletter subscribers.


And the rest is history. The subsidiary went on to be highly successful—generating tens of millions of dollars in profits in just the first few years. And many other companies have followed suit by selling nutritional supplements endorsed by doctors.


But at the time, everybody thought this was crazy—even some of my co-workers. Why would a publishing company launch a supplement business? Now, of course, there are multiple publishing companies that have supplement businesses—and they make up a large portion of their parent companies’ revenues.


My point is, no matter what the economy, you have to take chances. You have to take risks. You have to take smart risks, but still…sometimes you have to take a crazy risk, too.


The time is NOW for you or your business to stand out


Think about your next marketing project you have on the table. There are a wide variety of copywriters you can hire. One of my biggest frustrations is when companies don’t take a chance on other copywriters. They want to keep using their same, proven stable of copywriters.


But this can lead to using the same approach over and over again and not taking any new risks. If people hadn’t taken a chance on me when I was starting out as a copywriter, I wouldn’t have gone on to write dozens of successful, long-running controls.


Remember, if you don’t take chances, you’re selling yourself short. You’re selling your business short. And if you’re a copywriter, you’re selling yourself short, too—because that next breakthrough promotion or new client may never materialize if you keep playing it “safe.”


So take a chance, take some risks…there’s never been a smarter time to do it than when other people are holding back and not trying new things.


You can stand out. Your business can stand out. Good luck!


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© 2018 Kim Krause Schwalm