Selling Tips from Joe Karbo: Direct Marketing Genius

Joe Karbo was a multimillionaire who earned his money by publishing his own book, The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches. Karbo was an innovator in the area of direct marketing (selling directly to customers) because his books never appeared in stores until near the very end of his life.

He Never Contemplated Direct vs Indirect Marketing

Karbo sold his book via mail order through advertising in popular magazines. He placed tiny ads that used compelling text he had written himself (books on copywriting still list Karbo’s advertisements as perfect examples to emulate, and state that his ads were among the greatest ever written). Over time Karbo gradually placed bigger ads in more prestigious magazines until he eventually sold over four million copies of his book. Today he is a legend among entrepreneurs and considered a genius in the area of direct marketing.

Business and Marketing Advice From His Experiences

But what does his book, The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches, actually contain that allowed it to sell so many copies? In it Karbo begins by laying out his own hard luck story, which many people could identify with, then he proceeds to give detailed psychological advice along with positive thinking methods (since he had a thorough understanding of human nature), and eventually he provides a few sound business ideas that anyone can use to start a successful business based on their own innate talents.

Some of the advice Karbo gives in his book, along with his actual accomplishments, reminds me of a tip in Donald Trump’s book, How to Get Rich, where he says, “The possibilities are always there. If you’re thinking too small, you might miss them.” Joe Karbo understood this lesson. He thought big and realized his dreams by self-publishing his book and making millions of dollars, which leads me to two of Karbo’s little-known selling tips.

First Tip: “Do 500 dollar a day activities.” 

This quote is actually from personal advice Karbo gave to a friend and is not well-known. What it means is that a person should concentrate on actions that are worth a lot in the end instead of getting mired down in details that aren’t leading to real money-making opportunities; the quote also means one should be doing something, not just wasting time with excessive talk or planning.

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Second Tip: Hold off on payments

For his book, The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches, Karbo developed an ingenious sales tactic that many people still overlook today, even though it’s highly effective. When someone would order Karbo’s book, he would not make them pay right away. Instead he would tell them to enclose a check post-dated one month later. Then when the person received the book, they could read a few chapters and decide if they liked it or not. If they weren’t satisfied, they could return the book without paying anything. This tactic led Karbo to massive sales.

Here are two of Karbo’s quotes that sum up his philosophy of business and life fairly accurately:

“Don’t be too busy earning a living to make any money.”

Joe Karbo

This line is actually a slight modification of one he used in the advertisements and sales letters for his book. He said this brief line allowed him to make at least one million out of the ten million he eventually earned.

“The only things I regret… are the things I didn’t do.”

Joe Karbo

This quote requires no explanation!

Astonishingly, there is not a Wikipedia entry for Joe Karbo, although his book is still in print and has a sales rank of about 270,000 on Amazon at the time of this writing, which means it is still selling moderately well.

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