Does your headline sell?
by Ray Jutkins
"Trade-UP Your Wax Candles for Pure,
Safe and Clean Kerry Liquid Candles"
"No Drip. No Smoke. No Odor. Clean.
Safe. And ... with a Lifetime Guarantee!"
"Discover why over 2000 Presbyterian
in the U.S.A. use Kerry Candles"
These are 3 of the dozens of running headlines Kerry Candles uses on
their direct mail letters directed to churches.
First, let's get the "liquid candle" question answered. You undoubtedly
noticed the phrase "... Kerry Liquid Candles". What ARE liquid candles?
Let's begin with terminology. Sometimes "liquid candles" are called
refillable candles. Or liquid wax candles. In every case they are a
manufactured to look like traditional wax candles.
They are made of a translucent shell. They are designed to be both
beautiful and long lasting. So long lasting Kerry offers a Lifetime
Guarantee (which simply means, your Kerry Candle is guaranteed for the life
of your church).
A liquid candle is not the conventional beeswax candle most of us are
familiar with. Liquid candles burn a special liquid fuel, such as KerryLight,
which offers a smokeless, dripless, odorless and safe flame.
The "candle" does not burn. Only the special wick and fuel. So, every
candle is always fresh and beautiful.
And because liquid candles do not burn down, they leave no mess. No wax
on the floor, linens, the church alter, the candle stick holders. There is
nothing to clean up ... as the fuel is all that burns.
The candles light instantly. The flame is adjustable to suit every taste.
And ... they last a "lifetime". Even the wicks are FREE forever.
Okay, you now have the liquid picture. Let's talk about the leader in the
liquid candle business Kerry Candles.
Joseph F. (Joey) Stewart, founder and President of Kerry Candles
International sold the first liquid candles in the early 1980's. In the
beginning he literally went door-to-door ... church-to-church, showing his
product and telling his story.
If you have the opportunity to meet Joey, accept the challenge. He is a
salesman from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. He loves to
talk ... and he loves his product.
And ... most importantly, he believes in what he creates and offers to
the church marketplace. He really believes!
Reducing the order cycle time
It didn't take too long for Joey to realize what was happening on his
church-to-church sales calls. The priest or pastor saw the product in
action, asked for a sample, tried it for a few weeks with the congregation,
and most often placed an order. Yet, the time lag from first contact to
order was often several months.
Which was a killer on a small, new company. Cash flow did not exist.
Further, it was very inefficient to go church-to-church. The time to
drive place to place, to maybe catch the priest in, and maybe not, combined
with the long time to a buying decision, forced Joey to create an entirely
new way of selling to churches;
Direct mail, with a telephone follow-up!
Wow, what a concept!
Yet, it did not work instantly. The next hurdle was obvious, yet it was
not. Going church-to-church allowed a demonstration. Direct mail and phone
did not. Initially. Until the offer was changed to a "FREE Trial Sample".
With the FREE Trial, Kerry sends the interested church, without
obligation, a Kerry candle (or a pair, if they wish) to use in their church.
Thus, giving a "hands-on" opportunity to see exactly what this unique
product is, how it looks and works in their church.
This worked when it was first tried, it has worked since. It will work
tomorrow. It will ALWAYS work! There is nothing like a demonstration to
convince the unconvinceable.
Simplyfy, simplify ...
Quickly there was another problem. Most first time buyers had never heard
of nor seen a liquid candle. They did not know how to set up the sample
candle and light it. What was needed was a set of simple instructions
clear what to do in a 1, 2, 3, 4 outline. So, that is exactly what was done.
And although they have been rewritten a number of times since the first
time, the concept is still the same: Make the instructions easy to follow
and the product easy to use!
Plus, remember, the people doing the "work" are most often volunteers,
maybe working in a semi-dark church. They have never done this before. If it
is too difficult the sale WILL be lost.
Find the right contact
To begin marketing a list of churches with mailing address was needed.
This is fairly easy to come by in the States ... names and addresses of
Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and United Methodist (the 5
groups who make up over 85% of all church candle use) is easy.
With list in hand, Joey began mailing. A one page letter, personalized to
the Pastor or Priest, with the FREE trial offer. The mailing is chased with
an outbound telemarketing call.
The name of the right person to talk with is not always easy to get. And
it changes often once you do get it. So, even though the mailing is sent
to an individual, frequently that is NOT the person who makes the decision.
Or even influences the decision.
For Catholic churches it is most often the Priest who makes the decision.
For the Protestant churches it is most often a lay person, and a committee.
The good news about the Catholics is you usually get a quick "yes" or "no".
Whereas with the other denominations, getting any decision can take much
The sample package of the '90s includes a soft sell video. With Joey
doing the talking. The setting is in front of a church alter. It runs about
7 minutes and has proven to be very effective in Protestant churches,
where a committee is involved.
Up front costs of liquid candles appear high. I say "appear", because the
back-end makes liquid candles a real buy.
Conventional beeswax candles, on the average, cost more than 25 cents an
hour to burn. Kerry Candles cost only a nickel an hour. A substantial
Of course, you have to buy the liquid candle shells first. And they are
not inexpensive. Yet, there is a remarkable measurable return on investment.
Plus, all the conveniences and beauty benefits.
An Absolute Guarantee of Satisfaction has been
developed. It is simply worded and easy to understand:
If you are ever dissatisfied with your Kerry
we will replace them. Free. Period
Several times a year Kerry surveys the marketplace. Customers and
prospects. With customers they use both blind and open surveys ... with
prospects most often it is blind.
The surveys are not long ... maybe 10 to12 questions on 2 sides of a
single sheet of paper. A candle lighter is offered as a premium to those who
wish to be identified. Response rates run 20-40%.
The results are predictable. The churches like the Kerry product, they
feel it is expensive, yet excellent value. They do not object to direct
mail, and they prefer not to be sold by telephone. Nothing new or
revolutionary in any of this.
And yet, as is often the case, all sales are made over the telephone.
Either the church calls in ... or Kerry calls the church. All orders are
made over the telephone inbound or outbound.
So, Kerry Candles has established a large telemarketing operation. Open
from 6:00am until 3:30pm daily plus a half day on Saturday. One TM group
follows up all new leads those that come by phone and those that arrive by
mail. And the few that do come by fax. (So far e-mail has not produced any
response. A number of churches say they will use the WWW in the future.)
One consistent message
The message is the same to all leads try Kerry Candles.
Accept the free trial offer. The "close" rate on trials is very high. If
someone has expressed interest, they want the trial. They want the
All those who accept the free trial offer receive the package within the
week. It is shipped immediately, always within 24 hours ... sometimes the
One week later they get a follow-up telephone call. To make certain the
package has arrived and to answer questions. On this call the next follow-up
date is set.
Solo direct mail, church related post card decks and "gift"
advertisements in a very few select publications is how the Kerry Candle
message gets out. A catalogue is now in the development stage.
General Manager Glenn McKay has brought a new spark to Kerry. He is
excellent at "seeing" things. As the company has grown he has brought in
additional people to manager. He has developed support teams ... so those
telemarketers who are the real sales people, can sell. Others do the
qualifying, handle customer service issues, push the paper.
And, there is new direct mail, too. Mail has been the thrust to the
church audience since the inception of Kerry. Glenn has looked at what they
have done and decided to update everything. Which means prospect mail,
service mail, customer mail.
Most church prospects have been getting mail 2-3-4 times a year from
Kerry. For a decade or more. Much of it had not been updated. So, new
outreach lead generation mail is being developed. Such things as illustrated
letters will be tested.
All letters used by the telemarketers to confirm their customer and
prospect conversations, have also been re-written. To carry the Kerry
message in a way that is business like in tone, yet friendly in a one-to-one
Adding fuel to the fire
Earlier I mentioned KerryLight. This is the liquid candle fuel. It is
quad-filtered to remove all impurities, it burns longer than any competitive
fuel, and is so safe it can be shipped via the post. It has a high "flash
point" meaning it is designed to burn at the wick only, it will not light
otherwise, and thus is very safe. Good stuff!
Yet, with all the KerryLight benefits it is still a tough sell. Why?
Because it is more expensive than other oils available in your local
hardware, building product or church supply store.
Kerry Candles definitely does NOT have a razor / razor blade operation.
They need to make money on the "razor" ... and on the "blade".
So, selling KerryLight is a true challenge. In the past the telemarketers
would do some calculations with the church buyer, "guesstimate" how many
hours of fuel they might need in a year and multiply by 2 or 3 or even 4.
Which gave a short term gain of a large sale ... several years worth of
liquid at once.
Sure, on the surface, for those working on commission, life looked good.
And absolutely you keep the competition out when the buyer has 2 or 3 years
worth of liquid in the storage room.
At the same time this method of selling greatly reduced the opportunity
for a continuing dialogue ... communication with the customer. And cut
up-sales and cross-sales, too.
A "new" idea is now in test stage. The offer has been changed to a 2 year
supply of oil, shipped in 6 month increments, paid for only upon shipment
all at the current year price, based on a volume sale. The church commits to
buy KerryLight for the next 2 years and Kerry gives the church a 2-year
This is a "Buy Now / Pay Later" plan. Offering a true benefit to the
church. And an ongoing reason for the Kerry sales reps to talk with their
Wow ... what a concept!
Glenn is also looking for new and additional marketplaces. Florists
especially those who do weddings is one audience. Country Clubs,
particularly the upscale who will have a fine dining room where candles will
be used, is another. For the present, churches is where the business is.
Kerry Candles International was the first in the
Today they have competition still they own about 80%
of the liquid candle market.
And ... they plan on keeping it that way!
About Ray Jutkins, October 3rd, 1936 January 6th, 2005. Ray was one
of the NMOAs most generous contributors. Over the years Ray supplied the
NMOA with hundreds of tips and articles for members. This is just one of
many. Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ...
including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the
Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa. Keep an eye out for more of
Rays marketing tips and how-to articles in the pages of Direct Marketing
Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.