Profits Thru Publicity

Date Published: 
September, 1940
Original Author: 
W.L. Halberstadt
The Halberstadt Organization, Washington, DC
Original Publication: 
1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers' Guide


1. NEWSPAPERS. Only a sparing use of the newspapers is made chiefly because of the expense. When we do run an ad it is usually a rather large one and is the broadside announcement of the launching of the campaign or the completing of some feature of the construction program. It is always accompanied by liberal use of pictures. Attached hereto is a sample of this type of announcement. Tear sheets are bought from the papers and become a part of the salesmen's literature. We do not make regular weekly use of the papers.

2. RADIO. It is our opinion that the radio, judiciously used, offers a better medium of advertising our product. Beginning in 1928 we have been on the air continuously. Our program on KDKA in 1928 was I think the first use of the radio by cemeteries. For several years we experi¬mented with various types of radio material till in 1931 we adopted the OLD SONGS OF THE CHURCH program, on WFI in Philadelphia, and since that time have used nothing else.

The hymns of the church are associated in the mind of the public with the same basic things as the cemetery, hope of a life to come, resurrection, reunion with loved ones and everything connected with the doctrine of immortality. THE OLD SONGS OF THE CHURCH pro¬gram therefore offers a very proper and fitting "vehicle" for the message of the cemetery.

Not only so but it is probable that more people like this type of music than any other kind. The most often-requested song, sacred or secular, on the air today is Dr. George Bennards "The Old Rugged Cross". After all the effectiveness of an advertising medium is measured by "coverage". In Radio this means the listening audience. From the advertiser stand¬point the purpose of the entertainment part of his program is to capture an audience and engage their attention so that, at not too frequent inter¬vals, the announcer may slip over to them some thought about his product. Amos and Andy gather such an audience nightly for the sole purpose of giving Bill Hay a chance to plug now and then for Campbell's Soup.

The character or make-up of the audience is of course important. It would be foolish to use a children's program as the vehicle for advertise¬ment of ladies’ wearing apparel. The audience of the Hymn program is made up of Protestants. They are the only ones that use the hymns we feature. Seldom do we get a reply from a Catholic and never from a Jew. The significance of this is that a Non-Sectarian cemetery is always at least ninety-five percent a Protestant Cemetery. Thus our radio program enlists an audience of persons most likely to be prospects for our product.
Of recent years we have broadcast almost wholly by transcription. Two considerations enter into this. One is that really good talent is so difficult to secure, especially in the smaller places, and the other and chief reason is that we wish to use Mr. Rodeheaver's voice, not because it is the finest in the world but it certainly is the best-known in the entire Protestant world and the best-loved. No one even remotely approaches him in his fame as a leader of gospel song. It is his book that we give away and the link¬ing of his world-wide renown with our own radio program is all to our good.

With Mr. Rodeheaver's recorded voice we feature a mixed quartet singing the same type of music. Both the Rodeheaver and the quartet recordings were especially made for this purpose and the master records all belong to the Halberstadt Organization.

At the close of each broadcast, a fifteen minute program on Sunday, we offer a free copy of the Hymnal to all who will send for it. The salesman delivers the book of course and it is his introduction to the person, usually a lady, who asks for it. We have given away more than four hundred thousand of these books ... and sold several millions of dollars worth of cemetery lots to the persons receiving them.

3. MOVIES. The use of motion pictures is dictated by the same awareness of modern methods of reaching the public as the use of radio. Over a period of time we have gotten together a four hundred foot reel of beautiful colored film showing typical modern cemetery development from coast to coast. Even the titles are in color and the showing of the reel, which lasts about fifteen minutes, is not only not boring to the audience but actually affords much pleasure. In every audience there is someone who immediately solicits their showing in some other organization to which she belongs. All of our appointments are obtained that way and we keep busy from fall till spring each year.

We mince no words at these meetings as to why we are there and they are frankly told that a salesman will call on them some day. We leave each meeting with the names and addresses of all present and always with their cordial good-will. We consider these the most productive leads we have and the salesmen prefer to work them to all others.

4. DISTRIBUTION OF LITERATURE BY SALESMEN. This title is not quite accurate nor is it sufficiently descriptive. As a matter of fact we put less and less emphasis on printed literature as the years pass. We certainly have long ago given up the notion that large and expensive brochures are needed or even desirable. Our printed matter is simple and rather inexpensive, just something that briefs the story told by the sales¬man and then left by him as a help to the prospect to remember the high¬lights of what he said to them. It is our conviction that nothing can take the place of the word-of-mouth testimony of the man himself, and it is our experience that loading him up with printed matter encourages him to mental laziness and to simply make crutches of this material on which he hobbles about ineffectively.

Our main objective therefore is to train him properly and then develop means of putting him in contact with people who are his most logical prospects. The hymn book requests from the radio serve this purpose only. The fact that the lady wrote in for a book indicates nothing one way or the other as to whether she is a prospect. What does it do? It gives my salesman an opportunity, under pleasant circumstances (he has brought her a present), to find out whether she is or not. It engages him in a conversation with her that, if judiciously directed by him, will lead rip to his finding out whether this family has a cemetery lot, if not why not, and why not in our beautiful place.

SUPPLEMENTING THE RADIO and in order to have a sufficient volume of these contacts for the men from week to week we use a News¬paper Advertisement of the Hymn Book at intervals of several weeks. We have newspaper mats for this ad and it contains Mr. Rodeheaver's picture together with a picture of the book itself. It DOES NOT mention us, the cemetery company I mean, but directs mail inquiries including the coupon attached to the advertisement to be sent "Old Songs" at our down-town office address. These returns come in by hundreds, some¬times more than a thousand from one insertion. In the south we indicate that requests from white people only will be met and in all cases we restrict the free book to "persons living in the city and immediate sub¬urbs." This restriction does not keep some inquiries coming from a distance but it frees us from having to respond to them. A copy of the mat used in papers is attached hereto.

ALSO SUPPLEMENTING THE RADIO AND THIS NEWSPAPER EFFORT we have printed by the thousands a duplex card, post card size, on one section of which is Rodeheaver's picture and a description of the song book which anyone may have FREE by return of the attached section of the post card. This is a postage paid card and is addressed back to Old Songs at our office address. It also is free from any mention of the cemetery company.

These cards are put under people's doors by salesmen. They keep a supply of them in their cars at all times and whenever they finish a call they do not leave the neighborhood without sowing a few of these cards roundabout. In a few minutes they can put out a hundred. Some of them have their ten-year-old sons to distribute them thus. The result of this is that every day the salesman gets some of his cards back thru the mail and every morning therefore he leaves the office with several places he can go and get an interview.

This latter is the most reliable and most prolific source of leads we have. When all others fail this one works. And the fine thing about it is that it never runs out. We have gone right back over the same territory, around the same blocks, for years on end and we get about as many replies from the tenth or twentieth distribution as from the first.

Salesmen have a very great reluctance to "cold-turkeying" a cemetery sales campaign. And you can't blame them much. We have found that if you can give them something in the way of a "lead", even if it is nothing more than introduction, they will make the calls. These post card requests do just that, they introduce the salesman to a person to whom he brings a gift, a religious gift, something that the lady wanted badly enough to write in for. She of course thought that it would come by mail, if she gave it any thought at all, but we did not say that it would. Anyhow here it is a present and she is never discourteous. Old Dr. Charles Sheldon used to remind us that the first and absolutely essential thing to be accomplished in making a sale was to "secure favorable attention". The song book does just that, only that, but does it perfectly.

We are asked why we do not attach our name to the newspaper ad or put it on the song book card mentioned above. For the simple reason that we get vastly more replies without it. As advertising the inclusion of our name would have little if any value. The purpose of the ad or the card is to get replies that will bring us into contact with these persons. In the resultant interview the salesman can do the "advertising" necessary and can leave them all the advertising matter he wants to when he leaves.

About the only publicity we do is a little in the newspapers, continuous use of the radio and with a transcribed program it is not expensive and the distribution of these cards, which is our unfailing, source of leads. Whenever a salesman gets shy of leads, he can always get a few more by spending an hour or two around the block or sending someone else to do it, and they begin to come in within 24 hours, and he has some place to go.

You sales managers know after a sales meeting each morning when the salesmen get down to the foot of the stairs or the elevator, about 80 percent of them don't know whether they are going up the street or down. They have no program for the day. This gives them one. The cards are always in their pockets. If they work this a little they have a few places where they know they can go, be cordially received. As I said in the paper the fact the lady wrote for a hymn book doesn't indicate anything one way or the other. Whether she is a prospect he can soon find out and he comes in contact with her under the most pleasant circumstances. She may come to the door with blood in her eye. He may be the sixth door banger and she is getting her dander up a little, but when she opens the door and he has her name on the post card and he introduces himself and says, "Mrs. Brown, I have brought you the hymn book you wrote for," he takes all the fight out of her. Nobody is impolite to anyone giving them a Bible or hymn book. She is engaged in conversation. That has overcome the greatest obstacle, the greatest mental handicap, the fear of the beginning of the interview.

It is easy to switch over to the cemetery theme after that. He asks her if she has ever seen a cemetery that is without tombstones, or if she has been to the cemetery since we built the fountain, - any kind of a question. He has gotten her mind off of the hymn book. If he is half a salesman that conversation will lead up to his finding what he wants to know¬ whether they have a cemetery lot or not. That is the purpose of it and that is the story.

MR. E. C. HINDS (Memphis): What is the cost percentage in what size city, Doctor? Have you the cost of securing these prospects with that feature?

DR. HALBERSTADT: No, we never had. You put these out and maybe 5 or 10 percent come back the first time. You can go again in three weeks and you get about that many again, and they are inexpensive.

MR. HINDS: Compared with radio contests, you think that is the most economical?

DR. HALBERSTADT: This is the most economical. If you forget the general idea of the radio as a means of getting leads, contacts, places to go, this is the cheapest of all.

MR. L. S. WRIGHT (Buffalo): What percent of the returns are sales?

DR. HALBERSTADT: We have never been able to tabulate that from any source of our leads. The final information attached to the sale is more or less clouded and frequently by the salesman himself who doesn't want to reveal it.

MR. A. L. GROVES (Davenport, Iowa): I have used this program and have kept a very accurate record in regard to the contacts from the radio program and we used your cards. In regards to the cards, in a town of 60,000 we put out 15,000 cards in a year's time. We had pretty nearly 40 percent return on the cards. In regard to the radio program, during the 13 weeks we were on the air with this particular program we found our cost, including our newspapers and all printing matter, was about 6 percent of our sales, but we found that this carried over for pretty nearly a year to 14 months when it finally ended up, our sales cost to use this program was less than 1 percent.

DR. HALBERSTADT: This that Mr. Groves has stated is what makes it difficult to compile the cost. You are getting sales two years later, or from the radio or any of these, that are deferred sales and it is impossible at any time to say how much you have gotten back from any particular use of it.

MR. WM. GALL (Cleveland): Regarding the radio program, we have had some experience with it. I was interested in behalf of that program in knowing what size city is favorable to use a radio program in?

DR. HALBERSTADT: We have used it from cities of 20,000, like Bristol, or 18,000, I guess is the size of Charlottesville, up to the large cities as great as Washington or Philadelphia, or Denver.

MR. GALL: Have the results been correspondingly favorable in the large cities as in the small?


MR. GALL: We spent several thousand dollars this year in a radio program and, unfortunately, it proved a total failure to us.

MR. GEORGE YOUNG (Dallas): You use those cards only in connec¬tion with your radio program?

DR. HALBERSTADT: No, we use them in connection when we have a radio program. We use the cards and it is an advertisement of the radio program with the announcement they can get the book also, either by writing in or sending this card in, but in recent years we have used it independent of the radio program. It is just really an advertisement of that hymn book, that the lady can get Mr. Rodeheaver's book if she sends the card in. That has widened its use tremendously.

MR. COWAN (Chicago): How do you key the card to the particular salesman?

DR. HALBERSTADT: Every salesman has a number, as they do in Sing Sing and places like that, and before he puts his cards out on the return portion of the card --- you have to warn him about that, some salesmen are so dumb they would put it on the part she keeps - on the return part of the card he puts his number up in the corner and the girl in the office hands him a bunch of cards. She separates them. It is a postage paid card. We pay only for those that come in. It is two cents.

From the publication:
“1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers’ Guide”
ACOA 11th Annual Convention & Exposition
Hotel Statler, Buffalo, New York
September 8-11, 1940