The Magical Power of “Grunt Work”

I had an interesting recent call with one of my Private Client Group members who asked for my input on how he should proceed with a specific marketing campaign. One to a very small, but very influential audience.

I think my answer may have surprised him a bit.

I told him he needed to write a very specific type of letter (and not hire somebody else to write it).

He needed to personalize it to each recipient (not some generic, one-size-fits-all letter) and hand-sign it.

And he needed to literally stuff the envelope, put the stamp on it and put it in the mail.

I then told him he needed to make sure he followed up. Personally. With each person. Himself.

I instructed him to promise me his virtual assistant would not do this for him and that he would literally take his time (valued at a least $150/hour) to do what many would consider “grunt work.”

I think he thought I was nuts. But as I explained to him for this particular marketing effort, I wanted him to make this campaign as “hand-crafted” as possible and I wanted him to personally own it.

Maybe you think I am nuts for suggesting this, especially in light of the fact there are $2.00/hour virtual assistants available to do pretty much everything for you, but hear me out.

I am a firm believer in getting one’s hands dirty once and awhile and doing the so-called grunt work in your business. I think it’s important to stay grounded and not remove yourself so much you forget what and who your business is really about.


Just this week, I sent out a small batch of about 25 personal letters. I printed them. I signed them and I put them in the envelopes, stamped them and put them in the mail box. I cannot explain it, but there is something energizing about doing this type of work – not all the time – but once in a while I find the “hand work” of doing small-batch mailings to be refreshing.

Many times I personally return phone calls to people who leave messages on our company’s voicemail system. I always smile when they find out it’s me, but I always remind them if it wasn’t for our customers and clients, we would not be in business, so I am happy to get on the phone when I can.

I realize in this era of “4 hour workweek” type thinking, the notion of outsourcing just about everything is appealing, In today’s business environment there is much talk about authenticity and transparency, yet much of what you see is manufactured and a facade. Ghostwriters write other people’s books. Virtual assistants craft Facebook posts in the name of their boss.

You see this everywhere and while I am not saying there may be good reasons to hire others to do things for you, I also believe it’s important as business owners and marketers to stay grounded and get your hands dirty every so often. At a minimum, it will make you appreciate your team even more.

Consider setting aside time each month where you:

  • Return customer phone calls yourself.
  • Send personal, handwritten (not typed) thank you cards or notes.
  • Get out from the office or behind the computer and meet and greet customers and prospects.
  • Personally visit a good customer or business partner and express your appreciation of the relationship.

I love what the late Gary Halbert has to say about getting down and dirty in his April 1998 newsletter – specifically about creating direct mail. I will end this article by quoting Gary directly and boldfacing in red the critical fourth paragraph commentary. Even Gary felt there was something gained by doing the hand-work of sending out a direct mail letter.


[ez_box title=”From the Gary Halbert Letter…” color=”blue”]

What I’m about to give you is the most important piece of advice you’ll ever get concerning this subject. Do this: After you’ve “captured” what appears to be your first viable idea (“Hey, Marge, let’s sell a report on the secrets of how to profit in L.A. real estate to everyone in that area who just got their real estate license!”), you sashay down to your local stationery store and buy 1,000 #10 white envelopes. You then scurry over to your local quickie printer and you have him print your address in black ink in the upper left hand corner of those envelopes. Then you get the names and addresses of 1,000 of the people who might be interested in your offer and you sit down and . . .


Not your spouse, your kids, your secretary – you do it. And then, you go to your local post office and get 1,000 first-class postage stamps and you lick’em and you stick’em. Next, you sit down and, in one sitting, you write the best sales 1etter you can to those people. You describe what you have to offer and you ask them to buy it and send you money. And then, if you don’t type yourself, you take that letter to a typist and have it typed and then go get it printed. And then, you sign all 1,000 letters and you fold them and you stuff them into the envelopes. Then you seal the envelopes and you take those letters to the post office and mail them.

What? Aren’t we going to wait until you know how to write a good sa1es letter? Until you get things fine-tuned a little? NO! NO! NO! NO! This is how you learn to write! You don’t wait for anything! It is movement that produces expertise. Not meditation.

Come closer. listen, I swear this is true: There is something that happens on a cellular level, something that indelibly imprints itself on your being, some kind of neural knowledge that can only be achieved by physically doing a mailing all by yourself.

Sound crazy? Too unsophisticated for a smart cookie like you? Consider this: I am probably responsible for more successful direct mail than anyone else in history. Just one of my letters is currently being mailed at the rate of 100,000 per day. My direct mail letters probably generate more money in any given month than most other “experts” are able to generate in a lifetime. I know more about how to make computer generated mail work, more about how to massage a database, more about how to extract meaningful data from a mathematical regression analysis, more about the results of different A/B split run tests, etc., etc., etc. than anybody you’ll ever meet in your entire lifetime and … and…and…


It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? There sit the Herschells of this world, staring dumbly into a CRT screen mystically believing that a machine will somehow help them write better and there sits Gary at his kitchen table stuffing letters into envelopes just like a rank beginner and yet… and yet… and yet…



What are your thoughts about this?  I would love to hear from you, so leave a comment below.

About Mike Capuzzi

I'm a speaker, author and high impact marketing strategist for business owners and sharp, aggressive entrepreneurs looking to get to the next level in their business. I'm also the the inventor of the world-famous CopyDoodles. CopyDoodles are the world's largest library of handwritten fonts, hand-drawn doodles, comics and more designed to grab attention and boost your marketing results!


  1. John Kusik on September 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    A few years ago, I did just what you suggest in your email. I wrote letters to about 20 influential and high not worth individuals. The letters were short, to the point, and asked for a donation. I’m proud of the results — $20,000 from 5 or 6 respondents. That’s a hell of a letter.

    I must admit I forgot about the lesson I learned until you reminded me today.

    John Kusik

    • Mike Capuzzi on September 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      John – thank you and thanks for sharing those impressive results!

  2. Roger on September 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Superb post. Really resonated with me. I think the very basic act of just ‘putting a bunch of prospecting letters in the post box’ makes me think of the kick and anticipation of making a bet at the roulette table – sorry if that’s a bit strange! 🙂

    • Mike Capuzzi on September 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Roger – I get it. Thanks!

  3. Andrew on September 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Your message comes at a particularly perfect time for me to comment.

    As you know, Mike, I’ve transformed my brick and mortar wholesale business into a 100% online business and it’s been running on autopilot with the help of a VA for the past 3 years.

    I had the ugliest website in the world for 14 years but I did enough business to make a living.

    I figured if I bring my website up to current ecommerce standards, it would be more user-friendly and I would convert even more orders. I launched the new site 3 weeks ago. All the statistics went up EXCEPT SALES.

    I have now given my VA some time off and I’m doing EVERYTHING from order processing to answering emails and the phones. I AM LOVING IT because 1. I like the interaction. 2. I’m converting more of the sales than she would. 3. I know I’m going to figure out the missing piece and create the magic formula which makes the new website sell better than the old one.

    It IS grunt work but it’s rewarding and fulfilling. Not quite the same as your direct mail message but on a parallel I thought worth telling.

    Andrew Mazer

  4. Al on September 24, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Once a month I have a “Walking Wednesday,” this is were I personally walk through neighborhoods and put my fliers on each doorstep. Most times, when I am able to talk with the homeowner I generate business on the spot. Very invigorating and great exercise. Now that’s grunt work (I refer to it as grinding.)

    • Mike Capuzzi on September 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      Thanks Al – great example!

  5. Rebecca on September 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    What a great article! It never occurred to me to hire a virtual assistant. I do ALL of the marketing for my software business…from letter writing, graphic design, e-mail and mailing. I’ve got the ‘grunt work’ idea down in spades. I feel that it helps keep me grounded and personally in touch with each of my prospects and clients. I strive for the ‘me to you’ personalized marketing and service that our clients have come to expect and appreciate. I continually educate myself on how to provide the most genuine experience and messages for my clients. The benefit for us is that we’ve built great relationships with our clients that last for years.

    Thanks for the High Impact Marketing information, support and great services!

    • Mike Capuzzi on September 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Rebecca, there is a fine line between “staying grounded” and doing “$10/hour work.” There is a time and place for everything, I just wanted to use this article to remind folks that getting down and dirty once in a while is good for the soul!

  6. Phil Brakefield on September 25, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Mike…couldn’t agree more. I am still VERY hands-on with my top clients, even as I enter into my 41st year of doing what I do.

    AND….I find not only the “up front” grunt work of personally writing or calling those folks, or putting stamps on the envelopes and dropping the mailing at the post office very gratifying, but strangely enough, I find myself much more viscerally involved in the results when they respond. There is a DIRECT connection created by the process that comes to fruition when the loop is closed. I am much more in the game as a result.

    For me,it’s kinda like playing golf. I can grab a cart and blow through a round and get it done. Or I can walk and think about what I’m doing and how I want to play the next shot as I approach it. It takes a bit longer…but the score is always better.

  7. David Hunter on September 26, 2014 at 7:13 am

    I love handwriting letters, whether it’s to clients, prospects, or just saying hello to family and friends.

    You just don’t get the personal touch with a generic letter or email.

    This also reminds me of Disney executives doing “grunt work.” If they’re walking around and see trash they’re right there picking it up. Sure, they could call over one if the cast members to pick it up, but, nope, they do it themselves!! 🙂

  8. William on September 27, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Great article Mike!

    Every week I personally send out 15-25 reactivation letters to patients who have become inactive over the last 6-12 months – and whilst the basic letter is generic I get to add their names and my signature plus something relevant to them in each letter (because no one knows these people like I do!) reminding them to start care again.

    I don’t really think of it as grunt work when I see the results – and the hour or two of my time it takes is easily recuperated by the extra revenue it brings in!

    • Mike Capuzzi on September 27, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Thanks William. Spot on!

  9. Personal Marketing Pays Off - Mike Capuzzi on June 7, 2017 at 10:45 am

    […] past and how it can pay off for you.  You can read what both Gary Halbert and I said about this here.  Make sure you read the comments […]

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