10 Things You’ll Learn in “The System Club Letters” by Ken McCarthy

11:17pm Tuesday
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Good day reader, what’s the news?

PRL has been keeping me busy.

‘Busy’ is one thing… but I’m looking for a Big Idea.

Because I don’t know–

What’s my next step with Persuasion Reading List?

"The System Club Letters" by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas
“The System Club Letters” by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas


Lucky me, Ken McCarthy has me covered in chapters 31 to 34 of his book, The System Club Letters: 57 Big Ideas to Transform Your Business and Your Life.

The other 53 chapters are pretty insightful too.

McCarthy is a well-known Internet marketer. Getting his start in the early 1990s put him at the forefront of the commercialization of the web.

In 1994, McCarthy started The System Seminar, which eventually morphed into The System Club, a group built to improve your business marketing.

This book, a collection of letters written to Club members, contains actionable advice for businesses, large and small.

"The System Club Letters" by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas
“The System Club Letters” by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas


10 Things You’ll Learn in
The System Club Letters


1, Physical Mail is Cool

Think about the mail you get at home. If it’s anything like my own, you probably get a handful of postcards and perhaps some envelopes. They all get a little attention.

Because they’re physical, they don’t disappear if someone decides to read more later.

If you’re looking to mail your offer, chapters 1 through 3 have you covered.


2, The 40-40-20 Rule

Ken tells a story of two copywriters.

One writes a brilliant letter that is mailed to a general list. The other writes a decent letter that is mailed to a targeted list.

Guess who wins?

The 40-40-20 Rule is a product of Ed Mayer.

Mayer said that only 20% of your sales comes from the flashy copy and all-consuming sales letter.

40% comes from having the right audience.

40% comes from having the right offer in front of that audience.

Work on that 80%.


3, Follow Up

New, paying customers are hard to find. Most of your sales come from existing buyers, happy with your product.

Don’t miss your chance to make additional money on the “back end” by following up with those customers.


4, List Rot and 5 Ways to Combat It

Your marketing recipient list (join PRL’s list here!) is always changing. And if your list is not growing… it’s dying.

McCarthy offers five ways to keep on top of your list. They mostly boil down to: engage with your list.


5, Truth About Good Copywriting

"The System Club Letters" by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas
“The System Club Letters” by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas

McCarthy lays out William Bernbach’s copywriting formula (edited a bit by me):

 The most powerful thing in advertising is the truth

II  People won’t hear the truth if they’re not interested

III  Make your message interesting

Your letter will do much better if it is creative and compelling, and the benefits and features of your product must be true.


6, A Formula for Generating Productive Action

McCarthy spends four chapters going over these simple questions:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s missing?
  • What’s next?

Don’t try to create a market— Harness the market.


7, Richard Koch and the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle (named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist) says that 80% of the output of a system typically comes from 20% of the input to that system.

20% of bean plants produce 80% of the resulting beans, to use a common example.

20% of your buyers generate 80% of your revenue.

Richard Koch wrote the book on a lifestyle based around the Pareto Principle.

I have the book coming in the mail. You can find it here.


8, Master the Fundamentals of Your Craft

You can’t know when to ‘break the rules’ if you’re not aware of the rules… and why they might be holding you back. Know your fundamentals.


9, The Internet is the Democratization of Knowledge

Before the explosion of the internet, most knowledge and 3rd-person experience was difficult to find.

Now… everyone and their mother is out there creating online courses… and that’s great!

With the advent of the internet and McCarthy’s pioneering work to bring commerce to the web, humanity can learn from one another, and offer our solutions to one another, in unprecedented ways.

Ah, capitalism, what can’t you solve?


10, Redefinition of Customer Loyalty

McCarthy suggests you think of customer loyalty, not as how much a customer loves youbut how loyal you are to your customer.

A quick, personal story about McCarthy. When I first purchased The System Club Letters, I tweeted out that I was excited to read it, and thanked McCarthy.

McCarthy wrote back, asking that I let him know how I liked the book. (Very much, and I’ll share this post with him).

Perhaps this goes back to the idea of Engaging Your List, but this quick exchange with McCarthy shows a real interest in his customers.

"The System Club Letters" by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas
“The System Club Letters” by Ken McCarthy. Photo by Jeffrey Thomas


Ken McCarthy’s The System Club Letters is an excellent business book with many additional inspiring ideas within.

Each chapter is a short nugget of wisdom, information, direction, or idea that can get your business in gear and your brain in the right frame of mind.

It’s one of those books that I will read again and again, and I think you will, too.


Pick up a copy of The System Club Letter at Amazon here



Find more PersuasionReadingList.com book summaries here–



And because you’re still looking for more, sign up for PRL’s daily email here–