Step By Step Solution To A Taxing
Taxing Problem - Simple
Solution - You Owe!
If I say Form 1040, you know what I'm talking about. If
I say Notice 557, you wonder what I'm saying. Yet, Notice
557 instructs taxpayers who needs to file Form 1040... It's
a piece of work! (See insert).
Each year, I marvel at this graphic gem for its
neatness, for its inadvertent humor (all but one arrow leads
to "File a Return"), and most importantly for its ability to
put "teeth" into the phrase, แ ๐้
What a symbolic marvel! Hundreds of IRS Code pages
schematically represented onto one 8 1/2" X 11" page called
Notice 557. ิ่
One may argue that it probably cost taxpayers millions
of consulting dollars to end up with Notice 557. And one may
also argue that its comprehension is significantly raised by
the threat of penalties, interest and even jail. But there
can be no argument on the Service's accomplishment in
providing a decision tree which the general public can
comprehend and accurately act upon.
Maybe it's due to Halley's Comet; or, maybe it's due to
the volumes of incomprehensible mail that we all now receive.
But in the past couple of months, I have met increasing
numbers of companies who have relegated or are relegating
direct mail to the conceptually simple and straightforward
products and services.. The negative statements "it can't be
done," or "we've tried direct mail and failed" are on the
There seems to be three classes of problems with much of
the direct mail success: Too much literature. Too little
literature. Or, too complex literature.
Since others have argued the merits of short vs long
copy and few vs multiple inserts to a stand-off, my concern
is with the complex, for herein lies the potential to save
buckets of bucks while building recognition and revenue.
There is nothing more expensive and time consuming than
having a human being accompany a piece of literature in order
to explain its meaning. Moreover, there is nothing more
exasperating than having to backtrack on the sales campaign
due to a prospect's cognitive derailment because of ambiguous
Bluebirds and perpetual prospects aside, there normally
is an average number of selling iterations that occur on the
way to closing a sale. Some products require two
interactions, some five, others ten, etc. The key for each
company or product manager is to identify this number and
work to reduce the need for expensive, time consuming, face-
to-face selling in each one of these iterations. Yet despite
the cost, it continually happens that humans must follow
literature to explain its meaning.
It's been said before in this column that selling is a
blend of motivating, negotiating and educating. The last,
education, is where much of direct mail meets its death.
This is so because education requires a building block
approach when in fact many companies want to pour concrete in
their direct mail efforts. (If you have been around a
construction site when they're forcing the concrete into
forms, you may have witnessed a forms "blow-out" for the same
Because we all have barriers to comprehension, it is
essential to structure a lead generation/prospect development
campaign so as to hurdle these mental blocks through a
structured building block approach... just like self-paced
instruction. Few can handle the poured concrete approach.
The goal... to integrate education into the decision
process. There are three lesson plans. They are...
ฬๅ๓๓๏๎ ะ์แ๎ ฃฑ introduces the purchase of the product,
service or concept, itself, regardless of vendor. It
addresses the question, "Should I buy into this
product/service/concept at all". The goal of Lesson #1 is to
build awareness which in creative selling (as opposed to
order taking) is essential to leading the prospect to
believing that s/he should adopt this new idea or
technology... Whatever label one calls this curriculum
(i.e., generic, non-partisan or even public service) it's
primarily conceptual. We're building awareness and value in
the concept. At the end of this lesson, a prospect should be
able to visualize himself or herself enjoying the benefits
the of the proposed product/service.
Notice 557 provides this lesson very well; it builds
awareness of the filing requirement. The feature of this
awareness is that you will be complying with the tax laws.
And the benefit is that you will not be assessed interest,
penalties, or a jail term.
ฬๅ๓๓๏๎ ะ์แ๎ ฃฒ introduces bias... a bias for a
particular product or service, for the company behind it, for
its understanding of the problem, for its approach to a
solution and its ability to provide it. By now, the
altruistic motives of the first lesson plan are gone.
Feature/benefit statements, A vs B comparisons, and "bang for
the buck" claims abound in this lesson. This education is
definitely product/service and company oriented. It
addresses the question, "Should I buy this particular
product/service?" At the end of Lesson #2 prospects should
be positively prejudiced toward the company's offer. When
your enemies are successful at teaching this lesson, you
accuse them of brainwashing.
It might seem to be stretching it to say that Form 1040
fulfills this function, but it does. Through Form 1040's
structured approach and use of sub Schedules, a taxpayer is
able to determine the correct tax owed. It should take little
imagination to see how a similar worksheet for an A vs B
comparison could also lead a prospect to determine the
correct product/service to purchase.
ฬๅ๓๓๏๎ ะ์แ๎ ฃณ educates the prospect regarding the
timeliness of making the decision... N-O-W. If Lesson Plans
#1 and #2 were well prepared, some of Lesson #3 should
already be accomplished. However, many confuse this
educational timeliness with motivational timeliness. They
are usually diametrically opposed. Educational timeliness
builds price through value (i.e., a product is worth its
price because of its benefits, return on investment, etc.).
Motivational timeliness tends to build value through price
(i.e., sale ends at midnight --buy now -- it's a good value).
Lesson #3 addresses the question, "Why should I buy at this
time?" At the end of this Lesson, there should be a
Through the Instructions to Form 1040, the IRS provides
all of the motivational timeliness necessary. Pay or we'll
penalize. Interestingly however, the IRS also takes TV and
radio ads to encourage your filing early to make productive
use of a refund. That's educational timeliness at its best.
Well, there are the three Lesson Plans. And as the IRS
has proven, they can be taught through direct mail literature
Whether these lessons are introduced separately or
together depends upon the audience, competitive pressures and
personal preference. My preference is to teach each lesson
separately with trial closes during recesses. Unlike dealing
with the IRS where the burden is on the taxpayer to read and
obey the arrows of Notice 557, in selling, the burden is on
the instructor to entice the reader to follow the pathway to
a close. And the surest journey is made step by step and
block by block.