Martin Conroy's Billion Dollar Story

storyOn a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both - as young college graduates are - were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.

They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.

But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.

What Made The Difference?

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It isn’t a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.

And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of The Journal: to give its readers knowledge - knowledge that they can use in business.


The above story/sales letter, written by Martin Conroy, was used by the Wall Street Journal for 25 years starting in 1974. Doing the math regarding how many people this letter was sent to, the percentage of orders that came from it, and the subscription prices, it is estimated that this story resulted in $1 billion in sales for the paper.

So, what’s the point?

The point is that stories are an extremely effective, but often overlooked, sales tool that can allow emerging ventures to compete with large established companies. Stories allow companies to get their prospects involved in their message. It gets them excited. And then they want to learn more.

Here's an example of another startup who crafted a great story...


I’m about to tell you a true story. If you believe me, you will be well rewarded. If you don’t believe me, I will make it worth your while to change your mind. Let me explain.

Lynn is a friend of mine who knows good products. One day he called excited about a pair of sunglasses he owns. “It’s so incredible!” he said. “When you first look through a pair you won’t believe it.” What will I see? I asked. What could be so incredible?

Lynn continued. “When you put on these glasses your vision improves, objects appear sharper, more defined. Everything takes on an enhanced 3D effect and it’s not my imagination. I just want you to see for yourself.”


The story goes on to discuss all the benefits of Joe Sugarman’s BluBocker sunglasses… over 20 million pairs of which have now been sold!

Does your company have a great story?
Share this article:

Ali Anani says

The fact that I kept on reading your stories with enthusiasm reflects the value of curiosity-provoking stories as selling tools. I encourage evryone to read this article. It makes him/her grow and think along the way.
Posted at 4:28 pm
Daniel Briere says

Indeed, curiosity drove me on, too. It is like a candid relation of information, rather than a hard sell.
Posted at 7:51 pm
Linda Bailey says

Hello my name is Linda Bailey and I too have a story to tell, but I did not think anyone would listen to it until I red your article. The more I read the more I had to know.
Posted at 11:51 am
Adriana says

Very interesting ways to get people attention, and better yet they work!!
Posted at 1:13 am
nick says

If anyone is interested in being able to tell stories like this and have the ability to get your employees to listen to what you have to say; please do yourself a favor and check out "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath. It explains a lot.
Posted at 12:51 am
Christopher Tomasulo says

This story from Martin Conroy was modeled from ads in the early 1900's that were used to sell correspondence courses. To read about the history of this type of story in advertising visit
Posted at 6:31 am

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