We often wise up after making our own mistakes, but we so rarely learn from other people’s.

Forgive the moan. It’s because I’ve just read two wise paragraphs in a book called Sales Promotion by Mail — and realised how little we’ve learned since the day it was published in 1916.

If you’ve ever been bored witless by lengthy articles about a company’s founder and board, this paragraph is dedicated to you.

There is often a temptation to devote several pages of the publication to biographical sketches of the founder of the business or of the prominent officers of the concern, forgetting that the readers are far-off business men who read the publication solely for the information it may contain regarding the making of more profit. They read it for selfish purposes entirely, to gain knowledge that will be of practical benefit in conducting their business, and they are not interested in the early struggles and ultimate success of individuals personally unknown to them. A house organ that resolves itself into a limited “Who’s Who” may be a literary success and highly gratifying to the personal vanity of the people who pay the bills for its production but its influence as a selling medium will be nil.

And if the words ‘so what?’ have formed on your lips while reading about a company’s history, please accept this paragraph with my compliments.

The length of time a concern has been in business is often a favorite theme for lengthy articles of self-praise, and although a record of years has its value, what the reader wants to know is not what you were doing ten, twenty-five, or fifty years ago, but what you are doing now and your plans for the future. It might be well in this respect to remember an enterprising American’s “comeback” in London for a rival merchant who placed a sign above his door that read, “We have been in business here for two centuries,” The American at once had a large sign painted saying, “We have been in business here two weeks—ALL NEW GOODS, NOTHING STALE OR SHOP-WORN.”

It’s simple stuff. It wasn’t even novel in 1916. But since then, countless businesses and individuals have made the same expensive error of putting their own interests before their customers’.

Don’t make the same mistake — learn from other people’s. Give Sales Promotion by Mail a read today.

It won’t even cost you penny. This wisdom is long out of copyright…