Hopkins in a Nutshell

“Advertising is salesmanship mass produced. No one would bother to use advertising if he could talk to all his prospects face-to-face. But he can’t.” – Morris Hite

I think everyone should read Claude Hopkins’ masterpiece, Scientific Advertising, at least three times.

I’ll bet you $50 that almost no one reads it more than once – even those who have heard me say that I’ve read it nearly 50 times, that it’s made me an extra $2 million, and that every time I read this wonderful little book ideas bloom in my mind like flowers in the spring.

Because of the importance I attach to the ideas in this book, I will distill its core message in super-condensed form right here and now. So if you have failed to read it a first, second, or third time, you can at least catch the spirit of this great man.

Of course, you can slap right over this bit of redundancy. The choice is yours. But here it is:  We learn the principles of effective marketing and prove them by repeated tests through keyed advertising and by traced returns. We compare one method with many others and record the results. When one method proves best, that method becomes a fixed principle. Advertising is salesmanship, and its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to similar causes. Every advertising question should be answered by the salesman’s standards. The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to the sales that result from it. It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen. Treat it as a salesman. Force it to justify itself. Compare it with other salesmen. Figure its cost and results. Accept no excuses (which good salesmen do not make).

Advertising is multiplied salesmanship. The difference is only in degree. It may appeal to thousands, while the salesman talks to one. It involves a corresponding cost. Some people spend $10 per word on an average ad. Therefore, every ad should be a super-salesman.

A salesman’s mistake may cost little. An advertising mistake may cost a thousand times as much. Be even more cautious and more exacting with your advertising than with your sales force.

A mediocre salesman may affect a small part of your trade. Mediocre advertising affects all of your trade. There is one simple and right way to answer many advertising questions. Ask yourself, “Would this help a salesman sell the goods? Would it help me sell the goods if I met the buyer in person?” Some say, “Be very brief. People will read but little.” Would you say that to a salesman? With a prospect standing before him, would you confine him to a certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap. So it is inadvertising. The only readers we get are people whom our subject interests. Long or short, no one reads ads for amusement.

Think of your readers as prospects standing before you, seeking information. Give them enough information to get action.

Don’t think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred view. Think of a typical individual who is likely to want what you sell. Don’t try to be amusing. Do just what you think a good salesman should do with a half-sold person in front of him.

Remember that the people you address are selfish. We all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profits. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common and costly mistake in advertising.

The worst ads ask no one to buy. Often, they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. Be sure all your information is complete and correct. Lead the prospect to the sale. The best ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They cite advantages to users. Perhaps they offer to send a sample on approval so the customer may test the claims with no cost or risk. These ads may seem altruistic, but they are based on a knowledge of human nature. The writers know how people are led to buy.

The difference between advertising and a salesman lies largely in personal contact. The salesman is there to demand attention. He cannot well be ignored. The advertisement can be ignored. The salesman wastes much of his time on prospects that he can never hope to interest. He cannot pick them out. The advertisement is read only by interested people who, of their own volition, study what we have to say.

The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest. If you wish to talk to someone in a crowd, the first thing you say to get the right person’s attention is, “Hey there, Bill Jones.” It’s the same way in advertisements. What you have will interest only certain people and for certain reasons. You care only for those people. Create a headline which will hail those people only.

Humannature is the same today as in the time of Caesar. These principlesof psychology are fixed and enduring. You will never need to unlearn what you learn about them.