“The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” – Alfred Whitney Griswold

Last week, I invited members of our EasyWriters Marketing Club to ask me anything they liked. And I personally answered every single one of their questions in a marathon two-hour live webinar.

One of my beloved EasyWriters – a young copywriter – had just invested several weeks of his life in creating a one-shot direct-mail promotion. Its purpose was to convince personal trainers to buy a $200,000 franchise in his client’s fitness business.

The client mailed about 400 of his sales letters, then sat back, expecting a tsunami of simoleons to come crashing in.

But instead, they received:

* Fewer inquiries than you have toes on your left foot

* Zero sales

Now, I never saw my EasyWriter friend’s copy. I don’t have to. Because even the best sales copy ever written in the history of direct response would have failed miserably in this case.

Fact is, there’s so much wrong with this marketing model, I hardly know where to begin.

For one thing, 400 sales letters to sell a $200,000 product? Let’s think about that for a moment…

A single order would give you a 0.25 percent (one-quarter of one percent) response rate. Now, that’s a reasonable response to expect if you’re offering a $200 product and IF your prospects are crazy qualified. But it’s not even conceivable with a hard offer and at a price that’s one thousand times higher.

And I seriously doubt that my friend’s prospects were anywhere near qualified to spend even two dollars with him – let alone two hundred thousand.

See, I’ve had a few personal trainers over the years. And every one of them had one thing in common.

Care to guess what it was?

Bingo! Every one of them was flat broke. None of them could have shelled out $200,000 for a fitness franchise if you’d held a gun to their heads.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet most of my friend’s prospects have second and even third jobs just to make ends meet. Heck, I met my favorite trainer the night she served me a margarita at a tiki bar.

(It was an interesting relationship. Every weekend, she’d keep my glass full of high-calorie booze. Then, Monday through Friday, she’d come to the house and beat me mercilessly, cheerfully exacting sadistic revenge for every drink she’d served me.)

But even if every one of the 400 folks who got my friend’s sales letter had 200,000 buckaroonis burning a hole in their pockets, he was still screwed. He was screwed the minute he accepted the client.

Because, frankly, the franchise owner was an idiot.

See, my friend tried to tell him that you don’t sell $200,000 products with a single sales letter. Your prospect doesn’t know you from Adam – and you expect him to read a few pages of sales copy and then cut you a check for one-fifth of a million smackers?

Sorry. No matter how hypnotic your sales copy may be, the world doesn’t work that way.

Because all things being equal…

As your price rises, so does your prospect’s skepticism.

Most folks will spend $9.99, $19, or $29 with a total stranger without a second thought.

If they’re well-qualified for your offer, they’ll spend $49, $79, $99, even $199… so long as they see a few reasonable proof elements and a convincing guarantee.

But if you want a prospect to cut you a check for much more than that, you’ll need to do more than just answer every objection and erase his skepticism.

You’ll need to establish a trusting relationship with him.

If your price is $200,000, you’re going to have to work to get it. You’ll have to mount a multi-step marketing campaign that uses the mail, the telephone, and maybe even a one-on-one meeting. You have to move the prospect, one careful step at a time, from where he is now to where you want him to be.

Or it could be an intense online blitz. A blizzard of e-mails and banner ads, a pay-per-click campaign, and maybe even offline media like TV, radio, and direct mail to drive prospects to a search-engine-optimized landing page that produces a lead. That’s followed by, maybe, a direct-mail kit, one or more phone conversations, and perhaps the face-to-face stuff.

So how would I have done it?

Well, I would have started by asking myself, “Who’s most likely to buy a $200,000 franchise?”

And I’d probably have answered myself, “I’m not certain. But it sure as heck ain’t poverty-stricken physical trainers!”

So I would have beat the bushes for mailing lists, magazines, and websites that deliver the eyeballs of people who have proven that they want to go into business for themselves.

I would have tested, for example, lists of subscribers to magazines that target folks who want to start their own businesses. And I would have run lead-producing ads in those publications as well. Biz-op book and product buyers would have been worth a direct-mail test, too – especially folks who have inquired about or bought other franchises.

If I wanted to spread a wider net, I would have done it on the cheap: With lead-producing inserts in card decks, other people’s product shipments, and other media that let me solicit inquiries for $5 or $10 per thousand eyeballs. But never, never, never in a direct-mail package that costs me fifty to one hundred times more to mail!

In my first communication with my prospective buyers, I’d set out to seduce them with vivid mental pictures of life as a business owner. I’d romance the freedom, the prestige, the money.

I’d demonstrate that the business I’m selling is easy, fun, and a great way to meet interesting people.

And I’d load my promotion with case histories and testimonials from people just like my prospect who have used this franchise to become wildly successful.

I wouldn’t even come close to naming my price in my first contact with the prospect. But I would trivialize it by demonstrating how buying this franchise is like buying thousand-dollar bills for a penny apiece. Or better yet, by pointing out that our easy financing plan will put him in business cheap and have him earning big profits fast.

Then I’d add an urgency motivator – like mentioning that only one franchise will be granted in his city, on a first-come, first-served basis. And I’d ask him to call or maybe write his phone number and e-mail address on a reply card and return it to me NOW.

The ones that respond, I’d qualify on the phone. The ones that don’t, would get a second “Why haven’t I heard from you?” letter. Or, if the list is responding well, an outbound call from a franchise rep.

That’s how I’d do it. And that’s how my EasyWriter friend wanted to do it.

“But no-o-o-o,” says the client. “I don’t want a multi-step marketing model. I want you to sell a $200,000 franchise in a single sales letter to people who probably can’t afford one.”

Sure, pal. I’ll get right on it. Soon as I part the Red Sea, turn a few cases of Dasani into Cristal, and raise a coupla dudes from the dead.

[Ed. Note: Clayton Makepeace has spent the last 35 years creating direct-mail, Internet, and print promotions that have sold well over $1 billion worth of products. He publishes the highly acclaimed e-zine The Total Package to help business owners and copywriters accelerate their sales and profits. Click here to check it out.]

In many of the 34 years since Clayton Makepeace began his career, his marketing brainstorms and sales copy have generated over 100 million dollars in sales for his clients – all told well over a billion dollars so far!
Clayton’s copy has generated as many as TWO MILLION NEW CUSTOMERS for a single product in just 36 months and doubled, tripled – and on four specific occasions, quadrupled – the number of paying customers on his clients house files in as little as a year or two.He has increased his client’s sales revenues by up to 1,000 percent in a single month, and multiplied monthly sales revenues by up to 4,400 percent in one short year.Clayton’s direct response copy has pulled in as much as $3.6 million in sales over a weekend $5 million in a few weeks and $16 MILLION in a single month!

Clayton Makepeace

In many of the 34 years since Clayton Makepeace began his career, his marketing brainstorms and sales copy have generated over 100 million dollars in sales for his clients – all told well over a billion dollars so far!
Clayton’s copy has generated as many as TWO MILLION NEW CUSTOMERS for a single product in just 36 months and doubled, tripled – and on four specific occasions, quadrupled – the number of paying customers on his clients house files in as little as a year or two.He has increased his client’s sales revenues by up to 1,000 percent in a single month, and multiplied monthly sales revenues by up to 4,400 percent in one short year.Clayton’s direct response copy has pulled in as much as $3.6 million in sales over a weekend $5 million in a few weeks and $16 MILLION in a single month!