Why Good Sales Copy Is Priceless

About a week ago, a subscriber called to inquire if my direct-marketing agency, Response Ink, would build a website for him. Although we are not looking to add new clients at this time, his company has an intriguing – even ingenious – business model. And so my curiosity got the better of me.

As we talked, it became clear that, instead of searching for the best marketing strategies and sales copy that money can buy, he was price-shopping us! And so I politely quoted our admittedly outrageous price (which includes a commission on each sale we produce), then let him off the hook by apologizing that we couldn’t get his site done in the time allotted… and politely wished him good luck.

At this moment – unless I miss my guess – he’s now discovering the joys of working with the lowest bidder: a company that agreed to his deadline and quoted a dirt-cheap price. My prediction? He’s about to endure a painful and costly object lesson in the true value of great marketing.

Here’s what typically happens:

  • The lowest bidder proves (surprise, surprise!) incompetent. The sales copy stinks, the Web pages are ugly and unreadable, functionality is limited – and the third, fourth, fifth, etc. drafts blow the deadline to smithereens.
  • The lowest bidder is fired. The next-lowest bidder is hired and starts from scratch. This step is often repeated two or three times until a website – of sorts – is finally finished.
  • Sales stink. Months after the initial deadline, the website finally goes live, and promptly disappoints by producing pathetic sales.
    Pity.

Whether from hubris or ignorance, this otherwise very bright man is making one of the most common blunders in the business world. Believing that they have “built a better mousetrap,” folks like him expect the world to automatically beat a path to their door.

They evidently understand that they need sales copy – although they’re probably not sure why. And they’re certainly ignorant of the fact that great marketing can often produce many times the sales, revenues, and profits that mediocre, lukewarm promotions do, thus multiplying the size of their business in a fraction of the time.

To “penny-wise, pound-foolish” guys like these, marketing strategies and copywriting are merely a commodity. Just another business expense. No more important to their company’s success than ink cartridges, yellow pads, or toilet paper.

One can only hope that, sooner or later, they will have an epiphany. That they will finally realize that great marketing strategies and sales copy, combined with flawless execution, is AT LEAST as essential to their success as the quality of their products. Quite possibly, even more so.

98 Years Ago, Albert Lasker Already Knew What These Poor Guys Are Learning NOW…

During the early days of the twentieth century, advertisers begged for a coveted spot on advertising agency Lord & Thomas’s client list. And they happily paid L&T’s outlandish fees. Whether they sold washing machines, Palmolive soap, or Lucky Strikes, every company that experienced L&T’s sales miracles knew full well that the great copy the agency produced was well worth the price.

Albert Lasker – the so-called “founder of modern advertising” – knew it too. That’s why he gladly hired John E. Kennedy for a whopping 205 times more than he was paying another copywriter at the time. And it’s why, in 1908, Lasker jumped at the chance to hire a 42-year-old copywriter named Claude C. Hopkins for a mindboggling 4 million (in 2009 dollars).

Hopkins had already carved out a stellar advertising career for himself by using the very “Salesmanship in Print” and “Reason-Why Advertising” principles Kennedy and Lasker so fervently believed in. And his brilliant copy took the sales of numerous products to the moon – including Pepsodent, Quaker’s Puffed Wheat, and Chevrolets.

How to Make Any Product Feel Truly Unique

Of all his great campaigns, Hopkins is probably most famous for the one he created for Schlitz beer in the early 1900s.

In those days, a beer’s purity was of paramount importance to consumers. And knowing this, most breweries claimed – but never really proved – that their beers were the purest available.

Hopkins reasoned that he could lift Schlitz head and shoulders above the competition by proving his claims beyond the shadow of a doubt. Instead of merely claiming purity, he would trumpet the reasons why Schlitz was purer than the rest. To do that, he needed to become an expert on the brewing process. And to do that, he would have to visit the brewery.

Now, picture this… Here’s a guy who makes millions as a copywriter – arguably the greatest word-juggler of his time – and he realizes that second-hand research isn’t enough.

Hopkins could have simply visited a library (remember them?) to do his research on the brewer’s art. Better yet, he could have saved several valuable days of his time and just sent an eager young apprentice to the brewery to do it.

But, no. Hopkins understood that, to write the most compelling ads possible, he needed a deep personal understanding of the product. He needed to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of beer making – and get answers to every question that sprang into his mind.

Only, after his tour of the brewery, did Hopkins begin writing. In meticulous detail, he described the 4,000-foot-deep artesian wells from which Schlitz drew its water… the wood pulp filters that ensured the water was 100 percent pure… the spotless plant… the way Schlitz’s bottles were sanitized with germ-scalding steam… and more.
But Hopkins did leave out one teeensy-weeensy little fact: Pretty much every brewery made its beer just like Schlitz did!

In reality, Schlitz’s beer wasn’t one iota purer than its competitors’ brewskis were. But by being the first to tell the public about the steps they took to ensure purity, Hopkins convinced the entire nation that Schlitz was the purest beer anywhere.

More than that: By making Schlitz the first brewery to reveal how beer was made, Hopkins ROBBED competing breweries of their purity claims. After his ads ran, any brewery that claimed its beer was pure came off looking like a second-rate, “me-too” competitor.

RESULT: In no time flat, Schlitz soared from America’s fifth-biggest-selling beer… to NUMERO UNO!

Hopkins described his strategy beautifully in his book My Life in Advertising:

“This is a situation which occurs in most advertising problems. The article is not unique. It embodies no great advantages. Perhaps countless people can make similar products. But tell the pains you take to excel.

“Tell factors and features which others deem too commonplace to claim. Your product will come to typify those excellencies. If others claim them afterward, it will only serve to advertise you.

“There are few advertised products which cannot be imitated. Few who dominate a field have any exclusive advantage. They were simply the first to tell certain convincing facts.”

Although Claude C. Hopkins may be best known for his Schlitz campaigns, he also pioneered sampling and the use of coupons, replaced reckless claims with money-back guarantees… and much, much more. In fact, he reveals so many powerful copywriting techniques in My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, that nearly all of today’s top writers still worship the ground he walked upon.

If you have not read him – or have not read him lately – I strongly suggest that you remedy this situation post-haste.

[Ed. Note: Master copywriter Clayton Makepeace publishes the highly acclaimed e-zine The Total Package to help business owners and copywriters accelerate their sales and profits. Claim your 4 free moneymaking e-books – bursting with tips, tricks, and tactics that’ll skyrocket your response – at MakepeaceTotalPackage.com.

“The time has come when advertising in some hands has reached the status of a science.” Claude C. Hopkins

 

 

  • Chantal Charbonneau

    The French are thin for several reasons which are much more simpler than the chemicals in the grapes. Americans amuse me when I read these articles about how the French stay thin.

    1. The French eat REASONABLE portions and not those gargantuan portions that would make a normal stomach explode and that you find in just about every restaurant in the US.

    2. The French eat REAL food and by that I mean: food the way it comes out of the ground, the way it comes out of the trees, the way it swims, flies and runs. Too many Americans swallow substances (I don’t want to call it food anymore) that are overly processed and devoid of real nutrients. In the US, it is called tv dinners. Many poorer Americans have found also that it is more affordable to go eat in fast food restaurants than buy fresh fruit and vegetables. The French still eat home cooked meals. Americans eat out very often.

    3. The French use their legs a lot more than Americans. They walk A LOT. They go for walks everywhere and they ride their bicycle. Even in their old age, they go for walk. They walk to the marché to get their fresh fruit and vegetables, they walk chez le bouché to get their meat,they walk chez le boulanger to get their bread, then they walk à la poste to mail their letters, you get the idea. Americans drive everywhere.

    4. The French TAKE TIME to enjoy their meals. They do not gulp down food. It seems to me that many Americans are swallowing food as if they wanted to imitate the farmers when they stuff their geese to fatten them. It is a pleasure to eat. When French eat, they actually take time to chew their food which mixes the digestive enzymes with the food, making it easier for the digestive system to process food.

    5. The French accept that ALL foods are good in MODERATE quantities. The French enjoy SOME wine, SOME cheese, SOME chocolate, SOME brioches. Americans are going crazy over some of those foods. They say “fat (or sugar, or wine) is evil, it will cause this disease and that other disease so let us banish it forever. Then they deprive themselves of those little pleasures, they start obsessing about those foods. After a while they cannot think about anything else but those foods they have banish that they crave and that is when they go completely banana! Then they jump in those foods, eat huge quantities of those, become sick, feel guilty and the process start over again.

    As I said, the French allow themselves to eat some cheese, some wine, some chocolate AND they enjoy it and savour it. They do not blame themselves for eating those foods because they eat them in moderate amounts. Like my mom used to say “everything is good in moderation”.

    6. The French tend to eat pretty much the same way. They are very consistent. They don’t do what you call “the yoyo diet”. They enjoy food, they do not punish themselves and deprive their body of food.

    7. The French make it a priority to have a healthy social life. They meet with their friends, their family, they take time to relax and enjoy life with others. They may not aspire to become multimillionaires like Americans, but they have a social life that is rich and nurturing. I believe that, because of that, they enjoy their meals better. It is so much more fun to eat with friends and family and laugh around the table or at a picnic!

    My heart goes to Americans who are constantly struggling to lose weight because the “experts” all give extremely conflicting information. One says to eat proteins and some fats, another says that too much proteins is not good and fats cause cardio-vascular disease. One says eating animal proteins is bad and people should become vegetarians, another says that vegetarianism is unealthy because there is not enough protein.

    I say, everything in moderation is good and most importantly, take time to enjoy eating real food.