Gary Bencivenga's  Marketing Bullets


BULLET #3

The Two Most Powerful Words in
Advertising.
(No, they're not FREE and NEW.)


Dear Marketing Top Gun:

     In this BULLET you'll discover the two most powerful words in advertising and how to use them to explode your response fairly easily and consistently.

Which Headline Pulled Best?
     First, to illustrate the secret, can you guess which of these two magalog headlines was the big winner for a financial newsletter?

     HEADLINE A: (next to photo of financial guru, Charles J. Givens):

     If you've got 20 minutes a month,
     I guarantee to work a financial miracle
     in your life.

     (caption under photo)
     Charles J. Givens, the self-made $200-millionaire,
     entrepreneur and best-selling financial author of all time.

     HEADLINE B: (same photo and caption):

     The Millionaire Maker
     (subhead) Can he make YOU rich, too?

     * * *

     Which of these headlines absolutely smashed the other in a split-run test, outpulling it by a huge margin and becoming a profitable control for years?

     Rather than just tell you the winner, let me describe how you could know in advance, once you understand the two most powerful words in advertising today.

     By the way, no BULLET you will ever read will give you more sheer power to boost your response consistently, beat existing control packages easily and create your own blockbuster products than the simple yet profound secret I will now share. Yet I doubt if you have ever read this anywhere, even if you have been a lifelong student of advertising.

Conventional Wisdom That's Wrong
     First, you must understand why some of what you have been taught about direct marketing is wrong, or at least outdated and incomplete.

     Most of the few great books on direct response were written more than a generation ago by legends such as John Caples, David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins and one or two others. Most of their response-boosting secrets remain valid, as we will see in future BULLETS.

     Their main teaching: benefits, big benefits, are the key to high response.

     Makes sense. But there's a problem. These giants wrote this advice long ago when, compared with today, prospects were under-marketed. So, yes, back then, flat-out big benefits and words like FREE and NEW got people excited.

     But today, more often than not, these same words and super-sized claims instantly trigger rejection. The problem is, words like FREE and NEW and the big-claim style of advertising they reflect, have been so overused, they have become bright red flags that instantly scream to your prospects, throw me away!

     As proof, if I were to send you an email with the words "new" and "free," I must misspell them, or your spam filter may bounce my message.

     Best proof: just ask yourself, do you get overly excited when you encounter an email or direct mail package trumpeting free or new or some fantastic claim to make you rich, change your life overnight or grow body parts bigger than you ever dreamed?

     Of course not.

     You have heard such claims too many times. Your own exquisitely sensitive mental spam filter rejects all such messages instantly, as you think to yourself, YEAH, SURE.

     And those, Top Gun, are the two most powerful and influential words in advertising today. Yeah, sure.

     They are the near-universal response of a too-busy world awash in marketing.

     These two words are merciless tyrants, mass murderers of response, because they are exactly the words your harried prospects think every time they must slog through the daily, ever-rising tide of advertising claims.

     Get rich quick! Yeah, sure (toss it).

     Lose weight fast! Yeah, sure (toss it).

     Make $1,000 a week stuffing envelopes! Yeah, sure (toss it).

     Elect me and I will make the world safe, cut your taxes and give everyone universal health care. Yeah, sure.

     And so on, including almost all of the big-promise messages you were taught to trumpet by the direct response scriptures.

A Simple Secret for Exploding Your Response
     As a result, the vast majority of B level copywriters spend most of their days dreaming up ways to pump up ever-bigger claims ... which is why their mailings are almost always beaten easily by the tiny handful of A level copywriters who know this simple secret of successful selling in an overmarketed world...

     Never make your claim bigger than your proof. And always join your claim and your proof at the hip in your headlines, so that you never trumpet one without the other.

     There is no more powerful nor consistent way to explode your response. Surround your claims with stronger, bolder proof and watch your response soar.

     And I am not talking just about testimonials, which do help but have become so overused themselves, they have lost some of their magic. I am talking about every method you can possibly find to bolster your proof and credibility.

     There are many ways to do this, as I will teach you in future BULLETS.

     One of the easiest ways is simply to avoid like the measles phrases so overused, they instantly trigger the Yeah, Sure response, phrases such as get rich quick ... lose weight fast ... and, yes, become a millionaire.

     Another way is to sandwich your big promise inside an IF ...THEN construction in your headline.

     When you say IF (followed by a requirement your prospects have to meet), it seems to magically switch off and bypass their Yeah, Sure alarm and usher you right in their front door to sell.

     Surprisingly, it even works when you make the requirement easy to meet.

     And now you know the winner, headline A:

     If you've got 20 minutes a month,
     I guarantee to work a financial miracle
     in your life.


     I know, the promise still seems so big and hard to believe. But that is the power of the IF...THEN construction. For some reason, it seems to put the universal Yeah, Sure alarm to sleep, like punching in the alarm code when you enter your home.

     The formula: a reasonably easy requirement, followed by a strong promise. Think up ways to use this for your own product.

     Of course, be sure to pay off in your body copy why and how the benefit can be achieved by such an easy requirement. And if it is not extremely easy, but only moderately easy, that is even better, as it is more believable. Surprisingly, candor is gloriously effective in boosting response.

     Anyway, test this IF...THEN idea sometime soon, measure the results, and you may be startled by how much it outpulls the typical big-promise headline most ads rely on.

     In fact, the headline above was so successful for Givens, his publishers asked me if they could adapt it for another of their products, a weight loss newsletter by Richard Simmons. Against a strong control package that had beaten off all comers, they tested this headline, keeping all other elements in the package the same:

     (Next to photo of Richard Simmons)
     If you've got 20 minutes a month,
     I guarantee a thinner, healthier you.


     It worked like a charm and handily beat the previous champ. (BTW, notice the absence of exclamation marks, the overuse of which increases the aroma of hype and a resulting Yeah, Sure response.)

The Best Example I've Ever Seen
     The most effective use I have ever seen of this IF...THEN technique was a famous ad for a speedwriting course.

     I saw it when I was a copy cub, commuting to Madison Avenue by subway. It was addressed to secretaries and ran for many years. As you were standing there, hanging on your strap and swaying with the motion of the train, you'd read this poster just above eye level. The headline was a sentence handwritten in script across a spiral, steno-type notepad. It read:

     F u cn rd ths msg,
     u 2 cn dbl yr incm
     w spdwrtng.


     When I figured it out...

     ...I flt lk a blumn gnys!

     So did legions of secretaries who responded to this ad for many years.

Coming in Future BULLETS...
     ...Many more ways to switch off the Yeah, Sure alarm and easily get your foot in the door, which is half the challenge in direct marketing.

     In your next BULLET: The most important advertising question you can ask. This, too, is a secret you have never read elsewhere, yet it will make a huge difference in your marketing fortunes. You will see.

Sincere wishes for a good life
and (always!) higher response,


P.S. If you know any copywriters or marketers who would enjoy this
Bullet, just send them an email with this link: http://marketingbullets.com/index.htm

P.P.S. Your e-mail address will never be shared. And if you ever wish to
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