Years ago, I was exposed to this marketing example, written by the late Gary Halbert, as an example of brilliant direct response marketing copy AND strategy. It’s a personals ad he wrote that led him to find his then-wife. He also used it as an example of how a good sales letter can solve just about any problem you have.
I’m not sure I buy that in total, but almost every problem can be HELPED by a good sales letter, whether it’s to sell someone on donating money to your cause or to convince a relative or friend to a particular course of action.
The biggest lesson Gary taught in this piece is that great direct response marketing is VERY similar to a personals ad, detailing who you WANT, as well as who you DON’T want. The technical name is a “flag” in your copy, which can be a direct “Dear Office Manager” or a description of the person you’re talking to – their pain, problems, desires and wants.
This next marketing example does a brilliant job of using descriptive copy and flags to do just that. If memory serves, I ripped it out of Entrepreneur magazine a few years ago.
The author, Ted Oakley, is a financial advisor who specializes in working with entrepreneurs who have recently sold their company and have at their disposal a LARGE sum of cash – a niche – which in and of itself is brilliant. I also know the ad was written by Dan Kennedy and have since learned of some of the mechanics behind the ad to make this piece work. A few things to point out:
1. SPECIALIZATION/NICHE: Much like IT pros, financial advisors are a dime a dozen. That’s NOT to take away from the profession but to point out that to stand out, charge premium fees and attract more clients away from competitors, you MUST niche or specialize.
In this case, he’s doing BOTH. His niche is small business owners who have recently sold their companies. His specialization is what to DO with that large sum of money, specifically how to avoid blowing it all on a new boat, house, or wife.
2. FLAGGING THE PROSPECT: The headline is what we call “dog-whistle copy” for his ideal prospect. Nobody “hears” it EXCEPT for his ideal prospect. A man (since the majority of his clients are male) sells his company, and the advice coming in IS conflicting. People wanting to sell him stuff, family members and friends wanting a loan, salespeople telling him, “You DESERVE” a bigger house, boat, car, etc. He IS vulnerable to making bad decisions because for the first time in his life he has irreplaceable money.
The oil well is SOLD; spend the money and there’s no well to pull another bucket from. Further in the copy: “If you are within 6 months of selling your company…” and “selling price of at least $10-million to $40-million” and “You may find yourself feeling lost and overly eager to get back into a decision-making role.”
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ALL of this is dog-whistle copy, building interest and, more importantly, rapport with the prospect. My Chris Voss students will see this for eliciting the “That’s right” response.
3. THE OFFER: Classic direct response marketing, driving to a website to get a free copy of the book. The site is not fancy, and there are things I would do to improve it, but the core of the copy is solid and it does the trick.
An exercise for you: go through your website and ALL marketing materials to see if you have clear “dog-whistle” copy throughout – or is it far too vague, plain vanilla, one-size-fits-all?