North of Jewfish Creek
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
Hey, let's see if we can't piss
somebody off this month.
Here goes: Doc (long-time client and friend) calls me yesterday
in a near-panic. Says, "I am more
confused than ever! I don't see how anybody can sell anything to women
at all. All they want to do is loll around in an emotional fog, feeling
things. It's scary!"
"Ah, Doc," I
reply soothingly, "it ain't that bad.
Go ask your wife..."
"No way! She's one of
'em! Probably downstairs in the television room this very minute, sharing feelings
with Oprah and her evil cabal..."
Eventually he calmed down, and I didn't have to dial 911. He was
even laughing about it... a little... by the time we hung up. Shaken, but not so
What had caused this reaction? Simple. Doc is a rabid marketer
with a brilliant mind, always sniffing around new opportunities for his direct
marketing business. Very successful in
several ventures into male-dominated markets (sports stuff)... and very eager to
tap into the larger female markets out there. Bombed with his first weight-loss
product, but knew the numbers were there for other marketers, and was frustrated
that he couldn't seem to "crack the code" on... selling to women.
So I gave him a homework assignment. Told him to hustle down to
the local magazine rack and pick up every major women's magazine there: Oprah
(you can't miss it, she's always on
the cover), Cosmo, Red Book, Mademoiselle, Self, Glamour,
Vogue... geez, there's a lot of 'em... Marie Claire, Us, Martha
he wants to know.
them," I respond. "Read
every single one. Pay close attention to how the stories are 'sold' with cover
blurbs (written by some of the best writers in the biz, by the way)...
and what the stories focus on. More importantly, pay very close attention to the
ads. What hot buttons they aim for, how they craft their sales pitch, price
points... and, especially, which ads are running over and over again."
Now, is there any question in your mind why I had Doc do this homework?
And unless you have an extra "X" chromosome yourself,
you need to do the same assignment.
Right away... because...
Men Simply Do NOT Understand Women!
Even big successful studs like you. Almost no real clue at all.
Doc, for example, had been married to a perfectly wonderful woman for 15 years
(and had a pretty impressive bachelorhood before that). Seemed to be able to
communicate with women well enough. Just assumed
he "understood" them. But I tell, the boy was clueless.
And you desperately need to get a clue, dude. Why? Well, for
starters, women control 90% of the wealth in this country. The hubby may have
written the check, but she chose the
house. The furniture. The car. The summer vacation to Disney World. Even his
ties and underwear.
But there's more to it than that. Learning how to understand
women is the first step toward learning how to sell to them effectively. It will be, for most men, one of the
hardest things you ever do. Also, one of the most rewarding. Your personal life will get better overnight (whether
you're married, single, or considering the priesthood). And financially, your
bank account will swell to obscene proportions. And let me fill you in on a
little secret... if you learn to sell to women...
You Will NEVER Want For
ANYTHING... The Rest Of Your Days!
Women-primary markets dominate direct sales (QVC, diets,
"make your kid a genius" products), retail (check out your local
mall), food (besides big damn hamburgers and beer, what other food group is
being sold to men?), even cars and politics (SUV-driving soccer moms can swing
And yet most marketers are guys. Not the kind of guys who were
considered hotties in high school, either. Most of the entrepreneurs I know can
weave a pretty sad tale of woe about their social lives (at least up to the
point they started making some bucks). Not too many student body prez/quarterback/homecoming
king/honor roll/most-likely-to-succeeds among us.
Hey, if you have trouble getting a date because you can't figure
out what women want, you're gonna run into some very nasty obstacles trying to
sell a woman anything at all.
Thus, the homework assignment.
And what did we learn, Doc?
"Feelings! Oceans of feelings! Good God, they're like alien
creatures from another planet!"
Now, I'm not gonna present myself as some kind of know-it-all
regarding the ladies. I learned what I know through grueling years of trial,
error (mostly error)... and unfair inside
help. Through a friend who shall remain nameless (himself an admitted
ovary-challenged human), I met a shrink who shared a couple of critical
classified secrets that were nothing short of a complete revelation in the gender wars. After that, I had a toe-hold in the
female psyche, and could start navigating that wild world with a modicum of
I love women, I really do. I have always sought out close women
friends, and I never reject their
point of view casually. No matter how insane and irrational it is. Still, it
took me years to learn how to
consistently craft compelling sales pitches to them.
Most clueless guys attempt to sell to women as though they were
"men with breasts". In other words, men assume the thought process
going on in her head is similar to the
one going on in his. Or should be. And
it isn't. Not even close. If you could
take a woman's thought process and transplant it into a typical man's brain, his
head would explode.
The big difference... is emotions.
"Feelings," as Doc worded it. If it helps to think about this stuff in
Women feel. Men think.
That's why I don't even need to know the gender of the rookie
writers I critique ads for. Men tend to overdo the features
of any product... they want to bull you over with the force
of size, performance statistics, heft and expense. In other words, the
"quantity" of the thing.
Women, though, get lost in the benefits. They go off on tangents about how it feels to experience the thing...how the softness soothes, how the
delicacy satisfies deep needs. The "quality" of it. Now, all
copywriters learn early on that you must attach benefits to features for
effective selling. But rookie lady writers often forget to mention any feature
at all. You can't figure out what the heck the product actually is.
The shrink explained much about how women think... and perhaps
I'll share more of the juicier details with you in a future issue. It's pretty
damn interesting, I gotta say. (Maybe I'll call it a "short-cut sex ed
class for clueless guys".) But what he told me about emotions
is more relevant here. It has stuck with me all these years, and I use the
knowledge often when I know there are women in the audience I'm pitching.
You see, there have been many studies concerning how men and
women translate emotions in their brains.
I don't have the exact figures handy... but researchers found that men can
identify only a handful of emotional states (and they often incorrectly classify
"being hungry" or "being sleepy" as emotion) (or "being
really, really horny, man"). Let's say most men have nine operational
Women, however, have something like 200 operational emotions.
Feeling "cherished" carries very much different emotional weight than
does feeling "loved", or "adored", or even
"worshiped". And they can explain these states in detail.
Just mapping out the landscape of "envy" and "jealousy"
could take a lifetime.
Women also multi-task
feelings with ease... low self-esteem often coexists quite happily with the
sense they are reincarnated princesses worthy of ruling the world. And they are
capable of hating your guts, wanting to have your baby, mentally listing 14
super-detailed ways you should change immediately, and wishing you'd just step
up and take control of the damn situation without being a jerk about it... all
in the same nano-second that you're saying, "Huh?"
(They're also wondering what's good to eat in the 'fridge, and how the couch
would look better over there.)
Trust me on this. Right now, if you're an average Joe, you have no
clue what women want.
So get hip. Read a couple of romance novels. (That
will open your eyes. Especially when you consider that many upper-class, upper income women devour these things to the tune of three or four a week.
They are shoveling romance into the bottomless pit in their hearts.) Pay close
attention to ads that run month after month, year after year, in the women's
magazines. Open your mind to possibilities the omnipresent horoscopes offer.
(Just remember that until the FTC cracked down recently, psychic hotlines
dominated late-night advertising... to the tune of billions
of dollars in income. Primarily from women.)
And copy out, in longhand, the blurbs on the magazine covers.
It's one of the best ongoing educations on power
writing you'll ever get. Plus... you know these words and phrases have
already been "field tested" on the ladies. You'll see certain verbs
and word-clusters appear again and again. The word "sex" is there a
lot, for example. But don't be shallow... do pay attention to how the writers
quickly tie it to an unrelated
subject. (And don't pout when you discover that the actual articles have little
or nothing to do with sex as men understand it.)
Make this part of your continuing education and research into
And please...don't be afraid, guys. The opposite sex is still
the same sweet, loveable, nurturing and exciting half of the species they always
were. You're just going to lift the veil on the "mysterious" part a
little, and educate yourself on the details as they pertain to marketing.
The girls won't hurt you. Unless...
You Piss Them Off!
Do you think I honestly angered any of the many women who
subscribe to this rag with the above rant?
I don't. You know why? Because most of the women I know in this
business have something a surprising number of the guys do not: A sense of
humor. And a good sense of "if it's right, it's right, so don't have a
fit about it."
That, of course, is not
the case outside of the business world. And it's something I truly love about
direct response advertising: All cries of unfair "good old boy"
advantages, glass ceilings, and gender victim-hood are completely irrelevant. No
one can see you when you write a
letter or ad. They don't know what color, sex, nationality or age you are,
unless you choose to tell them.
Nope. You must earn
the sale by providing credibility on the strength of your testimonials, your
expertise, and your ability to craft a convincing sales pitch. It's the most
"blind" kind of salesmanship there is. You could be a trans-sexual,
trans-species Siamese twin whose visage frightens little kids on the street.
Doesn't matter. In direct response, it's
counts. Pure equality in action.
I've considered teaching a special seminar in certain cities
directed only at women... revealing
the amazing opportunities for independence and fabulous incomes and complete
control over your future inherent in forming your own direct response business.
You want better child care, flexible hours, a workplace free of harassment? Then
make one. No one's stopping you. There
are no glass ceilings in the entrepreneur biz.
Women business owners have little patience with anyone who
complains about "the boys playing too rough". They just play rougher,
if they have to... or create the atmosphere they want in their own workplace.
No one is stopping you. That's kinda scary to most people...
it's much easier to blame your lack of success on outside factors. America is
becoming a nation of victims, and it's just damned silly. If your
"movie" isn't progressing as excitingly or romantically as you'd
like... change the script. It's up to
you. Unless you're literally chained up in some dungeon, nothing is holding you back but your own inner nonsense.
You know, you don't hear much complaining from street-wise
hustlers, either. They don't expect life to cut them any slack, and they have
learned long ago that they must take
what they want... cuz...
Nobody's Gonna Give It To Them!
I didn't grow up on city streets. My childhood was spent running
unfettered around the fascinations that existed for children in a "typical
small American city". And maybe it wasn't as dangerous as the ghetto
neighborhoods of Compton or Brooklyn, but there were plenty of opportunities to
get your head kicked in. There was class warfare among the street racers... you
were either a committed "Ricky Racer"... or... a serious lowrider or
you had no business being in their company. There were some nasty race
conflicts, too... my closest friend was a Latino, but that didn't mean I could
walk through the local barrio safely.
For every good vibe available cruising around on a Friday night
chasing girls, there was a nasty surprise
just as easy to run into. If you were scared, you had to stay home. The only
rule was: You were responsible for your own safety. It was understood that you
would make mistakes... but you were expected to learn from them quickly.
It's the same with the business world, though few people realize
it. There are no guarantees when you get involved... and there are plenty of
unsavory types out there who will happily eat your lunch and steal your bike.
I was thinking about this when I saw the movie
"Snatch" the other night. Great flick, if you haven't caught it. Brad
Pitt as a gypsy bare knuckle fighter in a riveting plot full of thieves,
killers, cops, diamond merchants with no ethics... and wannabe thugs. It's
entertaining as a movie... but if you look at it as a metaphor for business,
it just sings.
In a nutshell, here is the lesson:
Rookies Get Eaten Alive...
Lucky Men Run Out Of Luck... And
Only The Ego-Less, Cool-Thinking Pro Survives!
Lots of self-centered pros get their clocks cleaned through
hubris. They get cocky, or self-righteous, or just forget that there's no
rule against them losing. Rookies are shocked when they lose, but they
aren't necessarily surprised. The look on a pro's face when the unthinkable
happens can quickly cure you of any silly feelings about your own invincibility.
In whatever market you're in, you really should understand all
aspects of it with as much detail as an ego-less, cool-thinking pro about to
enter a dark alley in a crime-soaked part of town... who wants to make damn sure
he comes out alive. You don't go in unprepared. You don't figure on God watching
your back. (He's too busy these days.) And you don't go in with fairy
tale ideas of how the world works.
You won't "magically" succeed in business just because
you try. It's not like Hollywood movies at all. Not one little bit. Screw
waiting around for something magical to happen. The savvy businessman just takes
control right off the bat. And learns all about his market... so that he knows every detail, and knows it better
than anyone else.
I can't tell you how often people send me ads to critique...
where it's obvious the writer has no clue
whatsoever what motivates the prospect he's after. It's insane. It's exactly
like taking a bus to the worst part of town, and walking into an alley without
the slightest notion of what to do when confronted by a hard-ass. Or two. Or
Okay, so maybe your market isn't full of thieves and street
fighters. The point still holds. If your market is strictly little old ladies in
need of knitting supplies, you
still have to understand them at their deepest level. Because even a
little old lady will blow off your ads with the scorn of a Mafia boss, if you
don't immediately hit her sweet spot with your pitch.
Experienced marketers nod in agreement when I talk about hitting
the "passionate sweet spot"
of your prospect. They know that cold, lifeless, boring ad copy seldom gets
read, and almost never gets acted on.
So I tell would-be writers, over and over, to put more passion
into their copy. But there's a catch: Once you've effectively tapped into your
own passion for your product...
You Must Then Put A Lid On It!
Confusing? Naw. Let me explain: What you want to be is like the
super-focused, super-calm salesman... who has a glint in his eye... and seems
barely able to contain his glee and wonder at the benefits of his product. But
he does contain it. You sense
the passion... but he's not bowling you over with it.
Too many writers think that tapping into your own passionate
sweet spot is akin to getting all riled up and insane. In print, the effect is
like a three-year-old kid pestering you for attention. It's damned annoying in
kids, and a huge turn-off in adults. Don't grab my lapels and scream in my face,
no matter how blissed-out you are about your product. Passion makes your copy
powerful not because people respond to wild-eyed true believers... but because
passion attached to a reasoned and focused
sales message zeroes in on the human element in the process.
Imagine a guy asking his beloved to marry him. Jumping up and
down and hollering may show that your passion runs deep... but she'll think you
flipped your lid, and will certainly think twice about hooking up with a nutcase
who can't control himself. On the other hand, popping the question in a cold and
casual way won't exactly melt her heart, either.
No. You must find that delicate middle ground... where your
passion shows as a gleeful glint, something powerful that is yet under your
control. True salesmen know that effective passion is something the prospect senses,
and senses clearly. It is a tool to help the pitch. Unfocused passion is not a replacement for the pitch.
"I have just discovered something so exciting that I
feel I'll burst if I don't share it with you..."
"Right now, it's past midnight here at the office
and I should be home and in bed. But I can't sleep. There's
something urgent I have to share with you, and it just can't
Something incredible has just happened here... and the
first person I thought of to tell this amazing story to was you"
Get it? It's not: "HEY!
Look at this!!!" It's: "If
you have just two minutes, I have an amazing story to share that will
shock and delight you..."
Great salesmen know that, to make the sale, you must be in total
control. If there are choices to make, you must guide the prospect to make
them during the pitch. If there are problems or objections, they must be
addressed and solved during the pitch.
The role of passion is to keep the prospect riveted to the story, so these
things can be reasonably taken care of... and the sale closed. Effective
passion... just like laughing... is contagious. You can (and should)...
Infect Your Prospect With It,
Straight From Your Heart,
But Through Your Brain!
Think of it as "passionate reason". You're not a
professor in a lab coat explaining a cold equation... instead, you're a regular
fella (just like your reader) letting him
in on something truly fabulous and worthwhile.
Do it with an urgent gleam in your eye, and barely-contained
excitement he can clearly sense.
Onward. A good friend of mine, Stan Dahl, works in something
called "information systems". He talks about the
"architecture" of data, and has worked with such massive collectors of
information and data as NATO and ARCO's AM/PM Mini-marts. These organizations
bring him in when the mountains of data threaten to crush the system. (You don't
wanna know how unorganized NATO's Belgium headquarters are. Scary.)
Anyway, I've known Stan for 15 years or so, and it's taken about
that long for him to explain what he does to me in a way I can understand. It's
not that the architecture of data is all that hard to explain, or that I'm that
dense... okay, maybe I am that dense,
but that's not the story here. It's sort of like a major league pitcher trying
to explain the mechanics of a true screwball to someone who's never played
baseball... or a musician trying to explain music theory to someone who's never
touched an instrument.
However, once I "got" it, I realized I'd been
practicing my own form of "data architecture" ever since I created my
first ad. And just to show you how all things in this universe eventually
intersect, my own style of managing massive amounts of information are almost
identical to what Stan tries to teach the brainiacs in charge of missile silos.
Namely, he has a tactic he calls "Find 3 Rules That
Work". Briefly, he teaches the info wranglers to stop trying to embrace the
totality of any one project... which usually creates more confusion and logjams
of data... and to simply find three basic categories or rules or activities that
accomplish something, and to build from there. It's like creating a foundation
that you know is viable, before going on to the layers that must stand on that
Well, guess what? When I'm confronted with a fresh copywriting
project (especially with a new client), the first thing that often lands on my
desk is a Federal Express box (never a slim envelope, mind you) crammed with
paperwork and videos and notes and transcripts and manuscripts. This is
everything the client can find explaining the product, showcasing other
marketing efforts made, other ads run, studies done, and committees convened. In
It's A Big Honking Pile Of
Data That Must Be Wrangled!
And my job is to take that honking pile, digest it... and come
up with a slim, snappy sales pitch that condenses all that information into plain English. And I have to do
it in my head.
Now, those of you who have studied my ads and letters (and shame
on those of you who haven't yet), you will notice that often, my headlines are
structured with three benefits. Sometimes less, sometimes more... but most
often, it's three.
Three is a very important number. It's the least number of legs
needed to support a stool. Most huge literary efforts are in trilogies. Most
religions have some version of the "father, son and holy ghost". It's
a prime number. It's the number of fingers on Mickey's hand. And so on.
At first, I created this "3 Benefits" thing
unconsciously. It just seemed right. Had a bit of poetry and rhythm to it. Da da
da. And I suppose, were I to corral a
smart guy like Stan and grill him extensively, I might discover that I'm using a
kind of information system to distill all that data.
But it doesn't really matter. At this stage in my career, I can
simply look back and see what worked (and still does work). And using three
benefits for your Unique Selling Position ("USP"), or your headline,
or your basic sales pitch, simply makes sense.
Because it works.
Look at your own pile of data. If you're working for clients,
you're faced with a bunch of new stuff. If you're writing for your own product
or service, you're up to your neck in details about it. Hard to see the forest
for the trees.
So begin by breaking it all down to three simple benefits that you can easily explain, and back up. Even
the most complex product or service can be knocked down to size... and... should
I don't care if you're launching satellites into space, starting
a local bakery, or selling yachts to rich folk. What
you offer, whether in product or service, can be broken down to three
basic benefits. You can have more benefits, of course. But those come up later
in your pitch, as you're turning up the heat (under the category of "but
wait, there's more"). That's how I load up my bullets.
But when you're crafting your all-important USP... which is the
basis of all great headlines, by the way... you need to get down, dirty, and
direct. (See, there's three benefits right there.)
Here are a few examples:
Fast, cheap, and good. (One of my favorite ways to start the process
is to see how the job meets these criteria. At least half the time, if you can
justify to your reader that what you have is of high quality... a bargain... and
brings results quickly... you're off to the races.)
Simple, easy, and lucrative. (Combined with fast, cheap, and good,
these pretty much take care of the entire consumer landscape.)
Get good, get connected, and get paid. (It means "become an
expert, become a functioning part of your market, and demand you are paid what
Consistent, accurate, distance. (Very elegant phrase I've used a lot
in my golf pieces. Covers the three primary concerns of most golfers.)
Buy your dream home, sell your old house fast, and get a great mortgage
rate even with lousy credit. (An example of how this might work in a real
I could go on... but I won't. You get the picture, and that's
all I wanted to convey. Mostly, to be honest, I just wanted to impress you with
my savvy in ultra-modern techno-babble. Or, at least, my ability to talk a good
line of bull.
But the power of "Find 3 Benefits That Work" stands.
Once you distill all the available info you have down to three compelling
benefits, the rest of your headline and copy practically writes itself.
Gary C. Halbert
What? I cheated again! Just like last month's newsletter, I personally didn't write this month's
newsletter. Nope, I swiped it from my good friend, John
Carlton. I thought his information was
so valuable, I got his permission to share it with all my readers.
Actually, all of John's newsletters are great. You should subscribe.
Here's the info you need: Send
check (payable to "Marketing Rebel") for $199 (for a year)
to John Carlton, 316 California Ave.
#114, Reno, NV 89509... or fax your name, mailing address, credit card number,
expiration date and signature (including billing address, if
1-775-562-2655. Comments, questions and rude asides:
|| Although I love
"real" snatch more than anyone else I know, unlike John, I
hated the stupid movie with that same title.
Copyright © 2003
Gary C. Halbert. All Rights