source:’s contest was a resounding success!

– 26 good answers…

– A NEAR MISS on the very first answer — and the second (I was a semantic stickler)…

– And one winner of the FREE copy of Scrivener writing software!

(And unfortunately one technical screw up where a right answer was missed — in the spam folder — until after the contest was over and the prize awarded. Doh!)

Let’s rewind…

Look at the question…

Explore a few of the great answers…

And then get inside my head on the ONE right answer that won it all…

First, your challenge was to fill in the blank to tell me what the #1 MOST IMPORTANT KEY TO SUCCESSFUL COPY is, according to the notes I’m putting together for my upcoming Advanced Direct Response Copywriting workshop.

And the first two answers that came in neck-in-neck were so close I almost gave it away right there!

Colin Noden was first through the door, followed closely by Lesley Renwick, with variations on “Know your prospect.”

This was close! So close! It’s critically important to know your prospect. Except there is a subtlety missing in that answer that just wouldn’t let me give away the prize. Like I said, I was a semantic stickler on this. And I’ll come back to this one when it’s time to reveal the RIGHT answer…

Neil Sutton was first through the door with research for an answer. Also critical. Probably the area where I spend the most time on a copywriting project. However, not specific enough to what I was looking for!

Aaron was playing Jeopardy and asked instead of answered with does it sell the product? 🙂 As a direct response copywriter, YES this is imperative. But this is, I think, much more superficial than what I was looking for. Meaning, yes, it has to sell the product. But it doesn’t convey the deep lesson I was looking to share.

Cynthia was the first through the door with the big idea for the answer — the core theme you wrap your entire sales message around. I spend a TON of time thinking about developing the core big idea for a promotion. And this is important. But without the answer I was looking for, you can’t even start to get to the big idea for your promotion.

Ali chimed in with the irresistible offer, also important, but also not quite what I’m looking for.

At this point I was certainly thinking that you guys have been paying attention (and studying on your own, I’m sure)! So many of my lessons are being reflected back at me. And, I suppose, my pitchman’s penchant for positioning everything as the top, most important, #1, crucial lesson may have been coming around to bite me… (And you — sorry!)

The GREAT answers kept coming in…

Jackie Johnson got even closer to the answer I’d been looking for by saying you had to know intimately the person who really is poised to buy. Again, SOOOOO close! But a semantic smidge away…

Paul Trowell brought forth Halbert’s lesson of the hungry crowd — finding a group of people who are already ready, willing, and able to buy what it is you want to sell… Any serious student of direct marketing knows how important this is… But even that was, alas, wrong — with my lesson going even deeper…

Lesa Overhuff’s answer of engage your reader spoke to the challenge getting my answer right will overcome… But still wasn’t quite there… I was looking for what you need to do first to ensure you’ll be able to get engagement with what you write.

And my main man Tony Policci — who I feel bad calling wrong about ANYTHING having to do with marketing because he’s so sharp and has so much success under his belt — brought back the starving market lesson, adding another missed-by-a-hair answer of have a market whose pain you know and have a solution for.

Dang! This was shaping up to a lesson in itself running the gamut of ALL best practices in direct response copywriting!

And then, the winner!

Dianne Gilbertson stepped in with her guess…

Understand the person and what they want!

Now, I almost feel bad for all the folks who came before Dianne and said you have to know your prospect.

But also, I stuck to my guns…

Because I think the slight difference in meaning between KNOW and UNDERSTAND makes all the difference in the world for this lesson.

If you say, “I know him,” it can be superficial, in passing, and have no depth of relationship.

If you say, “She understands me,” it means so much more. The subtleties of your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are known to the other.

KNOWING is recognition. UNDERSTANDING is resonance.

You can’t just KNOW your prospect to be able to write highly-moving copy. You have to UNDERSTAND them.

– How does she think? About herself? The world? Your product or competitors’? The need your product addresses?

– What are his feelings regarding the product or category? The solution it means for him? How that will impact his life? The dangers of it not working like promised?

– And what about beliefs? What beliefs is she bringing to the table? How does that impact the impression you’ll make? The sale?

You can go DEEP with this questioning — customizing it to your market, prospect, product, and so on. Getting to know your prospect on ALL levels… Not just what they’ll say their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are… But their innermost truths about themselves and how they relate to the world around them. And what that all has to do with your solution for their pressing needs.

The more time you spend understanding your prospect — and we’ll go ultra-deep with this at my workshop in November — the easier and more effective everything else becomes.

– The big idea will jump out at you — because you’ll recognize in an instant what resonates with your prospect.

– Your product will be a natural answer to their needs — so it will practically sell itself once you’ve shown you know what they want and need.

– It will be obvious what you need to research — because you know what matters to your reader.

– The offer will be easy to craft — catered to your prospect perfectly.

– The hungry crowd? This is ALL ABOUT understanding that crowd and how to speak to their hunger — which is far more important than simply seeing they exist.

(Quick aside: this is part of why many of the top, top copywriters limit themselves to working in just a couple markets. It’s hard work figuring all this stuff out. And if you’re bouncing from industry to industry to industry, you have to do the hard work all over again on every project. This is a big case of where specialization pays.)

The better you understand your reader — their fears, frustrations, and failures, the dreams they have for themselves, their desires and destiny — the easier it is to speak to their problem directly and solve it — and thus sell to them…


Do you agree?

Have a great weekend. Oh, and I expect registrations for my November workshop to open up next week!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets

PS — I do have to give a HUGE shout out to James Houston. If it weren’t for a technical snafu that stuck James’ answer in spam, he would have been the first through the door with the right answer. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until AFTER I awarded the free copy of Scrivener, so I couldn’t give him the prize he’d rightfully earned. But James, you know what you got as a consolation prize, it’s pretty cool — and you also can be confident in yourself knowing you got the right answer!