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And when it comes to every single top copywriter I’ve ever met, this is something they obsess about, too.
Let’s go back in time.
Around 1937 — 80 years ago.
An already-successful direct mail copywriter decided to sit down and write out his story. Of the many successes he’s had in direct mail and advertising.
And with that story, he decided to share many of his profitable direct mail letters, as well as his observations on what worked.
That copywriter? Robert Collier.
His work? The Robert Collier Letter Book.
When I first heard top copywriters talking about this book, you couldn’t get a new printing. And old copies were selling for more than $1,000 apiece.
I’d later learn that some of the most powerful principles of modern day direct mail heroes, such as Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy, were pretty blatantly lifted from the pages of this book.
For example, have you ever heard of using grabbers? That is, attaching something to the top of a direct mail letter, to grab the attention of the recipient?
Well, on page 28, Robert Collier explains…
“Another effective attention-getter was to tip on the letter-head a sample of the product we were offering. When it was traveling bags, we gave a sample of the leather, to show how tough and long-wearing it was. When it was a topcoat or overcoat, we attached a sample of the cloth, so you could prove for yourself its wool content, see its attractive color and design, get the feel of it.”
And on page 302, he even shows how he used money to grab attention!
At the top of the letter, he has a box that says, “Coin attached here.”
And the letter starts…
My Dear Sir:
It’s a wonderful thing — the power of money to make money.
Just this little, insignificant penny invested at the birth of Christ, at interest of only 4% compounded semi-annually, would today amount to more than $200,000,000,000,000,000,000 — many times the wealth of the world!
And so on…
Over and over, a thorough study of the Robert Collier Letter Book will reveal some of the most powerful, most timeless principles, strategies, techniques, and tactics the world’s best copywriters use today.
Including that little thing I obsess about.
Robert Collier was a mind-reader!
Okay, not quite.
(Even though he was really big into a lot of things that were about halfway between The Secret and mysticism…)
Here’s what I mean…
Another quote, from page 17…
You know that every man is constantly holding a mental conversation with himself, the burden of which is his own interests — his business, his loved ones, his advancement. And you have tried to chime in on that conversation with something that fits in with his thoughts…
And then, on page 91, in the middle of an example…
Therefore how well that idea fitted in with the mental conversation going on in the back of their minds!
And in the introduction, on page 2, describing the prospect as they are receiving your direct mail letter…
He is deep in discussion with himself over ways and means of getting certain things that mean a great deal to him. You butt in (that is the only term that describes it) and blandly tell him to forget those things that so deeply concern him and consider your proposition instead. Is it any wonder he promptly tells you where to head in, and lacking the ability to reach you, takes it out on your letter instead?
Then what is the right way to approach him? How would you do it if you were approaching him in person? If he were talking to some one, you’d listen for a while, wouldn’t you, and get the trend of the conversation? Then when you chimed in, it would be with a remark on some related subject, and from that you would bring the talk around logically to the point you wanted to discuss.
If you want to create a winner, you MUST enter the conversation going on in their heads!
There’s no two ways about it.
Your prospect doesn’t care. They don’t want to hear from you. They really aren’t that interested.
The last thing they really want is to be introduced to something new that they need to buy.
However, they do have a bunch of things they do care about. They have things they want to hear. They’re interested in something.
Your challenge, as a marketer, is to find that interest — and channel it.
What is the conversation going on in their head? What is it they care about? Where is their awareness already directed?
If you want to create a breakthrough piece of copy, you have to think about this before you ever think about how you’re going to present your product.
How I think about this when writing about investments…
Most of my client work these days is in the investment market. And every time I sit down to create a new piece of copy, I do this same thing.
I start tearing through all the top investment publications I follow.
I read tons of headlines. For the articles that catch my interest, I read further.
I start to collect anything that gives me a sense of what people are paying attention to.
If there’s a topic that comes up over and over again, I pay special attention to that.
Not only do I care what they’re talking about, I also care about how they’re talking about it.
One unique aspect of the markets is the whole bull and bear market dynamic. Investors are constantly paying attention to whether the market is going up or down. And making predictions about where it will go next.
Plus, there’s all kinds of emotions tied up in this.
How do they feel if the market has gone up, and they expect it to keep going up?
What about if the market is up but they expect it to go down?
And if the market’s been down, and they expect it to keep falling?
What about if there’s been a crash, but they’re expecting a rebound?
Some of these are far more common or frequent than others. And it doesn’t change a lot over a short time period.
But it’s absolutely something to pay attention to if you’re writing for that market. Because that — plus a few more specific indicators — can give you a good feeling of how the market is feeling, and what the conversation is in their heads right now.
More market research such as surveys, social media conversations, and more can also give you a fuller picture.
Then, you have to look forward.
If you’re starting a project today that will likely not be tested for at least a month or two, how does that impact your message? Where will the conversation about this be in a couple months?
I told you: I obsess about this!
You can’t predict the future. And you can’t read your market’s minds.
But if you do all of this, you’ll start to have an idea of what your market is thinking about.
Then your role as marketer and copywriter is to connect that to your message. To come up with a big idea that speaks to the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind, and connects that to your product or service.
That’s a topic for another day.
How about tomorrow?
At 1 PM US Central I’ll share my unique observations on how the world’s best copywriters create breakthrough big ideas.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,