Gary Bencivenga is widely hailed as the world’s greatest living copywriter…
And although he’s retired today, doesn’t write or teach about marketing, and can no longer be hired by clients, most of us who are truly serious students of direct response are still trying to learn from him in whatever way we can.
Today is a secondhand lesson I can share from what I know of Gary’s most powerful secrets. In fact, from what I understand, this is one of Gary’s biggest, most powerful secret weapons to writing more control-beating winners.
(For those who don’t know, among THE most competitive competition, Gary Bencivenga was known for winning 80% or more of the head-to-head advertising tests his copy ran in. This is a total feat — as even winning about 50% is enough to qualify you for the A-list, like batting .300 is a significant accomplishment in major league baseball.)
I was reminded of this lesson when, after returning from our road trip, I ripped open a big Priority Mail envelope to find a book I’d eagerly been awaiting.
The book? It’s not from Gary. Rather it’s from Russell Brunson. And it’s not even brand-new. I’m just a little late to the game in getting it.
The book is the DotComSecrets Labs 108 Proven Split Test Winners.
In this book, Russell and his team document and share the results of 108 separate marketing tests, from various businesses and in various markets. They reflect on their sometimes way-wrong expectations, what actually won the tests, and any lessons or takeaways you could pick up from the results.
This is the kind of book I know Gary would tell you to memorize.
In fact, one time I heard him say it’s basically a crime to create advertising for clients if you haven’t memorized the different tests John Caples lays out in his books.
The single-best way to create effective advertising is by modeling what’s already been proven to work!
Just creating me-too ads isn’t necessarily the goal here.
But there are all kinds of takeaways you can pull from proven winners, that you can fit into your offer, your marketing, your message in your unique way that leverages what’s been proven to work without making you seem like an also-ran.
For example, there are a lot of people who run “evergreen” webinars. These are webinars that are pre-recorded, but through the miracles of modern technology, are setup to run automatically as-if they’re being conducted live. Sophisticated automated webinar systems can even make it look like you, the attendee, are there with a bunch of others, and the host is interacting with some of them (but maybe just not getting to your question).
This has proven highly-effective, and so it’s been adopted very broadly.
And so many marketers have a version of the opt-in form where the attendee gives their email address, and has the option of signing up for one of maybe 2, 3, 4, or even 5 upcoming webinar time slots.
Well, on page 68 of the 108 Proven Split Test Winners book, it reveals a test where they added the option to watch a replay from the previous day’s event, or choose an event on one of the next three days.
Russell didn’t even want to run it, but one of his staff did it behind his back. The results made it worth it.
They found that 25% of registrants chose the instant replay, and 50% of their sales came from that group.
Now, let’s say you’re creating an automated webinar funnel for yourself or your client. If you weren’t going to before, you might want to add this instant replay option, knowing you might be giving up as much as 50% of your potential revenue if you try to force-delay your registrants in watching the webinar.
There’s a ton of power in knowing the results of a large number of split tests…
You can start to see why this was one of Gary Bencivenga’s secret weapons. He figured out that the more split tests you saw the results of, the higher probability you could give yourself of creating winners just by matching your techniques to what had been shown to work before.
(This was THE biggest lesson in Claude Hopkins’s original Scientific Advertising, as well.)
In fact, Gary had worked with John Caples, at one time, and observed that Caples had maintained an incredible collection of split test results on file for reference. It was a secret weapon he used to create more consistent winners for his clients — and for a young Gary Bencivenga, it was a practice both admired and that would shape his future.
How about this?
Maybe you’re familiar with the TrustGuard logos that indicate a website is safe and secure to insert personal information into?
These have been proven to increase conversions on order forms, where people are entering their credit card information. But when Russell’s team tested them on their webinar opt-in form, it hurt conversions by 14%.
How about putting your “Add to Cart” button ABOVE your VSL on the sales page?
It seems counterintuitive (in fact, my [mistaken] gut sense is to delay adding it to the page at all, until the viewer has seen enough of my sales video to understand the offer). But in the book, Russell reports that one marketer who tested putting “Add to Cart” above instead of below their VSL…
Boosted conversions by 38%!
One of the reasons this is so powerful…
… Is that humans are totally illogical and unpredictable, and often behave in irrational ways.
You can NEVER know, for certain, how the market will respond to anything until you test it first.
There are general rules, best practices, and trends for what works. That’s what the entire field of direct response marketing — as a profession — is based on.
We hire someone like Gary because, through years’ and decades’ experience, he’s developed a general sense for how the market will respond. And is able to create marketing to appeal to that.
But the market has the ultimate power to humble even The Great Bencivenga — and surely yours truly as well.
But by looking at past tests and their results, we’re able to create something that roughly conforms to what has worked before.
Then, we’re able to test away from that with all our sometimes wild and creative intuitions for what should work.
Sometimes, our results will be 180-degrees apart from what others’ have found in testing. Sometimes their tests will prove to make us a lot more money than what we would have tried if we weren’t privy to their test stats.
But in general, the more you study market test results from various marketers, in various markets, the stronger and more reliable your intuition will become about what to test in each instance, and the more consistently you’ll be able to create big winners with your marketing.
Click here to get the 108 Proven Split Test Winners book. It’s a free+shipping offer that will set you back less than $10. (The current price on Amazon is $78.95 and it’d be worth every penny for someone who really applies the lessons from even a test or two!)
Behave.org also runs a service formerly known as WhichTestWon that regularly publishes test results, and has an archive of past tests plus other resources to help with conversion rate optimization. You can also test your gut instinct with their latest published-test, and see whether or not you got it right. Click here for info.
The best thing you can do? As much as possible, start to compile records of your various tests. While most marketing principles are pretty universal, it’s always smart to be testing things in the context of your business, your offers, your market, and your creative. As you compile records of what works for YOUR business, you’ll have the best possible reference book for making sure you’re creating the best, most powerful marketing you can create, every time.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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