Hey there Rainmaker… Let’s talk about “Scientific Advertising.”
There are few books on advertising and marketing that are worthy of an entire chapter in another book on advertising and marketing. Yet that’s exactly what we have today.
As part of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, the book I’m writing while you watch, I’m devoting a chapter to Claude Hopkins’ 1923 manifesto, Scientific Advertising. At least, what I see as the most important lessons from it. More reasons why in the chapter itself, but this is such an important mindset that it fit perfectly in the Mental Game section of my book.
And if you want to download a complete audio book of Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising — now in the public domain… Read by yours truly… It won’t cost you a penny… Click here to download your free copy of Scientific Advertising audio book in MP3 format, read by me!
While that downloads, go ahead and read my chapter on the most important Mental Game takeaways, in MY chapter on “Scientific Advertising” here…
In 1923, copywriter Claude Hopkins wrote the most important book in modern advertising, titled Scientific Advertising.
“The time has come when advertising has in some hands reached the status of a science. It is based on fixed principles and is reasonably exact. The causes and effects have been analyzed until they are well understood. The correct method of procedure have been proved and established. We know what is most effective, and we act on basic law. Advertising, once a gamble, has thus become, under able direction, one of the safest business ventures. Certainly no other enterprise with comparable possibilities need involve so little risk.
“Therefore, this book deals, not with theories and opinions, but with well-proved principles and facts. It is written as a text book for students and a safe guide for advertisers. Every statement has been weighed. The book is confined to establish fundamentals. If we enter any realms of uncertainty we shall carefully denote them.”
(I stumbled onto similar claims in a recent book — which treated these discoveries as brand new. I half-laughed, and half-cried. 90 years later, this is still a breakthrough idea!)
Almost to the person, the world’s most successful marketers since the publication of Scientific Advertising — as measured by sales results! — have cited this book as a source of their success.
The legendary David Ogilvy, of Ogilvy and Mather, once wrote, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”
Marketing genius Jay Abraham reportedly charged five-figure fees for seminars during which he would spend long blocks of time reading directly from Hopkins’ book.
I’ve read my copy many times — and even recorded myself reading it aloud for later listening.
I encourage you to pick up a Scientific Advertising for yourself. Read it and re-read it until it is dog-eared.
But for now, you’re going to get what I believe are the most important takeaways from Hopkins’ book… And how they apply to everything you’re discovering here in the pages of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
Always start with a controlled test…
One of the biggest, most damaging, most expensive mistakes you can make in advertising is to start too big. To spend a fortune rolling out an advertising campaign before you know whether or not you can run it at a profit.
Smart, scientific advertisers start small. If you’re in a million-prospect market, there’s absolutely no reason you should try to reach them all at once. Not even a ten-thousand person market. Never run a national campaign without testing it regionally.
You always want to test your advertising and marketing ideas on a portion of your market that’s small enough that you can afford total failure. But that’s still big enough that you can know if you have a winning approach.
On the smallest scale, you can test an idea by calling a short list of even five to ten target prospects on the phone. If you can get interest there, you can call more, or send a letter to 100 to 500.
If you’re buying online advertising, start with a budget of $20 per day even if you can afford $20,000. Prove that you can spend $20 per day and earn a profit, then bump it up to $200. Then $2,000. Then and only then — while ensuring results still warrant — should you push it up to your full budget.
Don’t go big for the sake of going big. Start small and go big when you know you can do it at a profit. The specific numbers don’t matter. The principle does.
Any budget you blow from going too big, too soon can never be made up. You can always increase spending after you find what works.
Cut your losses, and roll out your winners.
When you test small, you can quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t.
(We’ll get more specific with the math later — there are critical things to consider as you decide if a campaign was or wasn’t successful. Things even bright, sophisticated marketers I’ve met have gotten dead wrong, and left tons of money on the table as a result.)
When you test something and it doesn’t work, don’t fret. You learned what doesn’t work. Take it as a lesson and move on.
When you test something and it does work, get rolling! Your goal should be to put it in front of as many target prospects as you can afford (both in advertising expense and fulfillment resources), as fast as possible.
The best of the best consumer-oriented direct mail marketers can take a campaign that’s tested to anywhere between 5,000 and 25,000 people, and immediately bump that up to 200,000. And then to 1,000,000. And even beyond that.
The way they do this is by understanding first that when you have a winner, you need to get it in front of as many qualified prospects as possible, as fast as possible.
And second, they create a system out of the process of rolling out a winning campaign to their target market. They have procedures in place — developed through testing and experience — that tell them, “When you get a new winner, do this.” They know what lists to mail, what markets to go to, and how to reach their ideal customers.
As you get good at the strategies and tactics in Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, this is something you must develop in your market as well.
“Beat the control.”
This is a term that comes from the highest echelons of the direct response marketing world. Where a successful campaign will go out to millions of people. And where the stakes are oh-so-high.
And yet, it can apply to any business — from the solopreneur all the way up to a Fortune 100 corporation.
The idea is that once you’ve come up with a marketing approach that works, that’s your “control.”
(And I should note: this is actually an expansion of Hopkins’ work — but it’s so closely related that I shoehorned it into this chapter.)
The worst thing you could think at this point is, “Okay, we’ve found something that works, we’re good.”
Rather, take a lesson from Marty Edelston, founder of Boardroom, Inc., the direct response marketer and publisher of the Bottom Line brand of books and newsletters.
His rule was, “The control is your enemy.”
As soon as you have a marketing campaign that works, you need to be trying to come up with something that works even better.
First off, every control ultimately dies. Every advertisement wears out. (Faster now in our digital age than ever before!) And if you’re not ready with another one behind it, suddenly you’re a fish out of water.
Also, just because you found something that worked, it doesn’t mean you can’t find something else that works better. Imagine you’ve found a marketing approach that delivers a 2:1 ROI — meaning for every $1 you spend on advertising, you get $2 in return. With a small tweak, it’s possible you could find an approach that delivers a 10:1 ROI — that could fuel explosive growth of your business. You’ll never find it though, unless you’re dedicated to beating the control.
From the moment you have a control, you should begin trying to beat it. And you should never, ever stop.
Make everything a test.
The best marketers don’t care much whether they’re right or wrong about a particular approach.
Sure, our experience and our gut tells us one approach will work better than another. And yet, we know we’re often wrong.
That’s why we test.
My friend and colleague Brian Kurtz, Executive VP of Marketing at Boardroom (Marty Edelston’s company), has a favorite joke. “I can predict with 100% accuracy the results of any marketing test, once I’m looking at the results.” It’s funny because it speaks to the biggest challenge we direct marketers have — knowing which approach will work best.
When you adopt a belief in scientific advertising, you don’t tie yourself to one approach. Rather, you let the market vote — and the votes are tallied in new customers brought in through the door, orders placed, and profits counted.
“Customers vote with their wallets,” as copywriter and marketing expert Dan Kennedy often says.
You don’t decide which marketing approach is better by committee, or let the top dog in your company or marketing department call the shots. You test.
Nor do you rely overly much on customer focus panels, surveys, or anything of the like. You test marketing that asks the customer for specific action, and tally results.
And the market will always tell you what marketing approach or ad works best. It’s the one that brings in the most customers. It’s the one that generates the most leads, or direct orders. It’s the one that generates the most revenue and profits.
And if a marketing approach doesn’t work, that’s okay. You just learned something. You learned that idea wasn’t a winner. You learn from it, and move on to the next test.
If a marketing approach doesn’t work, you are not a failure. Your business isn’t a failure. (Because you certainly don’t bet the farm on an untested, unproven marketing approach.)
There are many moving pieces — we’ll cover them in the pages of this book. The media may not be a good fit for your message. You may not have hit your target market. The message you’re using may not be compelling enough. Your offer could be wrong.
If a marketing approach doesn’t work, you’ve learned that approach doesn’t work. You do a post mortem analysis to try to take any lessons out of it that you can. And you move on to the next test.
And now for the most important lesson in Claude C. Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising — and the entire “reason why” behind Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
You always have to start from somewhere in coming up with marketing and advertising approaches for your business.
And the best place to start is by copying the advertisers and marketers that have been tracking their results for the longest.
In Hopkins’ time, this was the “mail order” advertisers. Folks who would run a space ad with a coupon to be clipped and mailed in with payment. Or who would send out sales letters via direct mail, with an order coupon enclosed.
These coupons were coded, and tracked by publication and run. A good mail order advertiser knew which ads worked in which publications, and at what rate of return. Or which sales letters worked to which mailing lists.
If you saw that they were running the same ads repeatedly, and particularly in multiple places, you could reasonably assume that ad was running at a profit. And further, you could reasonably assume that ad was something worth learning from, and copying.
Now, in the 21st Century, the tracking has only gotten better. The marketers have only gotten more sophisticated. The “mail order” name has gone the way of the dodo bird. We now call ourselves “direct response” or “direct” marketers. We now use new media — everything at our disposal, online, offline, wherever. And yet our methods are much the same.
We send out an advertisement or marketing campaign to a carefully-selected market. We track the results. And we learn from our tests what works and what doesn’t.
We’ve continued to build on the rules that were already established in Hopkins’ day. Keeping them fresh for the old media. Adapting them for the new.
And all the while we keep track NOT of what we think will work best, but what we know works, based on the results of many tests.
For a new advertiser today, the best thing you could do is to go to these rules as your first source of inspiration when putting together your campaigns.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use what’s been known to work across markets, across businesses, across product lines. Use what’s known to work to generate leads, customers, and sales via marketing.
Rely on tested, proven approaches before testing more “creative” angles. Start from what you learn here in the pages of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
Because you’re more likely to have the budget for the next test when you follow the scientifically proven approaches first. Once you have your control, that’s when you can get creative. That’s when you start breaking the rules.
For now, as you begin to apply these “secrets,” you must keep yourself and your business on the strictest diet of direct response marketing. Learn to use the principles profitably. Establish your “control” advertisements. And then, by all means, test and test again… And beat them!
If you’re here in the US and celebrating Independence Day tomorrow, be safe!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
Like This? Get More...
Get daily marketing tips by email... Enter your info below!