I’m opening up the mailbox and answering YOUR questions!

People are lazy, impatient, entitled, gross, selfish jerks…

…  At least, many of the world’s best copywriters will tell you that.  And, they’re not making it up.

In fact, this conclusion is based on a very interesting form of science that most academic research done in labs doesn’t hold a candle to…  This conclusion is based on how people behave and what they respond to (with money) in the privacy of their own home, when nobody is watching.

Because that’s what direct marketing test results tell you.

So, a direct marketer creates one message that basically promises free money, and another that talks about learning smart investing.  Smart investing may be better for you, and get you better results.  But if all else is equal, that “free money” promo is likely to be the one that brings in more cash for the marketer.

Same for health.  You could have a weight loss product, and test two messages.  One could promote healthy diet choices and regular exercise, the ONLY sustainable way to healthy body weight for most people.  The other could basically make a “magic pill” promise about the one food to never eat, and you’ll develop a model’s body in record time.  It’s the magic pill that wins, just about every time.

Does this mean the “magic pill” promise is the ONLY way to market?

That’s the topic of today’s Mailbox Monday article.

Remember: every Monday I answer YOUR questions on marketing, selling, copywriting, business-building and more.  To have yours answered, click here.

Here’s today’s question…

Hi Roy,

This email talks about the “magic pill” promise, which as you said can work well, but also be spotted a mile away by a lot of semi-savvy prospects too.

What are your thoughts on the “anti magic pill” promise? The promos that say “this IS going to take work from you and isn’t a very rich / thin / whatever fast scheme”?

It’s something I’ve seen more and more and have used myself once or twice.  Feels like it’s a great way to disarm skeptics. Of course, you’ve got to walk a fine line and not scare too many off.



“The Magic Pill” versus “Cold-Hard Reality…”

First off, I have to give credit where it is due.  I — and most other copywriters — first heard of the comparison between magic pill promises and cold-hard reality from John Carlton.

And the way John teaches it is very valuable.

Because to John (and me), it’s NOT an either-or choice.  It’s not a toggle switch, where you pick one or the other.

It’s a spectrum.  A slider.

At one end is the magic pill promise…

At the other end is cold-hard reality…

And nearly every marketing and sales pitch falls somewhere in between.  Some lean very heavily toward the magic pill promises.  Some lean toward cold-hard reality.  But nearly every single pitch has at least some elements of both.

What it ultimately comes down to is believability and confidence…

Here’s the thing…  Pretty much all of us resonate, at least on some level, with pitches aimed at the “lowest common denominator.”  That is, some days we feel like being lazy, impatient, entitled, gross, selfish jerks…

I work hard.  I pride myself on being productive.  And yet there are many times where I just don’t want to work.

I also hate waiting around for results.  If I could have what I want RIGHT NOW instead of having to wait for it, I’d take it.

Entitled?  Well, I try not to be.  But I sure as hell have my days where I feel like I’m not getting my due, and dang it…  I want what I deserve.

And yeah, inside, I sometimes have gross thoughts.

Selfish?  You bet.  All the time.

And if you catch me in the right moment with a pitch that appeals to any one of these things, I’m susceptible to it.


We all do.  We all want to believe that we can fulfill our desires fast, easy, and free.

And if someone stands up on their soapbox with extreme confidence, promising us that all our wildest dreams will come true…  Well, we want some of that confidence for ourselves.

But we also have a BS detector…

We’ve all been burned before.

We’ve had promises go unfulfilled.

We have believed, only to be made a fool.

And we don’t want to repeat that.  So we learn to recognize the magic pill promises.  And we look for proof.  We look for credibility behind the statements being made.

We want actual believability — not just to be told what we want to hear.

We get better at separating facts from reality.  Or, at least, we think we are.  And so we spend more time looking for the truth.  And trying to cut through the hype.

Which brings me back to today’s question…

The more your prospect has been burned, the more they’re ready for cold-hard reality…

This goes all the way back to the work of Eugene Schwartz — although it’s probably more relevant now than ever.

When a market is brand new, it will accept just about any magic pill promise, with very little justification.

People don’t know how to tell fact from fiction.  And they haven’t gotten burned yet, to be careful.

And so they readily gobble up all the most exciting claims.

As a market develops, buyers get real experience with products and services in that market.  They’ve tried to solve whatever problem your offer solves.  And the other solutions have come up short.

So they’re not so easily swayed.  They’re more skeptical.  They want more proof.

And here’s the most important part: these are your most sophisticated buyers.

Any market will still have a bunch of new people coming into it, who are easily swayed by the magic pill promises.

But more mature markets also develop more mature buyers.  Who are less interested in magic pills.  And more interested in cold-hard reality.

They also tend to be higher-value buyers.  Meaning, they pay more, and are less of a headache.

This will always be a niche within a niche — but it can be a great space to occupy…

If a market is big enough and mature enough, there is a lot of opportunity here.

But how do you take advantage of it?

This is the really important part…

This is the big takeaway…

You can’t half-ass this.

It has to be your brand.  It has to be YOU.  It has to be what you stand for.  And you have to stand with integrity and conviction.

You can occupy this space.  You can be the voice of truth in a world of lies.  You can be a light in the darkness.

But the moment you start testing the magic pill promises, you lose that credibility.  You lose that believability.  You lose the trust you build with your buyer.

Yes, any pitch has to have some level of proof and believability built in to work.  Flat-out empty promises typically fall on their face.

But if you’re really going to stand on the cold-hard reality end of the spectrum as the way you pitch, you have to really live in that — and embody it 100%.

It will take longer to get traction.  It won’t be as easy to get money up front as if you make a bunch of magical promises.  And it may be more expensive to acquire these customers.

But it’s an approach that snowballs in value.  You build trust with customers.  You build lifetime relationships.  And the more they trust you to actually fulfill on your promises (which are easier to fulfill on than magic pill promises), the more they’ll spend.

You do still need to tap into the same buying emotions.  You do still need to tap into some of the same motivations as work for magic pill promises.

But at the same time, you can sell against the (false) easy road, and immediately differentiate yourself from the charlatans.

And if you do it well, you’re prospects will side with you through thick and thin.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr