Top 10 Things You Need to Know to Sell Anything

I read Scientific Advertising [Hopkins] many moons ago, but I’m just now getting to his other Grand Slam book My Life In Advertising.

It’s amazing to read about some of the popular brands he created [or at least helped influence] from scratch with ONE marketing campaign [Pepsodent toothpaste, Van Camps Pork and Beans, Goodyear Tires, etc].

If you haven’t had a chance to read My Life In Advertising, here are a few key takeaways [and maybe a refresher for you old pros]:

1. We are selling to acquire customers, so know exactly how much it cost you to do so [Cost Per Lead + Cost Per Sale].

2. When you want to get new customers, make it as easy and painless as possible for them to become one.

Hopkins started from scratch in many industries that had other major players, but once he found his major appeal with small tests, he DOMINATED those guys by giving his target audience FREE offers.

3. Actually, many of his offers were “we will buy” vs “free”. He says “we will buy” is more impressive psychologically, and “free” can [in some instances] cheapen the perception.

For example — when he wanted to take over the Pork and Bean market in NYC (which was already dominated by another player), he advertised [I think for about a week] buying housewives a $0.10 can of Van Camps brand pork and beans.

The women had to use the coupon to inquire to get it [lead gen], then he sent out the coupon for the $0.10 can good at any store in the NYC area.

He took these ad proofs to all of the major grocers in the NYC area and showed them the ads, and this was his proposition:

“Every woman in town will receive this coupon for a $0.10 can, and it’s as good as a dime to them and for yourself. When women redeem this coupon, we will pay you $0.10.”

The grocers knew that they had to stock Van Camps Pork and Beans. If they didn’t, they knew another grocer would, so they didn’t want to miss out on the free money.

This gave him INSTANT distribution in virtually EVERY grocery store.

The coupon was presented in the Sunday paper, and 1,450,000 homes tried cans of Vans Camps Pork and Beans almost immediately, and women kept buying them.

4. Understand your market and human psychology as much as possible.

5. Never underestimate the commonality or simplicity of what you do. The process may be a valuable story to your target audience.

6. Curiosity is more appealing than being descriptive. When most other companies had “me too” offers, he would add a free surprise gift to induce people to become his customer.

People would buy more of his stuff simply because they wanted to know what the gift was.

NOTE: This will only work if the gift is perceived as VALUABLE and you KNOW people will want it.

KEY: Don’t give away cheap, crappy shit and use the hope strategy

7. Specificity matters. It’s more persuasive.

8. Charging your customers [anything] upfront will likely make your Cost Per Sale grow exponentially.

Free + shipping offers are great, but if you have the cash flow [and you know your audience can afford what you are selling], give it to them totally without cost.

Most people are honest and they won’t screw you.

[I currently sell a shippable product with recurring billing, so I’m going to test some offers where I take customers credit card info but I don’t charge them a thing (not even shipping) during a trial period. Same as a lot of software companies do.]

Whatever kind of offer you have, try something new. The worst that can happen is you run a small test that doesn’t work.

The best thing that can happen is you get a shit load more customers and you make more money.

9. Sell IDEAS and APPEALS, DO NOT sell products.

Hopkins told a story about when he worked for a company selling butter [I don’t remember the name of the butter or the company].

Anyway, the boss of the butter business asked Hopkins to go to Boston because not one of their 6 Boston salesman could sell the butter to their baker customers anymore [bakers were the biggest part of their butter business].

Their reasoning was because their butter was $0.05 [stop laughing, this is a ton of money in the early 1900s] more expensive than their competitors, and the bakers would not buy it because of that.

Hopkins knew value trumped price, so he knew he could sell it.

He went to Boston with a piece of ad art with a beautiful pie on it.

He asked the bakers what they thought about it, and the bakers loved it.

One baker even said “if I had that pie card, I could dominate the baking industry in this town.”

He then proceeded to go to each baker 1 by 1 and sold them on the IDEA of having their name on that pie card, if only they used his butter in their pies.

All of the bakers bought his IDEA, *along with his butter*, and he sold more butter in one week than the 6 salesmen sold in the previous 6 weeks combined.

10. Amazing how many big companies start with irresistible offers during their humble beginnings, but then switch to “me too” or “buy my product over this other fellows” advertising.

Shit is ridiculous. Don’t be that guy or gal.

Which one of the 10 tips will have the biggest impact on your business? Let me know in the comments!