Here’s a little quiz for you.
Who said the following?
1. “Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.”
2. “What men seek is not knowledge, but certainty.”
3. “Will you sleep with me for a million pounds?”
I bet the last question got your attention, and I will tell you the dialogue that followed it in a moment, but first, here’s who said all those things:
George Bernard Shaw
The last quotation – the question – was asked of a lady at a smart dinner party. The reply was in the affirmative.
Shaw then asked, “Will you sleep with me for a shilling?”
“What do you take me for?” replied the lady indignantly.
“We have already established what you are,” said Shaw. “Now we are just discussing the price.”
After that little frolic in the antechambers of literature, let’s return to the first statement which is good fun but not always true, and I bring in evidence a friend, Professor Srikumar Rao.
We first met when he was Chairman of the Marketing Department at Long Island University, where he used my book ‘Commonsense Direct Marketing’as a text. Then we did consultancy together for a demented IT firm in the U.S with a great idea and no clue at all about business or marketing.
We plan to do some seminars together, but today Srikumar runs one of the most talked-about executive education programmes in the world. It has been written about, and he has been interviewed by, much of the most influential media in the U.S.
Google him if you want to know more, but I mention him because unlike many teachers, especially business school professors, Srikumar is no mere theorist. He really can do; and one thing he does exceptionally well is write copy.
His remarkable ability drives from a deep understanding of what good marketing can achieve, coupled with real insight into the art of persuasion.
Here are two pieces of his copy. The first is to sell the seminar we have been planning. It’s a wonderful analysis of why good marketing matters; he drafted it and I edited it – very slightly.
“Let’s do some math. Assume your current marketing program yields two qualified leads per hundred contacts and that one of these becomes a customer. Further assume that, as a result of techniques you learn in this seminar, you are able to increase lead generation by 2% and the conversion rate remains the same. You now get four qualified leads per hundred contacts and two customers.
“Say you need a 10% increase in your marketing budget – which is 20% of total expenses – to achieve this. This means that a 2% increase in expenditure has yielded a 100% increase in profits. Where else can you get this kind of leverage? And what becomes of the numbers if you can achieve this while spending less on in marketing? And we have not even talked about increases in the revenue per customer.”
I often feel like reading that to clients who don’t understand why it pays to invest in good copy.
The second is a perfect example of something a brilliant salesman taught me many years ago: it is called ‘negative sell’.
“The Advanced Leadership Clinic is a unique program designed for exceptionally talented executives actively looking for exponential improvement in performance. It will enable you to smash all previous achievement records and take you to new highs of personal effectiveness. Expect it to turbo-charge your career and take you to a higher orbit of performance and accomplishment.
“Admission to the clinic is highly competitive. It is only for driven individuals who are so drawn to it that they would, literally, be prepared to blast through brick walls to participate. DO NOT APPLY if you are not ready to disrupt your life considerably for the rare privilege of joining a group of highly talented managers in a collaborative life-changing experience.
“There is no other program remotely like this one in format, intensity or effectiveness. Expect and be prepared for this clinic to completely take over your life for two months. You will be given, and learn to work with, transformation tools of great power. You will continue to work with them on your own after the formal end of the clinic until you have mastered their use. And you will find your life has altered beyond measure.
“Read the program details below to determine if this clinic is for you. Pay particular attention to the clear descriptions of who should and should not apply and some of the possible outcomes of this concentrated happening.
“This is not a program for the faint of heart or for those who are merely curious. The application alone will take you hours and there will be assignments you will have to complete before the first meeting. The clinic will take up virtually all your spare time while it lasts and it will seep into every part of your life. Embrace this intensity. This is what will enable you to make deep changes in your life.”
Do you see what he is doing there? He is not saying “please buy my programme”; he is telling you it will be a privilege to take part, and you are going to have to work just to get in. He is making the prospects come to him.
No wonder his programme is always sold out – and no wonder it is the only such programme to have its own alumni association.
Actually he uses exactly the same psychology as when you say an offer is limited – but infinitely more subtle in the way he counterpoints big promise against demanding requirement.
So there’s my next helpful hint for you: Try exclusivity: make it a privilege to buy from you.