The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy

Categories sellPosted on
  • Anyone can learn how to write copy that sells
  • Copywritingis a mechanical process rather than an art
  • Greatsales copy is indispensable in today’s ultra-competitive world

The Five Big Ideas

Determine your ideal buyer’s priorities

Never attempt to divert your reader’s attention from the object it is focused on.Rather, enter the conversation already occurring in their mind

Organize your product or service’s features and benefits in order of importance

Build credibility by admitting openly discussing the drawbacks to your offer

No one is sitting around hoping and praying that he or she will receive your sales letter

The Ultimate Sales Letter Summary

Step 1: Get “Into” the Customer

Step 2: Get “Into” the Offer

Step 3: Create a Damaging Admission and Address Flaws Openly

Step 4: Get Your Sales Letter Delivered

Step 5: Get Your Sales Letter Looked At

Step 6: Get Your Sales Letter Read

Step 7: Beat the Bugaboo

Step 8: Motivate Action

Step 9: Write the First Draft

Step 10: Rewrite for Strategy

Step 11: Rewrite for Style

Step 12: Answer Questions and Objections

Step 13: Spark Immediate Action

Step 14: The Creative PS

Step 15: Check the Checklists

Step 16: Use Graphic Enhancement

Step 17: Rewrite for Passion! Edit for Clarity!

Step 18: Compare Your Draft to Examples

Step 19: Pretest

Step 20: Bring Your Letter to Life

Step 21: Change Graphic Enhancements

Step 22: Edit Again

Step 23: Mail a Mockup

Step 24: The Cool-Off

Step 25: Get Second Opinions

Step 26: Give It the Final Review

Step 27: Go to Press

Step 28: Test

Step 29: Sometimes, Outsourcing

Writing copy that sells is not a creative act so much as it is a mechanical process, adhering to formulas, and assembling essential component parts within a reliable framework.

Before writing, you may find it useful to build reference lists or stacks of 3-by-5-inch cards—“What I Know about Our Customers … about Our Product … ” and so on.

Kennedy’s “10 Smart Market Diagnosis and Profiling Questions”

What keeps them awake at night, indigestion boiling up their esophagus, eyes open, staring at the ceiling?

What are they afraid of?

What are they angry about? Who are they angry at?

What are their top three daily frustrations?

What trends are occurring and will occur in their businesses or lives?

What do they secretly, ardently desire most?

Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions? (Example: engineers = exceptionally analytical)

Do they have their own language?

Who else is selling something similar to their product, and how?

Who else has tried selling them something similar, and how has that effort failed?

Once you’ve begun that process of identification, you’ll be in a good position to determine what the recipient of your letter wants. Write these items down in order of priority.

You must determine accurately, in advance, what your customers’ priorities are. And you must address their priorities, not yours.

The danger for the business owner writing copy for himself and for his own business is ingrained assumption—encouraging shortcutting or altogether neglecting this step.

“Always enter the conversation already occurring in the customer’s mind.” — Robert Collier (also known as “The Collier Principle”).

Ask yourself, “What will your customers be thinking about and talking about the day they receive or see your sales copy?”

Do not arrive as an interruption or disruption, attempting to divert your reader’s attention from the object it is focused on, fighting to interest him in something different from what he is already, at this moment, interested in.

Just as you try to crawl inside the letter recipient’s mind and heart, you want to crawl around in your product or service, too.

List every possible feature and benefit, then organize them by importance.

“People do not buy things for what they are; they buy things for what they do.”

By acknowledging the flaws, you force yourself to address your letter recipient’s questions, objections, and concerns. You also enhance your credibility.

By admitting and openly discussing the drawbacks to your offer, your “credibility stock” goes way up on most of your letter recipients’ charts. This is called “damaging admission copy.”

Look at the flaws and disadvantages of your product, service, business, or proposition as problems and obstacles as building blocks in a believable, interesting, and persuasive message.

Early in the process of putting together your sales letter, think about getting the finished letter into the hands of people who can respond.

Kennedy writes,

In case you had illusions to the contrary, no one is sitting around hoping and praying that he will receive your sales letter. When it arrives, it is most likely an unwelcome pest. How do you earn your welcome as a guest? By immediately saying something that is recognized by the recipient as important and valuable and beneficial.

Fill-In-the-Blank Headlines with Examples

They Didn’t Think I Could ________, but I Did.

Who Else Wants ________?

How ________ Made Me ________

Are You ________?

How I ________

How to ________

Secrets Of ________

Thousands (Hundreds, Millions) Now ________ Even Though They ________

Warning: ________

Give Me ________ and I’ll ________

________ ways to ________

One of the simplest ways to strengthen a headline is attaching a “flag.” The Flag is brief, as brief as a single word, stuck on the front of the headline, to reach out and grab the attention of certain specific prospects, by telegraphing that the message is specifically for them. This puts the “who is this for?” ahead of what is being advertised and sold (if you’re writing online, Brian Dean discusses doing this for on-page SEO, by “frontloading” your target keyword at the front of your headline).

Another form of flagging is to focus on the “ill to be cured” or “problem to be solved.” This is usually best done by posing a question, as in these examples

If we were writing a sales letter for an ordinary apple, instead of just saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” we might list every vitamin and mineral provided by the apple, then list every health benefit delivered by each of those vitamins and minerals. We might then show the huge bulk of other foods you’d have to consume to get those same nutrients and benefits—all to turn that little apple into a huge “bulk” of benefits and value.

Three Letter Formulas That Let You Transcend Price Questions

Formula #1: Problem Agitation Solution

Kennedy says it may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.

When using problem, agitate, solution, first, define the customer’s problem in clear, straightforward terms (saying only enough to elicit agreement). Once the problem is established, clearly and factually, inject emotion and agitate the problem. Lastly, unveil the solution, the answer—your product or services and the accompanying benefits.

Kennedy’s sales trainer friend, the famous (late) Cavett Robert, said to sell life insurance or cemetery plots, you have to make your customer see the hearse backed up to the door.

Formula #2: Fortune-telling

We’re fascinated by those who can predict the future.

Formula #3: Winners and Losers

Your copy needs to polarize your audience. Kennedy refers to “The $2 billion dollar sales letter” from The Wall Street Journal as a good example of putting the reader in “either/or” camp.

All successful selling is by nature and necessity manipulative and must apply pressure to get decision and action.

How to Motivate Action

Technique #1: Intimidation

i. Limited Number Available

Also known as “Scarcity” (See Influence by Robert Cialdini)

ii. Most Will Buy

This technique relies on what is sometimes called the “bandwagon effect,” creating the idea that a huge trend has developed, everybody is getting involved, and anyone who passes it up is, quite simply, an idiot.

iii. You Will Buy Only If …

Challenge the reader’s ego and pride.

a. You Can Buy Only If …

Use an “application process” to make people qualify to buy.

b. Only Some Can Qualify …

This appeals to the person’s desire to be part of an elite group, for approval and recognition.

Show the prospect something interesting, appealing, or desirable, then snatch it away and have it play hard to get.

Technique #2: Demonstrate ROI—Sell Money at a Discount

In business-to-business sales letters, it’s very important to talk about, promise, and if possible, demonstrate ROI.

Demonstrating ROI puts you in the position of “selling money at a discount.”

ROI can be presented in terms of dollars to be made or in terms of dollars to be saved.

It sometimes pays to exaggerate our ROI promise, then bring the reader back down with copy like this: … and even if I’m only half right, you’ll still pocket over $ …

Technique #3: Ego Appeals

When a product, a service, an association with a certain company, or any offer is convincingly portrayed as a status symbol, you’ve got the basis of a good sales letter.

Technique #4: Strong Guarantee

i. Basic Money-Back Guarantee

This is the simple, basic approach: “If, for any reason, you are not fully satisfied with your purchase, return it for a full refund.”

You might say “delighted” or “thrilled” or even use fancier language, rather than “satisfied.”

ii. Refund and Keep the Premium

You can strengthen your guarantee by linking it with a premium (free bonus gift).

iii. Redundancy

Be deliberately redundant. Say the same thing twice or even three times! For example: “Receive a full 100 percent refund of every penny you paid.”

a. Free Trial Offer

You can give your guarantee a different twist by presenting it as a free trial offer.

b. Make the Guarantee the Primary Focus of the Offer

You can sometimes increase the effectiveness of your entire sales letter by making the guarantee the featured item.

Technique #5: Be a Storyteller

Study good fiction and fiction writers so you can write good stories and create good storylines for sales letters.

“Who’s going to read all your copy?” Those people most likely to respond.

Write for the buyer, not the non-buyer. Real prospects are hungry for information.

You can divide recipients into two personality extremes: the impulsive and the analytical.

In a sales letter, you can convey your basic sales message and promise:

In a straightforward statement

In an example

In a story, sometimes called a “slice of life”

In testimonials

In a quote from a customer, expert, or another spokesperson

In a numbered summary

How to Stimulate Immediate Response

Limited Availability



Multiple Premiums

Discounts for Fast Response, Penalties For Slow Response

Ease of Responding

By properly summarizing the offer/promise in your PS, you can inspire the recipient to dig in and read the entire letter, or simply add an extra incentive to respond.

Dan Kennedy’s Copywriting Checklist

This step is the way to be certain you incorporate as many successful strategies, formulas, and techniques as possible in your sales letter.

Did you answer all 10 Smart Questions about your prospect? (In Step 1)

How many of the ten were you able to use?

Which of the ten did you decide to emphasize?

Are you writing to your reader about what is most important to him/her (not you)?

Did you build a list of every separate Feature of your product/offer?

Did you translate the Features to Benefits?

Did you identify a Hidden Benefit to use?

Did you identify the disadvantages of your offer and flaws in your product?

Did you develop “damaging admission copy” about those flaws?

Did you make a list of reasons not to respond?

Did you raise and respond to the reasons not to respond?

Did you give careful thought to getting your letter delivered and/or through gatekeepers to its intended recipient?

Did you look at, compare, and consider different envelope faces?

Did you picture your piece in a stack of mail held by your recipient, sorting it over a wastebasket? … and take care to survive the sort and command attention and pique interest immediately upon being opened?

Did you craft the best possible headline for your letter?

Did you craft the best possible subheadlines to place throughout your letter?

Did you make careful choices about your presentation of price?

Were you able to sell money at a discount?

Were you able to incorporate intimidation into your call to action copy?

Were you able to appeal to the ego of your buyer?

Did you develop and present a strong guarantee?

Overall, did you tell an interesting story?

Did you use an interesting story about yourself?

Did you write to the right length? (Not longer than need be due to poor or sloppy editing, but not shorter than necessary to deliver the best presentation?)

Did you use Double Readership Path?

Did you use Internal Repetition?

Did you keep the reader moving, with yes-momentum and end-of-page carryovers?

Did you bust up paragraphs, keep one idea per paragraph, and make the letter easily readable?

Were you interesting and entertaining? … Is the letter enjoyable to read?

Did you use five-senses word pictures?

Did you choose words carefully, consider options of one word versus another, and create high-impact phrases?

Did you make your copy personal and conversational (not institutional)?

Did you go back through your copy and think of the possible questions or objections it might leave unanswered? … then find ways to ask them, raise them, and answer them? (Leave no unanswered questions!)

Did you choose and use devices to create urgency and spark immediate action?

Did you write at least one PS at the end of the letter for a strategic purpose?

27 Essential Copy Cosmetic Enhancements





Cartoons, Comics, and Caricatures



Drop Caps

Fonts and Typefaces




Line Justification

Line Spacing



Photographs and Illustrations

Screen Tints

Short Words, Sentences, and Paragraphs


Simulated Hand-Drawn Doodles

Simulated Handwritten Margin Notes

Simulated Rubber


Text Boxes


White Space

If you can’t romanticize your product or service or its direct benefits, you’ve got to be able to create excitement out of the feelings of owning it or using it, or the enjoyment of the money or time it saves. Find something for the reader to get excited about.

Regardless of who you are addressing your copy to, it is better to err on the side of simplicity.

Other Books by Dan Kennedy

My Unfinished Business

No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs

Recommended Reading

If you like The Ultimate Sales Letter, you may also enjoy the following books:

How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards

The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly

Triggers by Joe Sugarman

Buy this book


Triggers by Joe Sugarman: Notes

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Joseph Sugarman, recognized as one of the nation’s top copywriters, marketers and catalog pioneers, has sold millions of dollars’ worth of products through copywriting.

In Triggers, Sugarman takes the principles he learned from direct marketing and applies them to the field of personal selling with 30 powerful techniques he calls Psychological Triggers.

Psychological Triggers are sales tools for effectively influencing, motivating and persuading a prospect to make a positive buying decision.

The Five Big Ideas

Direct marketing is a general term that applies to any form of marketing where the prospect orders directly from the product source and does not touch the product until it is delivered (usually the prospect pays for the product before receiving it).

As a direct marketer, Joe Sugarman has determined that the most important thing you can do to turn a prospect into a customer is to make it incredibly easy for that prospect to commit to a purchase, regardless of how small that purchase may be.

Always make that first sale simple. Once the prospect makes the commitment to purchase from you, you can then easily offer more to increase your sales.

Bring out an objection very early in the sales presentation. Further, figure out a strategy for resolving the objection.

Be honest in everything you do and say.


Trigger 1: Consistency

Once a buying decision is made, the buyer is inclined to continue to buy or to continue to act in a way that is consistent with the buyer’s previous action.

Trigger 2: Product Nature

Each product has its own personality and nature—a special series of characteristics that can relate your product to a prospect. Recognize the nature of the product and relate its characteristics to the prospect and you will have the key to selling your prospect.

Trigger 3: Prospect Nature

Discover the emotional and logical reasons that your prospect will buy your product. Once you know these reasons you’ll have the key to effective selling.

Trigger 4: Objection Raising

Raise the flaw(s) or the objection(s) to purchasing your product right up front in your ad copy or your selling approach.

Trigger 5: Objection Resolution

Resolve the flaw(s) or objection(s) you raise in your ad copy or presentation to reinforce why your prospect should buy from you.

Trigger 6: Involvement and Ownership

Make your prospect use their imagination to feel more involved in the buying process.

Trigger 7: Integrity

Your prospect will be more likely to buy from you if everything you say is truthful and that you match your words with your action.

Trigger 8: Storytelling

A story provides a human element to your presentation and helps you bond with your prospect.

Trigger 9: Authority

It makes a big difference if the prospect can buy a product from somebody or some company recognized as an expert in the field.

Trigger 10: Proof of Value

Truthful comparisons with other products, savings possible, or simply bargain pricing should be emphasized.

Trigger 11: Emotion

In the selling process, emotion sells while logic justifies.

Trigger 12: Justify with Logic

For many products or services, it’s important to give logical reasons why your prospect should buy.

Trigger 13: Greed

People like to get more than they think they deserve. And this can be used to your advantage by pricing your product very low and making the perceived value high.

Trigger 14: Credibility

If something about your message is not believable, chances are your prospect will sense it. Make sure each statement you make is truthful, not too exaggerated and utterly believable.

Trigger 15: Satisfaction Conviction

A satisfaction conviction says “I am so sure you will be satisfied that I will put my money where my mouth is and do something that you would suspect many will use to take advantage of me.”

Trigger 16: Linking

A technique of using what the consumer already knows and understands to what you are selling, to make the new product easier to understand and relate to.

Trigger 17: Desire to Belong

People want to belong to a group that already own a brand.

Trigger 18: Desire to Collect

There is a strong urge in the human psyche to collect.

Trigger 19: Sense of Urgency

Make your call to action as compelling as possible with a sense of urgency that won’t allow procrastination.

Trigger 20. Exclusivity

To be the owner of something that the few others can own is one of the strong human motivations.

Trigger 21. Simplicity

By keeping the offer simple you, in essence, make the choice for the prospect.

Trigger 22: Guilt

Give something to somebody and you automatically engender a feeling of reciprocity.

Trigger 23: Specificity

When you use specifics, your advertising copy is a lot more believable. By using specifics, you enhance your offer and make your offer more credible.

Trigger 24: Familiarity

People are much more likely to buy if they are familiar with the brand name, the product or the company offering the product. The more familiar your prospect is with your brand, the more inclined they are to accept and buy your product.

Trigger 25: Patterning

If you have a product to sell and others have sold a similar product, find out how they did it and pattern your approach after theirs. But don’t copy. Later, when you are successful, you can pioneer new ways to sell your product. 

Trigger 26: Hope

An implied hope tied to your product can be a very strong motivational factor in causing your prospect to buy from you.

Trigger 27: Curiosity

Use this trigger to keep the prospect interested and involved until the very end of your presentation.

Trigger 28: Harmonize

Get your prospect to agree with your truthful and accurate statements and start nodding their heads in agreement.

Trigger 29: Mental Engagement

By challenging the mental process of the reader or the viewer and not making your presentation too obvious, you will evoke a sense of mental engagement that leaves the prospect with good feelings toward your message.

Trigger 30: Honesty

Be truthful in everything you say—almost to a point where you are disarmingly truthful.

Triggers Summary

It is estimated that 95% of the reasons a prospect buys involve a subconscious decision.

Once a commitment is made, the tendency is to act consistently with that commitment.

How do you determine or learn about their nature? There are two ways. The first is to become an expert on the product you are selling. Specifically, learn about the emotional appeal of the product or service to a prospect. The second thing you can do is tap into your own broad knowledge.

Every product has a unique nature to it—a unique way of relating itself to the consumer. If you understand this nature and find the way to best relate the product to your prospect, you’ll hold the key to a successful sales program.

In selling, it is important to understand not only the nature of the product you are offering but the nature of your prospect as well.

Get to know the nature of your prospect relative to the nature of your product. Become an expert on your prospect. Be a good listener; talk to your prospects and those who know and have dealt with them. You’ll soon discover the very nature of your prospect and the emotional reasons he or she will buy.

Whenever Sugarman sold a product that contained some obvious blemish or fault, he brought the blemish or fault up first in his copy. In short, he shared his dirty laundry openly and honestly right up front. By presenting the negatives up front, he reduced and often eliminated a major objection to a sale.

You can’t just resolve an objection without first raising it.

You are wasting your time resolving any objection unless you raise it first.

If you raise an objection that really isn’t much of an objection in the mind of your prospect, you are raising a red flag that doesn’t need to be raised, let alone resolved.

In direct response, using a gimmick to get involved with the reader is often referred to as using an involvement device—something that involves the consumer in the buying process.

An involvement device that ties in with what you are selling can be very effective.

Advertising copy that involves the reader can be quite effective, especially if the involvement device is part of the advertising.

Whatever you say, you’ve got to walk your talk. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you make a promise, deliver. If you agree to provide quality service, deliver quality service. In short, walk your talk.

People love stories and one of the really good ways to relate to your prospect is to tell a story.

If you tell a story in your sales presentation that is relevant either to selling your product, creating the environment for selling your product, or getting the prospect involved with your sales presentation, you are using this wonderful and powerful trigger in a very effective way to sell your product or service.

A good story should capture a person’s attention, relate the product or service to the sales message, and help you bond with the prospect.

Establishing your authority is something that should be done in each sales presentation, regardless of how big or how little you are.

Knowledge is a strong way to express authority.

Authority can be expressed by dress.

In Sugarman’s advertising, he always wants to convey, through examples or by comparison, that what the customer is buying is a good value.

By comparing your product with others and proving its value, you are providing the prospect with the logic from which he or she can justify a purchase.

In short, there is a value associated with the education you are providing your prospect and your prospect will be willing to pay more as a result.

No matter what Sugarman was selling, he’d express proof that he was providing real value to the prospect and that he was providing more than anybody else.

In short, it is up to you to visibly demonstrate, by example, that the product you are offering will, in the long haul, give more value than any other choice possible. Period.

There are really just three points to remember about the subject of emotion in advertising, which relates to the subject of personal selling.

Every word has an emotion associated with it and tells a story.

Every good sales presentation is an emotional outpouring of words, feelings, and impressions.

You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.

John Caples, one of the legendary direct marketers, changed the word repair to the word fix and saw a 20% increase in response.

When you justify a purchase in the minds of the consumers, they have no excuse not to buy, and in fact may even feel guilty if they don’t.

The higher the price point, the more need there is to justify the purchase.

View logic as the answer to the unspoken objection, “Why should I buy this thing?”

Greed is simply the psychological trigger you use when you provide the prospect with more value than he or she really feels entitled to.

If you convey honesty and integrity in your message, chances are you’ve gone a long way toward establishing your credibility.

Credibility is being believable.

One of the biggest factors that can affect credibility is not resolving all the objections that are raised in your prospects’ minds so that they think you’re hiding something or avoiding an obvious fault of the product or service.

You can also enhance credibility through the use of a brand-name product.

One of the techniques Sugarman used in his mail order ads to build credibility was inserting a technical explanation to add a certain expertise to my advertising message.

In a mail order ad or in person, technical explanations can add a great deal of credibility, but you must make sure that you indeed become an expert, and your statements must be accurate.

A satisfaction conviction conveys a message from you that says, “Hey, I’m so convinced that you will like this product that I’m going to do something for your benefit that will surprise you and prove how incredible my offer really is.”

The ideal satisfaction conviction should raise an objection or the last bit of resistance in the prospects’ minds and resolve it, but in resolving it, go beyond what your prospect expects. The resolution should be a passionate expression of your desire to please the person you are selling and to remove the last ounce of resistance he or she may have.

Basically, linking is the technique of relating what the consumer already knows and understands with what you are selling, to make the new product easy to understand and relate to.

One of the easiest examples of linking is to explain how it works in a fad.

The minute there is a lot of publicity about something and it has the potential to turn into a fad, it could be a great opportunity to link it to something that you’re doing, either to get publicity or to promote a product.

The consumer who buys a specific brand has been motivated to buy that brand by a desire to belong to the group of people who already own that brand.

The desire to belong is one of the strongest psychological triggers on why people purchase specific products or services. Use it to your advantage by realizing what groups your prospect belongs to and then matching the needs and desires of your prospect with those of your product.

When selling (whether in print, on TV, or in a personal selling situation), recognize that there is a very large segment of the population who, for whatever reason, has an emotional need to collect a series of similar products.

One of the ways the direct marketers optimize sales via the collecting instinct is by first sending, free of charge with the very first shipment, some sort of device to hold the collection.

Just because you have sold a customer a product, don’t ignore the opportunity to sell him the same product again or a new variation of that product.

In selling, the concept of a sense of urgency involves two emotional aspects in the selling process. One is loss or the chance of losing something, and the other is procrastination.

Always make sure there is a sense of urgency in your sales presentation so that the prospect does not leave without you making that sale.

Elmer Wheeler recognized that if you reached a point when your prospect says, “Let me think about it,” or “Let me discuss this with my partner,” chances are you’ve lost the sale.

It is critical that you make the sale and not accept a delaying tactic.

The basic concept of exclusivity is to make the prospect feel that he or she is special—that you are really allowing that prospect to buy a particular product that few people can obtain regardless of price.

Always make your offer simple.

Realize that only after your prospect becomes your customer can you present more complicated offers and products.

Consider many of the creative ways to instill the feeling of guilt in your prospect. You’ll find your selling to be a lot easier with a receptive buyer when you grease the way with this powerful psychological trigger.

When people perceive certain general statements as puffery or typical advertising babble, those statements are at best discounted and accepted with some doubts. In contrast, statements with specific facts can generate strong believability.

There’s a greater tendency to buy from somebody with whom you are familiar.

Whatever you are selling, with the proper credentials, you will automatically engage the power of hope—a powerful force that could motivate, inspire and even trigger a sale.

Realize that often you must go with the established way of doing things in order to accomplish your goals. You’ve got to pattern yourself with what is working and then harmonize with the marketplace. Once you have an established reputation, it’s easier to try something different that you yourself want to do.

The more the mind must work to reach a conclusion which it eventually successfully reaches, the more positive, enjoyable, or stimulating the experience.

If you make your sales pitch too obvious, the prospect will feel either patronized or bored. Make the prospect think, in order to come to a conclusion, and you create a very stimulating mental effect.

The more the mind must work to reach a conclusion that it eventually successfully reaches, the more positive, enjoyable, or stimulating the experience.

Books Mentioned

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins

How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard

How to Sell Yourself by Joe Girard

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D

Sales Magic by Steve Bryant

Selling Dangerously by Elmer Wheeler

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith

Successful Selling with NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) by Joseph O’Connor and Robin Prior

Recommended Reading

If you like Triggers, you may also enjoy the following books:

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Buy this book

Kindle | Print | Hardcover

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

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Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. Put another way, it’s how you differentiate yourself in the mind of your prospect.

Positioning Summary

Chapter 1: What Positioning Is All About

Positioning is not about creating something new and different. It’s about manipulating what’s already in the prospect’s mind. It’s about bridging the connections that already exist.

“The mind, as a defense against the volume of today’s communications, screens and rejects much of the information offered it. In general, the mind accepts only that which matches prior knowledge or experience.”

“Once a mind is made up, it’s almost impossible to change it.”

Trying to change the prospect’s mind is an advertising disaster.

“The best approach to take in our overcommunicated society is the oversimplified message.”

“You have to sharpen your message to cut into the mind. You have to jettison the ambiguities, simplify the message, and then simplify it some more if you want to make a long-lasting impression.”

“Once you own a word in the mind, you have to use it or lose it.”

“When you want to communicate the advantages of a political candidate or a product or even yourself, you must turn things inside out. You look for the solution to your problem not inside the product, not even inside your own mind. You look for the solution to your problem inside the prospect’s mind.”

“The essence of positioning thinking is to accept the perceptions as reality and then restructure those perceptions to create the position you desire.” The authors call this process “outside-in” thinking.

Chapter 2: The Assault on the Mind

Another reason our messages keep getting lost is the number of media we have invented to serve our communication needs.

Chapter 3: Getting into the Mind

“Positioning is an organized system for finding windows in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.”

“The easy way to get into a person’s mind is to be first.”

“‘It’s better to be first than it is to be better’ is by far the most powerful positioning idea.”

“If you want to be successful in love or in business, you must appreciate the importance of getting into the mind first.”

“If you didn’t get into the mind of your prospect first (personally, politically or corporately), then you have a positioning problem.”

“‘If you can’t be first in a category, then set up a new category you can be first in’ is the second most powerful positioning idea.”

To succeed in our overcommunicated society, you must create a position in the prospect’s mind. A position that takes into consideration not only a company’s own strengths and weaknesses, but those of its competitors as well.

“Don’t give your brand a generic name.”

“The name of your brand is just as important as its positioning, maybe even more important.”

Chapter 4: Those Little Ladders in Your Head

“To put a new brand into the mind, you have to delete or reposition the old brand that already occupies the category.”

“The mind has no room for what’s new and different unless it’s related to the old.”

“For 13 years in a row, Avis lost money. Then they admitted that they were No. 2 and Avis started to make money.”

“The best headline for an advertisement is always incomplete. The best headlines always let the reader supply a word or phrase to complete the idea. That’s what makes an advertisement ‘involving.’”

“To find a unique position, you must ignore conventional logic. Conventional logic says you find your concept inside yourself or inside the product. Not true. What you must do is look inside the prospect’s mind.”

“More than anything else, successful positioning requires consistency. You must keep at it year after year.”

“If you want to be successful today, you can’t ignore the competitor’s position.”

Chapter 5: You Can’t Get There from Here

“Don’t fight perceptions with facts. Perceptions will always win.”

“Positioning has nothing to do with whether you mention a competitor or not. It has to do with ‘considering’ competitive strengths and weaknesses before you launch a marketing campaign.”

Chapter 6: Positioning of a Leader

“History shows that the first brand into the brain, on the average, gets twice the long-term market share of the No. 2 brand and twice again as much as the No. 3 brand.”

“Leadership alone is your most effective marketing strategy.”

“Leaders should not try to drive their competitors out of business. They need them to create a category.”

“Leadership is your best ‘differentiator.’ It’s the collateral for your brand’s success.”

“In every category, there are two brands which will ultimately dominate the category.”

“When two brands are close, one or the other is likely to get the upper hand and then dominate the market for years to come.”

“You can’t build a leadership position on your own terms. ‘The best-selling under-$1,000 high-fidelity system east of the Mississippi.’ You have to build a leadership position in the prospect’s terms. There are two basic strategies that should be used hand in hand. They seem contradictory but aren’t.”

“The ultimate objective of a positioning program should be to achieve leadership in a given category.”

Chapter 7: Positioning of a Follower

“Most me-too products fail to achieve reasonable sales goals because the accent is on ‘better’ rather than ‘speed.’ That is, the No. 2 company thinks the road to success is to introduce a me-too product, only better.”

“It’s not enough to be better than the competitor. You must launch your attack while the situation is fluid. Before the leader has time to establish leadership.”

“‘Look for the hole’ in the prospect’s mind is one of the best strategies in the field of marketing.”

“You don’t have to be first to succeed, as long as you can create the perception that you were first.”

“Your high price must have a real difference to justify the price. If nothing else, it rationalizes the spending of more money.”

“Being the first to (1) establish the high-price position (2) with a valid product story (3) in a category where consumers are receptive to a high-priced brand is the secret of success.”

“In positioning a product, there’s no substitute for getting there first.”

“The biggest single mistake that companies make is trying to appeal to everybody.”

“Rather than asking yourself, ‘Who are we trying to appeal to?’ try asking yourself the opposite question, ‘Who should not use our brand?’”

Chapter 8: Repositioning the Competition

“To move a new idea or product into the mind, you must first move an old one out.”

“For a repositioning strategy to work, you must say something about your competitor’s product that causes the prospect to change his or her mind, not about your product, but about the competitor’s product.”

“The late Howard Gossage used to say that the objective of your advertising should not be to communicate with your consumers and prospects at all, but to terrorize your competition’s copywriters, and there’s some truth in that.”

“‘We’re better than our competitors’ isn’t repositioning. It’s comparative advertising and not very effective. There’s a psychological flaw in the advertiser’s reasoning which the prospect is quick to detect. ‘If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?’”

Chapter 9: The Power of the Name

“The name is the hook that hangs the brand on the product ladder in the prospect’s mind.”

“What you must look for is a name that begins the positioning process. A name that tells the prospect what the product’s major benefit is.”

“One of the things that makes positioning thinking difficult for many people is the failure to understand the role of timing.”

“When you want to change a strongly held opinion, the first step to take is usually to change the name.”

“In naming people or products, you should not let your competitors unfairly preempt words that you need to describe your own products.”

“The name is the first point of contact between the message and the mind.”

Chapter 10: The No-Name Trap

“When they have a choice of a word or a set of initials, both equal in phonetic length, people will invariably use the word, not the initials.”

“In general, if you remember the set of initials, you also remember the name.”

“A company must be extremely well known before it can use initials successfully.”

“Make no mistake about it. Initials make weak brand or company names.”

“The mind works by ear, not by eye.”

“Before you can file away a picture in the mind, you have to verbalize it.”

Chapter 11: The Free-Ride Trap

“A big company with a big reputation usually cannot compete successfully with a smaller company with a well-defined position. Size doesn’t matter. Positioning does.”

Chapter 12: The Line-Extension Trap

“What does it mean to own a position in the mind? Simply this: the brand name becomes a surrogate or substitute for the generic name.”

“The stronger the position, the more often this substitution takes place.”

“The easiest way to kill a brand is to line-extend it.”

Reverse line extension is called “broadening the base.”

Chapter 13: When Line Extension Can Work

“One of the keys to understanding the line-extension issue is to separate the short-term effects from the long-term effects. Is alcohol a stimulant or a depressant? Actually, it’s both. In the short term alcohol is a stimulant; in the long term alcohol is a depressant. Line extensions generally work the same way.”

“The classic test for line extension is the shopping list. Just list the brands you want to buy on a piece of paper and send your spouse to the supermarket.”

“If your competitors are foolish. If your volume is small. If you have no competitors. If you don’t expect to build a position in the prospect’s mind. If you don’t do any advertising.”

Chapter 14: Positioning a Company: Monsanto

“Rightly or wrongly, the bigger, more successful companies have the better people. And the smaller, less successful companies have the leftovers. So if your company occupies the top rung of the product ladder in the prospect’s mind, you can be sure that the prospect will also think that your company has the best people.”

Chapter 15: Positioning a Country: Belgium

“The perceptions of people living in a place are often different from those visiting it.”

“To position a country as a destination, you need attractions that will keep the traveler around for at least a few days.”

“In any positioning program, if you can start with a strongly held perception, you’ll be that much ahead in your efforts to establish your own position.”

“To create an effective positioning program, you have to ‘verbalize the visuals.’ Alliteration can also be an effective memory device in this process.”

“A successful positioning program requires a major long-term commitment by the people in charge.”

Chapter 16: Positioning a Product: Milk Duds

“The first step in any positioning program is to look inside the mind of the prospect.”

“Isolating a narrow target is usually the first step in finding an effective position.”

“The solution to a positioning problem is usually found in the prospect’s mind, not in the product.”

Chapter 17: Positioning a Service: Mailgram

“Visuals can be extremely memorable, but unless they are connected to a verbal idea they lose their effectiveness.”

“Regardless of how much money you spend, regardless of how technologically interesting your service is, to get inside the prospect’s mind, you have to relate to what’s already there.”

Chapter 18: Positioning a Long Island Bank

“To successfully position a retail outlet, you must know the territory.”

“‘Mapping the prospect’s mind’ is normally done with a research technique called ‘semantic differential.’”

“Most marketing research is overly concerned with the attitudes of customers and prospects to the company itself. It doesn’t really matter what customers think about your company and your products or services. The thing that counts is how your company compares with your competitors.”

“In semantic differential research, the prospect is given a set of attributes and then asked to rank each competitor on a scale, generally from 1 to 10.”

Chapter 19: Positioning the Catholic Church

“Once a positioning strategy has been developed, it sets the direction for all the activities of the organization. Even one as large and multifaceted as the Catholic Church.”

Chapter 20: Positioning Yourself and Your Career

“The most difficult part of positioning is selecting that one specific concept to hang your hat on. Yet you must, if you want to cut through the prospect’s wall of indifference.”

“Confusion is the enemy of successful positioning.”

“Always try to work for the smartest, brightest, most competent person you can find.”

“If you look at biographies of successful people, it’s amazing to find how many crawled up the ladder of success right behind someone else.”

“The more business friends you make outside of your own organization, the more likely you are to wind up in a big, rewarding job.”

“It is possible to succeed in business or in life all by yourself. But it’s not easy.”

Chapter 21: Six Steps to Success

What Position Do You Own?

What Position Do You Want to Own?

Whom Must You Outgun?

Do You Have Enough Money?

Can You Stick It Out?

Do You Match Your Position?

Chapter 22: Playing the Positioning Game

“The meanings are not in the words. They are in the people using the words.”

Alfred Korzybski, who developed the concept of general semantics, explains that insane people try to make the world of reality fit what is in their heads.

“It’s a whole lot easier to change the facts to fit your opinions.”

“Unsane people make up their minds and then find the facts to ‘verify’ the opinion. Or even more commonly, they accept the opinion of the nearest ‘expert,’ and then they don’t have to bother with the facts at all.”

“Language is the currency of the mind.”

“To be successful in the positioning era, you must be brutally frank. You must try to eliminate all ego from the decision-making processes. It only clouds the issue.”

“One of the most critical aspects of positioning is being able to evaluate products objectively and see how they are viewed by customers and prospects.”

“Often the solution to a problem is so simple that thousands of people have looked at it without seeing it. When an idea is clever or complicated, however, we should be suspicious. It probably won’t work because it’s not simple enough.”

“The big winners in business and in life are those people who have found open positions near the center of the spectrum. Not at the edge.”

“The secret to establishing a successful position is to keep two things in balance: (1) a unique position with (2) broad appeal.”

“To repeat, the first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head-to-head.”

“The leader owns the high ground. The No. 1 position in the prospect’s mind. The top rung of the product ladder. To move up the ladder, you must follow the rules of positioning.”

“If you’re not the leader, set up a new category you can be the leader in.”

Other Books by Al Ries and Jack Trout

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Recommended Reading

If you like Positioning, you may also enjoy the following books:

Cashvertising: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone by Eric Whitman

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Buy this Book

Print | Hardcover | Audiobook

Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday: Notes

Categories Philosphy, sellPosted on

I love Ryan’s work. And I’ve read many of his books (see below). But I was compelled to read Perennial Seller after Ahref’s Head of Marketing, Tim Soulo, recommended it in his course, Blogging for Business (notes available in my commonplace book).

While I enjoyed it I felt there could have been more for the reader to act on. I understand Ryan’s decision to focus on principles in an effort to write a timeless book, but it would have been nice to know what to do other than “create great work.”

For more on why things catch on, I recommend reading Jonah Berger wonderful book Contagious.

The Five Big Ideas

Make creating great work your primary focus.

Be a verb rather than a noun (in other words, make creating a “need” rather than a “want”).

“The Dip” is inevitable in any creative endeavor.

Nobody creates better second drafts without the intervention of someone else (e.g. an editor).

The best marketing you can do for your book is to start writing the next one.

Perennial Seller Summary


In every industry, certain creations can be described as “perennial.” By that Ryan means that, regardless of how well they may have done at their release or the scale of audience they have reached, these products have found continued success and more customers over time.            

Part I: The Creative Process

Derek Halpern says you need to “create content 20% of the time. Spend the other 80% of the time promoting what you created.” Ryan makes an interesting counter argument,

The kind of important, lasting work we are striving for is different—we’re talking about making something that doesn’t rely on hype or manipulative sales tactics. Because those methods aren’t sustainable. And they do an injustice to great work.            

Ryan on creating great work,

To be great, one must make great work, and making great work is incredibly hard. It must be our primary focus. We must set out, from the beginning, with complete and total commitment to the idea that our best chance of success starts during the creative process.              

Austin Kleon says, “Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. To make something great, what’s required is need. As in, I need to do this. I have to. I can’t not.” (Sam’s note: Austin has a wonderful book on creativity called, Show Your Work which I highly recommend.)            

“You must have a reason—a purpose—for why you want the outcome and why you’re willing to do the work to get it. That purpose can be almost anything, but it has to be there.” (Sam’s note: This echoes Simon Sinek’s thesis in Start with Why).

Ask yourself,

Why are you creating?

Why are you putting pen to paper and subjecting yourself to all the difficulties you will certainly face along the way?

What is your motivation?

“If you’re to create something powerful and important, you must at the very least be driven by an equally powerful inner force. If there is anything to romanticize about art, it’s the struggle and the dedication required to get it right—and the motivating force that makes it all possible.”               

“In the course of creating your work, you are going to be forced to ask yourself: What am I willing to sacrifice in order to do it? Will I give up X, Y, Z? A willingness to trade off something—time, comfort, easy money, recognition—lies at the heart of every great work. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but always a significant sacrifice that needs to happen. If it didn’t, everyone would do it.”                

Ryan’s analogy for creating art,

“Art is the kind of marathon where you cross the finish line and instead of getting a medal placed around your neck, the volunteers roughly grab you by the shoulders and walk you over to the starting line of another marathon.               

There is inevitably a crisis and a low point in every creative work. You will run into what author and marketer Seth Godin calls “the Dip.” The existential crisis where you’ll have to ask yourself: Is this even worth it anymore?

Ryan on creating work that matters,

Creating something that lives—that can change the world and continue doing so for decades—requires not just a reverence for the craft and a respect for the medium, but real patience for the process itself. By patience, I’m not referring just to the amount of time that creation will take, but also the long view with which you evaluate your own work. And the long view can be really long.

Ryan on creativity,               

Art can’t be hurried. It must be allowed to take its course. It must be given its space—and can’t be rushed or checked off a to-do list on the way to something else.

The risk for any creator is over-accounting for what’s happening right in front of them.               

“The best we can do is sit down and create something, anything, and let the process organically unfold. Tolerating ambiguity, frustration, and changes in the grand plan and being open to new experiences are essential to creative work. Indeed, they are what makes creativity work.”—Scott Barry Kaufman

Holding multiple contradictory ideas in your head at the same time is an essential phase of creativity. (John Keats called it “negative capability”). You have to be able to tolerate this and then refine your idea like mad until it gets better.               

“You don’t have to be a genius to make genius—you just have to have small moments of brilliance and edit out the boring stuff.”    

“An audience isn’t a target that you happen to bump into; instead, it must be explicitly scoped and sighted in. It must be chosen.”

There is a small publisher whose slogan is “Find your niche and scratch it!”               

“Successfully finding and “scratching” a niche requires asking and answering a question that very few creators seem to do: Who is this thing for?”               

“For any project, you must know what you are doing—and what you are not doing. You must also know who you are doing it for—and who you are not doing it for—to be able to say: THIS and for THESE PEOPLE.”

The best way Ryan’s found to avoid missing your target—any target—entirely is to identify a proxy from the outset, someone who represents your ideal audience, who you then think about constantly throughout the creative process.               

“Just as we should ask “Who is this for?” we must also ask “What does this do?” A critical test of any product: Does it have a purpose? Does it add value to the world? How will it improve the lives of the people who buy it?” 

One of the best pieces of advice Ryan received as a creator was from a successful writer who told him that the key to success in nonfiction was that the work should be either “very entertaining” or “extremely practical.”               

“You want what you’re making to do something for people, to help them do something—and have that be why they will talk about it and tell other people about it.”              

“The bigger and more painful the problem you solve, the better its cultural hook, and the more important and more lucrative your attempt to address it can be.”

Ask yourself,               

What does this teach?

What does this solve?

How am I entertaining?

What am I giving?

What are we offering?

What are we sharing?

What are these people going to be paying for?

“An essential part of making perennial, lasting work is making sure that you’re pursuing the best of your ideas and that they are ideas that only you can have (otherwise, you’re dealing with a commodity and not a classic).”               

Goethe observed that the most original artworks “are not rated as such because they produce something new” but because they are saying something “as though it had never been said before.”               

The higher and more exciting standard for every project should force you to ask questions like this:

What sacred cows am I slaying?

What dominant institution am I displacing?

What groups am I disrupting?

What people am I pissing off?

“You cannot violate every single convention simultaneously, nor should you do it simply for its own sake. In fact, to be properly controversial—as opposed to incomprehensible—you must have obsessively studied your genre or industry to a degree that you know which boundaries to push and which to respect.”               

“You want to provoke a reaction—it’s a sign you’re forging ahead.”

“Your work may shock people, they might not be willing to accept it right away—but that’s also a sign that you’ve created something fresh and truly original.”               

“Deep, complex work is built through a relentless, repetitive process of revisitation.”               

“Ignore what other people are doing. Ignore what’s going on around you. There is no competition. There is no objective benchmark to hit. There is simply the best that you can do—that’s all that matters.”

“It takes time and effort and sacrifice to make something that lasts.”

Part II: Positioning

The first wake-up call for every aspiring perennial seller must be that there is no publisher or angel investor or producer who can magically handle all the stuff you don’t want to handle.               

Perennial sellers are made by indefatigable artists who, instead of handing off their manuscripts to nonexistent caretakers—“kissing it up to God,” to use a Hollywood expression—see every part of the process as their responsibility. They take control of their own fate. Not simply as artists but as makers and managers.               

Instead, prior to release, considerable effort needs to be spent polishing, improving, and, most critically, positioning your project so that it has a real chance of resonating with its intended audience.

We have to take this thing that means so much to us and make sure that it is primed to mean something to other people too for generations to come. That it will stand out among a crowded field of other creators sincerely attempting to do the exact same thing. That it will be the best that it is capable of being and that the audience it is intended for is primed to love it. And the best person in the world to accomplish this difficult task? You.                

The competitive landscape for creating something that lasts is not one for the entitled or the half committed.               

Once you understand that this project’s chances of success or failure rest entirely on you, you must undertake a paradoxical and difficult task: finding and submitting your work to the feedback of a trusted outside voice (or, in some cases, voices).               

But ultimately, to take a project where it needs to go, you’ll need to rely on an editor to help you get there.               

As infuriating as it may be, we must be rational and fair about our own work.               

Ask yourself: What are the chances that I’m right and everyone else in the world is wrong? We’ll be better off at least considering why other people have concerns, because the reality is, the truth is almost always somewhere in the middle.               

“Remember: When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”—Neil Gaiman

Getting feedback requires humility. It demands that you subordinate your thoughts about your project and your love for it and entertain the idea that someone else might have a valuable thing or two to add.

Nobody creates flawless first drafts. And nobody creates better second drafts without the intervention of someone else. Nobody.   

Sometime after the bulk of the creative production is done but before a work is fully wrapped up, a creator must step back and ask: “OK, what was I trying to make here? Did I get there? What do I need to change or fix in order to successfully do so?”              

A similar exercise that I like to do with all my projects is one I call “One Sentence, One Paragraph, One Page.” It goes like this: Put the website or the beta version of your app or your manuscript aside and grab a piece of paper or open a blank Word document. Then, with fresh eyes, attempt to write out exactly what your project is supposed to be and to do in … One sentence. One paragraph. One page. This is a ______ that does ______. This helps people ______.               

When you know what genre you’re in and you know what you’re trying to accomplish, it becomes clearer which decisions matter and which don’t.               

You say to them: “Here’s what I’ve been aiming for. Do you think I am close? What do I need to change with my [writing, design, music, art, etc.] to get where I’m trying to go?”               

Regardless, you must start somewhere—ideally somewhere quantifiable. By which I mean: Who is buying the first one thousand copies of this thing? Who is coming in on the first day? Who is going to claim our first block of available dates? Who is buying our first production run?               

With a concrete number in mind, it’s a lot easier to establish and empathize with what your audience is going to need.               

You must create room for the audience to inhabit and relate to the work. You must avoid the trap of making this about you—because, remember, you won’t be the one buying it.               

Today, in order to even have a chance at people’s attention, your project has to seem as good as or better than all the others.          

Three critical variables determine whether that will happen:               

Positioning is what your project is and who it is for.

Packaging is what it looks like and what it’s called.

The Pitch is the sell—how the project is described and what it offers to the audience.

Work that is going to sell and sell must appear as good as, or better than, the best stuff out there. Because that’s who you’re competing with: not the other stuff being released right now, but everything that came before you.         

That’s why it’s critical that you be able not only to clearly and concisely explain who and what you are, but also to show it, too.       

If your goal is to create a perennial seller, you can’t measure yourself against people who aren’t aiming for the same thing—you can’t be endlessly checking industry charts or lists, and you can’t be distracted by the trends and fancies of other creators who are hopelessly lost.              

Knowing what your goal is—having that crystal clear—allows you to know when to follow conventional wisdom and when to say “Screw it.”

Part III: Marketing

“Marketing is your job. It can’t be passed on to someone else.”

“The mark of a future perennial seller is a creator who doesn’t believe he is God’s gift to the world, but instead thinks he has created something of value and is excited and dedicated to get it out there.”

“No one has the steam or the resources to actively market something for more than a short period of time, so if a product is going to sell forever, it must have strong word of mouth. It must drive its own adoption. Over the long haul, this is the only thing that lasts.”

“The strategy of perennial success is about trying to create work and products that will sell over the long term, but ideally we also want to sell in the short term.”               

“Selling in perpetuity and launching strong are not mutually exclusive.”               

“The first thing anyone planning a launch has to do is sit down and take inventory of everything they have at their disposal that might be used to get this product in people’s hands.”               

“As creators, we have to get more comfortable with giving people a taste of our work—or, in some cases, giving some people the entire meal for free. That’s how we build an audience and gather momentum.”               

What is the right price to create a perennial seller? Ryan’s answer is “as cheap as possible without damaging the perception of your product.”               

One of the best ways to build a readership, viewership, listenership, user base, or customer base early on is by making it cheap.

According to Amazon’s data, the cheaper a book is, the more copies it sells (and, counterintuitively, makes more money than if it were expensive).               

As a general rule, the more accessible you can make your product, the easier it will be to market. You can always raise the price later after you’ve built an audience.               

“Try to find the people least likely to get a request from someone like you, and approach them first, instead of going where everyone else is going.”               

“The most newsworthy thing to do is usually the one you’re most afraid of.”               

Don’t be afraid of pissing people off either. (Sam’s note: As Dan Kennedy says, “If you haven’t offended someone by noon each day, then you’re not marketing hard enough.”)               

Publicity is about temporarily breaking through the noise and contributing to the word of mouth that a product eventually needs to succeed.               

“Advertising can add fuel to a fire, but rarely is it sufficient to start one.”               

When it comes to creating a perennial seller, the principle to never lose sight of is simple: Create word of mouth.  

Part IV: Platform               

Becoming a perennial seller requires more than just releasing a project into the world. It requires developing a career.         

In Ryan’s definition, a platform is the combination of the tools, relationships, access, and audience that you have to bear on spreading your creative work—not just once, but over the course of a career.

“Creating a perennial seller and word of mouth is possible when you have high-level supporters who are willing to evangelize what you do and bring other people to your work.”            

“If you want people to consume your work and to know what you do next, you have to make it possible for them to hear about it as easily and regularly as possible.”

The best marketing you can do for your book is to start writing the next one.

Ryan on achieving mastery,

It’s not enough to make one great work. You should try to make a lot of it. Very few of us can afford to abandon our gift after our first attempt, convinced that our legacy is secured. Nor should we. We should prove to the world and to ourselves that we can do it again … and again.

“One of the things all creatives must do during their downtime is explore new ways of reaching new fans.”               

A great example of profiting from haters: Colonel Parker, the infamous manager of Elvis Presley, came up with the idea to sell “I Hate Elvis” memorabilia so that Elvis could profit from his haters too.

Other Books by Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic

Ego Is the Enemy

The Obstacle Is the Way

Recommended Reading

If you like Perennial Seller, you may also enjoy the following books:

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries

Contagious by Jonah Berger

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Buy this book

Print | Hardcover | Audiobook

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy: Notes

Categories sellPosted on

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Print | Hardcover

Ogilvy on Advertising summary

Ogilvy on Advertising Summary

Chapter 1: Overture

“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

“Consumers still buy products whose advertising promises them value for money, beauty, nutrition, relief from suffering, social status and so on. All over the world.”

Chapter 2: How to Produce Advertising That Sells

“You don’t stand a tinker’s chance of producing successful advertising unless you start by doing your homework.”

When doing your homework, study the product you are going to advertise, first. The more you know about the product you are going to advertise, the more likely you are to come up with a big idea for selling it.

Then, research what kind of advertising your competitors have been doing for similar products, and with what success. This will give you your bearings.

Finally, research your consumers. Find out how they think about your kind of product, what language they use when they discuss the subject, what attributes are important to them, and what promise would be most likely to make them buy your brand.

Ogilvy’s own definition of positioning is ‘what the product does, and who it is for.’

“Doyle Dane Bernbach created one of the most powerful campaigns in the history of advertising. ‘When you’re only Number 2, you try harder. Or else.’ This diabolical positioning made life miserable for Hertz, who was Number 1.”

“Image means personality.”

“When you choose a brand of whiskey you are choosing an image. Jack Daniel’s advertisements project an image of homespun honesty and thereby persuade you that Jack Daniel’s is worth its premium price.”

“It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”

“I am supposed to be one of the more fertile inventors of big ideas, but in my long career as a copywriter I have not had more than 20, if that.”

“Big ideas come from the unconscious. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant.”

It will help you recognize a big idea if you ask yourself five questions:

Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?

Do I wish I had thought of it myself?

Is it unique?

Does it fit the strategy to perfection?

Could it be used for 30 years?

“Sometimes, the best idea of all is to show the product—with utter simplicity. This takes courage, because you will be accused of not being ‘creative.’”

“Whenever you can, make the product itself the hero of your advertising.”

“There are no dull products, only dull writers.”

“If you and your competitors all make excellent products, don’t try to imply that your product is better. Just say what’s good about your product—and do a clearer, more honest, more informative job of saying it.”

“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.”

Leo Burnett once said, “When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

“Advertising reflects the mores of society, but does not influence them.”

Chapter 3: Jobs in Advertising—And How to Get Them

“‘Most good copywriters’, says William Maynard of the Bates agency, fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end.’ If you are both killer and poet, you get rich.”

Chapter 4: How to Run an Advertising Agency

“When people aren’t having any fun, they don’t produce good advertising.”

When new hires were appointed to head an office in the Ogilvy & Mather chain, Ogilvy gave them a Russian doll. Inside the smallest was this message: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, Ogilvy & Mather will become a company of giants.”

Chapter 5: How to Get Clients

“The easiest way to get new clients is to do good advertising.”

“Tell your prospective client what your weak points are, before he notices them. This will make you more credible when you boast about your strong points.”

“The day after a new business presentation, send the prospect a three-page letter summarizing the reasons why he should pick your agency. This will help him make the right decision.”

“Avoid clients whose ethos is incompatible with yours.”

“Erosion of morale does unacceptable damage to an agency.”

“If you get an account which also advertises in overseas markets, you stand a good chance of getting it around the world. I call this the domino system of new business acquisition.”

Chapter 6: Open Letter to a Client in Search of an Agency

“Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself Any fool can write a bad advertisement, but it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one.”

Chapter 7: Wanted—A Renaissance in Print Advertising

“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.”

“It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”

“The headlines which work best are those which promise the reader a benefit”

“Headlines of ten words sell more merchandise than short headlines.”

“Headlines that offer the reader helpful information, like ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, attract above-average readership.”

“I advise you to include the brand name in your headline. If you don’t, 80 percent of readers (who don’t read your body copy) will never know what product you are advertising.”

“If you are advertising a kind of product which is only bought by a small group of people, put a word in your headline which will flag them down, like asthma, bedwetters, women over thirty-five.”

“If you need a long headline, go ahead and write one, and if you want a short headline, that’s all right too.”

“When you advertise in local newspapers, you get better results if you include the name of each city in your headline. People are mostly interested in what is happening where they live.”

“On the average, long headlines sell more merchandise than short ones. This one-word headline is the exception that proves the rule.”

“Specifics are more credible and more memorable than generalities.”

“When you put your headline in quotes, you increase recall by an average of 28 percent.”

“I am the only copywriter who has literally bled for his client.”

“When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing each of them a letter on behalf of your client. One human being to another, second person singular.”

“You cannot bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.”

“It pays to write short sentences and short paragraphs, and to avoid difficult words.”

“Copy should be written in the language people use in everyday conversation.”

“Tell your reader what your product will do for him or her, and tell it with specifics.”

“Write your copy in the form of a story, as in the advertisement which carried the headline, ‘The amazing story of a Zippo that worked after being taken from the belly of a fish.’”

“Avoid analogies.”

“Stay away from superlatives like ‘Our product is the best in the world.’ Gallup calls this Brag and Boast. It convinces nobody.”

“If you include a testimonial in your copy, you make it more credible.”

“Always try to include the price of your products.”

“When the price of the product is left out, people have a way of turning the page.”

“All my experience says that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short.”

“I believe, without any research to support me, that advertisements with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.”

“Dr. Charles Edwards concluded that ‘the more facts you tell, the more you sell.’”

“On the average, headlines below the illustration are read by 10 percent more people than headlines above the illustration.”

“More people read the captions under illustrations than read the body copy, so never use an illustration without putting a caption under it. Your caption should include the brand name and the promise.”

“Your poster should deliver your selling promise not only in words, but also pictorially. Use the largest possible type. Make your brand name visible at a long distance. Use strong, pure colors. Never use more than three elements in your design.”

Chapter 8: How to Make TV Commercials That Sell

Sixteen Tips:

Brand identification

Show the package

Food in motion

Close Ups

Open with the fire

When you have nothing to say, sing it

Sound effects

Voice-over on camera?


Avoid visual banality

Change of scene


Show the product in use

Everything is possible on TV


The great scandal

Here are two ways to register your brand name:

Use the name within the first ten seconds.

Play games with the name. Spell it.

“When you advertise a new product, you have to teach people its name on television.”

“Commercials which end by showing the package are more effective in changing brand preference than commercials which don’t.”

“In commercials for food, the more appetizing you make it look, the more you sell.”

“It is a good thing to use close-ups when your product is the hero of your commercial.”

“If you grab attention in the first frame with a visual surprise, you stand a better chance of holding the viewer.”

“When you advertise fire-extinguishers, open with the fire.”

“Never use a jingle without trying it on people who have not read your script. If they cannot decipher the words, don’t put your jingle on the air.”

“While music does not add to the selling power of commercials, sound effects—such as sausages sizzling in a frying-pan—can make a positive difference.”

“Research shows that it is more difficult to hold your audience if you use voice-over. It is better to have the actors talk on camera.”

“It pays to reinforce your promise by setting it in type and superimposing it over the video, while your soundtrack speaks the words. But make sure that the words in your supers are exactly the same as your spoken words.”

“If you want the viewer to pay attention to your commercial, show her something she has never seen before.”

“On the average, commercials with a plethora of short scenes are below average in changing brand preference.”

“It pays to show the product being used, and, if possible, the end-result of using it.”

“The technicians can produce anything you want. The only limit is your imagination.”

“If you want to avoid your television commercials being misunderstood, you had better make them crystal clear.”

“The easiest way to reduce the cost of a commercial is to cut actors out of the storyboard.”

A pilot study Ogilvy commissioned suggests four positive factors to radio advertising:

Identify your brand early in the commercial.

Identify it often.

Promise the listener a benefit early in the commercial.

Repeat it often.

Chapter 9: Advertising Corporations

“Opinion Research Corporation has found that people who know a company well are five times more likely to have a favorable opinion of it.”

“Advertising whose purpose is to influence public opinion is more likely to be successful if it follows these principles: If the issue is complicated, and it almost always is, simplify it as much as you reasonably can.”

“Present your case in terms of the reader’s self-interest.”

Chapter 10: How to Advertise Foreign Travel

“People dream about visiting foreign countries. The job of your advertising is to convert their dreams into action. This can best be done by combining mouth-watering photographs with specific how-to-do-it information.”

“When you are advertising little-known countries, it is particularly important to give people a lot of information.”

“I believe that charm works well in tourism advertising. And differentiation.”

Chapter 11: The Secrets of Success in Business-to-Business Advertising

“An effective strategy in business advertising is to show the reader how he can calculate the money your product would save him.”

Chapter 12: Direct Mail, My First Love and Secret Weapon

“The more people trust you, the more they buy from you.”

Chapter 13: Advertising for Good Causes

“It is difficult to persuade people to give money to a charity unless they know something about it.”

Chapter 14: Competing with Procter & Gamble

“The best of all ways to beat P&G is, of course, to market a better product.”

Chapter 15: 18 Miracles of Research

“Advertising which promises no benefit to the consumer does not sell, yet the majority of campaigns contain no promise whatever. (That is the most important sentence in this book. Read it again.)”

“Sometimes you will find that the promise which wins your test is already being used by one of your competitors. Poor you.”

Chapter 16: What Little I Know About Marketing

“The manufacturer who finds himself up the creek is the short-sighted opportunist who siphons off all his advertising dollars for short-term promotions.”

Chapter 17: Is America Still Top Nation?

“I would give my right arm to have made the nostalgic commercials for Hovis bread.”

Chapter 18: Lasker, Resor, Rubicam, Burnett, Hopkins, and Bernbach

“Lasker held that if an agency could write copy which sold the product, nothing else was needed.”

“Lasker used to say, “I make my men so good that I can’t keep ’em”.”

“The secret of [Stanley Resor’s] success was his ability to attract exceptionally able men, and to treat them with so much respect that they never left.”

“[Raymond] Rubicam used to say, “The way we sell is to get read first”.”

“Without any doubt, Leo [Burnett]’s greatest monument is his campaign for Marlboro.”

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read [Scientific Advertising] book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

“[Claude] Hopkins was interested in nothing but advertising.”

“I am told that [Bill Bernbach] used to carry a card which bore the self-admonition Maybe he’s right.”

Chapter 19: What’s Wrong with Advertising?

“There is one category of advertising which is totally uncontrolled and flagrantly dishonest: the television commercials for candidates in Presidential elections.”

“In a period when television commercials are often the decisive factor in deciding who shall be the next President of the United States, dishonest advertising is as evil as stuffing the ballot box.”

“The best way to increase the sale of a product is to improve the product.”

Chapter 20: I Predict 13 Changes

“The quality of research will improve, and this will generate a bigger corpus of knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t.”

“There will be a renaissance in print advertising.”

“Advertising will contain more information and less hot air.”

“Billboards will be abolished.”

“The clutter of commercials on television and radio will be brought under control.”

“There will be a vast increase in the use of advertising by governments for purposes of education, particularly health education.”

“Advertising will play a part in bringing the population explosion under control.”

“Candidates for political office will stop using dishonest advertising.”

“The quality and efficiency of advertising overseas will continue to improve—at an accelerating rate.”

“Several foreign agencies will open offices in the United States, and will prosper.”

“Multinational manufacturers will increase their market-shares all over the non-Communist world, and will market more of their brands internationally.”

“Direct-response advertising will cease to be a separate speciality, and will be folded into the ‘general’ agencies.”

“Ways will be found to produce effective television commercials at a more sensible cost.”

Recommended Resources

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.

Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples.

Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves.

Madison Avenue by Martin Mayer.

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy.

New Advertising: Twenty-One Successful Campaigns from Avis to Volkswagen by Robert Glatzer.

The 100 Greatest Advertisements by Julian Watkins.

The Art of Writing Advertising by Denis Higgins.

How to Advertise by Kenneth Roman and Jane Maas.

Advertising Inside Out by Philip Kleinman.

Successful Direct Marketing Methods by Bob Stone.

Or Your Money Back by Alvin Eicoff

The Art of Plain Talk by Rudolph Flesch

Writing That Works by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E B White.

Thirty Seconds by Michael Arlen.

Speech Can Change Your Life by Dorothy Sarnoff

The Duping of The American Voter: Dishonesty and Deception in Presidential Television Advertising by Robert Spero

Obvious Adams by Robert Updegraff.

Recommended Reading

If you like Ogilvy on Advertising, you may also enjoy the following books:

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy

Buy this book

Print | Hardcover

How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards: Notes

Categories sellPosted on

“There is virtually no other skill that can make you as much money as copywriting.”

“You must distil your ‘big idea,’ or Copy Thesis, down to a single, clear sentence.”

“The more accurately you can describe your reader’s problem in terms they relate to, the more they instinctively feel that you must have an answer to that problem.”

The Five Big Ideas

“Make the reader aware of the cost of indecision.”

“Make certain that you focus 80% of your copy should focus on the transformation itself.”

Copy that converts at a high rate usually has a lot of bullets.

“As much as 30 percent of your sales may come in the week after your big launch day.”

“Stories are the process by which we learn, live, and believe anything.”

How to Write Copy That Sells Summary

“Advertising, and by extension copywriting (which is the writing of ads) is simply salesmanship in print.”

“There is virtually no other skill that can make you as much money as copywriting.”

Ask yourself, “What are you selling, and how does it benefit the customer?”

You must distil your ‘big idea,’ or Copy Thesis, down to a single, clear sentence.


The P.A.S.T.O.R. Copywriting Framework

Person, Problem, and Pain

Amplify and Aspiration

Story, Solution, and System

Transformation and Testimony



“You must begin by identifying the person you are trying to reach with your message, understanding the problem that you are solving for them, and the pain that problem causes.”

“The simplest, most effective way to do this is to describe the problem in great detail.”

“The more accurately you can describe your reader’s problem in terms they relate to, the more they instinctively feel that you must have an answer to that problem.”

“Use the reader’s own language, the very words, and phrases they use to describe the problem they want to solve.”

“You have to join the conversation that is already taking place in the reader’s mind.”—Robert Collier

“You must first empathize with your reader, and have the feelings they have. Then you must develop the feelings of excitement that come from knowing the problem can be solved.”

“Amplify the consequences of not solving the problem, and the aspirations the reader holds for the future.”

“Get the reader to fully experience the consequence of not solving the problem.”

“You need to place a dollar cost on this failure to solve the problem when at all possible.”

“Make the reader aware of the cost of indecision.”

“Help your prospect see the real long-term consequences of ignoring their problem.”

“Whatever you’re selling, whether it’s a home study program, a book, a seminar, your consulting services — anything at all — what people are buying is not the ‘stuff,’ it’s the transformation.”

“Offer testimonials, real-life stories of people who have successfully made the transformation that you are providing.”

There are three questions people are asking when you sell them coaching, consulting or instruction about anything:

Has this person been able to do what they are describing for themselves?

Has this person been able to teach other people to achieve the results they are describing?

Will this person be able to teach me how to achieve these results?

“Provide the prospect with proof that the answer to all three of these questions is a resounding “Yes!”

“Make certain that you focus 80% of your copy on the transformation itself.”

The response request is one of the areas where copy tends to often be the weakest.

Tell the customer exactly what to do in order to get your program, your consulting, your book, etc. and remind them why it’s important to do so.


“You’re at the point of decision. You can either continue down the path of least resistance, the path you have already been traveling, or you can choose the road less traveled. The path of least resistance will probably result in you getting the same outcomes you’ve always received. But if you want something different to happen, if you want to change the direction of your health (or your relationships, or your finances, etc.) you’re going to have to do something different. Make a new choice, and pursue your new outcome. Click the button below, fill out the order form, and we will immediately ship your entire package to you. It will contain everything you need to get started.”

The 15 Building Blocks of a Sales Letter

Pre-head (also known as the “eyebrow”)


Deck Copy





Bullet Points



Value Justification

Risk Reversal


Call to Action or “Explicit Offer.”


The headline is the “ad for the rest of the ad”.

All your headline has to do is make the reader want to keep on reading—specifically, to get him or her to read the next sentence.

“Studies show that you have about two seconds to grab the attention of people who are reading your copy for the first time.”

The deck copy is the block of type that is usually in black bold type and set apart from the rest of the text. It comes between the headline and the beginning of the letter.

“The job of the Deck Copy is to reinforce the impact and expand on the idea proposed in the headline. It can also be used to arouse more curiosity.”

The lead is the very beginning of the body of the sales letter.

The body is the bulk of your text; most of your sales letter.

The subheads are smaller headlines that separate the major sections of your sales letter.

“Prospects never read anything at first; they never believe anything at first, and they never buy anything at first.”

Rapport is relationship building.

“People like three kinds of people: one, those who are like themselves; two, those they would like to be; and three, those who like them back.”

“Rapport demonstrates that you know the reader’s pain, that you understand his or her problems, and that you have some common experiences that you can share that proves you understand his or her pain.”

“A bullet point is a brief statement that identifies a single benefit offered by your product or service.”

Copy that converts at a high rate usually has a lot of bullets.

“You must build credibility with your prospects in order for them to lower the resistance they’re naturally feeling.”

“Establishing credibility will answer the top question that they have once they’ve started reading your letter and that is, ‘Why should I listen to what this person has to say?’”

“Testimonials are third-party verification that your solution does what it claims to do.”

“You want to make your testimonials as believable as possible. Usually that means getting a video testimonial.”

“The next best thing is to get a photograph of the person, not a studio shot, but a candid shot, and include his or her full name and website address or, even better, his or her phone number.”

If you’re just starting out, you could use quotes from famous people, as long as it’s clear you’re not implying that the famous person is personally endorsing your product.

Value justification is where you start to talk about how valuable your product, service, or solution actually is to the user.

“You highlight the value to your offer and do it in a way that contrasts it favorably to the price.”

“My goal when writing copy is to demonstrate the value to the buyer is at least 10 times the price.”

“The simplest form of risk reversal is simply to say you have a 100 percent money back guarantee.”

“Your job is to find a way to express the guarantee or the risk reversal in such a way that you’re taking all the risk off their shoulders and putting it onto yours, so that they feel they’re taking no risk at all.”

“Your bonus is a related but unexpected gift that enhances the value of your offer.”

“The mistake I see people making in their online sales letters is offering bonuses that are not related to the product that they’re selling and that don’t enhance the value of their product.”

“The explicit offer is simply the place in the copy where we ask for the order and tell the reader what to do.”

“The research that I’ve seen shows that either one or three PS’s seem to work best.”

PS is important because readers skim, scroll, and scan. They start at the top and scroll all the way to the bottom because they want to know, “What is this person selling and how much is it?” and that’s usually near the bottom of the page. If you put a good, properly formatted PS at the bottom, you can restate your entire proposition in one sentence.

How to Write Compelling Headlines

To do its job, a headline must accomplish three tasks:

Stop the reader in their tracks. They must stop scanning through the copy on the page, and consider the headline.

Make a promise (either explicitly or implicitly) that interests the reader.

Evoke enough curiously to compel them to keep reading the ad.

Here are five essential qualities of a compelling headline:

Grabs Attention. Your headline’s number-one job is to grab the reader’s attention. To accomplish this, your headline must either: make a claim or promise, evoke an emotional response, or stir up curiosity.

Screens and Qualifies Readers. Choose specific words that segment out the exact “tribe” you want to reach. Headlines that apply to everyone can just as easily apply to no one.

Draws Readers into the Body Copy. Remember you’re not selling your concept or proposition in the headline. You’re making one sale only: the idea of reading the rest of the post.

Communicates the “Big Idea.” What is the one true benefit of your post, and how can you communicate that to your readers in a way that is meaningful to them? Put that in your headline.

Establishes Credibility. Authority is one of the most powerful ways of gaining attention. If you have an “authority card” to play, play it in the headline if possible.

Headlines Formulas

The “How-To” Headline

The “Transactional” Headline

The “Reason-Why” Headline

The “Probing Question” Headline

The “If-Then” Headline

“The key to making the “How-To” headline work is that you need to tie it to a benefit your reader cares about (related to your content, of course).”

“The “Transactional” headline is all about the promise. When you truly have ‘Wow!’ level content, this headline will grab attention.”

Cialdini’s research showed that simply adding the word “because” to a request makes it more likely you’ll get what you’re asking for.

“With the ‘Probing Question’ headline, you ask a question that creates an intense desire to know the answer. The kind of question you want to ask is one that really evokes strong curiosity or taps into a problem you know your reader has.”

“With the ‘If-Then’ headline, you contrast something that’s easy for your reader to do with the major benefit of your post.”

The ultimate secret to writing really good headlines is to write a lot of really bad ones.

Write lots of possible headlines for your sales copy, subject lines for your emails, and titles for your blog posts before you finally settle on one.

“Email is still the number one way to get things sold on the Internet.”

“Bullet points are a great place to start writing when you’re in that ‘stuck place,’ when that resistance-to-writing feeling sneaks up on you.”

“A blind bullet is a bullet that tantalizes your reader with a curiosity-inducing statement, yet does not reveal the actual secret behind it, in effect setting up an ‘open loop’ that the mind longs to complete.”

Bullets that are not blind are called “naked” bullets.

21 Winning Bullet Point Templates

The “Wrong” Bullet

The “Themed Sequence” Bullet

The Two-Step Bullet

The Giveaway Bullet

The Reverse Hook Bullet

The Naked Benefit Bullet

The Transactional Bullet

The If-Then Bullet

The “Truth About” Bullet

The “Single Most” Bullet

The “How-To” Bullet

The Number Bullet

The Sneaky Bullet

The “Better Than” Bullet

The “Simple Fact” Bullet

The “What” Bullet

The “What NEVER” Bullet

The “Do You?” Bullet

The “Reason Why” Bullet

The “Secrets Of” Bullet

The Probing Question Bullet

“The wrong bullet is simply a case where you can contradict a common assumption.”

An example of the “Wrong” bullet: “Eating lots of salt in your diet is bad for your blood pressure, right? Wrong! We’ll explain why when you order our special report.”

With the “Themed Sequence” bullet, you are going to spell out, for instance, the “seven deadly diet sins,” or the “three humiliating secrets men don’t want women to know.”

“A two-step bullet offers a parenthetical elaboration on the main benefit statement.”

Example: “What to never do with your business card, and why. (If you get this wrong, people will walk away and you’ll never hear from them again.)”

Every now and then in your bullets, you should give something away.

“If you can give people a tip or trick that’s stunningly good, they are more likely to think, ‘If that’s what they’re giving away in their sales promotion, what are they hiding behind the scenes? If the free stuff is this good, what kind of information do I get when I pay it?’”

The Reverse Hook Bullet is a bullet that presents, first, an interesting fact, and then presents an unexpected benefit that arises from that interesting fact.

Example: “37.1% of the keywords in your Google AdWords account are not getting enough traffic to give you reliable test data.” Now, this is the parenthetical statement, “Here’s a simple trick you can use to eliminate these keywords from your ad campaigns forever and save yourself loads of money.”

“The Naked Benefit Bullet makes a direct benefit claim, but it has got to be supported by some additional facts, or what I call ‘intrigues’ that deepen your reader’s interest.”

Example: “How to effortlessly generate dramatically different ideas and know instantly if they are worth pursuing.”

“The Transactional Bullet is simply a proposition that says, ‘Give me (X), and I’ll give you (Y).’”

Example: “Give me one hour, and I’ll teach you how to write effective headlines.”

“Whenever you’re using a transactional bullet, it’s often best if you can use it in a case where what you’re asking from your readers seems of small consequence in contrast to the benefit you’re offering to them.”

“With the “If-Then” bullet, you’re giving the prospect something easy for him or her to do or comply with, and you’re associating it to a more valuable benefit.”

Example: “If you can spare 10 minutes a day, you can lose five pounds a month.”

“Find an issue where the controversy is well-known in your market.”

Example: “The truth about carbohydrates – and chances are, it’s not what you think it is.”

“Use the “Single Most” type of bullet when you have a superior benefit that you can prove.”

Example: “The single fastest, easiest, and best way of lowering your blood pressure documented and approved by the American Medical Association.”

“You want a bullet that uses specificity to dimensionalize the benefit you’re claiming.”

“Any time you use the how-to bullet, make sure you’re using a few more specifics and make it more real, more tangible to the reader.”

Use the Number Bullet when you have a specific number of techniques or multiple ways of doing a certain thing, multiple reasons why, or multiple reasons why not.

“You want to use the Sneaky Bulley when you can imply some kind of element of conspiracy.”

Example: “The sneaky methods drug companies use to keep you hooked on their products.”

“This is most effective when you can confirm a suspicion that your reader already has.”

“You want to find something good that you can make better.”

“When you can’t use a blind bullet, use simple facts—but make them interesting.”

Example: “Healthy people are dying of sudden cardiac arrest,” quote the study, then follow up with a comma and say something to this effect: “There are steps you can take to prevent this from happening.”

“The ‘what’ bullet simply answers the question ‘What?’”

Example: “What inoculations you need to travel abroad.”

The “What Never” bullet is the negative form of the “what” bullet.

Example: “What never to eat on an airplane (unless you want to die).”

Use the “Do You?” bullet when you believe your readers are doing something that is a mistake. Something that your product, service, or information will help them avoid.”

Example: “Do you make these mistakes when filling out your business tax returns?”

The “Reason Why” Bullet is a simple version of “reason why” copy.

“It’s just explaining the reasons why they should buy your product or service.”

Example: “The reason why you should always use the lowest octane fuel available at the gas pump, not the highest.”

“If you have an unusual solution, device, tactic, or method, then you can use this bullet to build curiosity.”

“Ask a question you are reasonably certain you know the answer to.”

Example: “Do you know the seven kinds of deductions the IRS looks for to flag your return for an audit?”

“The triad of selling—the offer, the close, and the risk reversal segment.”

21 Steps to Writing Irresistible Offers, Rock-Solid Risk Reversal Copy, and Powerful Closes

Make your offer stand alone

Apply the P.A.S.T.O.R. Framework™ to your offer.

Enclose your order area copy in a differentiating text box

Use the prospect’s positive voice in the offer

Use aspirational language

Use credit card logos and secure site symbols

Use both an order button and a text link (such as “click to order”)

Do not sleepwalk through the guarantee

Put your risk reversal inside a certificate

Keep selling, especially in the risk reversal section

Use “100 percent money back”” language, but don’t rely on that to convey the message of your guarantee

Add video to your risk reversal section

Use your signature in the risk reversal section

Use a handwritten guarantee

The “close” is you asking for the order

Use all the tools that are available to you at the close

Tell your reader what to do to close the deal

You want to reassure and praise your readers

Explain what’s going to happen

Maintain the look and feel of your website

Test your order form

“Construct your offer so it’s like a miniature sales letter. It needs a headline, a little deck copy, a string of benefit-rich bullets that describe what the product is about, and exactly what your prospects are going to get when they buy. Then give them a call to action, where they can click and actually order your product or service.”

“Give your prospects the words to say inside their own minds.”

“You are thinking thoughts for the reader.”

“The reason this is so powerful when related to offers is that when you write in the prospect’s positive voice (‘Yes, Ray, I want to take advantage of your Copywriting Academy Coaching Program. I want to possess the power of turning words into wealth.’), you’re telling him or her what to think.”

“Invoke your reader’s desire. Focus on the outcome your reader desires and use language that aspires to that outcome, to gain the emotional state or the sense of being that this outcome will give them.”

Credit card symbols are important because we’ve been trained to accept as trustworthy, reliable, and stable. By including them, you are reassuring your prospect that your site shares the same qualities.

“Give them every opportunity to succeed at giving you money.”

“It’s always best to assume that your user or reader doesn’t really know with 100 percent certainty what to do next.”

“The guarantee is also known as the ‘risk reversal’ section of your copy.”

“You want to reassure them—as much as possible—that the decision they’re making is the right decision and that they cannot make a mistake.”

“Putting something in certificate form lends it credibility.”

“This is a perfect place to restate the benefits of your offer.”

“Describe the benefits in your guarantee or risk reversal language.”

Example: “Order my e-book, read every page. If you’re not delighted with the results, if in fact you don’t lose at least 30 pounds in 30 days, find it easy to eat the right foods without feeling hungry or deprived, know in an instant what you’re supposed to eat without ever having to refer to a calorie chart or point system, then I refuse to keep your money.”

“Use active language to dimensionalize your guarantee.”

“Use it, but don’t make that the only guarantee you offer; be more descriptive.”

“Make your risk reversal or guarantee personal, persuasive, and passionate. One of the best ways you can do that is by using the human voice and face, especially if your personality is part of your marketing. A video of you personally delivering the guarantee is more powerful than text alone.”

This increases conversions because if it’s signed, we feel like it’s a deal; it’s official; it’s a contract.

“If a signature works, a handwritten guarantee often works even better.”

“If you’re going to use a handwritten guarantee, make sure that it’s short, powerful, and most important, legible.”

“That means you want a headline on the order page just as I described: one that’s affirmative, congratulatory, and lets them know they’ve made the right decision.”

“You want to use urgency, scarcity, and reward.”

“If you can introduce some urgency into the selling process ethically and honestly, then you should do it.”

“Make sure you’re offering a limited number or a limited time on your bonus items, and make certain it’s all honest and ethical.”

“Make your promotions real, honest, and ethical.”

“This is where you need to be as specific as possible.”

You’re going to use language like this: “Okay, now’s the time to type in your name and your address, double-check that the information is correct, then type in your credit card number and click on the ‘Buy now’ button.”

“You want to be just that specific in your instructions.”

“If you can give these instructions in audio or video, that’s even better.”

“Reassure and praise your reader for the good decision he or she made.”

“Tell them exactly what’s going to happen when they press the ‘Submit’ or ‘Buy now’ button. This is a question your reader is wondering about.”

“The best way to reassure them is to tell them what’s going to happen or even show them if you can make a screen capture video that shows exactly what’s going to happen.”

“Your order form should look exactly like your website.”

“Order your own product. If it’s an expensive product and you want to minimize your processing expense, set it to zero dollars or one dollar and make multiple orders.”

10-Part Guarantee That is Powerful Beyond Belief

Start with the words “100% unconditional money back guarantee”

Sell your benefits and transformation in the guarantee itself

Integrate your USP (unique selling proposition) into the language of the guarantee itself

Personalize the guarantee

Give the longest guarantee possible

Demonstrate that returns are easy and hassle-free

Assure them that this is a no-strings attached, unconditional guarantee

Emphasize the speed of refunds

Amaze them with what I call the “I’ll-take-the-risk twist.”

Give your guarantee a name

5 Closing Templates That Get The Job Done

“You Will Certainly Arrive” Close

The “Different Results” Close

The “Crossroads” Close

The “Decision Time” Close

The “Handholding” Close

Example: “Here’s what you and I both know, one year from today you will certainly arrive. The question is where? That is your decision to make right now.”

Example: “Here’s the tough truth you probably already know. If you want different results you need to do something different. Make a definitive decision right now to get different results.”

Example: “You’re standing at the crossroads. To the left is the same rough, rocky road you’ve been traveling. To the right is the road fewer people will choose. This road is not harder it’s different. Choosing the right road makes all the difference. I’m hoping you’ll choose the right road and join us today.”

Example: “It’s been said that in your moments of decision your destiny is shaped. What will you decide to do right now? The same thing you’ve been doing so you get the same old results or will you decide to change your results for the better by joining the Champion Circle…”

Example: “And you won’t be alone, I’m going to hold your hand every step of the way and walk you through this process.”

The Offer is the core of your sales copy. It consists of:

The benefit of what you’re selling (the transformation)

The vehicle or mechanism that delivers the transformation

The price & payment terms

The O.P.E.N. Framework

Oblivious. These are the people who do not know there is a problem. They don’t know they have a problem, and they don’t know that you exist with a solution. These are the hardest people to sell to.

Pondering. The pondering person is considering a solution to their problem.

Engaged. The engages person is actively looking for something to solve their problem

Need. This is the person who’s in “agony”. You don’t have to sell or pitch a solution to them. These are the easiest people to sell to.

“The secret is to address each of these levels of awareness with a different kind of offer; the Oblivious with something like a Soft Offer, while the person in Need probably only requires a simple Hard Offer.”

Power Moves for More Compelling Offers

Power move #1: Make sure you’re selling them what they want. “You sell them what they want and you also give them what they need.”

Power move #2: Make your copy crystal clear. “If you can read a paragraph and not be sure of what it said, or if you read it to someone and they aren’t sure what it says either, that’s ‘voodoo copy.’”

Power move #3: Use tipping point bonuses. “You need to pay special attention to the bonuses you offer.”

“Spend as much time on your bonuses as you do on any other part of your product creation, and as much time on the copy for the bonus as you do on any other copy that you write.”

“The bonus needs to be as good as or better than what you’re selling.”

“Product launches work because they employ all the psychological triggers of influence.”

11 Launch Copy Components

List-building copy

Survey copy


JV Recruitment copy

Prelaunch copy

The “Big PDF”

Unpredictable plot complication copy

Countdown copy

The sales letter

Post-launch-week copy

The missing piece

“As your list and traffic grow, you want to start asking your market what bugs them. Find out what their pain is.”

“There are two ways to go about this when you’re thinking about how you’re going to create and market your product. You can focus on relieving a certain pain in the life of the prospect or you can focus on moving the prospect towards some type of pleasurable outcome.”

“People will respond more readily and will do more to get out of pain than to get into pleasure.”

“I recommend focusing on finding their pain and ways to relieve it.”

“You want to think of your product itself as copy because it’s making a continual sale to your buyer.”

“You need to think in terms of how you structure the product, how it is written in language that reaffirms the decision the prospect made when he or she decided to invest in it.”

“Think of the product as an extension of your copy.”

“When you’re performing a launch, you don’t just want to rely on just your own list.”

“Here is where you begin building anticipation, scarcity, and social proof.”

“This is where you’re going to write a white paper, a position paper or special report that spells out your platform or USP (unique selling proposition).”

“Unpredictable plot complications” means things will occur you didn’t plan for.

Example: “Wow! We had so much traffic from people who wanted to get a copy of our big PDF that our server went down.”

“This is where we start playing on the anticipation and scarcity.”

“Even if a buyer never sees your actual sales letter—they are still sold by it.”

“As much as 30 percent of your sales may come in the week after your big launch day.”

“I see this component left out all the time: following up with your buyers and prospects to make your launch become a profitable business.”

“Stories are the process by which we learn, live, and believe anything.”

The best and most successful movie trailers do three things without fail:

Give you the Dominant Story Idea (DSI)

Offer a sample of the feelings you’ll get from the movie itself

Provide proof that the movie ‘works’

Recommended Reading

If you like How to Write Copy That Sells, you may also enjoy the following books:

The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch by Dan Norris by Dan Norris

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly

Buy this book

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Built to Sell by John Warrillow: Notes

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According to Warrillow, the number one mistake entrepreneurs make is to build a business that relies too heavily on them.

This is a problem because when the time comes to sell, buyers aren’t confident that the company can stand on its own—even if it’s profitable.

However, by pursuing three criteria—teachable, valuable, repeatable—you can make a business sellable.

“Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you’re serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.”

The Five Big Ideas

You should always run a company as if it will last forever.

The best businesses are sellable—even if you have no intention of cashing out or stepping back anytime soon.

Once your business can run without you, you’ll have a valuable asset.

If you focus on doing one thing well and hire specialists in that area, the quality of your work will improve and you will stand out from your competitors.

Make sure that no one client makes up more than 15 percent of your revenue.

Built to Sell Summary

You should always run a company as if it will last forever, and yet you should also strive constantly to maximize its value, building in the qualities that allow it to be sold at any moment for the highest price buyers are paying for businesses like yours.

The best businesses are sellable, and smart business people believe that you should build a company to be sold even if you have no intention of cashing out or stepping back anytime soon.

Once your business can run without you, you’ll have a valuable—sellable—asset.

Don’t generalize; specialize. If you focus on doing one thing well and hire specialists in that area, the quality of your work will improve and you will stand out from your competitors.

Relying too heavily on one client is risky and will turn off potential buyers. Make sure that no one client makes up more than 15 percent of your revenue.

Owning a process makes it easier to pitch and puts you in control. Be clear about what you’re selling, and potential customers will be more likely to buy your product.

Don’t become synonymous with your company. If buyers aren’t confident that your business can run without you in charge, they won’t make their best offer.

We’re used to paying for products up front and services after they have been rendered.

Avoid the cash suck. Once you’ve standardized your service, charge up front or use progress billing to create a positive cash flow cycle.

Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you’re serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.

Take some time to figure out how many pipeline prospects will likely lead to sales. This number will become essential when you go to sell because it allows the buyer to estimate the size of the market opportunity.

Two sales reps are always better than one. Often competitive types, sales reps will try to outdo each other. And having two on staff will prove to a buyer that you have a scalable sales model, not just one good sales rep.

Hire people who are good at selling products, not services. These people will be better able to figure out how your product can meet a client’s needs rather than agreeing to customize your offering to fit what the client wants.

Ignore your profit-and-loss statement in the year you make the switch to a standardized offering even if it means you and your employees will have to forgo a bonus that year. As long as your cash flow remains consistent and strong, you’ll be back in the black in no time.

You need at least two years of financial statements reflecting your use of the standardized offering model before you sell your company.

Build a management team and offer them a long-term incentive plan that rewards their personal performance and loyalty.

Find an adviser for whom you will be neither their largest nor their smallest client. Make sure they know your industry.

Avoid an adviser who offers to broker a discussion with a single client. You want to ensure there is competition for your business and avoid being used as a pawn for your adviser to curry favor with his or her best client.

Think big. Write a three-year business plan that paints a picture of what is possible for your business. Remember, the company that acquires you will have more resources for you to accelerate your growth.

If you want to be a sellable, product-oriented business, you need to use the language of one. Change words like “clients” to “customers” and “firm” to “business.” Rid your website and customer-facing communications of any references that reveal you used to be a generic service business.

Don’t issue stock options to retain key employees after an acquisition. Instead, use a simple stay bonus that offers the members of your management team a cash reward if you sell your company. Pay the reward in two or more installments only to those who stay so that you ensure your key staff stays on through the transition.

Recommended Reading

If you like Built to Sell, you may also enjoy the following books:

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

Work the System by Sam Carpenter

How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards

Buy this book

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Summary

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

The Law of Leadership

The Law of Category

The Law of the Mind

The Law of Perception

The Law of Focus

The Law of Exclusivity

The Law of the Ladder

The Law of Duality

The Law of the Opposite

The Law of Division

The Law of Perspective

The Law of Line Extension

The Law of Sacrifice

The Law of Attributes

The Law of Candor

The Law of Singularity

The Law of Unpredictability

The Law of Success

The Law of Failure

The Law of Hype

The Law of Acceleration

The Law of Resources

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Summary

Chapter 1: The Law of Leadership

Summary: It’s better to be first than it is better.

It’s much easier to get into the mind first than to try to convince someone you have a better product than the one that did get there first.

In today’s competitive environment, a me-too product with a line extension name has little hope of becoming a big profitable brand.

The leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand into the prospect’s mind.

Not every first is going to become successful. Timing is an issue—your first could be too late.

People tend to stick with what they’ve got.

One reason the first brand tends to maintain its leadership is that the name often becomes generic (e.g. “How do I make a Xerox?”).

If you’re introducing the first brand in a new category, you should always try to select a name that can work generically.

Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.

Chapter 2: The Law of Category

Summary: If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

If you didn’t get into the prospect’s mind first, don’t give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in. It’s not as difficult as you might think.

When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this product better than the competition?” but “First what?” In other words, what category is this new product first in?

Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better.

When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category. In essence, you have no competition.

Chapter 3: The Law of The Mind

Summary: It’s better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace.

Being first in the marketplace is important only to the extent that it allows you to get in the mind first.

You can’t change a mind once a mind is made up.

The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is trying to change a mind.

If you want to make a big impression on another person, you cannot worm your way into their mind and then slowly build up a favorable opinion over a period of time. The mind doesn’t work that way. You have to blast your way into the mind.

Chapter 4: The Law of Perception

Summary: Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perception.

All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is reality. Everything else is an illusion.

Only by studying how perceptions are formed in the mind and focusing your marketing programs on those perceptions can you overcome your basically incorrect marketing instincts.

What makes the battle even more difficult is that customers frequently make buying decisions based on second-hand perceptions. Instead of using their own perceptions, they base their buying decisions on someone else’s perception of reality. This is the “everybody knows” principle.

Chapter 5: The Law of Focus

Summary: The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.

A company can become incredibly successful if it can find a way to own a word in the mind of the prospect. Not a complicated word. Not an invented one. The simple words are best, words taken right out of the dictionary.

The leader owns the word that stands for the category. 

You can test the validity of a leadership claim by a word association test.

If you’re not a leader, then your word has to have a narrow focus. Even more important, however, your word has to be “available” in your category. No one else can have a lock on it.

The most effective words are simple and benefit orientated. No matter how complicated the product, no matter how complicated the needs of the market, it’s always better to focus on one word or benefit rather than two or three or four.

Words come in different varieties. They can be benefit related (captivity prevention), service related (home delivery), audience related (younger people), or sales related (preferred brand).

There comes a time when a company must change words.

You can’t take somebody else’s word.

What won’t work in marketing is leaving your own word in search of a word owned by others.

You can’t narrow the focus with quality or any other idea that doesn’t have proponents for the opposite point of view.

When you develop your word to focus on, be prepared to fend off the lawyers.

Once you have your word, you have to go out of your way to protect it in the marketplace.

Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

Chapter 6: The Law of Exclusivity

Summary: Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

When a competitor owns a word or position in the prospect’s mind, it is futile to attempt to own the same word.

Chapter 7: The Law of The Ladder

Summary: The strategy you use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder.

All products are not created equal. There’s a hierarchy in the mind that prospects use in making decisions.

For each category, there is a product ladder in the mind. On each rung is a brand name.

Your marketing strategy should depend on how soon you got into the mind and consequently which rung of the ladder you occupy. The higher the better, of course.

The mind is selective. Prospects use their ladders in deciding which information to accept and which information to reject. In general, a mind accepts only new data that is consistent with its product ladder in that category. Everything else is ignored.

Products that are purchased infrequently and involve an unpleasant experience usually have very few rungs on their ladders.

The ultimate product that involves the least amount of pleasure and it purchased once in a lifetime has no rungs on its ladder.

There’s a relationship between market share and your position on the ladder in the prospect’s mind. You tend to have twice the market share of the brand below you and half the market share of the brand above you.

Seven is the maximum number of rungs on a ladder in the prospect’s mind.

Sometimes your own ladder, or category, is too small. It might be better to be a small fish in a big pond than to be a big fish in a small pond. In other words, it’s sometimes to be No. 3 on a big ladder than No. 1 on a small ladder.

Before starting any marketing program, ask yourself, “Where are we on the ladder in the prospect’s mind?”

In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Chapter 8: The Law of Duality

Summary: In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Early on, a new category is a ladder of many rungs. Gradually, the ladder becomes a two-rung affair.

When you take the long view of marketing, you find the battle usually winds up as a titanic struggle between two major players—usually the old reliable brand and the new upstart.

In a maturing industry, third place is a difficult position to be in.

Knowing that marketing is a two-horse race, in the long run, can help you plan strategy in the short-term.

If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

Chapter 9: The Law of Opposite

Summary: If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

A company should leverage the leader’s strength into a weakness.

You must discover the essence of the leader and then present the prospect with the opposite. (In other words, don’t try to be better, try to be different). It’s often the upstart versus old reliable.

By positioning yourself against the leader, you take business away from all the other alternatives to No. 1.

You must present yourself as the alternative.

As a product gets old, it often accrues some negative damage.

Marketing is often a balance for legitimacy. The first brand that captures the concept is often able to portray its competitors as illegitimate pretenders. 

A good No.2 can’t afford to be timid. When you give up focusing on No. 1, you make yourself vulnerable to not only the leader but to the rest of the pack.

Chapter 10: The Law of Diversion

Summary: Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.

A category starts off as a single entity. But over time, the category breaks up into other segments.

Companies make mistakes when they try to take a well-known brand name in one category and use the same brand name in another category.

What keeps leaders from launching a different brand to cover a new category is the fear of what will happen to their existing brands.

Timing is important. You can be too early to exploit a new category.

It’s better to be early than late. You can’t get into the prospect’s mind first unless you’re prepared to spend time waiting for things to develop.

Chapter 11: The Law of Perspective

Summary: Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

Chapter 12: The Law of Line Extension

Summary: There’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand.

The law of line extension is the most violated law.

When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. 

Line extension involves taking the brand name of a successful product and putting it on a new product you plan to introduce.

In the long run and in the presence of serious competition, line extension almost never works.

Invariably, the leader in any category is the brand that is not line extended.

One reason why top management believe line extension works is because it can be a winner in the short-term.

Chapter 13: The Law of Sacrifice

Summary: You have to give up something in order to get something.

If you want to be successful, you have to narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind.

For a new brand to succeed, it ought to be first in a new category. Or the new brand ought to be positioned as an alternative to the leader.

The law of sacrifice is the opposite of the law of line extension. If you want to be successful today, you should give something up.

There are three things to sacrifice:

Product line

Target market

Constant change

If you want to be successful, you have to reduce your product line, not extend it.

The word of business is populated by big, highly diversified generalists and small, narrowly focused specialists.

The best way to maintain a consistent position is not to change it in the first place.

Chapter 14: The Law of Attributes

Summary: For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute.

For instance, since Crest owned cavities, other toothpastes avoided cavities and jumped on other attributes like taste, whitening, breath protection, etc.

Marketing is a battle of ideas. So if you are to succeed, you must have an idea or attribute of your own to focus your efforts around. Without one, you better have a low price. A very low price.

When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.

Chapter 15: The Law of Cador

Summary: When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.

Candor is very disarming.

Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Positive statements, on the other hand, are looked at as dubious at best. Especially in advertising.

You have to prove a positive statement to the prospect’s satisfaction. No proof is needed for a negative statement.

If your name is bad, you have two choices: change the name or make fun of it. The one thing you can’t do is ignore a bad name.

Admitting a problem is something very few companies do.

When a company starts a message by admitting a problem, people tend to, almost instinctively, open their minds.

The law of candor must be used carefully and with great skill. First, your “negative” must be widely perceived as a negative. It has to trigger an instant agreement with your prospect’s mind. If the negative doesnät register quickly, your prospect will be confused and will wonder, “What’s this all about?” Next, you have to shift quickly to the positive. The purpose of candor isn’t to apologize. The purpose of candor is to set up a benefit that will convince your prospect.

Chapter 16: The Law of Singularity

Summary: In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results.

History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke. 

Unless you write your competitor’s plans, you can’t predict the future.

Chapter 17: The Law of Predictability

Summary: Unless you write your competitors’ plans, you can’t predict the future.

Failure to forecast competitive reaction is a major reason for marketing failures.

Good short-term planning is coming up with that angle or word that differentiates your product or company. Then you set up a coherent long-term marketing direction than builds a program to maximize that idea or angle. It’s not a long-term plan, it’s a long-term direction.

While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change.

When you assume that nothing will change, you are predicting the future just as surely as when you assume that something will change. Remember Peter’s Law. The unexpected always happens.

One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization. As changes come sweeping through your category, you have to be willing to change and change quickly if you are to survive in the long term.

Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Chapter 18: The Law of Success

Summary: Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Ego is the enemy of successful marketing.

When people become successful, they tend to become less objective. They often substitute their own judgment for what the market wants.

Success is often the fatal element behind the rash of line extensions. When a brand is successful, the company assumes the name is the primary reason for the brand’s success. So they promptly look for other products to plaster the name on.

The more you identify with your brand or corporate name, the more likely you are to fall into the line extension trap.

Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like a prospect thinks. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers. They don’t impose their own view of the world on the situation. 

The bigger the company, the more likely it is that the chief executive has lost touch with the front lines.

Failure is to be excepted and accepted.

Chapter 19: The Law of Failure

Summary: Failure is to be expected and accepted. 

Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things.

Admitting a mistake and not doing anything about it as bad for your career. A better strategy is to recognize failure early and cut your losses.

Nobody has ever been fired for a bold move they didn’t make.

Chapter 20: The Law of Hype

Summary: A situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.

When things are going well, a company doesn’t need the hype. When you need the hype it usually means you’re in trouble.

Chapter 21: The Law of Acceleration

Summary: Successful programs are not built on fads, they’re built on trends.

A fad is a wave in the ocean, and a trend is the tide. A fad gets a lot of hype, and a trend gets very little.

Forget fads. And when they appear, try to dampen them. One way to maintain a long-term demand for your products is to never totally satisfy the demand.

Chapter 22: The Law of Resources

Summary: Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground.

Even the best idea in the world won’t go very far without the money to get it off the ground.

An idea without money is worthless.

Other Books by Al Ries and Jack Trout


Recommended Reading

If you like The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, you may also enjoy the following books:

Cashvertising: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone by Eric Whitman

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Buy this book

Traction Summary

Categories Entrepreneur, sellPosted on

Traction is a roadmap for startups to achieve the exponential growth necessary to survive the first few months and years by looking at 19 ways to get traction and a framework to help you pick the best one for your startup.

So far I’d only known about one of the two authors of this book, Justin Mares, from Nat Eliason’s and his Programming for Marketers course.

Traction is what makes sure that your car’s horsepower actually translates to the asphalt and pushes your car forward. Without it, all you create is smoke, admittedly cool drifts and rubber marks on the road.

For a startup, the situation isn’t much different. You can spend a lot of time on product development, getting investors and hiring great people, but in the end, how much traction your work gets in the marketplace is what determines your survival.

To help you out, Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg have written this book, based on what they’ve learned growing DuckDuckGo (the search engine that doesn’t track you) and Exceptional, a software company, plus a bunch of other startups they founded or worked with.

Here are 3 lessons to help get your startup off the ground:

  • Start thinking about your marketing as soon as you begin working on your idea.
  • Attend trade shows to find potential future partners.
  • Use the bulls eye framework to find which traction channel works best for you.

Want to catapult your business from 0-60 in the blink of an eye? Let’s go get some traction!

Lesson 1: Think about your marketing as soon as you begin working on your startup.

The #1 mistake I keep seeing people make when trying to start a business is to not start marketing instantly. Every time a friend tells me “I’m building this thing…” I ask: “Have you started marketing yet?”

99% of the time, the answer is “Nah, I want to get something out first…”

As a result, most of my friends end up emerging from their startup lab with a fully cooked product, but no one who wants to buy it. Imagine a guy trying to sell newspapers on the street going “Who wants this?” That’s frustrating. So every time I get that answer, I tell them: “You have to start marketing now, or otherwise you’ll fall flat on your face.”

People rarely listen, but if they do, they usually end up thanking me. I’m sure Justin and Gabriel have had plenty of the same conversations.

They suggest you should split your time 50/50 between product development and getting traction. Of course, when you start out you’re happy if you can get a few dozen people to follow your work and you can always reach those, but the traction metric changes over time and eventually, you’ll have to get people by the thousands to buy your stuff to succeed.

Devoting lots of time to your marketing early on will allow you to test strategies until you find the right one. For example, when Dropbox tried search engine ads, they quickly realized that paying $200 to get someone to get a $99/year membership wasn’t going to work and could switch to trying something else.

Oh and don’t be afraid to share updates before you’re ready to launch. Marketo started blogging long before they had something to launch – so when they did, 14,000 people were already waiting to buy.

Lesson 2: Go to trade shows to find people and companies to partner with.

This is one of 19 traction channels Justin and Gabriel describe, but I picked it because it combines offline and online.

No matter what industry you’re in, there are always trade shows and events not too far away, and there’s always someone there who could change your life and business.

Even if you meet one of the giants in your industry before you have a finalized product to showcase, you could still get to know them, start building a relationship and who knows, maybe they’ll tell you exactly what they want from you for the two of you to partner up.

You can also use these to come up with creative marketing campaigns. For example, Twitter put TVs in the lobbies and hallways of the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference in 2007, showing live feeds of tweets from the event. Of course everyone wanted to see their own tweet on screen, and as a result, their traffic ballooned from 20,000 to 60,000 tweets per day during the event.

Lesson 3: Use the bullseye framework to find which traction channel works best for you.

However, trade shows are just one of 19 ways to get traction, but that doesn’t mean you should pick that one. Nor does it mean you should do all of them at once. Here’s what Justin and Gabriel call the bullseye framework to find which traction channel works best for you:

Brainstorm which channels work in your industry and how you could use them for your particular product.

Categorize them into promising, possible and long shots.

Make a list with the top three.

Do cheap testing with clear goals for those top three.

Focus on the one that works best, or start over if none work.

In truth, getting one traction channel to work is more than you need to successfully grow your startup. Finding that one channel is what you should spend your time on – not trying to be everywhere and getting nowhere in the process.

As Steve Jobs said: “Focus is about saying no.”

My personal take-aways

If I ran a “Startup Marketing 101” class, I’d probably make every student buy this book. It gives a great overview of all your options, without allowing you to get completely lost in them, thanks to the bullseye framework. The two authors combine having a broad set of general knowledge with taking only a very narrow, focused path, and that’s what makes their marketing strategies for startups so efficient.

To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink: Notes

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To Sell Is Human shows you that selling is part of your life, no matter what you do, and what a successful salesperson looks like in the 21st century, with practical ideas to help you convince others in a more honest, natural and sustainable way.

I’m really fond of Daniel Pink’s work. What he did with Drive back in 2009 was a huge piece of the motivation puzzle, and I keep applying his autonomy, mastery and purpose framework again and again.

To Sell Is Human is his latest masterpiece, which explains how selling has become part of all our lives, and how we can do it well – which means in a sustainable and honest way, without becoming a pushy door-to-door salesman of the last century.

If you don’t believe selling is part of your job (yet), then I’m sure these lessons will help you see clearly.

Here are 3 lessons about what it means to sell in the 21st century:

  • Almost half of your time at work is spent in non-sales selling, which is really just trying to move others.
  • Honesty and service are taking over sales, because theinternet has closed the information gap.
  • Use “Yes, and…” when talking to customers to make sure theystay positive and engaged.

Ready to become a master salesman or woman? It’s time to sell!

Lesson 1: Every job includes non-sales selling, which means you have to move others somehow.

Name a startup with a particularly large and aggressive sales team.

It’s hard, isn’t it?

I mean, does Facebook have any sales people? Evernote? Who sells those razor blades at Dollar Shave Club?

The reason it’s really hard to think of new companies with dedicated sales teams is that the line between sales and other departments is blurring, and it’s blurring fast. Daniel Pink’s example is software giant Atlassian, who generated over $100 million in revenues without a single sales employee in 2011.

This is especially true for startups, because they usually can’t afford to hire people just to sell stuff, especially in the beginning. Everyone has to sell – on top of their regular responsibilities. What’s more, even regular jobs require you to spend time selling.

40% of your time at work is spent in non-sales selling, which simply means moving others somehow. For example this could mean persuading them to help you with a project, convincing them of your idea, or influencing them to get on board with a particular strategy.

Medicine and education, the largest two job sectors in the US economy, rely heavily on this: doctors must get people to change their health-damaging habits and teachers must get students to spend time on their education.

So no matter what your job is – yes, you’re a salesperson!

Lesson 2: Honest is the new sleazy – thanks to the internet!

The reason we think of salespeople as sleazy and sales always has a negative connotation to it is that we’re still used to the old days, where sales consisted mostly of people abusing the information gap between buyer and seller.

When you bought a used car in 1990 and didn’t know a lot about cars, your dealer could tell you all kinds of good things about it, but leave out plenty of the bad stuff, and you’d end up overpaying. Simply because he knew more than you, he’d be the “winner” of this transaction.

Luckily, that has changed, thanks to the internet. At the click of a button you can find all dealers in your surrounding area, including reviews from people who have bought cars there, compare models online, get all the technical specs, average market prices, and find out if any dealers were involved in a scandal.

In 2016 and beyond, the only way to sell is to be honest and transparent.

To sell is no longer to guard information and hand out little pieces – it’s a service, helping people to navigate the wealth of information, explain it to them, and getting them to make the best decision, the one that’s right for them at the specific time.

Lesson 3: Always say “Yes, and…” to keep your customer optimistic.

One really cool way to stay positive and keep your customers engaged as you’re talking to them is to use this tactic from improv theatre: Always say “Yes, and…” instead of “No” or “Yes, but…”

I learned this from James Altucher, that’s why it struck me again in this book. In improv theatre it’s really important to keep the audience in a good mood, they have to stay optimistic at all times and not feel discouraged. Customers during a sales pitch are the same way. If they feel affronted or like you’re talking down to them, they surely won’t buy from you.

But every time you let on you’re disagreeing with them, it signals to them that you’re claiming you’re smarter. So instead of using words like “no” or “but”, agree with their ideas and add to them and then improve and improvise how you can further move the conversation along.

This way you’ll always be able to integrate opposing viewpoints, keep your talk constructive and have a great conversation atmosphere.

My personal take-aways

So many great points about why sales is important and how you can start learning more about it, without falling for sleazy sales tactics. The world is louder and noisier than ever before. I 100% believe that you need a loud, clear and different voice to stand out, no matter what you do for a hobby or a living.

Whether you’re selling yourself to become the team leader at your local bowling club or BMWs at work every day, this book will put new lenses in your glasses and help see the world clearer, while making you better at navigating it at the same time.

To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink

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To Sell Is Human Summary

The Book in Three Sentences

We’re all in sales.

Ambiverts are the most effective salespeople

It’s easier to sell something to someone when you know doing so will improve their life — and maybe even the world.

The Five Big Ideas

“Like it or not, we’re all in sales now”.

“The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness”.

“Adam Grant has discovered that the most effective salespeople are ambiverts, those who fall somewhere in the middle of the introversion-extraversion scale”.

“The most effective self-talk doesn’t merely shift emotions. It shifts linguistic categories. It moves from making statements to asking questions”.

“Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead. Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them”.

To Sell Is Human Summary

“Like it or not, we’re all in sales now”.

“The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness”.

“Whether it’s selling’s traditional form or its non-sales variation, we’re all in sales now”.

“Ferlazzo makes a distinction between ‘irritation’ and ‘agitation’. Irritation, he says, is ‘challenging people to do something that we want them to do’. By contrast, ‘agitation is challenging them to do something that they want to do’”.

“Those who’d received even a small injection of power became less likely (and perhaps less able) to attune themselves to someone else’s point of view”.

“The notion that extraverts are the finest salespeople is so obvious that we’ve overlooked one teensy flaw. There’s almost no evidence that it’s actually true”.

The three key steps to strategic mimicry:

Watch. Observe what the other person is doing.

Wait. Once you’ve observed, don’t spring immediately into action. Don’t do this too many times, though.

Wane. After you’ve mimicked a little, try to be less conscious of what you’re doing.

“Attuning yourself to others—exiting your own perspective and entering theirs—is essential to moving others”.

“Adam Grant has discovered that the most effective salespeople are ambiverts, those who fall somewhere in the middle of the introversion-extraversion scale”.

“How to stay afloat amid that ocean of rejection is the second essential quality in moving others. I call this quality ‘buoyancy’”.

Interrogative Self-Talk

“The most effective self-talk doesn’t merely shift emotions. It shifts linguistic categories. It moves from making statements to asking questions”.

“On average, the self-questioning group solved nearly 50 percent more puzzles than the self-affirming group”. (Senay, Albarracín and Noguchi, 2010)

 “People who’d written Will I solved nearly twice as many anagrams as those who’d written I will, Will, or I”.

“[Interrogative self-talk], by its very form, elicits answers—and within those answers are strategies for actually carrying out the task”.

“Researchers say, ‘[interrogative self-talk] may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal’”.

“People are more likely to act, and to perform well, when the motivations come from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic pressures”.

“Declarative self-talk risks bypassing one’s motivations. Questioning self-talk elicits the reasons for doing something and reminds people that many of those reasons come from within”.

“Those who’d heard the positive-inflected pitch were twice as likely to accept the deal as those who’d heard the negative one—even though the terms were identical”.

Explanatory Style

“In human beings, Seligman observed, learned helplessness was usually a function of people’s ‘explanatory style’—their habit of explaining negative events to themselves”.

“People who give up easily, who become helpless even in situations where they actually can do something, explain bad events as permanent, pervasive, and personal”.

“Agents who scored in the optimistic half of explanatory style sold 37% more insurance than agents scoring in the pessimistic half. Agents in the top decile sold 88% more insurance than those in the bottom decile”.

“The salespeople with an optimistic explanatory style—who saw rejections as temporary rather than permanent, specific rather than universal, and external rather than personal—sold more insurance and survived in their jobs much longer”.

“[Hall] is not blind optimism but what Seligman calls ‘flexible optimism—optimism with its eyes open’”.

Question: “Can I move these people?”

“Answer it—directly and in writing. List five specific reasons why the answer to your question is yes. These reasons will remind you of the strategies that you’ll need to be effective on the task, providing a sturdier and more substantive grounding than mere affirmation”.

“When something bad occurs, ask yourself three questions—and come up with an intelligent way to answer each one “no”:

Is this permanent?

Is this pervasive?

Is this personal?

“The more you explain bad events as temporary, specific, and external, the more likely you are to persist even in the face of adversity”.

Enumerate and Embrace

“One way to remain buoyant is to acquire a more realistic sense of what can actually sink you. You can do that by counting your rejections—and then celebrating them. It’s a strategy I call ‘enumerate and embrace’”.

Enumerate. “Try actually counting the nos you get during a week. By the end of the week, you might be surprised by just how many nos the world has delivered to your doorstep. However, you might be more surprised by something else: You’re still around. Even in that weeklong ocean of rejection, you’ve still managed to stay afloat. That realization can give you the will to continue and the confidence to do even better the following week”.

Embrace. “’It was my way of showing that I didn’t quit’, [Goldbery] says. ‘I got all these rejections, but kept going’”.

“Allow yourself what [Fredrickson] dubs ‘appropriate negativity’—moments of anger, hostility, disgust, and resentment that serve a productive purpose”.

“[Fredrickson’s] work has shown that thinking through gloom-and-doom scenarios and mentally preparing for the very worst that can occur helps some people effectively manage their anxieties”.


“If this approach sounds useful, present yourself with a series of ‘What ifs?’ What if everything goes wrong? What if the unthinkable happens? What if this is the worst decision of my life? These questions could prompt answers you didn’t expect, which might calm you down and even lift you up”.

“One way to reduce their sting [of rejection], and perhaps even avoid one altogether, is to preempt the rejecter by writing [a rejection] letter yourself.

“Once the rejection is in writing, its consequences can seem far less dire”.

“More important, by articulating the reasons for turning you down, the letter might reveal soft spots in what you’re presenting, which you can then work to strengthen”.


“Three in four Americans have less than $30,000 saved in their retirement accounts”.

“Our biases point us toward the present. So when given a choice between an immediate reward (say, $1,000 right now) and a reward we have to wait for ($1,150 in two years), we’ll often take the former even when it’s in our own interest to choose the latter”.

“Those who saw images of their current selves (call them the ‘Me Now’ group) directed an average of $80 into the retirement account. Those who saw images of their future selves (the ‘Me Later’ group) allocated more than twice that amount—$172”.

“Those who saw the image of themselves at age seventy saved more than those who’d simply seen a picture of a seventy-year-old”. (Hereshfield)

“The problem we have saving for retirement, these studies showed, isn’t only our meager ability to weigh present rewards against future ones. It is also the connection—or rather, the disconnection—between our present and future selves”.

“Envisioning ourselves far into the future is extremely difficult—so difficult, in fact, that we often think of that future self as an entirely different person”.

“This conceptual shift demonstrates the third quality necessary in moving others today: clarity—the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn’t realize they had”.

Problem Finding

“The ability to move others hinges less on problem solving than on problem finding”.

“As Csikszentmihalyi saw it, the first group was trying to solve a problem: How can I produce a good drawing? The second was trying to find a problem: What good drawing can I produce?”

“When he tabulated the ratings, Csikszentmihalyi discovered that the experts deemed the problem finders’ works far more creative than the problem solvers’”.

“In subsequent research, [Csikszentmihalyi] and other scholars found that people most disposed to creative breakthroughs in art, science, or any endeavor tend to be problem finders”.

“You can raise that question by framing your offering in ways that contrast with its alternatives and therefore clarify its virtues”.

The following five frames can be useful in providing clarity to those you hope to move.

1. The Less Frame

“Of the consumers who visited the booth with twenty-four varieties, only 3 percent bought jam. At the booth with a more limited selection, 30 percent made a purchase”.

“Adding an inexpensive item to a product offering can lead to a decline in consumers’ willingness to pay.”

“Framing people’s options in a way that restricts their choices can help them see those choices more clearly instead of overwhelming them”.

2. The Experience Frame

“Several researchers have shown that people derive much greater satisfaction from purchasing experiences than they do from purchasing goods”.

“Even when people ponder their future purchases, they expect that experiences will leave them more satisfied than physical goods”.

“Framing a sale in experiential terms is more likely to lead to satisfied customers and repeat business”.

3. The Label Frame

“In the Wall Street Game, 33 percent of participants cooperated and went free. But in the Community Game, 66 percent reached that mutually beneficial result”.

“The neatest group by far was the first—the one that had been labeled ‘neat’”.

“Merely assigning that positive label—helping the students frame themselves in comparison with others—elevated their behavior”.

4. The Blemished Frame

“Remarkably, in many cases, the people who’d gotten that small dose of negative information were more likely to purchase the boots than those who’d received the exclusively positive information”.

“The researchers dubbed this phenomenon the ‘blemishing effect’—where ‘adding a minor negative detail in an otherwise positive description of a target can give that description a more positive impact’”.

“But the blemishing effect seems to operate only under two circumstances. First, the people processing the information must be in what the researchers call a ‘low effort’ state. That is, instead of focusing resolutely on the decision, they’re proceeding with a little less effort—perhaps because they’re busy or distracted. Second, the negative information must follow the positive information, not the reverse. Once again, the comparison creates clarity. ‘The core logic is that when individuals encounter weak negative information after already having received positive information, the weak negative information ironically highlights or increases the salience of the positive information”.

“If you’re making your case to someone who’s not intently weighing every single word, list all the positives—but do add a mild negative. Being honest about the existence of a small blemish can enhance your offering’s true beauty”.

5. The Potential Frame

“Participants, on average, gave the veteran player with solid numbers a salary of over four million dollars for his sixth year. But they said that for the rookie’s sixth season, they’d expect to pay him more than five million dollars”.

“People often find potential more interesting than accomplishment because it’s more uncertain, the researchers argue”.

“Next time you’re selling yourself, don’t fixate only on what you achieved yesterday. Also, emphasize the promise of what you could accomplish tomorrow”.


“Once you’ve found the problem and the proper frame, you have one more step. You need to give people an off-ramp”.

“Among the students in the least likely group who received the less detailed letter, a whopping 0 percent contributed to the food drive. But their counterparts, who were more disposed to giving but who’d received the same letter, didn’t exactly wow researchers with their benevolence. Only 8 percent of them made a food donation”.

“However, the letter that gave students details on how to act had a huge effect. Twenty-five percent of students deemed least likely to contribute actually made a contribution when they received the letter with a concrete appeal, a map, and a location for donating”.

“A specific request accompanied by a clear way to get it done ended up with the least likely group donating food at three times the rate of the most likely who hadn’t been given a clear path of action”.

“Clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved”.

Motivational Interviewing

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning ‘not the least bit ready’ and 10 meaning ‘totally ready,’ how ready are you to study?”

“Why didn’t you pick a lower number?”

“In the old days, our challenge was accessing information. These days, our challenge is curating it”.

The three-step process for curation (Kanter):

Seek. Once you’ve defined the area in which you’d like to curate, put together a list of the best sources of information. Then set aside time to scan those sources regularly (at least fifteen minutes, two times a day). As you scan, gather the most interesting items.

Sense. Creating meaning out of the material you’ve assembled. Make an annotated list of Web links or regularly maintain a blog. Tend to this list of resources every day.

Share. You can do this through a regular e-mail or your own newsletter, or by using Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. As you share, you’ll help others see their own situations in a new light and possibly reveal hidden problems that you can solve.

“The folks at IDEO, the award-winning innovation, and design firm, have taken a lesson from the under-five set in one of the methods they use to find design problems. They call their technique ‘Five Whys’”.

“As IDEO explains it, ‘This exercise forces people to examine and express the underlying reasons for their behavior and attitudes’”.

“The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you”.

Dan Pink’s six successors to the elevator pitch:

1. The One-Word Pitch

“The ultimate pitch for an era of short attention spans begins with a single word—and doesn’t go any further”.

2. The Question Pitch

“By making people work just a little harder, question pitches prompt people to come up with their own reasons for agreeing (or not). And when people summon their own reasons for believing something, they endorse the belief more strongly and become more likely to act on it”.

3. The Rhyming Pitch

“Participants rated the aphorisms in the left column as far more accurate than those in the right column, even though each pair says essentially the same thing. Yet when the researchers asked people, ‘In your opinion, do aphorisms that rhyme describe human behavior more accurately than those that do not rhyme? the overwhelming answer was no”.

“Rhymes boost what linguists and cognitive scientists call ‘processing fluency’, the ease with which our minds slice, dice, and make sense of stimuli”.

“If you’re one of a series of freelancers invited to make a presentation before a big potential client, including a rhyme can enhance the processing fluency of your listeners, allowing your message to stick in their minds when they compare you and your competitors”.

4. The Subject-Line Pitch

“The researchers discovered that participants based their decisions on two factors: utility and curiosity”.

People were quite likely to “read emails that directly affected their work”. But they were also likely “to open messages when they had moderate levels of uncertainty about the contents, i.e. they were ‘curious’ what the messages were about”.

“Utility worked better when recipients had lots of e-mail, but ‘curiosity [drove] attention to email under conditions of low demand’”.

“Ample research has shown that trying to add intrinsic motives on top of extrinsic ones often backfires”.

“Along with utility and curiosity is a third principle: specificity”.

5. The Twitter Pitch

“The mark of an effective tweet, like the mark of any effective pitch, is that it engages recipients and encourages them to take the conversation further—by responding, clicking a link, or sharing the tweet with others”.

6. The Pixar Pitch

After someone hears your pitch, ask yourself:

What do you want them to know?

What do you want them to feel?

What do you want them to do?

“In those circumstances and many others, you’ll do better if you follow three essential rules of improvisational theater: (1) Hear offers. (2) Say ‘Yes and’. (3) Make your partner look good”.

1. Hear Offers.

“Once we listen in this new, more intimate way, we begin hearing things we might have missed. And if we listen this way during our efforts to move others, we quickly realize that what seem outwardly like objections are often offers in disguise”.

2. Say “Yes and”.

“Instead of swirling downward into frustration, ‘Yes and’ spirals upward toward possibility. When you stop you’ve got a set of options, not a sense of futility”.

3. Make Your Partner Look Good.

“Today, if you make people look bad, they can tell the world. But if you make people look good, they can also tell the world”.

“But Grant and Hofmann reveal something equally crucial: ‘Our findings suggest that health and safety messages should focus not on the self, but rather on the target group that is perceived as most vulnerable’”.

“Raising the salience of purpose is one of the most potent—and most overlooked—methods of moving others”.

“While we often assume that human beings are motivated mainly by self-interest, a stack of research has shown that all of us also do things for what social scientists call ‘prosocial’ or ‘self-transcending’ reasons. That means that not only should we ourselves be serving, but we should also be tapping others’ innate desire to serve. Making it personal works better when we also make it purposeful”.

“Merely discussing purpose in one realm (car-sharing) moved people to behave differently in a second realm (recycling)”.

Serving Others

“This is what it means to serve: improving another’s life and, in turn, improving the world”.

Greenleaf on “servant leadership”: “The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

“If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?”

“Upserving means doing more for the other person than he expects or you initially intended, taking the extra steps that transform a mundane interaction into a memorable experience”.

“Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead. Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them”.

Other Books by Dan Pink

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Recommended Reading

If you like To Sell Is Human, you may also enjoy the following books:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less by Sam Carpenter

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