You may have heard people say, “Everything old is new again.” Claude Hopkins was the highest-paid copywriter of his day back in the early 20th century. What he said then about advertising also applies to sales today. Consider how you can apply his last century ad principles to your sales today.
1. Some ads are planned and written with a totally wrong conception. They are written to please the seller.
Hopkins says to ask yourself when writing advertising, “Would it help the salesman sell the goods?”
Salespeople with overly complex technical presentations often don’t make sales. They think that by showing how smart they are they are helping sell their products. It only helps to show how smart you are when that knowledge is needed by the customer.
Customers often buy because they want you to implement your knowledge. They don’t want the knowledge. I equate it to when a person wants to know what time it is, not how to build a watch. Be sure you’re not telling your customers how to build a watch.
2. The only readers we get are people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusements, long or short.
What happens when the subject of the ad isn’t interesting to the reader? He skips it. Just like in sales, your prospects have to have an interest in what you could offer them.
Too many salespeople don’t generate prospect interest. They fail to show the prospect what it will cost if the prospect does nothing. Good salespeople ask consequence questions like, “What happens to (Something the customer cares about) when (Y) happens?” These consequence questions drive prospect interest and result in sales. Without consequence questions there is often no sale.
3. Don’t think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred view. Think of a typical individual, man or women, who is likely to want what you sell.
I often ask salespeople to tell me about their ideal prospect. I hear them say, “Well, everyone is a prospect.” Big mistake. You don’t have enough time or money for everyone to be a prospect. You can and should clearly determine who your ideal prospects are who have an interest or need for your products.
4. The best ads ask no one to buy because customers care about their interests, not yours.
Hopkins says that the bad ads push customers to buy. They basically say give me money for my product. Hopkins says, “Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.”
Instead, Hopkins shows what good salespeople do. They make it easy for customers to buy by recognizing that it’s their job to reduce the customer’s perception of risk. You make it easy to buy and reduce risk with a performance guarantee or a product sample to evaluate.
5. The severest test of an advertising man is in selling goods by mail. One quickly loses his conceit by learning how often his judgment errs – often nine times in ten.
Why does Hopkins know the failure rate? Because advertisers measure mail order results. You either get sales from the ad or you don’t. Advertisers modify the ad to improve it and lower their selling costs. The results, or sales, make it clear whether it works or not.
Too many salespeople evaluate their selling success based on volume, not on profit. Some don’t even know their selling costs. Evaluate your costs and see where your profits are. How many of your customers who you think are the most important are also the most profitable? What are you measuring so you can improve it?
Hopkins refers to advertising as selling. It is. Selling today is based on the same foundational principles that Hopkins observed almost a century ago. Some things never change.