I couldn’t believe it. A marketing friend, O, and I were talking shop recently and he was telling me how much he hated Internet marketing guru Neil Patel.
I know Neil’s name, but I don’t know anything else about him. There are thousands of “gurus” out there. I’ve vetted a number of them. Some are great. Most are just rehashing what’s already out there.
So I told my buddy that I believe every serious marketer should start with the fundamentals our ‘Founding Fathers’ of direct response marketing discovered. People like John Caples, Claude Hopkins, Robert Collier, David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert, and Eugene Schwartz.
All of the sudden O blurts out, “they don’t have anything to teach me, they haven’t been around for decades.”
O totally misses the point. And you may feel the same way. But you’d be wrong, too.
If you want to keep your sales and business strong, or you’re looking to hire a copywriter, marketer, or agency to keep your sales strong for you, or if you want to run circles around your competition, pay attention.
Marketing principles and fundamentals don’t change because people don’t change.
And the direct response marketing principles that were discovered and tested over a hundred years ago are still sound in today’s Internet age.
For example, Claude Hopkin’s book, Scientific Advertising, was published in 1923. But the principles behind testing marketing techniques and ads holds up in today’s world.
In many ways, today’s Internet and digital marketers are just ripping them off, but don’t know it. They’re just reusing things that worked over a hundred years ago and executing them with new tools.
What makes the ‘Founding Fathers’ admirable is they made big bucks with direct response marketing when everything was ‘analog’ and depended on ‘manual labor.’
You should be struck with awe when thinking about what they accomplished without a computer, smart phone, apps, email, or the Internet. Go back far enough; without widespread TV, radio, or phone.
Let me share some examples.
Have you heard about the Internet marketing tactic that uses a free offer to generate a lead and then converts that lead into a sale? It’s used all the time and it works as well today as it did in 2010 or 2008.
Yet, this ‘modern’ technique probably got its start before the 1920s.
In Scientific Advertising, Chapter 3: Offer Service, Hopkins tells a story about a brush maker who employed 2,000 canvassers to sell brushes door-to-door.
Instead of knocking on doors and jumping into a hard sales pitch, the company tested a softer offer.
‘I’m here to give you a free brush. You can choose any sample you want.’ Many housewives took the free offer, and from those, many also decided to buy an additional brush.
It worked gangbusters then, and it still works like crazy today.
Of course the tactic looks a bit different: generate traffic from paid media, social media, or SEO. Send the traffic to a landing page to gave away a free sample, and then up-sell or down-sell them into a purchase.
Testing ads, email subject lines, offers, landing pages etc. is an important part of sound Internet marketing. But this is nothing new. It was successfully being used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A hundred years before Optimizely, Google, Unbounce, or Leadpages.
The Founding Fathers tested display ads and direct mail to see which ones performed better, which ones were more profitable.
Today, reducing ‘friction’ is a big deal in Internet and digital marketing. That is, how do you make it quick and easy for the buyer to buy your product or service? How do you remove obstacles that keep her from buying?
Slow page loading speed, using one click Paypal vs. filling out your complete billing and shipping details, a confusing order form, a break in design and message continuity, a lack of confidence badges (i.e. order is secure and encrypted, BBB approved); do any one of these steps wrong and your buyer quickly bounces away and does not complete the purchase.
This situation is called ‘Cart Abandons’ and it happens up to 80% of the time. Hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars are lost here each and every year because buyers run into some kind of friction and decide not to buy.
But the Founding Fathers were already developing ways to fix problems like these a century ago. And they were masters at it and we have a lot to learn from them.
Think about the friction they faced back then.
If you wanted to buy a product you saw in an ad or in the mail, you would have to:
- Find a pen or pencil (and sharpen the pencil)
- Complete the order form by hand
- Find a pair of scissors in your junk drawer
- Cut out the order form or coupon
- Find an envelope
- Write the mailing address and return mailing address by hand
- Find a stamp
- Find your checkbook and write a check
- Lick the stamp and the envelope
- Then, walk to a mailbox to send your order
And if you had a question there was no chat or email. Go back far enough, there wasn’t even a phone (or you’d pay obscene long distance fees for the pleasure).
It’s amazing sales were made at all (I think I would have given up at find a pencil). Yet fortunes were built because they tested their ads and copy and discovered ways to reduce friction and rake in the sales.
So when my buddy O says, “they don’t have anything to teach me, they haven’t been around for decades.” He is being completely dumb. What’s scary is that there are droves of “gurus” who feel the same way he does. I wouldn’t do business with them.
Any reasonable entrepreneur knows there’s a ton to learn from the Founding Fathers who became successful doing it all analog and by hand.
Study up on the Direct Response Marketing Founding Fathers. Here’s a short list:
John Caples, Tested Advertising Methods
Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising
Robert Collier, The Robert Collier Letter Book
David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising
Gary Halbert, The Boron Letters
Eugene Schwartz, Breakthrough Advertising
If you don’t have the time or the patience to do the homework and rather make money now, contact me.
I’ll apply all their wisdom to your business and use the appropriate tools (digital or otherwise) to get the job done. You can just sit back and rub your body with all the cash that gets dumped on your lap.