"I Almost Flunked English But Went On To Make
Millions of Dollars Writing Sales Copy"
By Joe Sugarman
The Guinness Book of World Records listed Joe Girard as the "World's
Greatest Retail Salesman" for 12 consecutive years. He holds
the singular distinction of having sold an average of six cars
a day over his career. Recently, Joe Girard told me:
"Joe, I can
sell in person to individuals in a personal way - in fact, I can
sell more cars per day than anyone else. Yet, I can't do what
you do -- you sell millions of products to masses of people through
the sheer power of print."
Salesmanship in Print
When you look at it from Joe Girard's perspective, it's hard
to deny the awesome power of writing good sales copy - which I
call "salesmanship in print" -- a power that anyone
can take advantage of. You don't need good looks, a charming personality
or even great intelligence. In fact, you don't even have to pass
This is why it baffles me when people desperately rack their
brains trying to find ways to make money -- when the greatest
opportunity is staring them right in the face. What's even more
mystifying is that those very same people, when presented with
ingenious approaches to writing copy that sells, take the skill
for granted and don't use it to make personal fortunes for themselves.
Not many people know this, but I almost flunked English back
in high school. In addition, I don't know many big words, unlike
the rest of my advertising and marketing colleagues -- and my
writing style is quite unsophisticated to boot. Yet, by learning
to incorporate into my sales copy all the things about how the
human mind reacts to certain words and phrases that I've learned
over the years, I have made millions of dollars for myself.
The most important lesson you must remember is this: If you learn
nothing else but the proper use of psychological principles in
writing sales copy, you will always make more money than you'll
The Million-Dollar Grapefruit Farmer
If you're one of those people who believes that you're not a
good enough writer -- and that you couldn't possibly learn to
write ad copy that sells -- I want to tell you the story of a
man who attended one of my seminars. This man was a grapefruit
farmer who had never written sales copy prior to attending my
copywriting seminar. In fact, he expressed his doubts that he
would get anything at all from the copywriting lessons he learned.
Yet, by the end of the seminar, he was able to write direct mail
copy to sell grapefruit by mail which, over a period of ten years,
has earned him millions of dollars.
Success Leaves Clues
For many years I specialized in "space-age" products,
and my claim to fame was in building and selling "the better
mousetrap" -- from state-of-the art smoke detectors to chess
computers to new-fangled calculators -- and more recently -- to
But you don't need a space-age product to make a million dollars.
In fact, that is the downfall of most people who enter the marketing
field. They find a product, fall in love with it, and try to get
the market to buy it. With an unproven product, you could lose
a lot of money in the process.
Instead what you should do is find a product that's already selling
well -- and use compelling copy to sell it better.
Harmonize with the Marketplace
One of the psychological principles I describe in my book, "Triggers,"
is simply this: Your product needs to harmonize with the marketplace.
Here's a tip that you would definitely find useful: When you're
looking for a product to sell, go to the library and flip through
the back issues of magazines -- particularly the tabloids. Note
those mail order ads that are running week after week, month after
month. There's only one reason why those ads keep running -- they're
making money. Those products are already proven to sell well --
they've demonstrated that they harmonize with the marketplace.
Even if there are many companies that are already competing in
those product categories (example: weight loss, hair restoration,
and wrinkle products, etc.), don't worry. If you apply good copy-
writing guidelines, your marketing efforts will fare better than
those who are making money, despite their poor sales copy.
"Splish Splash I Was Takin' A Bath"
Take a clue from Bobby Darin, a popular singer of the '50s. Darin
was a young singer in New York who, for a long time, tried unsuccessfully
to break into the music business. He would go from record company
to record company trying to convince them to make an album of
him singing popular jazz oldies. He was rejected.
So one day, Darin sat down and wrote a song that fitted or "harmonized"
with what the public was buying at the time.
What was popular at the time was good old rock and roll sung
by black artists -- it was called the Motown sound.
The song he wrote was called "Splish Splash" and the
words started out, "Splish splash, I was takin' a bath/ 'Round
about a Saturday night." It had a good old Motown rock and
roll sound -- and it became a smash hit, selling millions of copies.
Darin recognized what the market wanted, and he created something
that harmonized perfectly with the prevailing market.
From his earnings, he himself produced a record in the music
genre that he really loved -- popular jazz oldies. His song, "Mack
the Knife" went on to become a multimillion-selling single
and made Bobby Darin famous.
To summarize, you must first have a product that harmonizes
with your market. If you haven't made a substantial amount of
money from your marketing efforts yet, sell only products or services
that have a ready market -- this is the path of least resistance.
Afterwards, with the money you make, you can blaze new trails
with other products of your own preference.
Joe Sugarman, the best-selling author and top
copywriter who has achieved legendary fame in direct marketing,
is best known for his highly successful mail-order catalog company,
JS&A, and his hit product, BluBlocker Sunglasses. Joe's new
breakthrough book, "Triggers,"
reveals 30 powerful psychological triggers that influence people
to buy what you're selling.
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