Thomas Bernthal

Direct Response Copyywriting

Make More Sales with the “Motivating Sequence”

November 08, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Copywriting Formulas

Copywriting expert Bob Bly developed the Motivating Sequence along with writing instructor Gary Blake, Ph.D.

The Motivating Sequence is very similar to the AIDA marketing formula, but more practical in its use.

You can use the Motivating Sequence to outline your basic sales message or as a full-blown model for your entire sales letter. It’s all a matter of how much detail you want to package into each step.

The basic outline of the Motivating Sequences goes like this:

  • Get  Attention
  • Identify the Problem or Need
  • Position your Product or Service as the Solution
  • Prove your Product or Solution Is the Best Solution
  • Ask the Reader to Take Action

Let’s take a look at each one of these steps in the sequences and see how to accomplish each task.

Get Attention

This is the job of your headline.

A headline has a singular purpose: Grab attention and force the reader to start reading the rest of your copy.

To accomplish this you need to speak directly to your prospect. Identify with their problem and offer the certain hope of a solution.

Your headline may utilize your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). If you don’t have a USP, be sure to read the section on Writing an Effective USP.

Your headline may also include a hook. A hook is a compelling and sometimes shocking incongruity  that forces the reader to say, “What the …!!!”

There are many proven formulas for effective headlines, but before you go searching your swipe file for a perfect headline to copy, make sure you work through the next 3 steps before you develop your headline.

Remember this step is first because this is the order that you present your sales message to the prospect. It isn’t the order you write the message in. A headline should not be written until at least halfway through the writing process. You can toy with some ideas along the way, but save most of your headline writing effort until most of your message is already finished.

One final thought on headlines. Should they be short, or long? Well, they should say exactly what you need to say to grab attention. If that means a long headline, so be it. Just make sure every word counts. Take the time to refine your headline. Cut out every word that doesn’t add value and continue cutting out words without castrating the headline of its potency.

Identify the Problem or Need

What exactly is the problem your prospect faces? You need to identify this, and speak openly about it. That is how you “bond” with your prospect. You are not just another product huckster. You can feel their pain. You understand their problems.

By establishing this kind of rapport with your prospect, you can glide right into the next section where you provide a solution.

The key to this step (identifying the problem) is to actually know the needs and fears of your reader. The problem isn’t just that they are losing their memory, their fear is that they will become a burden on their family, that they will make a fool of themselves and lose their dignity, that they will forget cherished memories and loved ones. See how that works? Identifying the problem means plumbing the depths of your prospects deepest fears and most horrible nightmares.

How do you do that?

The best way is to be a prospect yourself. No one knows what it is like to be going bald than someone who is going bald.

Unfortunately, as a copywriter, you don’t usually have that advantage. You have to write to persuade people you may not instinctively understand. So, the way to get into their head is with the interview.

Becoming a good interviewer is key to identifying the problems, fears and needs of your prospect. Find several people who qualify as one of your prospects.  Ask them questions. Find out what makes them tick. What makes them smile. What turns them off. What grosses them out. What turns their crank.

Distill what you find into what I call the “perfect prospect” profile. You then create a “perfect prospect” from this data. Give your perfect prospect a name, an age, and whatever other details seem relevant. When you write, keep this perfect prospect in mind. You are talking to her.

Position your Product or Service as the Solution

Once you have bonded with your prospect by identifying their problem and feeling their pain, its time to introduce a solution. This solution will be your product or service.

The most successful means of doing this that I have found is to go through the features and benefits that your product or service offers, and how those directly address the problem or need of your prospect.

It is important to understand the difference between features and benefits. You need to talk about both, but most rookie copywriters tend to focus on features. That’s becuase product creators focus almost entirely on features, and they are the ones who give copywriters the product information they need to to write about.

Your job as a copywriter is to take the features the product creator gives to you and establish the benefits they provide. I talk about the the difference between features and benefits in more depth in another training session, so be sure and read that if you aren’t quite solid on the difference yet.

Once you nail down your list of features and benefits, give specific details of how your product will alleviate the pain you identified earlier.

Offer multiple benefits that your product will provide and how they will solve the big problem your prospect has.

Make your product or service shine as a perfect solution to their very need.

Prove your Product or Solution Is the Best Solution

Once you’ve established that your product can solve your reader’s problem, you need to quickly move to dispel any doubt that your product is in fact the best solution.

Consumers are very suspicious of products or services from someone they don’t know. You lack credibility in their eyes.

So how can you prove to them that what you say is true and that your product is the best solution?



If your product has helped someone else, their glowing report is going to resonate much better with your prospect than your own self-promotion. The great thing is, a testimonial can be full of enthusiasm and never come across as bragging or hype.

Make sure any testimonials you use are real, honest and verifiable. The FTC has recently cracked down on marketers using faked or over-hyped testimonials. You will want to read the entire FTC ruling and speak to a competent business attorney if you are unsure about the testimonials you want to use and whether you need to have a disclaimer with them.

But don’t let the regulations scare you away from using testimonials. They are still one of the most powerful sales tools you have at your disposal. Use ‘em correctly and you can dispel all doubts from your prospect’s mind and establish all the credibility you need top make the sale.

Ask the Reader to Take Action

This one sounds so simple, you may wonder why it’s even included. Well, it’s included, because if it wasn’t, many well intentioned copywriters would otherwise omit it. In a sense, it proves the point of this step in the sequence. If you don’t tell people what you want them to do, most of them probably won’t do what ou want them to do.

Be precise. Tell them you want them to take out their credit card. Tell them you want them to fill out the form and click the button that says “Order Now” (or whatever). Tell them you want them to order now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now!

And here’s my call to action to you:

Follow all these steps. Tell your prospect you want them to order from you now. Go do it now.

Then sit back with a cold one and a smile as you watch your sales increase.

21 Proven Bullet Styles for Copywriters

November 01, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Copywriting Examples, Copywriting Formulas

In any copywriting project, you need to convey ideas quickly and succinctly. There is no better way to accomplish this than with bullets.

The best place to use bullets is when listing features and benefits. Here is a list of 21 different bullet styles or templates to help mix things up in your copy and hopefully inject a little creativity into your think tank.


1. The “how to” bullet

  • How to make yourself safer
    than 89% of other car
    —     page ##.

2. The “secret to” bullet

  • The secrets of “Single Finger”
    takedowns … using moves that are

    indefensible even by a larger and

    more experienced opponent!

3. The “Why” bullet

  • Why if this disaster strikes
    the US, you’ll pay up to 15 times

    more money for cheap imitations of

    your favorite supplements — and

    why that’s the good news!

4. The “What” bullet

  • What you must do immediately
    before April 15
    th, 20## to
    preserve your wealth and …

5. The “What NEVER” bullet

  • What never to eat on an airplane.
    The dirtiest, deadliest airplane in

    the whole wide world.

6. The “PLUS” bullet

  • PLUS my complete list of
    1,837 companies that we suspect of

    fudging their earnings — make sure

    your stocks are NOT on this list!

7. The “Number” bullet

  • Four ways to stimulate the
    body to release its own
    natural painkillers.

8. The “Right?  WRONG!” bullet

  • Sneezing into a tissue
    prevents colds, right? Wrong!
    Page # explains why.

9. The “WARNING” bullet

  • WARNING: Avoid These 2
    Popular Gold Investments Like The

    Plague! Ignoring this single warning

    could leave you broke and holding

    the bag!

10. The “Are you …?” bullet

  • Are you and your doctor
    making these common mistakes with

    your health? One of the Country’s

    most respected M.D.’s exposes the 9

    deadliest flaws in disease treatment

    that could be robbing you of your

    health and hard-earned money.

11. The “Gimmick” bullet

  • The amazing “Towel Hanging”
    that increases the strength
    of you erection … plus your lovemaking

    … allowing you to
    your love-life in a very
    short time! (You have to experience

    these kinds of “rocket burst”

    orgasms to believe they’re possible!

    See page ###.)

12. The “Sneaky” bullet

  • Sneaky little arthritis secrets
    that doctors never, ever tell you

    about …

13. The “Statement of Interest + Benefit” bullet.

  • Drowning is the third leading
    cause of accidental death. But did

    you know it’s possible to save a

    drowning person even if you can’t

    swim? Page ##.

14. The “Direct Benefit” Bullet

    CRAMPS FOR GOOD with a

    common vitamin! Now shown to wipe

    over 80% of all cases of cramps.

15. The “Specific Question” bullet

  • Do you know that one quarter
    of all household burglars

    gain entrance without breaking in?

    Here’s how they do it … and how to
    get them to stop doing it to you.

    Page ###.

16. The “If … Then” bullet

  • If you have a tension headache,
    here’s why you should forget

    your scalp and concentrate on

17. The “When” bullet

  • When the IRS has to pay you
    interest! If they miss this deadline

    by a single day, they’re legally obligated

    to do so. Page ##.

18. The “Quickest, Easiest” Bullet

  • The quickest, easiest ways to
    find a broker who won’t cheat you.

19. The “Truth” bullet

  • The truth about
    mutual funds. What your

    broker doesn’t tell you could cost

    you up to 5% this year.

20. The “Better” Bullet

    BENCH PRESS. For a broader,
    more muscular chest, the uncanny

    exercise on page ## works wonders.

21. The “Single” Bullet

  • The single most important
    sentence you will ever read about

    how to create powerful marketing.

    It contains just nine words, and they

    will forever change your approach

    to marketing.

Do you have your own favorite bullet style or template?

Share it with us. Just leave a comment below.


The 10 Commandments of Successful Copywriting

October 28, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Copywriting Formulas, Copywriting Primer

These are my own personal commandments that I read before each copywriting project.

It’s a simple list of the basic principles that delivered copywriting success to my doorstep. Simple …  but super-powerful and highly effective … if you actually use them.

I’ll expand on each one in future articles.

  1. Know your market – write directly to your reader about what she wants, not about what you want (or what you think she wants).
  2. Remember that your primary job is to sell, not write. Be precise, not fancy.
  3. Craft headlines and sub-headlines that will grab the interest of your reader.
  4. Describe features, but focus on benefits
  5. Persuade your reader with facts and reasons, not fantastic claims and empty hype.
  6. Keep your reader’s interest with fascinating details and a compelling story that makes him want to keep reading rather than skip to the end.
  7. Craft an offer no intelligent reader can pass up.
  8. Create a super-charged guarantee that removes all risk
  9. Make sure you tell your reader exactly what you want him to do (call to action)
  10. Give your reader a credible reason for responding to your call to action immediately, not tomorrow.

Direct Response Marketing

October 21, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Direct Mail Copywriting

Direct marketing, also known as direct response marketing, are sales copy that asks for a direct, immediate response from the prospect.

While copywriting in general is a respected profession, it is within the direct marketing world that copywriters enjoy tremendous respect. It is the copywriter who make direct marketers money.

One of the primary benefits of direct marketing is that it is 100% measurable. With a branding campaign, you never know what brings in the sales.

But since direct marketing is completely quantifiable, the best direct marketers are rabid testers. Once they have a sales letter that sells, that letter becomes a “control.” Then another letter is produced and split test to try to beat the control. The new salesletter may be entirely different, or may just be a tweak of the original letter. Testing different headlines, length of copy (number of pages) and color of buttons or headlines are common tweaks. If the control gets beat by a contender, the contender becomes the new control.

There is no time to fall in love with copy when profits are on the line. With large mailings, even a small increase in conversions – say from 2% to 3% can mean millions of dollars in additional profits.

People tend to love or hate direct marketing – but even people who SAY they hate it have often bought something as a result. Most of the hate comes from being inundated with “junk mail.” However, if you are getting junk mail, it usually means that you have purchased something by direct response in the past.

Direct response marketing often looks “hypey”  to someone who isn’t a prospect. If you don’t have back pain an infomercial about a device that cures lower back pain looks like a lot of hype and slick selling. But if you have back pain, you view it as potentially life-changing information. You get engaged and start an internal conversation as to whether or not this will help you. The direct marketing didn’t change you into a back pain sufferer – it simply identified one of your needs, and drew you in to a potential solution.

Remember, no matter what you think about direct marketing, it works. Companies wouldn’t continue to send the “junk mail” unless it made them a profit.

Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising – Chapter 20

October 20, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

A Name That Helps

There is great advantage in a name that tells a story. The name is usually prominently displayed. To justify the space it occupies, it should aid the advertising. Some such names are almost complete advertisements in themselves. May Breath is such a name. Cream  of  Wheat is another. That name alone has been worth a fortune. Other examples are Dutch Cleanser, Cuticura, Dynashine, Minute Tapioca, 3-in-one Oil, Holeproof, Alcorub, etc.Such names may be protected, yet the name itself describes the product, so it makes a valuable display.

Other coined names are meaningless. Some examples are Kodak, Karo, Sapolio, Vaseline, Kotex, Lux, Postum, etc. They can be protected, and long-continued advertising may give them a meaning. When this is accomplished they become very valuable.

But the great majority of them never attain status.

Such names do not aid the advertising. It is very doubtful that they justify display. The service of the product, not the name, is the important thing in advertising. A vast amount of space is wasted in displaying names and pictures which tell no selling story. The tendency of modern advertising is to eliminate waste.

Other coined names signify ingredients which anyone may use. Examples are Syrup of Figs, Coconut Oil Shampoo, Tar Soap, Palmolive Soap, etc.

Such products may dominate a market if the price is reasonable, but they must to a degree meet competition. They invite  substitution. They are naturally classified with other products which have like ingredients, so the price must remain in that class.

Toasted Corn Flakes and Malted Milk are examples of unfortunate names. In each of those cases one advertiser created a new demand. When the demand was created, others shared it because they could use the name. The originators depended only on a  brand. It is interesting to speculate on how much more profitable a coined name might have been.

On a patented product it must be remembered that the right to a name expires with that patent. Names like Castoria, Aspirin, Shredded Wheat Biscuit, etc., have become common property.

This is a very serious point to consider. It often makes a patent an undesirable protection.

Another serious fault in coined names is frivolity. In seeking uniqueness one gets something trivial. And that is a fatal handicap in a serious product. It almost prohibits respect.

When a product must be called by a common name, the best auxiliary name is a mans name. It is much better than a coined name, for it shows that some man is proud of his creation.

Thus the question of a name is of serious importance in laying the foundations of a new undertaking. Some names have become the chief factors in success. Some have lost for their originators four-fifths of the trade they developed.

Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising – Chapter 19

October 19, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Letter Writing

This is another phase of advertising which all of us have to consider. It enters, or should enter, into all campaigns. Every business man receives a large number of circular letters. Most of them go direct to the waste basket. But he acts on others, and others are filed for reference. Analyze those letters. The ones you act on or the ones you keep have a headline which attracted your interest. At a glance they offer something that you want, something you may wish to know.

Remember that point in all advertising.

A certain buyer spends $50,000,000 per year. Every letter, every circular which comes to his desk gets its deserved attention. He  wants information on the lines he buys. But we have often watched him. In one minute a score of letters may drop into the waste  basket. Then one is laid aside. That is something to consider at once. Another is field under the heading “Varnish.” And later when he buys varnish that letter will turn up.

That buyer won several prizes by articles on good buying. His articles were based on information. Yet the great masses of matter which came to him never got more than a glance.

The same principles apply to all advertising. Letter writers overlook them just as advertisers do. They fail to get the right attention.  They fail to tell what buyers wish to know.

One magazine sends out millions of letters annually. Some to get subscriptions, some to sell books. Before the publisher sends out  five million letters he puts a few thousands to test. He may try twenty-five letters, each with a thousand prospects. He learns what  results will cost. Perhaps the plan is abandoned because it appears unprofitable. If not, the letter which pays best is the letter that he uses.

Just as men are doing now in all scientific advertising.

Mail order advertisers do likewise. They test their letters as they test their ads. A general letter is never used until it proves itself best among many actual returns.

Letter writing has much to do with advertising. Letters to inquirers, follow-up letters. Wherever possible they should be tested. Where that is not possible, they should be based on knowledge gained by tests.

We find the same difference in letters as in ads. Some get action, some do not. Some complete a sale, some forfeit the impression gained. These are letters, going usually to half-made converts, that are tremendously important.

Experience generally shows that a two-cent letter gets no more attention than a one-cent letter. Fine stationery no more than poor stationery. The whole appeal lies in the matter.

A letter which goes to an inquirer is like a salesman going to an interested prospect. You know what created that interest. Then follow it up along that line, not on some different argument. Complete the impression already created. Don’t undertake another guess.

Do something if possible to get immediate action. Offer some inducement for it. Or tell what delay may cost. Note how many successful selling letters place a limit on an offer. It expires on a certain date. That is all done to get prompt decision, to overcome  the tendency to delay.

A mail order advertiser offered a catalog. The inquirer might send for three or four similar catalogs. He had that competition in  making a sale.

So he wrote a letter when he sent his catalog, and enclosed a personal card. He said, “You are a new customer, and we want to make you welcome. So when you send your order please enclose this card. The writer wants to see that you get a gift with order – something you can keep.”

With an old customer he gave some other reason for the gift. The offer aroused curiosity. It gave preference to his catalog. Without some compelling reason for ordering elsewhere, the woman sent the order to him. The gift paid for itself several times over by  bringing larger sales per catalog.

The ways for getting action are many. Rarely can one way be applied to two lines. But the principles are universal. Strike while the iron is hot. Get a decision then. Have it followed by prompt action when you can.

You can afford to pay for prompt action rather than lose by delay. One advertiser induced hundreds of thousands of women to buy  six packages of his product and send him the trademarks, to secure a premium offer good only for one week.

Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising – Chapter 18

October 18, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Negative Advertising

To attack a rival is never good advertising. Don’t point out others’ faults. It is not permitted in the best mediums. It is never good policy. The selfish purpose is apparent. It looks unfair, not sporty.

If you abhor knockers, always appear a good fellow.

Show a bright side, the happy and attractive side, not the dark and uninviting side of things. Show beauty, not homeliness; health, not sickness. Don’t show the wrinkles you propose to remove, but the face as it will appear. Your customers know all about wrinkles.

In advertising a dentifrice, show pretty teeth, not bad teeth. Talk of coming good conditions, not conditions which exist. In  advertising clothes, picture well-dressed people, not the shabby. Picture successful men, not failures, when you advertise a business  course. Picture what others wish to be, not what they may be now.

We are attracted by sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, success. Then point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite.

Picture envied people, not the envious.

Tell people what to do, not what to avoid.

Make your every ad breath good cheer. We always dodge a Lugubrious Blue. Assume that people will do what you ask. Say, “Send now for this sample.” Don’t say, “Why do you neglect this offer?” That suggests that people are neglecting. Invite them to follow the crowd.

Compare the results of two ads, one negative, one positive. One presenting the dark side, one the bright side. One warning, the other inviting. You will be surprised. You will find that the positive ad out pulls the other four to one, if you have our experience.

The “Before and after taking” ads are follies of the past. They never had a place save with the afflicted. Never let their memory lead
you to picture the gloomy side of things.

Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising – Chapter 17

October 17, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins


A person who desires to make an impression must stand out in some way from the masses and in a pleasing way. Being eccentric, being abnormal is not distinction to covet. But doing admirable things in a different way gives one a great advantage. So with salesmen, in person or in print. There is uniqueness which belittles and arouses resentment. There is refreshing uniqueness which enhances, which we welcome and remember. Fortunate is the salesman who has it.

We try to give each advertiser a becoming style. We make him distinctive, perhaps not in appearance, but in manner and in tone. He is given an individuality best suited to the people he addresses.

One man appears rugged and honest in a line where rugged honesty counts. One may be a good fellow where choice is a matter of favor. In other lines the man stands out by impressing himself as an authority.

We have already cited a case where a woman made a great success in selling clothing to girls, solely through a created personality which won.

That’s why we have signed ads sometimes – to give them a personal authority. A man is talking – a man who takes pride in his accomplishments – not a “soulless corporation.” Whenever possible we introduce a personality into our ads. By making a man famous we make his product famous. When we claim an improvement, naming the man who made it adds effect.

Then we take care not to change an individuality which has proved appealing. Before a man writes a new ad on that line, he gets into the spirit adopted by the advertiser. He plays a part as an actor plays it.

In successful advertising great pains are taken to never change our tone. That which won so many is probably the best way to win
others. Then people come to know us. We build on that acquaintance rather than introduce a stranger in guise. People do not know us by name alone, but by looks and mannerisms. Appearing different every time we meet never builds up confidence.

Then we don’t want people to think that salesmanship is made to order. That our appeals are created, studied, artificial. They must seem to come from the heart, and the same heart always, save where a wrong tack forces a complete change.

There are winning personalities in ads as well as people. To some we are glad to listen, others bore us. Some are refreshing, some commonplace. Some inspire confidence, some caution. To create the right individuality is a supreme accomplishment. Then an  advertisers growing reputation on that line brings him ever-increasing prestige. Never weary of that part. Remember that a change in our characteristics would compel our best friends to get acquainted all over.

Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising – Chapter 16

October 16, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Leaning On Dealers

We cannot depend much in most lines on the active help of jobbers or of dealers. They are busy. They have many lines to consider. The profit on advertised lines is not generally large. And an advertised article is apt to be sold at cut prices.

The average dealer does what you would do. He exerts himself on brands of his own, if at all. Not on another mans brand. The dealers will often try to make you think otherwise. He will ask some aid or concession on the ground of extra effort. Advertisers often give extra discounts. Or they make loading offers – perhaps one case free in ten – in the belief that loaded dealers will make extra efforts.

This may be so in rare lines, but not generally. And the efforts if made do not usually increase the total sales. They merely swing  trade from one store to another.

On most lines, making a sale without making a convert does not count for much. Sales made by conviction – by advertising – are likely
to bring permanent customers. People who buy through casual recommendations do not often stick. Next time someone else gives other advice.

Revenue which belongs to the advertiser is often given away without adequate return. These discounts and gifts could be far better
spent in securing new customers.

Free goods must be sold, and by your efforts usually. One extra case with ten means that advertising must sell ten percent more to
bring you the same return. The dealer would probably buy just as much if you let him buy as convenient.

Much money is often frittered away on other forms of dealer help. Perhaps on window or store displays. A window display, acting
as a reminder, may bring to one dealer a lions share of the trade. Yet it may not increase your total sales at all.

Those are facts to find out. Try one town in one way, one in another. Compare total sales in those towns. In many lines such tests will show that costly displays are worthless. A growing number of experienced advertisers spend no money on displays. This is all in line of general publicity, so popular long ago. Casting bread upon the waters and hoping for its return. Most advertising was of that sort twenty years ago.

Now we put things to the test. We compare cost and result on every form of expenditure. It is very easily done. Very many costly wastes are eliminated by this modern process.

Scientific advertising has altered many old plans and conceptions. It has proved many long established methods to be folly. And why should we not apply to these things the same criterion we apply to other forms of selling? Or to manufacturing costs?

Your object in all advertising is to buy new customers at a price which pays a profit. You have no interest in garnering trade at any particular store. Learn what your consumers cost and what they buy. If they cost you one dollar each, figure that every wasted  dollar costs you a possible customer.

Your business will be built in that way, not by dealer help. You must do your own selling, make your own success. Be content if dealers fill the orders that you bring. Eliminate your wastes. Spend all your ammunition where it counts for most.

Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising – Chapter 15

October 15, 2012 By: Thomas Bernthal Category: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Test Campaigns

Almost any questions can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign. And that’s the way to answer them – not by arguments around a table. Go to the court of last resort – the buyers of your product.

On every new project there comes up the question of selling that article profitably. You and your friends may like it, but the majority may not. Some rival product may be better liked or cheaper. It may be strongly entrenched. The users won away from it may cost  too much to get.

People may buy and not repeat. The article may last too long. It may appeal to a small percentage, so most of your advertising goes  to waste. There are many surprises in advertising. A project you will laugh at may make a great success. A project you are sure of  may fall down. All because tastes differ so. None of us know enough peoples desires to get an average viewpoint.

In the old days, advertisers ventured on their own opinions. The few guess right, the many wrong. Those were the times of  advertising disaster. Even those who succeeded came close to the verge before the time is turned. They did not know their cost per  customer or their sale per customer.

The cost of selling might take a long time to come back. Often it never came back.

Now we let the thousands decide what the millions will do. We make a small venture, and watch cost and result. When we learn what
a thousand customers cost, we know almost exactly what a million will cost. When we learn what they buy, we know what a million will buy We establish averages on a small scale, and those averages always hold. We know our cost, we know our sale, we know our  profit and loss. We know how soon our cost comes back. Before we spread out, we prove our undertaking absolutely safe. So there  are today no advertising disasters piloted by men who know.

Perhaps we try out our project in four or five towns. We may use a sample offer or a free package to get users started quickly. Then we wait and see if users buy those samples. If they do, will they continue? How much will they buy? How long does it take for the profit to return our cost of selling? A test like this may cost $3,000 to $5,000. It is not all lost, even when the product proves  unpopular. Some sales are made. Nearly every test will in time bring back the entire cost.

Sometimes we find that the cost of the advertising comes back before the bills are due. That means that the product can be advertised without investment. Many a great advertiser has been built up without any cost whatever beyond immediate receipts. That is an ideal situation. On another product it may take three months to bring back the cost with a profit. But one is sure of his profit in that time. When he spreads out he must finance accordingly.

Think what this means. A man has what he considers an advertising possibility. But national advertising looks so big and expensive that he dare not undertake it. Now he presents it in a few average towns, at a very moderate cost. With almost no risk whatever. From the few thousand he learns what the millions will do. Then he acts accordingly. If he then branches he knows to a certainty just what his results will be.

He is playing on the safe side of a hundred to one shot. If the article is successful, it may make him millions. If he is mistaken about it, the loss is a trifle.

These are facts we desire to emphasize and spread. All our largest accounts are now built in this way, from very small beginnings.  When business men realize that this can be done, hundreds of others will do it. For countless fortune-earners now lie dormant.

The largest advertiser in the world makes a business of starting such projects. One by one he finds out winners. Now he has  twenty six, and together they earn many millions yearly. These test campaigns have other purposes. They answer countless questions which arise in business.

A large food advertiser felt that his product would be more popular in another form. He and all his advisers were certain about it. They were willing to act on this supposition without consulting the consumers, but wiser advice prevailed. He inserted an ad in a few towns with a coupon, good at any store for a package of the newstyle product. Then he wrote to the users about it. They were almost unanimous in their disapproval.

Later the same product was suggested in still another form. The previous verdict made the change look dubious. The advertiser  hardly thought a test to be worth while. But he submitted the question to a few thousand women in a similar way and 91 percent voted for it. Now he has a unique product which promises to largely increase his sales.

These tests cost about $1,000 each. The first one saved him a very costly mistake. The second will probably bring him large profits. Then we try test campaigns to try out new methods on advertising already successful. Thus we constantly seek for better methods, without interrupting plans already proved out.

In five years for one food advertiser we tried out over fifty separate plans. Every little while we found an improvement, so the results of our advertising constantly grew. At the end of five years we found the best plan of all. It reduced our cost of selling by 75 percent.  That is, it was four times more effective than the best plan used before. That is what mail order advertisers do – try out plan after plan to constantly reduce the cost. Why should any general advertiser be less business-like and careful?

Another service of the test campaign is this: An advertiser is doing mediocre advertising. A skilled advertising agent feels that he can greatly increase results. The advertiser is doubtful. He is doing fairly well. He has alliances which he hesitates to break. So he is inclined to let well enough alone.

Now the question can be submitted to the verdict of a test. The new agent may take a few towns, without interfering with the general campaign. Then compare his results with the general results and prove his greater skill.

Plausible arguments are easy in this line. One man after another comes to an advertiser to claim superior knowledge or ability. It is hard to decide, and decisions may be wrong. Now actual figures gained at a small cost can settle the question definitely. The  advertiser makes no commitment. It is like saying to a salesman, “Go out for a week and prove yourself.” A large percentage of all the advertising done would change hands if this method were applied.

Again we come back to scientific advertising. Suppose a chemist would say in an arbitrary way that this compound was best, or that better. You would little respect his opinion. He makes tests – sometimes hundreds of tests – to actually know which is best. He will never state a supposition before he has proved it. How long before advertisers in general will apply that exactness to advertising?