[Image Credit: Scientific Advertising]
What lessons does the author of the copywriter’s bible, Breakthrough Advertising, have for us all in the ‘Internet of All Things’ era? You may be pleasantly surprised…
The name Gene Schwartz may not mean much to you, or most people for that matter, but if you’re involved in digital marketing or have a business that you’re trying to bring to the attention of consumers, that name could very well be one of the most important you ever stumble across.
So, who is Gene Schwartz and why should you care? Gene (real name Eugene) Schwartz was a legendary copywriter responsible for creating some of the most successful sales content of all time. Although many people in the modern era will surely find his headlines and copy outdated, he had an exceptional gift for overcoming readers’ “scepticism, lethargy and price – and results in a sale” (his words), by creating desire in prospects, the likes of which had never been seen before.
Schwartz understood the purpose of copywriting better than most, regularly speaking of his role as a scriptwriter for the dreams of prospective customers by ensuring readers realise exactly what they’ll gain from following through on the offer, as well as making sure they know precisely what they’re missing out on. By doing so, he appealed directly to the prospect’s emotions that govern decision-making and, in doing so, created a strong emotional connection that delivers results.
What follows are Gene Schwartz’s “8 Rules of Marketing” that everyone, and not only those directly responsible for creating content, can learn from and apply to their marketing efforts.
- Be the best listener you ever met.
Naturally, you should always listen to what your current customers have to say, but Schwartz also advocated listening to the market — and he practiced what he preached — because by doing so, you’ll understand what the market thinks and feels. This enables you to create content that effectively targets your prospects’ hearts and minds.
- Work extremely intensely, in spurts.
Schwartz was extremely productive, channelling his energy into many projects and not only creating some of the most effective copy of all time. To enhance his productive output, he developed a ‘magic formula’ for copywriting in which he set a kitchen alarm clock to 33.33 (thirty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds), sat down to write and never got up or stopped writing until the alarm went off.
By sticking to this formula, Schwartz produced more productive sessions per day than most people are able to do in a week, but he was also able to avoid writer’s block, never had any problems getting started and, just as importantly, he never burnt out. 33.33 may not be your magic number — it certainly was Schwartz’s — though you’re sure to find by working in intense spurts without interruptions, that you’re less tired and more productive with your time at work.
- Never “create” — know the product to the core and combine the details in new ways.
The more you know something, the better able you are to write about it. Schwartz was a strong advocate of taking the time to get to know a product so as to understand its strengths and the benefits it offers its intended audience. Once he had compiled a list of benefits, he then started writing the copy, combining the benefits that he had identified in a variety of ways to increase the product’s appeal to prospects.
If a product is high-quality and has something valuable to offer, it will have numerous strengths that can be combined and presented in different ways to appeal to your target audience.
- Write to the chimpanzee brain – simply and directly.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This follows on from the previous point in that you need to understand the product you’re promoting well enough to write about it in a simple and direct manner.
A good way of putting this into action is to get to know the product and then when writing about it, don’t make the assumption that your prospects have a comprehensive understanding of the product or that their needs are overly complex. Write as though your target audience is between 8 and 14-years old and has simple needs and desires.
- Channel demand – never sell.
A mistake many markets make is attempting to create demand for a product where demand already exists. Schwartz advocated taking existing market demands — hence his strong belief in listening to the market — and then channelling these demands back into the products you’re promoting.
By taking demands that already exist and channelling them back, you’re appealing to the hearts and minds of prospective customers and, therefore, your chances of success are much greater. For example, if you sell beauty products, you don’t need to create demand for beautification because that demand already exists. What you need to do is channel that demand back into your product and convince prospects that your product will help them become more beautiful.
“The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy. Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already-existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copywriter’s task: not to create this mass desire — but to channel and direct it. ” Gene Schwartz
- Think about what your product “does”, not “is” — and demonstrate this.
What does your product do and how does this make your prospects’ lives better? Demonstrate the benefits, especially the emotional benefits, with your copy, images and marketing content. A good way to look at this is to write about the features of a product in a way that directly shows how it will improve the prospect’s situation.
- Make gratification instantaneous.
With your copy, especially your headlines, the prospective customer should already feel like they’re getting something, that they’re already feeling the benefits your products — or doing business with your company — provide. The objective here is to create desire in prospects that incites them to take action, not just create curiosity that makes them wonder about the benefits your product may deliver.
- Failing often, and testing big differences, shows you are trying hard enough.
Schwartz strongly believed in testing copy to make sure it hit the mark. With the abundance of digital marketing tools, using A/B testing to test your copy and determine which headline or call to action delivers the highest conversion rate is easy. And it delivers results, so test, test, test, and don’t be afraid to fail.
To wrap things up, we’ll leave you with a gem from Gene Schwartz that will surely provide food for thought, especially if you’re wondering how to take the content you create to the next level.
“Every piece of content you create has to do two things: (1) rescue its audience from their own personal hell and (2) deliver them unto their own personal heaven. Great copywriting is about salvation … not sales.” Gene Schwartz
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