How To Win Customers and Influence People

Mortys Soapbox

By Mordechai (Morty) Schiller

How many “pennysavers” and community bulletins do you get? Ever read them? I don’t just mean look for the coupons you want. I mean actually read the ads?

Know why you don’t? Most of the ads don’t offer you any benefit. So you’re not motivated to read past the headline. In fact, too many of the ads I see don’t even have a headline! Just the name of the store in big letters. You know what’s really sad? Most of the mom-&-pop shop owners who run those little ads are the very people who can least afford to throw out money on impotent advertising.

John Wanamaker complained: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is… I don’t know which half!”

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are tested ways to make advertising more effective. Even a low-budget ad campaign—strategically targeted and executed—can get far more results than an expensive production with a muddled sales message.

Over a career of 26 years in advertising and direct marketing, I have often needed to explain the laws of advertising… even to some very sharp business minds. Unfortunately, business smarts alone are not enough to create—or even to recognize—effective advertising. So, I figured, how much grief and waste could I prevent if I wrote some plain-talk, easy-to-read advice on advertising?

I selected the pieces here from articles and columns I wrote over the years for DM News, Direct Marketing, Target Marketing, Catalog Marketer, the Direct Marketing Creative Guild’s Creative Forum, and the Learning Annex. There’s a lot more to say. I could write a book about it! Maybe I will.

Rereading the articles I collected for this website, I noticed that there is one message that keeps getting repeated like a recurring theme. It is the fundamental law of advertising—one that’s hard for a lot of people to swallow. But ignoring it is a sure way to lose money: Nobody cares about your product!

Sorry. It’s true. Unless you happen to be lucky enough to ride the comet of the latest fad, your product is usually irrelevant to most people’s lives. People only care about what you can do for them. How can you improve their lives? …Save them time and money? ...Make them more beautiful and popular? …Make them healthier, wealthier and—yes—wiser? The sum and substance of advertising is still reaching people in such a way that links their problems to your solutions.

Why am I so sure I’m right? I have sold millions of dollars worth of merchandise by mail. Why, you might ask, all the emphasis on mail order and direct marketing? Isn’t mail order the world of novelty catalogs, sweepstakes and other “Junk Mail”? What does that have to do with “real” advertising like Coca Cola and GM? Let me answer by borrowing an analogy from Trout & Ries’ Marketing Warfare. General image advertising is like “saturation bombing.” You make a hell of an impression. But you’re never quite sure of the exact results.

The mother of all advertising wars is in the trenches of mail order. The lessons I learned from that battlefield generated secret weapons for reaching out from the printed page (or the web page) into the reader’s mind and heart. To say nothing of the wallet.

That’s why I call what I do the ultimate “How to Win Customers and Influence People.”


© 2001-2008 Mordechai (Morty) Schiller

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