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Warning to Direct Marketers: Asking These Questions Will Kill Your Conversions

by Barry Densa  |  
November 18, 2008

For those marketers who labor tirelessly, though fruitlessly, oblivious to marketing history and unversed in copy that brings home the bacon... please take note: This article is for you.

One of the most famous questions ever asked in an ad was penned almost a century ago by copywriting legend Maxwell Sackheim. It read: Do you make these mistakes in English?

It was the headline for an ad that sold a pedestrian mail-order language course.

Yet it worked so well—pulling in so much money—that the company that owned it continued to run it for 40 long and successful years!

To be sure, a myriad other headlines were tested, all using the same body copy, before that now-famous winner was discovered.

One competing headline read: Do you make mistakes in English? Certainly close enough, you would think. But it failed miserably, as did all others.

It was only when that seemingly innocuous word "these" was finally inserted that direct marketing history was made—and a lesson for direct marketers was learned.

Well, some endeavored to learn it, most never tried. They merely copied its form without understanding why it worked so well.

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Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter at Writing With Personality. For more, visit his blog Marketing Wit & Wisdom.

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  • by Michael A. Stelzner, author of Writing White Paper Tue Nov 18, 2008 via web


    Really excellent article. Your compelling headline pulled me in AND I actually read the entire article.



  • by Kayden Kelly Tue Nov 18, 2008 via web

    Your headline was a barbed hook that pulled me in. Nice job and the article was solid. Thanks!

  • by Dan Soschin Tue Nov 18, 2008 via web

    Great article that highlights an important aspect of marketing - the hook. There's no better way to reach out to the lead pool then to dip in with a great hook - one that engages and entices the lead to read on. Marvelous. I've always had success with 'list oriented' hooks... such as "Top 10 reasons to XYZ"... but I like this approach just as much. People love lists... they want to compare what they know with what you write, which is a great way to get them into an article... - Dan Soschin

  • by Chris Uschan - Omnipress Tue Nov 18, 2008 via web

    David Letterman makes a living on his "The top 10" lists, but I find 10 is too many for readers to digest in direct communications. I like to stick with "3 Ways to Make..."

    The "These" in your article heading made me feel I was missing out and had to read on.


  • by Hatem El Ghamry Sat Nov 22, 2008 via web

    I couldn't stop myself from selecting the article among other ones and couldn't resist finishing it.

    While reading the article; it sounded like if you study NLP, you would still get some more tips about words, hints, methods you use to attract readers and/or audiendce through communicating to the unconscious mind; this makes a difference as well.

    Thanks for the nice article.

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