The Greatest Sales Letter Ever Written

If you’ve ever had to write a sales letter and you didn’t know where to start, I can help.

You should start here. Start with what is widely regarded as the best sales letter ever written.

That’s not my opinion. That’s not even the opinion of a bunch of the greatest copywriters of all time. It’s a hard, measurable, tested fact.

You see, this letter – this simple, two-sided, personal letter – has been running for more than 30 years and over that time it has made more than $2 billion for The Wall Street Journal.

The $2 Billion Letter

That’s not a typo: this one letter, with a few minor tweaks over the years, has made The Wall Street Journal more than $2 billion.

“Two Young Men”, the title of the direct mail package created by The Journal, was written in 1973 by Michael Conroy and carried on running until 2003 with no real changes. It is the longest-running control in history.

There are a couple of lessons here:

  1. Test everything. Got a letter that does okay? Test it against a new one. If the new one beats it, test something else against that. Keep testing until you can’t beat your control.
  2. If you find something that works, like The WSJ letter, don’t abandon it just because you’re bored with it. It doesn’t matter what you think of it; if people are still buying because of your letter, it works, so keep sending it (and keep trying to beat it, obviously).

The Story That Pulled Readers In

So, why was this letter so very successful? It starts like this:

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both—as young college graduates are—were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.
They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.

But there was a difference. One of the men was a manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.

It starts with an intriguing story. The writer paints a picture – you can see the bright spring afternoon, feel the warmth of the sun as the two young men graduate. And it leaves you wondering how they ended up in such different career positions. It leaves you wanting to read on.

Why Is Storytelling So Powerful?

Human beings are hard-wired to listen to, remember and act on stories. Think about it: what are you more likely to remember – a string of dry facts and important warnings, or a lively story with the same important warning at its core?

What’s more compelling: telling a child not to tell lies, or telling them the story of the boy who cried wolf?

What Else Does The WSJ Letter Have?

Wouldn’t you like to know everything about why The Wall Street Journal’s letter made so much money? This letter’s success isn’t just down to the great story. There are lots of other elements that made it work.

I want you to be able to write letters that sell too, so I’ve made the letter available to you – you can download the Greatest Sales Letter Ever free of charge. When you’ve got it, do these two things:

  1. Sign up to my FREE Marketing Magic email list. Because I’ll be going through the letter in detail, showing you why it was so successful and how you can adapt it for your own marketing.
  2. Write it out by hand. Honestly. This is a simple trick that great copywriters use to get a feel for why great sales copy works.

See you soon!

By Vicky Fraser

PS: Don’t forget to sign up to my FREE Marketing Magic emails. I’ll be breaking the WSJ letter down for you, so you can use the same techniques in your own marketing.


Move your customers to action with these 241 power words

If you write copy that needs to sell – marketing or sales copy – the words you choose matter. A lot.

The right words have real impact. You can feel them in your gut. They stir you. Think about the most amazing speeches you’ve heard. Speeches that have changed the way you think about something. Passages in books that have moved you to tears and stayed with you, shaping your life.

These words weren’t just stirring because they were spoken or written with feeling; they were carefully crafted to make you feel that way.

It’s no accident that such speeches and books have that effect. They’re full of powerful words – the type of words that hit you between the eyes and take your breath away. Words you don’t have to think about; you just know what the writer was feeling.

Of course, there’s a lot more to amazing writing than the choice of words. But the good news is that getting the hang of power words is easy. It’s one of the most useful tools you can have in your marketing box.

Give us freedom or give us death: powerful words for a powerful cause

On November 13, 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst spoke to the people of Hartford, Connecticut, about women’s suffrage. Here’s an extract of her stirring speech.

“You won your freedom in America when you had the revolution, by bloodshed, by sacrificing human life. You won the civil war by the sacrifice of human life when you decided to emancipate the Negro. You have left it to women in your land, the men of all civilised countries have left it to women, to work out their own salvation. That is the way in which we women of England are doing it. Human life for us is sacred, but we say if any life is to be sacrificed it shall be ours; we won’t do it ourselves, but we will put the enemy in the position where they will have to choose between giving us freedom or giving us death.”

She used power words throughout her speech. Words with enormous emotional meaning. Words like ‘won’, ‘freedom’, ‘revolution’, ‘bloodshed’, ‘enemy’ and ‘death’. And, of course, the most powerful of all in her speech: ‘sacrifice’.

Pankhurst’s campaigns had an enormous impact on equality. In 1918 women over 30, who were householders, wives of householders or landholders, got the vote. After being imprisoned for speaking out, it was a big step in the right direction.

Which words make a difference?

In my last weekly email I talked about the importance of power words. How it’s the short, sharp Anglo-Saxon words that’ll make people feel something. How you need to use primal, emotive words that punch right into the emotional centres of your readers’ brains.

This week, I’m going to give you a list of some of the most powerful words in our beautiful language. Bookmark this page; stick the words in your swipe file. Whenever you need your reader to feel something, pull this article out and the right words will be waiting for you.

Words that’ll get your readers fired up

Be honest. When most people read sales or marketing material, they’re probably not fizzing with excitement. More than likely, they’re bored at best and hostile at worst.

So what can you do to wake your readers up and get them feeling enthusiastic about what you want to tell them?

Yep, you’ve guessed it: use power words.

Here’s a few for starters:

  • Amazing
  • Best
  • Boost
  • Brave
  • Cheer
  • Child
  • Courage
  • Crack
  • Crackle
  • Delight
  • Exciting
  • Faith
  • Fearless
  • Fight
  • Fizz
  • Give
  • God
  • Grin
  • Happy
  • Heaven
  • Hero
  • Heroine
  • Hopeful
  • Huge
  • Laugh
  • Love
  • Miracle
  • Peace
  • Pop
  • Sensational
  • Smile
  • Spirit
  • Striking
  • Triumph
  • Victory
  • Win
  • Wonder

Do a bit of fearmongering

You hear them all the time, particularly in political speeches and writing. Fear is an extremely powerful motivator: fear of losing what you’ve got. Fear of losing out. Fear of something bad happening.

Don’t overdo it – you want to motivate people to act, not frighten them needlessly. But I bet you don’t use fear words nearly enough in your writing. The words below do a brilliant job of connecting with people instantly.

  • Agony
  • Apocalypse
  • Bad
  • Bankrupt
  • Bloodshed
  • Bomb
  • Burn
  • Chop
  • Conflict
  • Crash
  • Crazy
  • Crisis
  • Dumb
  • Enemy
  • Fail
  • Fear
  • Foolish
  • Frantic
  • Frightening
  • Hate
  • Hoax
  • Horrific
  • Hurt
  • Kill
  • Lose
  • Maim
  • Mistake
  • Nightmare
  • Pain
  • Poor
  • Risk
  • Sacrifice
  • Silly
  • Stupid
  • Tax
  • Terror
  • Terrorist
  • Toxic
  • War
  • Warning
  • Worry
  • Worst

Sex sells – do you?

Next time you’re in the supermarket, have a look at the men’s and women’s magazines. What do you notice about the headlines? I bet you’ll find they’re almost all related to sex, love or lust.

It’s one of our drivers. It’s a basic need. So of course it connects with people instantly.

This classic headline has appeared for more than 50 years in college newspapers:


Now that we have your attention, here’s how to get the most money for your used text books…

  • Brazen
  • Caress
  • Crave
  • Desire
  • Dirty
  • Exposed
  • Forbidden
  • Hot
  • Kiss
  • Lick
  • Lonely
  • Love
  • Lust
  • Naked
  • Naughty
  • Need
  • Provocative
  • Scandalous
  • Sex
  • Sweaty
  • Tantalising
  • Tease
  • Thrill
  • Touch
  • Uncensored
  • Want
  • Whip

If people are angry, they’re ready to do something

Most of the time, humans are a pretty apathetic bunch. No matter how much we like to think of ourselves as activists, we’re generally pretty passive.

To move people to action, you have to set a bomb off beneath them. Fire them up. Make them angry. Fill them with rage.

You don’t need to start from scratch though. You just need to watch people carefully to pick up on existing anger or annoyance, then fan the flames a little.

If you can tap into what really makes people angry, and take away their pain, you’re onto a winner.

  • Abuse
  • Anger
  • Banks
  • Bullshit
  • Bully
  • Burn
  • Call centre
  • Coward
  • Crap
  • Cruel
  • Disgust
  • Estate agents
  • Evil
  • Fight
  • Foul
  • Greed
  • Hate
  • Incompetent
  • Liar
  • Lies
  • Losing
  • Mean
  • Nasty
  • Nazi
  • Obnoxious
  • Politicians
  • Punish
  • Rage
  • Rude
  • Shocking
  • Smug
  • Snob
  • Tax
  • Time-wasting
  • Truth

Make people feel safe and secure, and they’ll choose you

People crave security. When they’re making decisions on where to spend their money, people are uncertain. It’s your job to make them feel safe. If you can do that, you give people certainty.

If your competitors fail to make them feel safe, your prospective customers will choose you.

Show people not just how you can solve their problems, but that they can trust you to do it properly.

  • Avoid
  • Backed
  • Best
  • Best-selling
  • Care
  • Certain
  • Child
  • Comfort
  • Confident
  • Cosy
  • Crack
  • Easy
  • Easy-to-use
  • Guarantee
  • Heal
  • How toAuthentic
  • Ironclad
  • Lifetime
  • Love
  • No obligation
  • Official
  • Privacy
  • Protected
  • Proven
  • Recommended
  • Reduce
  • Refund
  • Reliable
  • Risk
  • Rock-solid
  • Safe
  • Save
  • Secure
  • Simple
  • Snug
  • Solve
  • Tested
  • Warm

Tempt your readers with forbidden delights

People are naughty, contrary creatures. If we’re told we can’t do something, we want to do it. If we’re told we can’t have something, we want it. If we think something is secret, or not many people have access to it, we want to know.

You can use people’s attraction to the mysterious to create curiosity in your marketing.

  • Banned
  • Censored
  • Confessions
  • Controversial
  • Covert
  • Discover
  • Hidden
  • Illegal
  • Illicit
  • Insider
  • Lost
  • Odd
  • Private
  • Secret
  • Strange
  • Unauthorised
  • Weird
  • Wisdom

We all want something for nothing

Appeal to your reader’s greed. We all love a bargain. And we all want to get ahead.

  • Bargain
  • Best
  • Bonus
  • Budget
  • Buy
  • Career
  • Cash
  • Cheap
  • Cheapest
  • Chop
  • Compare
  • Coupon
  • Discount
  • Dollar
  • Extra
  • Fast
  • Fix
  • Free
  • Free gift
  • Gift
  • Huge
  • Income
  • Low-cost
  • Low-price
  • Luxury
  • Money
  • Pay
  • Pound
  • Prize
  • Reduced
  • Sale
  • Save
  • Savings
  • Value
  • Voucher
  • Wages
  • Whopping
  • Win

Use power words in all your marketing – they’ll make a real difference

If you use words that get right to the heart of what your readers are feeling, you’ll get them to act. These words work in print or online, on radio and TV.

They’re tried and tested. Some of the words above have been used successfully for a hundred years; others are newer (although I’ve declined to include ‘amazeballs’…)

If you’re writing copy for your website or landing page, though, I’d recommend that you visit Andy Crestodina’s article over at Orbit Media Studios. He’s put together a list of 131 words that are proven to increase web traffic – and some advice about how to make the most of them.

Have you got any powerful words to add to these? I know there are loads more out there that are working well. Share them in the comments – I’d love to hear them.

By Vicky Fraser

25 ways to avoid having a really crap slogan

Some marketers and business owners are strangely fixated on slogans. Also known as straplines, endlines, taglines and meaningless waffle, slogans are the words that go with your company logo.

But most of them are – frankly – crap. What’s more, many companies do perfectly well without one. In fact, the worst ones can do more harm than good.

Charles L. Whittier, in his book Creative Advertising, says a slogan should be “a statement of such merit about a product or service that it is worthy of continuous repetition in advertising, is worthwhile for the public to remember, and is phrased in such a way that the public is likely to remember it.”

Timothy R. Foster, in The Art and Science of the Advertising Slogan, added: “The purpose of the strapline (slogan, claim, endline, signature, etc.) is to leave the key brand message in the mind of the target. It is the sign-off that accompanies the logo. It says ‘If you get nothing else from this ad, get this!'”

So, the first thing I’d like to tell you is this: you don’t need a slogan. A strapline is not necessary to sell your product or service. A great product, knowledge of your ideal customers, and targeted relevant marketing will sell your product or service.

There are loads of agencies out there who will charge you an absolute fortune to come up with one – and who knows, you may get lucky and they’ll come up with a brilliant one. More than likely, though, it’ll be meaningless waffle that won’t help you or your brand.

25 things your slogan should be

Having said that, great slogans hit the spot and people remember them for years. “Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it”, anyone?

Thomas Cook logo and slogan: Don't just book it, Thomas Cook it.

Great slogan. No idea what possessed them to change it to the inane ‘Let’s go!’

So if you really want a slogan, make sure you create a good one. There’s no reason why you can’t come up with one yourself, either. Timothy Foster’s Art and Science of the Advertising Slogan lists these 25 attributes your slogan should have.

  1. It should be memorable
  2. It should recall the brand name
  3. It should include a key benefit
  4. It should differentiate the brand
  5. It should impart positive feelings for the brand
  6. It should reflect the brand’s personality
  7. It should be strategic
  8. It should be campaignable
  9. It should be competitive
  10. It should be original
  11. It should be simple
  12. It should be neat
  13. It should be believable
  14. It should help in ordering the brand
  15. It should not be bland, generic or hackneyed
  16. It should not prompt a sarcastic or negative response
  17. It should not be pretentious
  18. It should not be negative
  19. It should not be corporate waffle
  20. It should not make you say “so what?”
  21. It should not make you say “oh yeah?”
  22. It should not be meaningless
  23. It should not be complicated or clumsy
  24. You should like it
  25. It should be TRUE

Most importantly, your slogan should be…

1. Original

Don’t copy other brands, especially competitors. Your slogan needs to be unique to you, so it doesn’t make sense for anyone else. For example, it seems that most lager brands need to be seen as refreshing. If you can put a new spin on a tired message, it will set your brand apart – like Heineken.

Bud Ice is “Extreme refreshment”, Budweiser is “Refreshingly different” and Hamm’s is “Hamm’s the beer refreshing”.

But Heineken… Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach. That’s memorable, and it sets them apart from other beers.

Then, of course, you have the really original:

  • New York State: I heart New York (and millions of t-shirts and hats are sold every year with this little slogan)
  • My mate, Marmite
  • Thomson Holidays: If Thomson don’t do it, don’t do it. But if they do, do.

2. Different – it should encapsulate your USP

Avis did a brilliant job of this. They weren’t the most popular car rental company; Hertz was. So Avis used their second-rate status to their advantage in all their advertising.

They said, simply, “We’re number 2, so we try harder.”

Even better, Avis adopted their motto as the way they ran their company. They did try harder. They overhauled every aspect of their business, making sure they did a brilliant job for their customers. Because of this, they increased their market share from 11% to 34%. They set a new standard for car rental agencies and it’s still their tagline today.

This is in stark contrast to the empty boasts of some companies. It’s dangerous to make claims you can’t back up – especially if your image is a bit iffy.

Peugeot’s slogan was “the drive of your life”, but their cars are very ordinary. It’s not like you’re buying a Lamborghini or an Aston Martin DB5, for goodness’ sake. It’s a boring family car.

And British Rail invited outright ridicule and anger with their “We’re getting there” slogan – when clearly a lot of people weren’t getting anywhere on trains that were late or cancelled.

Mars’s “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” was often turned into “A Mars a day helps your teeth rot away”, which I suspect wasn’t what the advertisers had in mind… and was more likely.

3. Include a key benefit

Sell the sizzle, not the sausage. In other words, sell the benefits, not the product. We could use Avis again as a good example here. But there are lots of others:

  • Polaroid: The fun develops instantly
  • Swan Light: Won’t make a pom tiddly (I love this. It reminds me of Winnie the Pooh. I should explain that Swan Light is an Australian low-alcohol beer…)
  • BMW: The ultimate driving machine (because they’re not just selling a car, they’re selling the feeling of driving a powerful car)
  • BT: It’s good to talk

FedEx has had a few good slogans over the years, but my favourite is: “Our most important package is yours.”

Compare those good ones to these bad ones:

  • Equity & Law. Need we say more. (Erm, yes actually. So what?)
  • We’re Exxon. (So what?)
  • MFI: Take a look at us now. (Why?)

There are no benefits in these three; in fact, they could be applied to any other business anywhere, and mean equally as little.

And here’s three things your slogan shouldn’t be…

1. Corporate waffle

United Research wins this category with “Accelerating strategic change”. Coming a close second is Ames Rubber with “Excellence through total quality”.

Please remember that your customers are people. And the people who work for you are people. And I don’t believe anybody with half a brain really likes this type of absolute corporate bollocks.

Every company that’s still trading does something that somebody finds useful, so there’s really no excuse for slogans like these.

2. Pretentious

If you’re selling a sofa, don’t pretend it’s going to change your customer’s life. It isn’t. And trying to sound ironic and self-deprecating usually backfires too.

  • We’re Exxon, we do it right (do what right? Oil spills?)
  • When Better Automobiles are Built, Buick Will Build Them (presumably because Buick can’t be arsed to build better automobiles now)
  • Churchill. Surprisingly passionate about insurance (ah, the knowingly self-deprecating chuckle should accompany this slogan)
  • Olivetti. Our force is your energy (this is just crap)
  • Vodafone: Make the most of now (meaningless as well as pretentious)

3. Prompting a sarcastic or negative response

Make sure you get lots of people to read your slogan before you make your decision. And definitely show it to the smart-arse who mocks or makes a joke out of everything. If there’s a negative response to be had, someone will find it – make sure you find it before you send it out there to be ridiculed…

  • Delta Airlines. We get you there. (Well I should hope so. Is the alternative crashing?)
  • Mobil. We want you to live. (As opposed to ‘we want you to die’?)
  • Dixons. The last place you want to go. (I’m sure they think they were being clever, but really it just sums up Dixons for a lot of people, I suspect.)
  • The car in front is a Toyota. (Unless it’s a Peugeot. Or a Mazda. Or a motorbike. Or a… well, you get the idea.)

Honesty is the best policy

Probably the best piece of advice I can give you about writing a slogan is that it should be true. Don’t make wild claims or tell outright lies, because you’ll be found out. It will erode your customers’ trust and you’ll struggle to win it back.

Besides, if you’ve got a great product or service and a good reputation, why would you need to be anything but honest? In fact, why would you need to worry about a slogan at all?

If you’re still dead set on having a slogan though, make sure you take all this advice into account. Talk to your customers, see what they say about you. You might find that your slogan pops out of something they’ve said.

And if you’re still struggling, you can always give me a call. Getting right to the heart of why people love products, then translating that into great marketing, is what I do. Get in touch and we’ll see what I can do for you.

By Vicky Fraser

PS If you found this post useful, there’s plenty more in my FREE Marketing Magic email club. Don’t delay – sign up today for copywriting and marketing hints and tips.

Are they choosing your competitor and ignoring you?

Let me ask you a question: why do people choose you rather than your competitor?

If that’s not a question you’ve pondered before, you should start now. I’m talking, of course, about your USP. Your unique selling proposition (or unique selling point, depending on which definition you take). The thing that makes you different.

I’m pretty sure you’re not the only business of your type in your country, or even your local area. People have a lot of choice in almost everything they buy. Why should they choose you?

Until you’ve nailed the real reason people choose you over your competitors, your marketing will not live up to its potential.

We’re all individuals (yes, we are all individuals)

Don’t be one of the people in the crowd, shouting that you’re an individual, and yes, you are different. Show your customers how you’re different.

But what if you’re not sure? What if you think there isn’t really anything that makes you stand out from the crowd?

Well, let me tell you: you’re almost certainly wrong. You’re just not seeing the wood for the trees. Or the trees for the wood. One of those things, anyway.

How to find your USP

When you run your own business, you’re so close to it that it can be difficult to see what separates you from everyone else. On the face of it, you might see your business as doing a good job, selling a good product, at a reasonable price.

But what do your customers see? You might be surprised.

Ask them. Get in touch with your best customers and ask them what it is that makes them choose you. You might be surprised, because it could be something that you take for granted. Something that you consider to be small, but that means a huge amount to your customers.

For example, one of my clients insisted that I didn’t put too much emphasis on him, his skills and experience in the web copy. He wanted to focus on what the business and his wider team did for his clients. That was great as far as it went, but I was sure that it was his unique skills and experience that set his business apart from his competitors. You see, his competitors all claimed to do the same thing he did, so we needed to find a way to differentiate his business.

I talked to a bunch of his clients, and found that my instinct was spot on – my client offered something that nobody else in his industry could because nobody else had his background. It was his personal skills and attributes, combined with his team’s abilities and his business’s excellent results, which were the real selling point. And that’s what we used in the copy (which is getting great results, by the way).

To ice the cake, we got the clients to agree to turn my interviews into testimonials. If you can get your customers to do your marketing in their own words, you’re onto a winner.

What’s your customer’s buying motivation? What prompts them to pick up the phone and buy what you’re selling? You need to identify their problem. And it’s not always obvious…

Let’s turn this around. How do you motivate your customers to buy? You need to make an emotional connection. It’s emotions that prompt people to buy, not logic. Logic justifies the purchase, but emotions prompt the action. I don’t mean that you need to make people cry, laugh or fly into a screaming rage; but you do need to move them to act.

A long time ago, Bill Bernbach said: “You can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.” This is still true.

So find out what your customer’s problem is. Then you’ll have their motivation to buy. If you can tap into that, you’ll be on the way to finding your USP.

What do you really do? We’re thinking benefits here – and then we’re going a bit further. Let’s say you’re a solicitor who helps people to write wills. What’s the benefit? Well, you make sure people have their affairs in order and help them to ensure that everything goes where they want it to after their demise.

Well, that’s all accurate. But what you really do is give people peace of mind. Nobody wants to think about their expiration date, but everybody should. Your role is to make it as painless as possible for your client. You do all the boring but important legal stuff and make it as easy and painless as possible. You provide your client with a document that will ensure that everything runs smoothly when they die. You help them to make a horrible time for their family a little bit less painful.

Don’t define your business as a commodity. If people are buying purely on price, you have no USP. And you probably don’t have the kind of customers you want. If people value your product or service for more than what it costs, they will become your most profitable customers. If people only buy on price, they’ll leave you for a cheaper version and they won’t come back.

I’ll be talking more about how to deal with price in my Marketing Magic emails – you can sign up here for free.

Be different

Don’t be different for the sake of being different; you can dye your skin blue and wear a duck on your head if that’s all you’re after. Be different because you’re offering something your customers really appreciate. Then show them how you stand out from the crowd.

Unless you have a talent like this. Then do this.

By Vicky Fraser

PS If you need help finding and communicating your USP, contact me on 07814 577217. Or if you’re not quite ready to work with me yet, sign up to my FREE marketing emails here.

12 Angry Men Show You How to Grow Your Client-Base

Movie poster for the original film 12 Angry Men

Amazing film. Watch it!

I saw the movie 12 Angry Men for the first time yesterday. It’s a classic; it’s been on my list for a long, long time. Apparently it’s one of the best films ever made.

Well, now I agree.

It’s a brilliant film; if you haven’t seen it, you must. But stop reading now because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Come back when you’ve watched it.

Everyone still here seen it?


The film is about 12 white jurors at the trial of a young Latino man accused of murdering his father. An ‘open and shut case’, according to most of the men.

Before they go off to deliberate their verdict, the judge commands them to think very carefully. This boy will be executed if he’s found guilty. The jurors must be convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the young man is guilty of the murder.

Preconceptions, prejudice and social proof

It’s a very hot day; the men all have plans; each has his own prejudice or preoccupation; and the case presented by the prosecution seems clear and obvious.

The defendant has a weak alibi. A knife he claimed to have lost is found at the murder scene. Several witnesses heard screaming, saw the killing or watched the boy fleeing the scene.

Laughing and joking, the jurors sit down at the table. The foreman suggests simply voting.

All those who think the young man is guilty are to raise their hands. The camera pans around the room.

The first man raises his hand, firmly. The next man does so too. One by one, each juror glances around at his fellows, then raises his hand.

Until juror number 8, who says, “Not guilty.”

Uncertainty is a dangerous thing

It was the camera work in this scene that caught my attention, because I’ve been reading a lot about social proof lately. It was clear to me that each man looked to his fellow jurors before deciding on his vote. This may not have been conscious on their part; but it happened.

Only one man, juror 8 (Henry Fonda), stood alone. He didn’t even believe the defendant was not guilty. He just wasn’t sure he was, and thought the case merited further discussion before sending a man to his death.

The defendant is incredibly lucky Henry Fonda was on his jury. If he hadn’t been, then it’s almost certain that prejudice, preconceptions and the behaviour of the group would have sent him to the electric chair.

My point is this: a lot of human behaviour is decided by watching what others do. In the case of 12 Angry Men, nobody was particularly inclined to spend time on this ‘easy’ case. So when each man voted guilty, the others followed (all except one).

Not because they were stupid. But because they were lazy (or in two cases, blinded by prejudice). They didn’t want to look beneath the surface. The prosecution had presented a case that was, on the face of it, clear-cut. And besides, the defendant was a young Latino man – so in the eyes of the two prejudiced jurors (a racist and an angry father), he couldn’t possibly be innocent.

In the short time that the jurors thought they had available to them, it was easier to take their cue from the prosecution lawyer, then from their peers in the deliberation room.

Until Henry Fonda rattled their cages.

A marketing lesson from the stage

Actually, there’s loads of interesting psychology going on in this film – but there is one quick takeaway that I’d like to share with you now.

The power of social proof. We don’t have time to analyse every new situation in detail. If we did so, we’d never get anything done. So we look to other people to see how to behave.

That’s part of the reason 11 of the jurors in 12 Angry Men voted ‘guilty’ straight away. Because everyone else did.

If people are saying nice things about you and your business, tell everyone!

If someone is uncertain about whether or not to become your customer, those compliments might just sway them. If they can see that other people bought from you and are really pleased – pleased enough to say so in public – then you must be worthy of consideration.

Get just a few people talking you up, and that behaviour will spread. Your customer base will grow. And so will your profits.

I went into more detail about how this phenomenon works in a recent newsletter about geese. Go and take a look.

If you like what you see, sign up. My marketing magic hints and tips are FREE, and I’ll even give you a FREE guide to help you write headlines that get results. See you there!


By Vicky Fraser

Let a tailor from the 1930s show you how to discount

There are lots of ways to sell more goods, but this story always makes me chuckle.

Let me tell you about Sid and Harry Drubeck.

The two brothers ran a tailor’s shop in the 1930s. Sid worked at the front of the shop with customers, while Harry the head tailor would work out back.

Sid always explained to his customer that he was a bit deaf. He’d repeatedly ask the customer to speak more loudly to him during the fitting process.

When the customer chose his suit and asked Sid how much it cost, Sid would shout: “Harry, how much for this suit?”

Harry, greatly exaggerating the suit’s value, would call back: “For that beautiful all-wool suit, forty-two dollars.”

Sid would pretend not to hear, cup his hand to his ear, and ask again. Harry, again, would reply that the suit cost forty-two dollars.

Upon hearing this, Sid would turn to his customer and report: “He says twenty-two dollars.”

A lot of men scrambled to purchase that suit and get out of there fast before ‘poor’ Sid realised his mistake.

It’s all about perceived value

This tale has nothing to do with price and everything to do with perceived value.

Their customers didn’t buy the suit because it was cheap; it wasn’t. Twenty-two dollars was a lot of money in 1930 (it’d be about $300 today). They bought it because it was expensive, but they believed they were getting it at a bargain price.

I wanted to tell you this story because everyone can use it to their advantage.

You won’t all have the opportunity to be this theatrical, more’s the pity. But you can use the same principle in your sales.

If you’re having trouble shifting some goods, mark them as reduced and show people what the price was.

Learn a little psychology and use it to sell

You see, you and I are conditioned to believe that expensive = good. It’s an evolutionary shortcut that we use when we don’t have time to learn everything about a situation. In this case, Sid’s customer didn’t know enough about suits to know what’s really good and what’s average – but he does know that you usually get what you pay for.

So when he heard Harry shout out the original high price, he immediately equated that with ‘good’. And when Sid gave him the considerably lower, true, price, he couldn’t believe his luck. He was getting a very high quality suit for a knock-down price.

Of course, he was actually getting a very high quality suit for its true value – but everyone walked away happy. The customer had a great suit at a good price and the tailors made their sale without much extra selling effort.

Sid and Harry were using another technique in their tailor shop too: the contrast principle. I’ll talk more about that in my newsletter, though. It’s a really simple technique and it’s very effective indeed. If you’d like to learn more about it, sign up for my newsletter. It’s free, packed full of useful information that will help you grow your business – and I’ll even give you a headline generator to help you write headlines that grab attention and sell your goods.

By Vicky Fraser

PS Today’s little story about Sid and Harry came from a fantastic book by Robert Cialdini, called “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. If you have to sell or market anything, you should read it. In fact, it’s a fabulous resource for the everyday negotiations we all perform without even realising it. Many of my emails, articles and blogs come from that little gem. If you’d like to learn more, sign up for my free Marketing Magic emails.

Don’t start looking for a new job until you’ve read this

Are you happy in your job? Are you just entering the world of work? Then there are a few things you should know.

Let me tell you a story. The story of how I came to be writing to you now. Quite a few years ago, I was a crime scene examiner for a police force (nope: it’s NOTHING like CSI. Sorry).

The work itself was brilliant: I was dealing with people, helping them and making a real difference. But the office politics and work environment wasn’t brilliant. Because of that, every day, I dragged myself out of bed and into the office. I hated it. It made me miserable.

So one day, I left. With nothing to go to and no plans. It was terrifying. And the most exciting and liberating thing I’ve ever done (even more than when I jumped out of a perfectly good aeroplane).

I went into full-on panic mode. I took the scattergun approach and applied for every job I saw. Including marketing executive at a national charity.

To my astonishment, I got an interview. I didn’t think for a second I’d get the job – after all, I had no experience and no proof that I could write and be persuasive. So I rocked up with a handbag and a pen for a half-day of assessments and interviews.

I looked around at the people in smart shiny suits and expensive briefcases and laughed maniacally (inside my head, not out loud). I resolved to enjoy myself, because I obviously had Bob Hope of getting this job.

You know what’s coming, right?

Yep: they called me later that evening and offered me the job. At more money than I had any right to expect. Clearly in a state of shock, I laughed and asked why they were doing something so crazy.

My new boss told me that they liked me. I was interesting, my story captivated them, my honesty disarmed them, and they thought I was the kind of person they’d get on with. I was real, relaxed and enthusiastic. I spoke to them in terms of how I could help them. And that appealed to them.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you do this (the impetuous job-leaving, not the parachute jump. You should totally do that). But I would like to share what I learned.

And I learned this hard way. I don’t want you to suffer, so I’m offering you my experience and wisdom (and a place on my training course, but we’ll come to that later).

Make a plan

Job hunting is not so different to marketing and sales. In fact, if you want to find a great job that you love, you have to approach it with a plan.

Start with this question. What do you want? Think about it in detail, and ask yourself these questions:

  • If you could work for anyone – your dream company – who would it be?
  • Who else could you happily work for?
  • What do they do?
  • What can you offer them?
  • List your skills and experience – think of EVERYTHING, not just those relating to specific jobs
  • How far are you willing to travel every day?
  • Would you relocate?
  • Move abroad?
  • Could you work from home?
  • How many hours do you want to work?
  • How much holiday do you want?
  • What kind of salary do you NEED?
  • How much would you LIKE to earn?

You’re starting to build a picture of the type of job you want, and the type of company you want to work for.

Now start researching.

Don’t be disheartened if the company you work for doesn’t any vacancies that suit you. Approach them anyway. Find out who you’d be reporting to. Stalk them online – find out everything you can. What they need to make their business work well.

You need to approach job hunting from the employer’s point of view: what’s in it for them? What can you offer that they need? How can you help them succeed?

You got skills – sell them

Drayton Bird told a great story about this over here.

The key point is: if you want to find – and GET – the job of your dreams, you’d better be a damn good salesperson. Seriously.

Think about how competitive the job market is. How many applications land on employers’ desks every day. Hundreds. THOUSANDS.

If you want to get a foot in the door, you’d better get noticed.

And you’re not going to get noticed by slapping a CV together, ticking a few boxes on an application form, and sending it with a few words that say something like: “Here’s my application – please hire me. I’m a great team player.”

Most job applications are dull

Not just dull, but really dull. Not to mention riddled with mistakes and entirely focused on the job seeker.

Do you know what prospective employers are most interested in? That’s right: themselves and their business.

So do your research and find out what your prospective employer wants and needs. Then show them how you can deliver that.

Don’t tell them what you’ve done and what you like and how much of a team player you are and how much you want to work for them.

Show them you understand what they need, how you can help, and what you’re willing to learn to do so. Be a real person, someone that your prospective employer will like working with.

They can find the facts in your CV. Your cover letter needs to stop them in their tracks and make them say: “This is the person. I want to work with this person, and I don’t care that they don’t tick all my boxes.”

It’s one of the key skills in marketing

This applies to selling anything, not just getting a great job.

If you approach your task from the point of view of your prospect, you’re halfway there. Find out what they want and need, and show them how you can give it to them. Show them why they should choose you. Make them WANT to choose you.

My Marketing Magic newsletter will help you grow your business and make more profit.

But if it’s a brilliant new career you’re after, you should check out my one-day workshop. I’ve teamed up with Jo at Jo’s Correctional Facility to bring you a workshop that will dramatically increase your chances of getting an interview. Of course, from there it’s up to you.

Want to take the first step towards a great new job? Call me on 07814 577217 and book a place. Or find out more here.

Whether you come on my course or not, though, make sure you put your prospective employer front and centre – and remember to sell yourself!

By Vicky Fraser