Final Lessons Learned from One of the World’s Highest-Paid Copywriters

image of cash coming out of a laptop

This is the final installment of a three-part series on how to translate advice from marketing guru Dan Kennedy to a new online environment.

One of the smartest things any online marketer can do is to study the “old school” guys who wrote direct mail, magazine ads, and other artifacts of advertising history.

Why? Because it took a tremendous understanding of the psychology of persuasion to make those tactics work.

When you pair shiny new communication technology with tried-and-true methods to persuade and sell, you hugely increase your odds of success.

So let’s continue exploring what old-school guru Dan Kennedy can teach us about 21st-century marketing. This week we’ll cover lessons 11 through 14 from Kennedy’s book The Ultimate Marketing Plan.

I can’t promise these tips will make cash start spewing out of your laptop. But they do represent a lot of sound business thinking.

(Incidentally, the links to the book are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you buy it, I’ll be able to buy a pack of gum! Put any of this advice into action and you should get quite a lot more out of the deal.)

11. Create a short-term sales surge

One of the factors that plagues most small businesses, especially when they’re starting out, is a shortage of cash.

Creating quick “sales surges” is one of Kennedy’s specialties, and he has a lot of suggestions for how to do that. (For more ideas, I can strongly recommend picking up his book.)

Essentially, though, all the variations come down to one basic strategy:

  1. Make a great offer.
  2. Limit it in time, number of copies you’ll sell, or both.
  3. Make sure you come up with a good story or reason for the promotion.

Kennedy, as you can imagine, gives some rather old-school ideas like red tag sales or “My accountant thinks I’m crazy!”

He also likes to pluck interesting themes out of current events. For example, at a recent conference he invited loyal customers to bring old copies of his products in a “Cash for Clunkers” promotion.

Kennedy’s creativity is mostly involved in coming up with a reason for his promotions. But if selling information is part of what you do, you can also create a brand-new product for your “cash surge.” It doesn’t have to be extensive (it’s annoying how often we’re short on both cash and time). In fact, you can offer something that you develop over the weekend.

These “surges” can help any business, small or large, get through the lean times and amplify earnings during the best. And not only do short-term surges bring in cash, they also build your list of customers, strengthening your business for the long haul.

12. Take Advantage of New Marketing Technologies

As you might imagine, readers of Copyblogger are well ahead of the curve here. If any of these are missing from your current communication mix, you can very profitably add them to make your business stronger.

Audio, Video and Webinars: Record a meeting, training or presentation and post it to the web where you can repeatedly benefit.

Autoresponders: With a great autoresponder series, you can write copy which is delivered in a sequence, regardless of when a prospect signs up. This will enable you to automate your marketing and free up time to refine other aspects of your business. And they’re great for creating rapport and trust with your customers.

The next hot communication technology. Kennedy is a notorious technophobe; he doesn’t personally use email or the web at all.

But like many smart businesspeople, he’s willing to make money with new technology even though he personally dislikes it. In fact, Sonia seemed to have experienced a warm reception when she recently spoke at one of his conferences.

As long as a marketing tactic is ethical, be willing to consider it even if you aren’t personally a fan. If you hate Facebook but that’s where your customers are, you may want to suck it up.

13. Avoid employee sabotage

For those who use VAs or other employees (whether they’re on a contract or a regular payroll), there are some special areas to watch out for.

Employees are a reflection of both you and your business. Whether they are ringing up sales or answering email, they are ambassadors for your policies, and for how you feel about your customers.

In my first business, there were times when I would leave my shop on an errand only to come back to a rather unpleasant surprise.

“You said WHAT?”

“To who?!?!”

Delegating is a great thing (and usually necessary if you want your business to grow). But you must be the captain of your own marketing ship, as well as the navigator and the crew.

Even the most valuable employees are still just that — employees. And no one will ever care as much about your business as you do.

This is one reason the Partnering Profits model makes so much sense in the online world. Small businesses are easier and easier to create. It makes perfect sense to partner with people to run them with you, sharing the workload and the profit.

14. Hiring and firing experts

Learn from the best, but take everything with a grain of salt.

I’ve bought and absorbed numerous info products over the last year. Some were good, some were great, and a few were barely better than lousy.

Nevertheless, even the worst has taught me something.

You won’t learn it all in a day or a download, nor should you expect to. Someone asked an awesome question in Sonia’s Remarkable Marketing Blueprint forum the other day. They wondered, “What’s the point in having memberships in different sites, like Lateral Action, Third Tribe Marketing, and the Blueprint?”

I’m a member of all three, so I’m happy to share my thoughts on that.

There isn’t a single download that holds all the answers. Like life, we pick up a bit here and a bit there, all of it blending to make us who we are. We experience things differently at different times. True success is a slow and steady climb, rung by rung.

When you involve yourself with quality people who are putting out quality information, you get a better ladder. You still have to do the climbing yourself..

There is no guru or authority who can give you all the answers.

Not Dan Kennedy, not Brian Clark, not Sean Platt.

That said, you want to make sure you’re taking advice from someone who’s walked the walk.

In Cameron Crowe’s much-quoted movie “Say Anything“, there’s a scene where the hero, Lloyd Dobler, is standing at the gas station listening to a handful of lonely men handing out relationship advice. To which Lloyd says:

If you guys know so much about women, how come you’re here at, like, the Gas ‘n’ Sip on a Saturday night, completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?

Good question.

I would strongly recommend Dan Kennedy’s Ultimate Marketing Plan as a powerful resource that should be in any copywriter’s toolbox. He’s “walked the walk” and advised thousands of traditional businesses. And with a little creativity, his advice works just as well in the new online environment.

Obviously, the book contains more information than I could squeeze into a few thousand words. But I hope the “Cliff’s Notes” version has been useful!

Read the other posts in this series

About the Author: Sean Platt writes direct response copy, as well as helping authors write, publish and promote their book. Follow him on Twitter.

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (26)

  1. says

    Lloyd Dobler. I love Lloyd Dobler. The answer to his question from all the guys was “By choice, man.” Yeah, right.

    I’m learning daily from this blog how to make mine better, more successful. I absolutely do NOT choose to do nothing when there’s good info out there!

  2. says

    Thanks for the tips

    especially about trying out new technology as we need to move with the times for our online business.

    I live in the sun so i will often post a blog post from the beach or email a client from the river when i am having a picnic so i am all for the technology.

    kind regards


  3. says

    Great tips…especially #13. More than once I’ve been totally turned off by rude or insensitive VAs. For example, once I asked a question about a service on special. The VA didn’t get back to me till *after* the special was over…and didn’t offer me a deal. Another time the VA said, “You won’t get commission on that sale because that person was in our database already” or “It’s a private offer.” They even added, “I’m sure you will understand.”

    No, I didn’t. And I no longer promote those products. If you don’t want to pay commission, just un-check the box on your shopping cart.

  4. says

    Thanks for the tips!

    Although, I like your post as a whole but the best part is “There is no guru or authority who can give you all the answers.”

    You are an inspiration, keep up the good work.

  5. says

    You’re a pleasure to read. I was turned on to you by the NRWA newsletter. Your “FancyNancy” piece had me cracking up.

    As a resume writer and lit major, I loathe flowery blather. I can see you do too and your turn of phrase makes for such an enjoyable read.

    Good to know you’re out there fighting the good fight.

  6. says

    “One of the smartest things any online marketer can do is to study the “old school” guys who wrote direct mail, magazine ads, and other artifacts of advertising history.

    Why? Because it took a tremendous understanding of the psychology of persuasion to make those tactics work.”

    Fantastic advice. When writing for the web, use those experts but adapt them to your audience/media/purpose. When writing company newsletters, I do much of the same thing, except I make it shorter and more to-the-point. And, guess what, it works!

  7. Sonia Simone says

    @Roger, it’s funny what a “secret ninja trick” it is to just go back to what’s always worked. Magic beans! :)

  8. says

    Understanding what makes people tick is fascinating. I love the blend of old and new concept. Branding a product or your company is still part old school and part Internet age. I still remember Bucky Beaver telling me that NEW Ipana toothpaste was dandy for my teeth. That was 50 years ago.

    However, Bucky Beaver never told me that if I didn’t get my new Ipana toothpaste in the next 15 minutes (operators are standing by)…I’d never have white, pearly teeth. I still have a problem with insulting offers that imply a shortage of time or product. I guess I’d never make a real, honest to goodness huckster. I know it works, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it…or use it!

    Jon Tremain

  9. Sonia Simone says

    @Jon, scarcity can be used in a cheesy way or it can be used ethically. The fact is, people procrastinate. If they have no reason to act now, a lot of times they’ll never act, even if they actually want to. So lighting a little scarcity fire can help get them moving.

    Almost any copywriting technique can be used in a creepy way or an ethical, relationship-building way. Just like a hammer can be used to build a house or take out your next-door neighbor. :)

  10. says

    Thanks, Sean for insights that will strengthen my ladder-I appreciated that analogy-and also the point you made about making sure you have a good reason for the promotion. I really liked the idea of a theme that connects with current events, failing that, isn’t it always National Sing Off-Key/Popcorn/Knock-Knock Day or Week somewhere? (But only a week! or a day! This promotion will end before you get to the end of this sentence!)

    I’m sure it also helps if your audience has come to know you and that they expect that you mean well.

    Sonia, even though I’ve only been subscribing to Copyblogger and Remarkable Communication for a few-lovely and enlightening-months, it feels like so much longer because of all of the tremendous stuff I’ve gotten. (I’ve recently decided to treat myself even more and joined the 3rd Tribe.) I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve said things that have me asking myself “how does she do it and over and over again” and feeling so glad that you do. Case in point, the good/bad hammer. As usual, at least for me, you nailed it. (Speaking of cheesy, I know that’s a great example, that’s why I’m fortifying my ladder with you and with Brian and with Jon and Sean and…)

  11. says

    Sean, thanks for another of your razor-sharp, action-provoking posts. Methinks it’ll keep me usefully occupied, at least for the next few days.

  12. Leo says

    I am Italian; I am reading Seth Godin’s book that makes your name in “Che pasticcio di Marketing”, italian version, pag. 66

  13. says

    Great post Sean . I would add another and that use interactive ebooks and reports that combine both video, audio and written experiences. Books that are FREE and premium ones that are not.

  14. says

    What a wonderful information. What an awesome article. This is a wonderful blog and I have found lots of new information from this article. The same info I had found on a blog of but this blog is really awesome.

  15. says

    One thing I would like to add goes along with numero 12. “Take advantage of new techniques.” I think that it’s also important to take advantage of old techniques that are NEW to your or your customers.

    Perhaps you have a list that is used to being marketed in a certain way, always emailing them, providing them with occasional offers. Then, bam! you do a small project with direct mail, completely changing their comfort level and getting their attention.

    Small things can go a long way in order to keep people coming back for more, waiting to see what you will come up with next.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  16. says

    Beki: I’m with you, just the thought of Lloyed makes me smile. If you do nothing, you can only expect the same in return. Good for you.

    Samantha: Technology makes our lives better in so many ways, it’s just important to use it instead of allowing us to use it.

    Cathy: I’m in the process of hiring a VA right now. As much as I’m in a hurry to make the hire, I know I can’t rush it. Whoever I hire is a constant reflection on me. Haste makes waste and all that jazz.

    Ghazal. Thank you for saying that. It’s so true – the best thing you can possibly do is just get out there, make a whole bunch of mistakes, then tweak your game a day at a time.

    BrightSide Cliff: Ah, the Fancy Nancy piece was Sonia’s and it was excellent. I’ve been guilty of flowery blather a bit too much myself, but i’ve tumbled my copy through the Kennedy O’ Matic and it is all the better for it.

    Roger: Yes, it does. Technology has changed, humans haven’t.

    Jon: Scarcity can be used well, especially if you are in any way selling your time. You can NEVER make more minutes no matter how hard you try, so if you tie a product into your own access, then you can always use scarcity both naturally and honestly.

    Karen: Thanks for the compliment Karen, and yes, it’s easy to see why Sonia has so many raving fans.

    Gordon: My pleasure, Gordon. I’m glad it worked for you. :)

    Justin: It works well.

    Bamboo: Get the book. You’ll like it and it’s well worth the read.

    Leo: Hi Leo. Did you mean Linchpin? I looked up page 66, but wasn’t sure what you were referring to. Sorry.

    John: Thanks.

    Andi: Thanks! I appreciate it.

    Darren: Couldn’t agree more. And I’d add that even though video will become a bigger and bigger deal, but copy will never go out of style.

    David: Sorry, hard for me to see the correlation between a Dubai resources portal site and a site that teaches content marketing.

    Margo: My pleasure, Margo. Thank you.

    Joshua Black: Yes, the element of surprise is extremely powerful. Especially when used well.

Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.