Gary Halbert, the greatest Marketer yet
While preparing for our Free Lecture on Monday evening for everyone who wants to learn about online marketing and the use of Social Media, I ran into this Jewel of an anecdote by one of the best marketer copywriters that have ever walked this earth: Gary Halbert. For anyone out there who plans to build a business on the internet or to come and learn from this lecture here is a story I proudly share with you taken from the Niche Market Blackbook, published by the Market Samurai. It describes where internet marketing, or for that matter ALL marketing begins.
The “cutting edge” online marketing strategies that we use today were actually pioneered by old school direct marketers long before the internet was even invented.
Back then, these “paper-and-ink men” who would usually send their sales copy out with a stamp, rather than a mouse-click. But there’s a big difference between marketing today, and marketing back then.
While today, we can send an email to thousands of people practically for free – the “pen-and-ink men” would need to pay up-front for paper, stamps, envelopes, printing costs, and someone to stuff thousands of envelopes!
This meant the stakes were much higher back then, compared to today.
If the “pen and ink” men couldn’t make enough money to pay for stamps and envelope-stuffing, there was no cheap-hit second chance – no sticking up another web-page and trying again! So they had to create a profitable marketing campaigns every time – or risk going bankrupt!
This profit-or-die world of direct marketing back then created some of the sharpest, most street-smart marketers seen today – and one of the sharpest of them all was Gary Halbert.
Gary had a reputation in the industry as the “The Prince of Print” – he was a master of the written word.
Equipped with nothing more than a pad and pen, he would seduce crowds of people to buy just about anything:
…the latest Rolls Royce convertible, celebrity diet plans, perfume fragrances, martial arts courses, guides to good sex, histories of a surname…
You name it, he sold it – making him (and losing him) millions of dollars along the way! …And he did it all before the internet was even a twinkle in some computer engineer’s eye.
But it wasn’t just his marketing skill that set Gary apart as the “Prince of Print”. Gary also was incredibly generous in sharing what he knew about marketing. Keep in mind that the lessons Gary had learned came as a result of a lifetime of very difficult (and expensive) learning experiences.
What he knew cost him a lot to learn!
But he’d share what he knew liberally, through his newsletter “The Gary Halbert Letter” – or every once in a while, in a classroom-style setting, at a marketing seminar. One of these seminars in particular is now part of internet marketing legend – people still speak about this event today.
Something happened this day…
It was still early in the day, and Gary had already given away more pearls of marketing wisdom than most seasoned pros would gather in a lifetime. He was just about to start talking about the difference between a successful marketing campaign, and a marketing flop.
And then… Gary Halbert paused.
Turning to the audience, he asked a single question. This question was so simple, yet so devastatingly powerful, that people in the direct marketing world still talk about it today.
Facing his students, he asked:
“If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers… …What advantages would you most like to have on your side to help you win?” The room fell silent for a moment – you could almost hear people think.
Everyone respected Gary Halbert as a wise marketer, but few people saw him as a jolly and affable old man.
To most people, Gary Halbert was an arrogant and pompous prick!
Every one of his students wanted the satisfaction of being able to knock Gary Halbert off his insufferably smug perch – just once – and here was their opportunity!
Almost at once, they began shouting a volley of responses:
“I would use the tastiest, freshest hamburger meat!”
“My prices would be the lowest!”
“I’d pick the busiest location!”
“I’d want a world-famous recipe!”
“I’d offer customers credit, so they could pay later!”
“I’d have more staff so that I could serve more people faster!”
“I’d sell my burgers wholesale!”
Gary Halbert listened patiently to all of their answers, until everyone had their turn. “OK…’ he replied, smugly smiling the weathered, all- knowing grin of an old master. “I’ll give you every single advantage you have asked for… I only want ONE advantage and, if you give it to me, I will whip the pants off all of you when it comes to selling burgers!” The students leaned forward in their chairs. What answer could they have possibly missed?
Sure, Gary Halbert was a brilliant sales person – but how could he possibly compete against every other advantage – let alone beat them all at once!?
“The only advantage I want is…” “…A Starving Crowd!”
Gary knew something that the other marketers had overlooked… He knew the value of a large market, full of motivated buyers.
You can have every other advantage in the world – the best location, the best reputation, the best prices, the best terms, and the best product – but if you can’t find people hungry for your hamburgers, how can you possibly expect to make sales?
It had taken years for Gary Halbert to realize that the most important element of any marketing campaign is the quality of your target market.
The master had taught his students well.
That’s why this story is retold by direct response marketers. It’s because this story shows the value of getting the market research phase right!
Hope to see you on Monday night at 6pm at Fernandeli’s on S 8th St. across from Fred’s.
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