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Back in 1923, people loved their brands. The people who ran them, I mean. Roaring ad writers thrust their products in buyer’s faces, as if they’d pounce like Pavlovian hounds. We do the same. But there is one man who knows that heartless advertising only makes the sellers salivate.
You Are Selfish
Read this line from Claude Hopkins’ book, Scientific Advertising in the beginning of Chapter 3, Offer Service: “Ads say in effect, ‘Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money.’ That is not a popular appeal.” Why not? “Remember, the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.”
Wait. We have a problem. If asking for money will lose your customer, how do you sell anything? In last week’s chapter of Just Salesmanship, Hopkins says your advertisement IS the salesperson. When did you meet a seller who failed to name her price? Could Hopkins favor ads that rely on creativity or post modern minimalism and say nothing about the product?
Certainly not. His definition of an ad is a device that sells. It’s just that creating sales usually takes more involvement with people than just waving your brand name. Hopkins speaks against that low standard of advertising, though it was vogue in the early 1920’s as it often is today.
Don’t you wish an agency’s clients would offer you more than a website and contact box that says submit? To be a successful seller — you must be a concierge.
How to Be a Concierge
The Stafford Hotel in London is a hidden gem where actor Paul Newman could jog in peace up and down the stairs. Frank Laino is concierge. In fact, he is officially the best concierge in the world. His panache is a big draw for the hotel — making him the epitome of a salesman. “You can’t force a relationship,” says Laino in interview with Luxury Travel Advisor. “They have to be built on mutual trust and understanding and likeability. You have to nurture it.”

The hotel and its guests love Laino. He flexes formidable connections and streetwise moxie to help his patrons; for one he arranged an exclusive viewing of the only Johannes Veneer painting in England. It’s off limits in the private collection of Buckingham Palace.

What Have You Done for Your Clients …
Embarrassed? Here are some of Claude Hopkins examples from 1923: “A brush maker has some 2,000 canvassers who sell brushes from house to house. He is enormously successful in a line which would seem very difficult. And it would be for his men if they asked the housewives to buy. But they don’t. They go to the door and say, ‘I was sent here to give you a brush. I have samples here and I want you to take your choice.’ The housewife is all smiles and attention. In picking out one brush she sees several she wants. She is also anxious to reciprocate the gift. So the salesman gets an order.”

Lesson One:
Create a relationship. It will increase your chance of a sale because we long to do business with people in whom we feel comfort. We’ll feel that only with those who truly have our good in mind. And guilt, which may catapult your sale, can only exist in a relationship that you create — even if it’s a short-lived one that spans the life of a transaction. (By all means strategize emotions. But if you offer service just to make guilt-money I hope you fail.)

“Another concern sells coffee, etc., by wagons in some 500 cities,” writes Hopkins. “The man drops in with a half-pound of coffee and says, ‘Accept this package and try it. I’ll come back in a few days to ask how you liked it.’ Even when he comes back he doesn’t ask for an order. He explains that he wants the women to have a fine kitchen utensil. It isn’t free, but if she likes the coffee he will credit five cents on each pound she buys until she has paid for the article. Always some service.”

Can you feel the warmth? We like people who give. Here’s another: “The maker of the electric sewing machine motor found advertising difficult. So, on good advice, he ceased soliciting a purchase. He offered to send to any home, through any dealer, a motor for one weeks’ use. With it would come a man to show how to operate it. ‘Let us help you for a week without cost or obligation,’ said the ad. Such an offer was resistless, and about nine in ten of the trials led to sales.”

Lesson Two:
Cement your relationship by offering a service. When was the last time a salesperson asked you — and really meant it — how you liked his product? If he was a concierge it would be the first thing on his lips. The prime trait of being a concierge, and a seller, is to get excited by helping people.

We can translate this into our copywriting. Says Hopkins: “The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They cite advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample, or to buy the first package, or to send something on approval, so the customer may prove the claims without any cost or risks. Some of these ads seem altruistic. But they are based on the knowledge of human nature. The writers know how people are led to buy. Here again is salesmanship. The good salesman does not merely cry a name. He doesn’t say, ‘Buy my article.’ He pictures the customers side of his service until the natural result is to buy”

As a writer I can’t believe how often clients give me a pile of nothing to help them sell their products. They assume good copywriting alone can do it. True. But they do not consider the power of service. By offering none I feel many brands and business people show us they’re at work only for themselves — not for their customers. Customers feel this and don’t buy, whether brands know it or not.

How to Spot Selfish Brands:
Their writers never write about you. Or, they write about their brand first and you last. They offer solutions to problems without mentioning you at all. They assume you’ll respond to their brand name without connecting who they are to who you are. They’ll talk about great features and never mention how these features may improve your life; I surmise that sweetening your life doesn’t motivate them.

Here’s a reprimand to selfish brands from Bob Bly’s book on copywriting: “Maintaining a dignified image or getting people to remember your message is not important.” Rather, it’s what you give to people that snatches their attention.

Let Them Eat Cake, Lots of It …
These are some of Bly’s suggestions: “Offer a premium — a gift to prospects who respond to the mailing. The premium should be something that they want, and it should relate to the product or the offer.” Yes, he’s talking about direct mail. But this goes for all business whether in print or digital. Back in 1923 we already learned from Hopkins the way to a person’s heart is through…heart.

You get the key by offering service.