Your Three-Part Bullet-Proof Formula for Marketing and Business Success

By Ben Hart

I’ve boiled down the formula for success in marketing and business to three keys that must be in place. If any of these elements is missing, you probably won’t succeed. On the other hand, if you have all three, your success is nearly assured.

Here they are:

1) You must have an easy way to find those who want what you are selling.

When I was a young wet-behind the ears direct marketer, and a client would ask me if he thought I could sell his product or service using direct mail, I would always say: “I don’t know. Let’s test it and see if people want it.”

That’s the textbook answer all direct marketers give: “Let’s test it and see.”

But even a test mailing can be very expensive – can cost thousands of dollars.

There’s a much easier and less-costly way to find out for certain if there’s a market out there for what you are selling.

You just have to look and see if others are selling what you are selling very successfully.

If there are no big mailing lists for rent of people who have bought products through the mail that are very similar to what you are selling, your direct mail marketing campaign will fail . . . because clearly people are not buying what you are selling — at least not through the mail.

If that’s the case, you probably need to sell something else.

Another way to find out whether your product or service is sellable is to find out where your competitors are advertising.

Do they advertise in the Yellow Pages? Do they advertise in trade publications, or specialty publications? Do they advertise in the classifieds? Do they advertise in the newspaper? Where do they advertise?

Once you figure out where your competitors advertise, the question then is: “Do you see a lot of ads selling what you are selling?”

The bottom-line point is this.

You will go broke trying to sell something that’s new. You will go broke trying to sell a product or service that does not have a well established category.

The category is crucial.

If your product or service does not fit neatly into a category of products or services that people are looking for, you will probably fail.

You simply do not have the money that would be needed to educate people about why they need your product, or why they should want it.

If they don’t already know they want what you are selling, you’ll fail.

Inventors almost always go broke. The inventor of the fax machine and the inventor of the air conditioner went broke. And those were the successful inventors.

Far more profitable (and safer) to travel along the beaten path.

Sell what others are selling successfully.

The key resources you need to determine whether you have a sellable product or service are:

The SRDS List Directory

This is a huge 1,600-page catalogue with all the mailing lists that are available for rent – about 30,000 lists in all, with about a billion people on these lists.

These lists are grouped by category. If you sell golf equipment, you’ll find hundreds of lists of people who have bought golf stuff. You’ll find lists of buyers for every conceiveable category – including people who like to hunt for buried treasure, look for UFOs, and even those who study skull abnormalities.

If you can’t find your category of product or service in the SRDS List Directory, forget trying to sell it. Sell something else.

The SRDS Directory of Trade Publications

This resource is indispensable if you are selling to business. Decision-makers subscribe to trade publications. So if you advertise in a trade publication or send a mailing to a susbcriber to a trade publication, you know you are reaching a decionion-maker.

Most trade and industry publications also group their subscribers by category – for example, business owner, Chief Financial Officer, Vice President, etc. They go to a lot of effort to learn as much as they can about who their subscribers are because they know this information is extremely valuable to direct marketers who are renting their list, as well as for their own marketing purposes.

Just about ever industry has at least one trade publication and association that serves that industry. Most industries are served by several trade publications and associations.

And that’s great for you if you are trying to sell to business . . . because if you have a product or service that’s designed for a particular industry, you now have a way to reach your target market.

You can find the SRDS marketing information resources at

Or, if you don’t want to pay the hefty price for the SRDS resources, you’ll find them at a decent-sized public library.

There are many other ways to find lists of qualified prospects for what you are selling, but the SRDS catalogues of lists and trade publications are a great place to start.

By the way, what I just told you here is probably the most valuable piece of marketing advice I will give you: Study these two SRDS list resources.

That’s your market research. That’s your roadmap to wealth.

SRDS stands for Standard Rates and Data Service. But that’s not important.

2) You must know how to construct an irresistible offer to find your first-time buyer.

Once you have an easy way to reach those who you know buy the kind of product or service you are selling, now the only question is “Will they buy from you, or your competitor?”

Your biggest challenge is to persuade your prospect to buy from you the first time.

Your first-time buyer is your most expensive buyer.

If you deliver on your promise, if you exceed your first-time buyer’s expectations, you’ll have no trouble making repeat sales. People would much rather buy from someone they know rather than take a chance buying from a stranger.

So your biggest challenge is to persuade your prospect to buy from you the first time.

To do that, you need to know how to make an irresistible offer.

The most powerful offer is the “Free Trial” and to require “No Money Now.”

That’s how magazine subscriptions are sold.

ü “Try Newsweek for three months. If you are not thrilled with your subscription, just write ‘cancel’ on the invoice we send you in 90 days.”

ü “Try Comcast for one month free.” Or “try xyz software for 30 days free.”

A variation of this is to ask for an absurdly low price for the first purchase: “Buy any of these four bestselling books for 10 cents.” You are then enrolled in a Book-of-the-Month-Club-type of program.

Another staple of an irresistible offer is not just to have a money-back guarantee, but to offer a “money-back-plus” guarantee.

For my physical seminars, I offer a “money-back guarantee plus an addition $500” if a participant decides to quit by the lunch hour of the first day.

So far no one has cashed in on that offer.

But this kind of a super-charged, money-back-plus guarantee increased attendance at my seminars by about 500%.

Mostly what you must do with your offer is eliminate the anxiety your prospect has about buying from you the first time. Your prospects don’t know you. They worry about buying from a company they have not bought from before.

You must do everything in your creative power to eliminate that anxiety. You do that by taking on all the risk . . . and by making an offer that, frankly, only an idiot would pass up.

3) You must have an endless stream of follow-up products that are exactly in line with the first product you sold them.

Your money is in your repeat buyers.

Usually you lose money on your first-time buyer – especially if you follow my step-two described above – which is to create an irresistible offer.

What you are doing with your irresistible offer is paying for your first-time buyers.

So you will go broke if you don’t have a big stream of follow-up products and services to sell.

And your follow-up offers need to be exactly in line with what you sold the first time to your prospect.

If you sell exercise equipment, keep offering more and better exercise equipment and fitness stuff.

Many businesses go wrong by only having one product to sell.

You need follow-up products, accessories, and up-sell offers.

Great products to sell are those you consume and use all the time.

Gevalia coffee and Omaha Steaks are direct marketing powerhouses. They sell a monthly program.

They get you in the door by offering a one-month free trial. Gevalia also gives you a really nice coffeemaker – which I have because I’m enrolled in the program.

But What If I am Selling a Big Ticket Item?

But some of you sellers of big ticket items will wonder . . .

“But, Ben, how does this apply to me? I’m a realtor. I can’t let someone try the house for a month! And it’s not like someone who buys a house today needs another one tomorrow.”

Or . . .

“But I’m selling heavy, expensive equipment. How does this apply to me?”

The principles are really no different if you are selling high-priced products. In fact, they are more applicable.

Plus, the reward (profit) for selling a house or heavy equipment is much bigger than for selling a magazine subscription.

Your commission might be $10,000 – or even a lot more for big ticket items.

People buy a new home on average about every eight years. So you do have repeat buyers.

And heavy machinery wears out. So the machine needs to be fixed and eventually replaced.

Even for these big ticket items, you find your customers the same way.

The same principles apply – the same three-part formula for success.

You will still need to pay for your first-time buyers.

You will still need to invest time, money, or both to reduce fear and anxiety in those who have never bought from you before. That’s even more true when selling a big ticket item – like a house or big piece of machinery.

How do you do that?

You do that with your “frequent contact” program.

You do that by building a relationship of trust with your prospects.

You do that by becoming a regular presence in the lives of your prospects and customers.

You do that with your monthly newsletter. You do that by sending thoughtful free gifts to your prospects and customers – gifts that are useful and make sense.

You do that by always being on the scene — a constant pesence.

I encouraged a realtor friend of mine to develop a program of sending thoughtful free gifts throughout the year to her key prospects and clients in the Great Falls, Virginia area – focusing on the high-end homes.

The high-end homes are where the big money is for the realtor.

One mailing would be an attractive calendar, with a nice cover letter. Of course, the calendar would have her photo and all her contact information on the inside cover.

Another mailing would be an attractive refrigerator magnet with emergency phone numbers – also with her contact information. Another would be a sheet of postage stamps, which everyone can us. Another would be a box full of candy and other goodies at Christmas time.

And, of course, she would be sending out her newsletter every month with a lot of useful information on property values and trends in the Great Falls area. She is a constant presence in the lives of people in the Great Falls area – always on the scene with thoughtful gifts and a great monthly newsletter.

She even holds free seminars on how to buy or sell a home.

How many houses would she need to sell a year to make all this marketing and all these freebies she gives out pay off for her? One or two.

She is one of the most successful realtors in the region. She has a big staff of people working for her.

Obviously, she can’t give out a free trial for a house. Nor can she give away a house as a “free sample.”

But she can give out a lot that’s free.

And when the time comes when her prospects need a realtor, she’s the first one who comes to mind. She also gets a lot of repeat business and referral business. She’s one of the best known people in the region.

Her irresistible offer is that she’s trusted. And that’s what an offer is designed to accomplish – to reduce anxiety in the minds of your prospects – to get them to trust you. The way you do that is to let them know you.

Besides, the question is not whether her prospects will buy a home. They will. That’s for certain. The question is “Which realtor will they use? A stranger? Or someone they know and trust?”

The point is, never worry about giving a lot away and doing a lot of nice free things for people. In a nutshell, that’s this realtor’s marketing program. That’s her system – a system I helped her set up.

And it’s just about the cheapest form of marketing you can ever do.

Comments are closed.