The Five-Minute Marketing Plan

 By Ben Hart


This is a checklist I have in front of me whenever I sit down to write a sales letter, an ad, or map out a marketing campaign.
It's a checklist I have developed and perfected during my 20+ years in the direct marketing field -- a checklist that has helped me generate more than $500,000,000 in sales over the last two decades.
I think you will find it extraordinarily useful as you map out your own marketing campaigns.  So here it is:


Your Marketing Checklist


___    Are you writing/marketing to people who you know want the product you are selling?


___    Is your main headline on your ad or sales letter an intriguing attention-getter that stresses the very best benefit to the reader?


___    Can your reader grasp what you are offering in three seconds or less?


___    Have you written your letter or ad from the prospect’s perspective, not from your perspective?


___    Are your claims backed up with facts, a track-record, testimonials?


___    Does your ad or sales letter answer the six key questions: WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? and  HOW?


___    Are your claims 100% true? (Readers and listeners will sense a snow job.)


___    What is your Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.)?  What makes you different?


___    Are you treating your readers and listeners as if they are idiots. (Big mistake if you are.)


___    Is your offer irresistible?


___    Is your guarantee bold, eye-popping, and attention-getting? (i.e. double-your-money-back)


___    Do you have a deadline for the offer to expire and a good reason for the deadline?


___    Is it easy to order?


___    Have you told your prospect exactly how to respond with step-by-step instructions?


___    Have you told your prospect who you are?


___    Is your letter, your ad easy to read, scannable, with lots of headlines, sub-heads, strategic underlines?


___    Is your letter written in a conversational, friendly style?


___    Have you anticipated and answered all your reader’s  possible  objections?


___    Does your order form or reply form (landing page) look like an  order form? (It should.)


___    Is everything you want your reader to do clearly stated on the order form?


___    Does your order form have a headline restating the main benefit?


___    Are the graphics and packaging of your offer attention-getting?


___    Are your graphics enhancing your message or obscuring your message?


___    Are you giving away something to boost response?


___    Have you stripped out empty “hype” words like “best ever” and “amazing”?


___    Have you replaced empty hype words with facts and proof?


___    Have you put your guarantee on a separate document that looks  official, like a certificate or a savings bond?  Have you signed your guarantee?


___    Have you included a FAQ (Q&A) insert?


___    Have you written an entire package (with all necessary elements), not just a letter?


___    Are you tracking and measuring results meticulously?


___    Are you testing (one element a time)?


___    Are you zeroing in on your best 20% of customers, treating them with extra care and attention?


___    Does everyone in your company understand that they are marketers?


___    Is your company worthy of referral?


___    Are you posting important marketing numbers at your company so that everyone
understands what the goals are?


___    Does everyone in your company understand that their paychecks come from customers/sales?


___    Does everyone in your company know that the mission of your company is to create a “Happy Customer Experience that exceeds the customer’s expectations and causes customers to say ‘WOW!’”?


___    Have you raised your prices 10%? (This will increase the profitability of most companies by 50%)


___    Do you have a computerized database that includes all relevant information on customers and prospects that will allow you to segment your customers and precisely target your communications?


___    Do you know how much it’s costing you to find a lead?


___    Do you know how many leads it takes to find a customer?


___    Do you know which sources, ads and letters are producing the most leads and the most productive leads?


___    Are you keeping your database clean and accurate, eliminating duplicates?  Are you a fanatic about list hygiene?


Your Marketing Tool Kit


Direct Mail

ü      Sales letters

ü       Lead generation letters

ü      Referral generation letters

ü      Monthly newsletter

ü      Postcard announcements (card decks are great here)

ü      Card decks

ü      Self-mailers



ü      “Free 24-Hour Recorded Message Hotline”

ü      Voice message broadcast (thank yous and announcements left on voice mail)

ü      Teleconferences and teleseminars

ü      1.800 Number


Traditional Advertising

ü      Yellow Pages

ü      Classified ads

ü      Print ads

ü      Radio ads

ü      TV Ads



ü      Your Web site (Does your site have a clearly defined purpose?)

ü      Tailored landing pages for particular offers

ü      Email

ü      Audio and video on Web site and in email

ü      Autoresponders

ü      Ezines and Enewsletters

ü      E-books

ü      Webinars, Web conferences, and webcasts

ü      Google AdWords and Overture

ü      Banner ads

ü      Search engine optimization

ü      E-commerce essentials (shopping cart, credit card
processing, landing pages)

ü      Domain names (tailored to product or service you are selling)

ü      Forms to capture email addresses

ü      Ebay and other auction sites

ü and other job listing sites

ü      Classified ads on the Internet


Other Media

ü      Classified ads on the Internet

ü      Fliers

ü      Business cards

ü      CDs, DVDs


Methods to Boost Response

ü      CDs, DVDs

ü      Super-charged guarantee

ü      Irresistible offer

ü      Benefits tailored to what you know prospect wants

ü      Headline emphasizing most important benefit to

ü      Deadline (with good reasons for deadline)

ü      Incentives to respond now

ü      Easy to order

ü      Free offers (free book, free Consumer Protection Guide, free Buyer’s Guide, free sample, etc)

ü      Surveys

ü      Contests (sweepstakes, raffles, etc)

ü      RSVP for event

ü      Requiring a “Yes” or “No” answer

ü      Attention-getting packaging

ü      Personalization

ü      Photo of you on your communications (people want to do business with a person, not a company)

ü      Coupons offering discount or something free

ü      Thank you program (letters, notes, cards, creative thoughtful thank-you gifts)




ü      Make print ads look like articles, not like ads. Just this will boost response 500%

ü      Use mass-market advertising primarily for lead generation (not selling).

ü      Offer something of value free to get people to respond.

ü      Make sure your free gift is valuable and exactly in line with what your business does and sells.

ü      Add those who request your free offer to your list of hot leads so you can follow up with your "prospect and customer cultivation program."


Lead Generation

ü      Referral generation system

ü      Offer something of value free

ü      Surveys

ü      Strategic partnerships

ü      Affiliate programs


Lists and Data

ü      Computerized database

ü      List broker

ü      Data entry

ü      List segmentation

ü      List hygiene

ü      List security

ü      Source coding (what sources and offers brought in each person?)

ü      DMA membership

ü      Standard Lists and Data Directory  (SRDS) – 30,000 lists for rent by category

ü      Data cards on lists for rent (in your area of business)


Rules for Writing Great Sales Letters and Ads


1) Create an offer that's so good, no intelligent person can pass it up.


2) Give away something free.


3) Write about your reader’s interests, not your interests.


4) Make your letter read, look and feel like a personal communication from one person to another; not like a mass-produced piece of junk mail that’s going to a million people.


5) Persuade your reader with facts and reasons, not fantastic claims and empty hype.


6) Have an attention-getting compelling message that sets you apart from your competitors.


7) Figure out you Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) -- What makes you different?


8) Know exactly what your readers are looking for before you write.   


9) Sell one and only one thing with your ad or sales letter.


10) Raise the level of your proof. (Provide credible third-party testimony to the truth of your claims. Free trial period and free samples are other forms of proof).


11) Craft a great first sentence that creates intrigue. (A question, a proposition, or sometimes a damaging admission is a good tactic).


12) Figure out all the benefits of what your are offering, and promise your most important benefit first.


13) Describe your most important benefit in detail.


14) Include all benefits you can think of somewhere in your package.


15) Include a hidden benefit. (A hidden benefit of Aspirin is that it thins the blood and helps prevent heart attacks). A hidden benefit is like hidden treasure; it’s more exciting than the obvious benefit.


16) Explain to your prospects and customers exactly what they will get for their money. (A list and a photo of everything they will be getting is important).


17) Tell readers what bad things will happen if they fail to act now.


18) Ask your reader to give you a “yes” or “no” answer. “Maybe later” is the same as “no.” Never allow a “maybe later” answer.


19) Rephrase the most important benefits in the close and other prominent parts of your package.


20) Include a stunning, eye-catching guarantee. I’ll sometimes promise buyers a full refund plus some extra money for their trouble if they are not satisfied.


21) Offer and produce instant gratification. (In the age of the internet, people won’t tolerate 4-6 weeks for delivery like in the old days. People want it now).


22) Write intriguing, captivating headlines and sub-headlines that emphasize a benefit. 


23) Write as people actually speak in everyday life.


24) Write in a warm, friendly, easy-to-understand style.


25) Write a package, not just a letter. (A direct mail package is a like a “show and tell” presentation and should usually include supporting exhibits).


26) Generate emotion with riveting facts and details.


27) Get to the point immediately.


28) Answer all possible objections and questions your reader might have. (Part of this job can be done with a FAQ enclosure).


29) Make it super easy to buy. (Don’t make your buyer do lots of paper work and filling out of forms. Your accounting department will resist).


30) Make your order forms look like order forms. (People who decide to buy want to know instantly how to order. This is part of making it easy to buy).


31) Make it clear to whom your reader must write a check. (This should be in bold, not the fine print. This is also part of making it easy to buy).


32) Keep your entire package super simple, clear and focused. (If your reader can’t figure out what you’re selling in three seconds or less, your offer is doomed).


33) Sell one and only one thing. (Choices confuse)


34) Engage the reader in a conversation with thought-provoking questions (that are precisely on point with what your are selling).


35) Propositions are another great way to engage your reader’s mind. (People know that nothing is free in life. “If you do X, I’ll do Y” is a believable offer. People like propositions.


36) Admit your mistakes and shortcomings. This is a great attention-getting device that not only builds credibility with your reader, but can also distinguish you from your competitors (who will never admit their shortcomings).


For example: “We’re not big and established and our offices are modest. We’re a brand new firm, so we’ll work harder for you. And you’ll be dealing with the President of this firm, not a 22 year-old customer service rep.”


37) Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs. Instead of using the word “allow,” choose “let.” Avoid complex sentence structures. Simple, declarative sentences are best. And no paragraphs longer than five lines.


38) The longer you hold your reader’s attention, the better your chance of getting the sale. In other words, make it easier for your reader to keep reading than to skip what you have to say. You do this with fascinating details.


39) Longer letters usually work better than short letters.


40) Your letter should be “scannable” -- easy to read, easy on the eye. (Bullets, underlining of short phrases, headlines and sub-heads, handwritten notes and other graphic devices help break up copy and catch the eye).


41) Never use humor in your sales letters. (The decision to buy is a serious one).


42) Never use cartoons. Use drawings rarely (almost never). Photos are fine, if they are on point. 


43) Make your reply envelope stand out. (Spending time on the reply envelope can boost response 20 percent).


44) The purpose of graphic art is to enhance communication, not appearance. Simple, plain layouts are more effective than fancy, pretty layouts.


45) Learn the 17 top reasons people buy: fear, greed, love, self-improvement, desire to win, desire to be recognized, comfort, laziness, quest for a great experience, sex, desire for relationships, anger, desire to make a difference, desire for meaning in life, desire for power, necessity of life, addiction.


46) Deploy both the “avoid pain” and “find pleasure” motives for buying. People buy either to avoid pain or find pleasure.


47) Understand that people buy more often to stop something bad from happening to them than to cause something good to happen. Intead of saying "Save 20%", say "Stop wasting 20% of your money."


48) Understand what it is that you are really selling. (You don’t buy fire extinguishers; you buy safety for your family.


You don’t buy a Black and Decker drill, you buy the holes the drill makes. People don’t care about you or your business; they just want to know if you’ll fix their problem).


49) The more narrow your focus and the more defined, specialized and unique your list, the more successful you are likely to be: “Narrow is the gate to paradise” in direct marketing.


50) Understand exactly and precisely who you are writing to and what your reader is looking for. 


51) The most persuasive word in selling is the word "BECAUSE" . . . BECAUSE people require reasons to believe your claims. "My product is best BECAUSE . . ." is far more persuasive than simply leaving it as "My product is best." People need reasons why to believe your claims. 


52) Offer attractive payment options. (i.e. Pay over time; pay later)


53) Use a deadline to increase urgency.


54) Use a cheap lead generation letter for high-priced products and services. Then send those who answer your more costly hard-hitting, high-impact, extensively personalized package designed to close the sale.


55) Design your envelope to get noticed and get opened.


56) Use unusual packaging. (I’ve mailed direct mail packages in black plastic bags, tubes, clear envelopes, bubble packs, boxes and even pieces of cardboard stapled together).


57) Use teaser copy to tease, not tell. (Create mystery and intrigue)


58) Plain envelopes usually work better than envelopes with teaser headlines.


59) Try making your envelope look like it’s coming from the government.


60) Use a low-key, professional envelope for business prospects. 


61) Use your sales letter to sell and your enclosures to “show and tell.” 


62) Make your letter look like a letter.


63) Grab attention in your letter with a short first sentence.


64) Call for action early and often in your letter text.


65) Have a high-authority person sign your letter.


66) Personalize your letter (if your return on investment calculations allow it).


67) Use a P.S. to summarize the offer, reinforce a benefit, emphasize the response deadline and to add an extra detail.


68) Tables, charts, diagrams, photos, and other visuals help support and prove your claims.


69) Know what your reader will read first: Carrier, headlines, the first sentence, the P.S., the order form, and the signature (who is the letter from?). Only if these create interest, will your reader start reading the body of your letter.


70) Understand that all successful sales letters must have these three core elements: 1) A clear promise; 2) Proof your claims are true; and 3) An easy way to order (A Call To Action).


71) A very brief, attention-getting story can help hold your reader’s attention and create interest. (i.e. “They laughed when I strapped on a snow board. But their laughs turned to amazement when they saw me speed down the mountain.”)


72) If you tell a story, it should not be longer than a few lines. The shorter and more stunning the better.


73) No story is better than the wrong story. 



Happy Improved Marketing,


Ben Hart

Your 21st Century Marketing Coach

because everyone (even Tiger Woods) needs a coach


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