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Solving the Marketing Model Mystery

Sep 12, 2020

I was sad to hear that one of my all-time favourite copywriters, Clayton Makepeace, passed away recently. With permission, I'm sharing one of his many insightful articles here. Enjoy - Rob

  • The six qualities all great products share…
  • How flawed marketing models kill great products and render brilliant sales copy worse than worthless …
  • The quickest, easiest way to find the best marketing model for your product …
  • And much, MUCH MORE!

Dear Business-Builder,

It’s your lucky day:

You’ve found a great product to promote.

Maybe it’s a client’s product; maybe it’s your own.

It could be an information product – a book or e-book, newsletter or website membership, an audio or video, a live teleseminar or webinar, a course, conference or a live coaching service – that really does help folks get richer, healthier, thinner, sexier or just plain happier.

Or, maybe it’s a widget – a gadget that slices and dices … or fricassees your chicken in record time … or effortlessly cleans your carpet or de-wrinkles your clothes … or magically transforms a drooping derriere into buns of steel or turns a beer-keg belly into a rock-hard six-pack.

It could even be a service of some kind – something that does things for customers that they can’t do or would rather not do for themselves.

And because your discovery possesses the six qualities grand-slam homerun products share, you suspect you just might have just found the ultimate direct response product:

1. It delivers benefits your prospects already want:

Or better yet, it delivers benefits that tens of millions of consumers already know they desperately need in their lives. What’s more, your prospects crave those benefits on an emotional level. Your product fulfills their most passionate desires … eliminates their most irksome frustrations … and/or allays their most nightmarish fears.

2. It conveys these rational and emotional benefits in superior ways:

Your product delivers these benefits faster, easier, with less guesswork, more surely and/or more completely than any competing product can. Or even better: There is no competition. It creates a whole new niche by filling a need that no other product yet has.

3. You’ve got proof elements out the wazzoo:

Not only do top experts in the niche rave, so do customers – and you’ve got reams of third-party test results, expert endorsements and articles … customer surveys … testimonials … and other ammunition to prove it.

4. It’s a screamin’ deal:

The regular price is insignificant compared to the benefits your product delivers. And of course, if your prospect could get similar benefits anywhere else, he’d have to pay much, much more.

5. The offer makes buying this product, from you, today a no-brainer:

You’re offering an introductory discount, plus free gifts that further trivialize the price and magnify the value prospects get just for ordering.

Plus, you’re offering an extra bonus or discount just for ordering now.

And your iron-clad guarantee or “try-it-before-you-buy-it” offer assures prospects that they risk absolutely, positively nothing when they give your product a fair trial.

6. Downstream sales are a slam-dunk:

The product is consumed or must be updated regularly. Or, it’s the first in a series of products in the same niche your new customers will want to buy from you.

In fact, this product is so good, you’d feel guilty if you failed to nag your sweet, sainted old grammy until she bought it. Or better yet, you’d joyfully buy it and give it to her yourself.

Congratulations, my friend:

You’ve discovered a product that can make your reputation, your career and your fortune.

…so where do you start?

Well, you’d sit right down and write the ultimate promotion for your ultimate product – right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, not by a long shot.

That would be, like, “Fire! Ready? Aim.”

First, you need to find a marketing model that’s the best fit for your product.

“So what the heck is a marketing model?” you ask.


Your marketing model describes the strategy – the step-by-step process – you’re going to use to:

1. Find your best prospects …

2. Turn those prospects into customers in the most cost-effective way possible …

3. And ultimately, to cause your customers to:

A. Buy from you more often …

B. Spend more with you on each purchase, and …

C. Keep buying from you longer; hopefully, forever.

Get that right and you’re on your way.

But if you screw it up, even the best product ever invented and most brilliant sales copy ever written won’t save your sorry butt.

How NOT to Do It

A while back, I invited our members to ask me anything they liked – and I personally answered every single one of those questions in a marathon two-hour live webinar.

One of my beloved Total Package readers – a young copywriter – had just invested several weeks of his life creating a one-shot direct mail promotion to convince personal trainers to buy a $200,000 franchise in his client’s fitness business.

The client mailed about 400 of his sales letters, then sat back, expecting a tsunami of samoleans to come crashing in.

But instead, they received:

  • Fewer inquiries than you have toes on your left foot …
  • Zero sales.

Now, I never saw my friend’s copy. I don’t have to. Because even the best sales copy ever written in the history of direct response would have failed miserably in this case.

Fact is, there’s so much wrong with this marketing model, I hardly know where to begin.

For one thing, 400 sales letters to sell a $200,000 product?

Let’s think about that for a moment …

A single order would give you a .25% (one-quarter of one percent) response rate. Now, that’s a reasonable response to expect if you’re offering a $200 product and IF your prospects are crazy qualified – but not even conceivable with a hard offer and at a price that’s one thousand times higher.

But I suspect that my friend’s prospects were nowhere near qualified to spend even two dollars with him – let alone two hundred thousand.

See, I’ve had a few personal trainers over the years. And every one of them had one thing in common.

Care to guess what it was?


Every one of them was flat broke.

None of them could have shelled out $200,000 for a fitness franchise if you’d held a gun to their heads.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet most of my friend’s prospects have second and even third jobs just to make ends meet. Heck: I met my favorite trainer the night she served me a margarita at my favorite tiki bar.

(It was an interesting relationship: Every weekend at the bar, she’d keep my glass full of high-calorie booze.

Then, Monday through Friday, she’d come to the house and beat me mercilessly; cheerfully exacting sadistic revenge for every drink she’d served me over the weekend.)

But even if every one of the 400 folks who got my friend’s sales letter had two-hundred-thousand buckaroonis burning a hole in their pockets, my friend was still screwed before he began writing his sales letter. He was screwed the minute he accepted the client.

Because frankly, the franchise owner was an idiot.

See, my friend tried to tell him that you don’t sell $200,000 products in a single sales letter. Your prospect doesn’t know you from Adam – and you expect him to read a few pages of sales copy, then cut you a check for one-fifth of a million smackers?

Sorry – but no matter how hypnotic your sales copy is … no matter how many happy thoughts the client thinks … I’ve got news for you:

The franchise owner’s got a monumental case of cranium ca-ca if he thinks the world really works that way.

Because all things being equal …

As your price rises, so does you prospects’ skepticism.

Most folks will spend $9.99, $19, even $29 with a total stranger without a second thought.

If they’re well qualified for your offer, they’ll spend $49, $79, $99, even $199 so long as they see a few reasonable proof elements and a convincing guarantee.

But if you want a prospect to cut you a check for much more than that, you’ll need to do more than just answer every objection and erase his skepticism.

You’ll need to establish a trusting relationship with him.

The Better Way to Make a $200,000 Sale …

If your price is $200,000, you’re going to have to work to get it.

You’ll have to mount a multi-step marketing campaign that uses the mail, the telephone and maybe even a one-on-one meeting to move the prospect, one careful step at a time, from where he is now to where you want him to be.

Or, it could be an intense online blitz – a blizzard of e-mails and banner ads, a PPC campaign and maybe even offline media like TV, radio and direct mail – to drive prospects to a search-engine-optimized landing page that produces a lead, then follows with maybe a direct mail kit, one or more phone conversations and perhaps even the face-to-face stuff.

So how would I have done it?

Well, I would have begun by asking myself, “Who’s most likely to buy a $200,000 franchise?”

And I’d probably have answered myself, “I’m not certain – but it sure as heck ain’t poverty-stricken physical trainers!”

Instead, I would have begun by beating the bushes for mailing lists, magazines and websites that deliver the eyeballs of people who have proven that they want to go into business for themselves.

I would have tested, for example, lists of subscribers to magazines that target folks who want to start their own businesses – and I would have run lead-producing ads in those publications as well. Biz-op book and product buyers would have been worth a direct mail test, too – and especially folks who have inquired about or bought other franchises.

If I wanted to spread a wider net, I would have done it on the cheap:

With lead-producing inserts in card decks, other people’s product shipments and other media that let me solicit inquiries for $5 or $10 per thousand eyeballs. But never, never, never in a direct mail package that costs me fifty to one hundred times more to mail!

In my first communication with my leads and prospective buyers, I’d set out to seduce them with vivid mental pictures of life as a business owner. I’d romance the freedom, the prestige, the money.

I’d demonstrate that the business I’m selling is easy, fun and a great way to meet interesting people and punish them.

And I’d load my promotion with case histories and testimonials from people just like him who have used this franchise to become wildly successful.

I wouldn’t even come close to naming my price in my first contact – but I would trivialize it by demonstrating how buying this franchise is like buying thousand-dollar bills for a penny apiece.

Or better yet, that our easy financing plan will put him in business cheap and have him earning big profits fast.

Then, I’d add an urgency motivator – like mentioning that only one franchise will be granted in his city, on a first-come, first-served basis. And I’d ask him to call or maybe write his phone number and e-mail addy on a reply card and return it to me NOW.

The ones that call, I’d qualify on the phone. The ones that don’t, would get a second “Why haven’t I heard from you?” letter – or if the list is responding well, an outbound call from a franchise rep.

That’s how I’d do it – and that’s how my friend wanted to do it, too.

“But no-o-o-o,” says the client. “I don’t want a multi-step marketing model. I want you to sell a $200,000 franchise to people who probably can’t afford one in a single sales letter.”

Sure, pal – I’ll get right on it. Soon as I part the Red Sea, turn a few cases of Dasani into Cristal and raise a coupla dudes from the dead.

So that’s how I might do a super-high-ticket promotion. But what about others – like the projects we work on every day here at ResponseInk – and the projects you’re most likely to be tackling?

Entire books have been written about this; there’s no way to cover it all in a short article like this one, so I’m not about to try.

I will, however, give you a great starting point for getting a great marketing model …

Steal it.

Find a company that’s marketing a product similar to yours … that sells at a price point similar to yours … to prospects like yours … and shamelessly duplicate THEIR marketing model.

I mean – why re-invent the wheel?

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of successful companies in every niche you can name. The most successful ones have spent years and millions of dollars in slow, painful trial-and-error testing to find the optimal prospect/media/messaging/offer mix.

The conclusions they’ve drawn from all that priceless marketing data is easy to see; you just have to watch what they’re doing. When I begin work with a new client in a new niche, the first thing I want to know is, “What’s the name of the five most successful companies in this niche?”

Once I have those names, the questions come fast and furious:

“What kinds of prospects are they targeting? What media are they using? What kind of offers are they making? What price points am I seeing most often? What kinds of sales copy and formats are they using to attract new customers?”

I grab the appropriate SRDS (usually the mail list edition) and look up my target companies for clues on how fast they’re growing (by studying the number of hotline names they have available) … how they generate their customers … what their price points are, and more.

I check Target Marketing’s Who’s Mailing What to see if they have any samples of my targets’ promotions on file.

I buy something from the companies I’m studying, suspecting that they’ll also be sending their new customer acquisition promos to their customer file. And I buy something from their largest competitors, hoping my target companies will rent those lists and I’ll be able to see the promotions they use to attract new customers.

I visit the popular websites and subscribe to the e-zines in their market niche to see if they’re placing banners on those sites or sponsoring those e-zines. I click every link that I suspect may lead me to that company’s squeeze pages, landing pages or websites. If they have an e-zine, I subscribe. If their website invites me to register, I register.

In short, I do everything I can to make sure the company has my phone number … my street address … and my e-mail address so I can see as much of what they’re doing as possible.

Then, once I have a clear picture of how my target company attracts its new customers, I simply “borrow” (OK – “steal”) their marketing model from them.

At this stage, I don’t want to innovate.

I just want to help my client do things as well as the largest, most successful company in his niche does.

Once we’re doing that, it’s time to test new stuff.

But for now, being as good as the best is good enough.

This article was first published in The Total Package. To sign-up to receive your own FREE subscription to The Total Package go to


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