Here’s something you won’t hear from many copywriters…

Copy isn’t all that important.

Here’s what I mean…

Jay Abraham has a terrific chapter in his book Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got (terrifically valuable read, by the way), about creating breakthroughs.

According to Jay, most people operate under the misguided assumption that success comes from making one small step at a time. But in fact, this approach keeps you working harder and harder for your business, rather than getting your business to work hard for you.

Instead, you can and should seek explosive jumps in results that catapult you beyond your competitors.

If you apply this concept to advertising and marketing, most people are trying to take small steps by optimising sales pages… testing new keywords… trying different Facebook ads…

… When they could achieve a much higher level of success, much faster, if they were to focus on taking quantum leaps.

Now, let’s apply this specifically to direct response marketing.

Most focus on improving the copy in their ads, in their sales pages, or in their direct mail packages. Smart direct marketers know that the headline has a lot to do with the success of an ad, so they invest a lot in testing new headlines. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that—quite the opposite. I’m just saying that they could also zoom out a bit, view their business from the sky, and find ways to create even bigger breakthroughs than a bump in response from a new headline ever could.

Have you heard of 40/40/20, the old direct marketing rule of thumb?

It says that 40% of the success of any direct response campaign is based on the targeting, segmentation, and quality of the list; 40% is based on how relevant and irresistible the offer is; 20% is based on the quality of the creative material and the messaging.

Since copy is only one aspect of the creative, this means that copy only gives you up to 20% leverage over the success of a direct response campaign.

You’ve heard the saying, “he could sell ice to an Eskimo.”

Well, the reason that phrase is used to describe a talented salesman is that no salesman could sell ice to an Eskimo… because… eskimo’s aren’t in the market for ice.

It wouldn’t matter if you offered an Eskimo two truckloads of ice for a cent, and threw in a free truckload of ice every month for the rest of their lives.

They ain’t buyin’.

So if the market isn’t buying what you’re selling—or if the people on your list aren’t good buyers for whatever you are selling—then it doesn’t matter what deal you offer them or how persuasively you communicate the deal…

They ain’t buyin’.

Ok, let’s say you’re targeting a market that you know buys your product or service. And you have a high-quality, well-targeted and segmented list of prospective buyers.

But even then, the copy is still relatively unimportant.

The next most important thing is your offer.

In other words, what do they get in exchange for whatever you are asking?

You can also think of this as a business proposition. Here’s are some basic offers…

“If you give me $30, I’ll cut your lawn.”

“If you give me $40, I’ll send you a bottle of our vitamins.”

You get the idea…

If you make a basic offer like this, you might still get some joy from a super hot list.

But, improving the copy would still not be the highest leverage activity.

You’d be far better off developing an irresistible offer.

So, short story long…

Big breakthroughs in direct marketing don’t usually come from the copy or the creative…

They come from improving the quality, targeting or segmentation of the list of people you are selling to (or by selling to a completely new market)…

Or, they come from developing irresistible offers your prospects simply cannot refuse.

Once you’ve got the list and offer down, the copy doesn’t really matter that much.

But a hot list, an irresistible offer, and copy written by someone who could sell ice to an Eskimo?

Dang.

Then, my friend, you are off to the races!

More on this in my new book: