The 99-year old marketing advice that still works today

When Scientific Advertising was published in 1923, it was unlikely that its author, Claude C Hopkins, ever thought that it would be regarded as a must-read marketing book almost 100 years later.

Many of the big name marketing and advertising gurus over the years have quoted it as life changing. Why? Because its methodical approach to marketing and advertising tactics and measuring return on investment are as vital today for copywriters, copy editors and marketers as they were early last century.

Published even before television, and when the internet could not have been conceived of, not to mention social channels and online advertising, the principles in Hopkins’ book stand firm.

Very simply, Hopkins advocated testing and measuring to minimise poor return on advertising spend. For copywriters and copy editors working on marketing and sales documents, either as standalone tools or as part of a bigger marketing campaign, Hopkins’ advice is just as valid today as it was in 1923.

But even if you’re not a copywriter or a copy editor, you can still apply Hopkins’ techniques. His advice is important because he reminds us of the need to be clear about knowing the return on investment from our online ad spending.

Copywriters use split testing

Copywriters and copy editors alike will have unknowingly used his techniques. For example, split testing of headlines, pictures, font sizes and the offer in advertisements to measure response rates. The principle works just as well today for social, blogs, newsletters and online advertising.

Copywriters make headlines work

Hopkins also focused on the importance of headlines in copy and content. Even today, when writing tenders or proposals, blogs, articles, case studies and similar, the headline is essential to attract attention. It’s copywriting and marketing 101 but still overlooked. As Hopkins said, “Headlines on ads are like headlines on news items…They either conceal or reveal an interest.”

Copywriters write copy that interests readers

Hopkins pointed out that readers of adverts don’t read them for fun; they read them because the headline has sparked their interest. People are in a rush and want to know quickly what the product or service offers: beauty, time savings, labour saving, sophistication, for example. So get to the point quickly when copywriting, and spell out the benefits of the product or service.

For copywriting advice, read our 21 tips for copywriting that anyone can use.

Copywriters are specific

Writing content that says ‘market-leading’, ‘a leading business’, ‘best of breed’, ‘unique product’, ‘wide range of products’ is just a waste of time. Business owners are naturally very close to their products or services. They understandably want to talk about the features of their product or service: it’s size, location, colours, guarantee, product choices, years in business. But that’s not what readers what to know. Basically, your readers are only interested in themselves. They want brief content about what they will gain from the product. In other words, what’s in it for them.

That’s where copywriters come in. They’ll take your product and service and turn it into interesting, worthwhile content for your readers. Hence, your marketing and sales content needs to mean something to the reader and to get them to take action.

In other words, your readers want to know how they will benefit from your product or service.

And then, they want an offer that minimises their risk and encourages them to take action. Examples of offers are free trials, a discount for a limited period, free shipping, next day delivery, a payment plan, free consultation, bundled products or services at a discount.

This is where you can use split testing to trial different headlines, colours, images, offers. Don’t forget that you only want to change one thing in your test – A/B testing.

Copywriters and marketers test campaigns

Another important point made by Hopkins is that testing a campaign is the only way to know if it is worthwhile. Discussing it around a table doesn’t deliver results. His argument was to get the campaign out there and test and test it until the balance between the headline, subheadings, layout, images and content is right.

Hopkins used all these techniques to improve his own adverts and give his clients measurable results for their advertising investment. For example, when he was writing advertising for the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company, he mailed five thousand letters recommending carpet sweepers as Christmas presents. One thousand people placed orders.

How you can use these principles in your professional copywriting and copy editing

As long-term copywriters and copy editors of B2B marketing and sales documents, we see clients focusing on how their documents look. Much time is spent on repositioning a logo or an image, on the colour for a heading or where the ‘contact us’ button should go on a webpage.

These are important, but what’s more important is the content and its headline.

Contact us today for your professional copywriting, copy editing and proofreading needs

Whether you’re writing an award entry, case study or government tender for the first time, or your hundredth time, partnering with the professional copywriters, copy editors and proof readers at Proof Communications will help you increase your opportunity for success. Get in touch or ring us on 02 8036 5532 to learn what we can do for your business.

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