The Most Important Small Business Marketing Skill You Need To Possess

By: Dan Kennedy on: February 11th, 2010 18 Comments

I want to take a break from our topic of the aspects that go into successful direct mail and spend a little time tell you about one of the most important skills that any entrepreneur should and can develop.

The ability to write good advertising copy.

There are two chief reasons you don’t want to take this subject lightly!

First, it’s very costly to have your advertising materials written by a good professional copywriter or consultant.

Second, no matter how much you pay to get the very best outside help no one can ever have the same feel for your business and your clientele that you do. I’m often surprised how business people hire high priced advertising agencies to write their sales and marketing materials when the agency knows nothing about their business and doesn’t even attempt to get to know it.

On the other hand, most entrepreneurs ‘live and breathe’ they’re businesses. They’re often the front line people who speak and hear from the #1 most important asset of the company…its customers.

In fact, several years ago, I was hired to write a sales letter for Weight Watchers in order to try to beat their current letter they were mailing.

What did I do?

I simply went to the top two sales people in the company, asked them to write down for me word-for-word what they say to their prospects to get them to buy and I crafted a sales letter from it.

How did it do? It outperformed the high priced ad agencies sales letter by 300%. Yes it tripled response all because I let the front line people be in control of the copy.

The Secret To Direct Mail Success

Need some specific ideas and guidelines that help you to write effective advertising copy? Whether it’s a sales letter, postcard, or on the web, think format, copy and graphic components.

A graphic component can be a cartoon, a drawing, a photograph, a border, a key word in a dramatic typeface. Most needs for such things can be filled very inexpensively with what is commonly called clip art in the advertising business.

You can buy books of copyright free clip art in art supply stores and by mail from several different companies. It’s also easily available on the web today. An expenditure of ten or twenty dollars will get you hundreds of pieces of usable art.

Photographs can also provide a significant lift to response.  The best photos tell or dramatize a human interest story or show the product being used in an interesting or unusual way.  Photos can represent aspirations – such as the photo of a couple sailing on a yacht or getting out of a limo, for someone selling system for creating wealth, or, as another example, an obviously senior-age man in good physical condition playing golf, for a company selling a treatment for arthritis.

Photographs can be taken yourself or stock photos can be licensed for use from a number of sources easily found on the internet.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

18 Responses

  1. Not that you need my approval, Dan- but this is pure gold!

    Even if you have the $$$ to spend big bucks on a top copywriter like Dan, that would be for the main sales piece… but when it comes to things like every single auto responder message or minor marketing material, you cant really go all-out for each and every thing and hire a top copywriter…

    By targeting your message using carefully crafted language each time to match the receiver (the audience) through the art of copywriting, you will be way ahead of your competitors each and every time.

  2. Also- The photos you use should always be captioned…. captioned photos work much better then uncaptioned ones….

    @BrianHorn- you need to write a post about how you pick the stock photos you use!

  3. Dan, thanks for writing so many awesome books and creating so much educational content for small business owners like me.

    My business has gone through many phases. I started out as a house painter. Then I turned my attention to decorative finishing that requires highly skilled trained and talent. I phased out of standard painting into the luxury end of finishing custom interiors.

    As business changed, so did my volume … UP! And as profits went up so did my image. My last 12months in business I’ve re-focused to really fine tune a high end image. I am getting RAVE revues on my website … now in doing this I noticed something unfortunately change as well…

    As my image become more affluent and I started following Gucci, Armani and other high-end labels for inspiration, I sat down one day and realized – my image looks incredible, but I’m hardly saying ANYTHING in my writing and my offer…

    NOW this is what I’ve done… I’m building off my existing beautiful image and adding more copy where I can. I’ve added places I’ve been seen in the media on the front page, a personal message in hand written font, two opt-in mechanisms and looking to add more sales tools and copy.

    I see writing copy as a big challenge sometimes – it’s typically when I take the less is more theory and try to eliminate it. But at the end of the day, words and pictures sell. Words bring life to pictures in my opinion – and I’m the VISUAL guy!

    I always welcome feedback from clients and folks I know.

    I think the many training kits offered by Dan, the books, etc and I’ve tried others as well, are fantastic tools to getting started. Practice is key. Ripping ideas from ads you see has been MY secret that is gaining me a greater fan base.

    “Copy” means copy.

    Yours In Profits,

    Mr. Venetian Plaster

  4. Such a master lesson in this blog post. Take Dan’s classic triangle of Market/Media/Message and you can now add a “Message” triangle of Format/Copy/Graphic. You could even apply the graphic concept to an audio-only message by including a sound effect (the distinct “”swoosh” of a golf swing for example).

    Thanks again, Dan!

  5. Great advice, of course. Too bad almost all business owners take the lazy route of creating ads with big logos and boring bullet points — they don’t even know what a “headline” or “copy” are!

    Makes it easy to dominate the competition for all of us Glazer-Kennedy marketing practitioners.

    Thanks, Dan!

  6. is one great source of inexpensive, royalty-free quality images, Rabbi.

    Risky to just pull images off a “Google Images” search — they may be copyrighted by someone who could cause trouble for you…

  7. Mara Lee says:

    Really appreciate the excellent tips, tricks and information!
    You’re a daily read!

  8. Steve,

    I Know about istockphoto, and Google images is a bad place to get images form if you don’t want legal issues later.

    But Brain has a special knack for finding images (like the postman image a few posts ago) that really do a great job….

  9. Rob Anspach says:

    15 years ago I made that mistake too- hiring so called experts to create my ad copy- I almost went broke – then i took matters into my hands and discovered Dan Kennedy and emotional direct response marketing – the rest Is history

  10. Excellent reminders, Dan. We use istockphoto whenever we need high-quality photos and graphics. Sometimes it’s a challenge to use the right keywords that will bring up the types of photos we’re looking for, but I love their selection and quality.

  11. Rob Anspach says:

    My kids always get a kick out of me when I make up headlines based on pictures out of the paper or various mags- the more you do it – the easier coming up with brilliant headlines will be.

    Sometimes if you come up with a headline first then try to find the picture- the picture just doesn’t fit right and you have to redo the headline to match the picture .

  12. Charles Ra says:

    The ability to write good advertising copy.
    the most important skills that any entrepreneur should and can develop
    Need some specific ideas and guidelines that help you to write effective advertising copy?
    think format, copy and graphic components.

    best advice Dan
    I am reading your sales letters on your book to study best copywriting
    thank you Much.
    this is what I learned from a sales man.
    “the sale with make you a living, Your skills will make you a fortune”

  13. Charles Ra says:

    “the sale will make you a living, Your skills will make you a fortune”

  14. Agreed,. Meredith. It’s not so much “where” to find great photos but “how” to find them.

    My antenna are always up for interesting and outrageous photos that may have something to do with something that I may want to write about in the future (does that make sense?). So whenever I see one of these photos I save it to my computer for later use.

    “Swipe files” aren’t just useful to have for words!

  15. Les Rose says:

    That reminds me, must change my picture here……think I’ll start using Steve’s he seems much more dynamic.
    Great posts !

  16. Rob Anspach says:

    Les – your photo is just fine- but we could photo shot your head on Brian’ body – that would really get some peoples attention

  17. The most important skill is copywriting. the copywriter is the glass wall between you and the money that is being handed out by people all over every single moment.

    Copywriting + Traffic = more important then the product itself.(!)

  18. Rob Anspach says:

    Glass wall?

    “I’m shattering the glass walls and handing out FREE money!”

    does that get your attention?

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