Mel Martin

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

In 1993, I was hired to consult with a law firm whose client was a major health magazine that got itself entangled in a nasty lawsuit. The backstory briefly: In a direct mail test circular, the magazine had purchased the rights to a series of four photographs of a man showing off his muscled body. These appeared as tiny illustrations deep in the middle of the brochure. The test was a success. The mailing was reprinted and mailed in the millions.

I have spent the past 50 years as a copywriter. OK, I also ran book clubs, started a newsletter about junk mail, wrote eight books of fiction and nonfiction and launched this publication.

But my bread-and-butter has always been writing copy. I learned to start with a headline that grabbed the reader by the throat, and then create copy that won't let up until I get the order, inquiry or donation.

Look at the Google entries IN THE NEWS at the right. Search Engine Optimization is the current rage—grabbing the attention of spiders and crawlers in the hopes that the message will surface all over the Internet.

Yet it's flesh-and-blood people that want information, spend money on goodies and give to charity—not emotionless, pre-programmed electronic robots.

Go ahead, fascinate robots. But if your message is a bore, you are a mouse click away from oblivion.

Call me Luddite or troglodyte, but I will continue to write headlines and copy for people, not robots.

And I'll study the work of the great copywriters, such as Mel Martin.

How do you create a USP? Make a list of all the features of your product or service and then translate them into benefits—the specific thing that each feature will do for you.

I don’t allow spam filters to censor my e-mail. As a commentator on the business of marketing, I want to see everything—warts and all. What’s more, being a “see guy” rather than a “hear guy,” I can scan an inbox and delete 100 messages in about 30 seconds.

I used to know Sheldon Hearst, whose business was putting racks of 5½˝ x 8˝ take-one brochures in supermarkets. A marketer had a fraction of a second to catch the shopper's eye with a headline. The most powerful, most successful headline that was used for years: WET BED?

In more jobs than I care to remember, my single objective was efficiency: How could the most value be created for the least cost, and then sold to delighted customers and eager prospects at the highest profit? When I read last week that two Philadelphia TV stations—Fox29 and NBC10—are going to test the possibility of sharing video footage, I was intrigued. The idea that competing news gatherers would pool their resources is a breakthrough! For example, CBS and CNN spend millions of dollars on equipment and personnel gathering news in Iraq, mostly going after the same stories, interviewing the same people and doing stand-up

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