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Over the holidays, while “normal” people have been curling up by the fire reading novels or playing board games or watching movies, I’ve been reading The Gary Halbert Letter — because… what else can I say… I’m a bit of a marketing nerd!

In case you don’t recognize the name, Gary Halbert was a legendary direct marketer, and The Gary Halbert Letter is Gary’s collection of newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s.

I want to share one of my favorite Gary Halbert insights with you today… and talk about the 3 ways you can gain an advantage over your competitors.

Advantage #1. A “Starving Crowd”

Gary loved to ask his students this question…

If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers, what advantages would you most like to have on your side to help you win?

Most of his students would say “superior meat” or “sesame seed buns” or “lowest prices.”  But Gary said they could have all that… those advantages wouldn’t make a difference at all.

The most important advantage, Gary explained, was to have a starving crowd!

Think about it… If you get your burger stand in front of a starving crowd, it wouldn’t matter whether you have any pickles or how great your meat is or what kind of buns you have or what your prices are… you’d still sell hamburgers like crazy.

In other words, the most important factor in your marketing success is the quality of your prospects — how strongly they desire your product or service.

Advantage #2. An Irresistible Offer

Besides your audience, the second most important advantage is your offer.

If you and a competitor are competing for the same prospect, the winner will be the one with the better offer.

What’s an “offer”? Your offer is what product or service you’re delivering, for what price, and with what terms.

And here are 5 ways you can strengthen your offer:

  1. Limited/temporary discount
  2. Free trial
  3. Money-back guarantee
  4. Bonuses (extra free stuff)
  5. Payment plans

Advantage #3. Killer Sales Copy

The third advantage is copy — the words you use to communicate your offer. If you and your competitors have a similar offer, but you can communicate more effectively, you’ll win.

Testing is the key to improving your sales copy. For example, by split-testing two different headlines in your ads, you can often get a 10% or 20% improvement in response. You should always be testing your copy and looking for opportunities to improve response rates.

But remember that your sales copy isn’t nearly as important as your audience or your offer. In the 1960s, direct marketing guru Ed Mayer coined The 40/40/20 Rule, which states that 40% of direct marketing success comes from targeting the right audience, 40% from the offer, and the final 20% from the creative (copy, layout, etc). And I would agree with this rule, based on my own experience.

So copy alone isn’t the #1 factor… But if you want to gain the advantage in your market, you absolutely MUST learn how to write copy that compels your prospects to contact you and buy.

The Gary Halbert Letter is an incredibly useful (and FREE) copywriting resource. Check it out at