The Hand: A Unique Marketing Formula

Bill Graham, the famous rock-and-roll promoter, invented a marketing concept he called the “Hand.” For every concert he did (and he did thousands), he focused on five critical items. His formula not only let him see where the problems were, it let him make decisions quickly. The formula is as applicable to Direct Response Marketing as it is to concert promotion.The fingers of the Hand as adapted for DRM include the following: (1) the right offer, (2) going out to the right people, (3) through the right media, (4) with the right hook, (5) according to the right long-term plan. The first four are the most critical. I’ll discuss those first, before talking about the fifth as it applies to the whole formula.In the DRM business, we don’t really sell products and services. What we really sell are offers. An offer includes the product or service, but it also involves all the other things that go along with it: the bonuses, the guarantee, the call to action, etc. The offer is everything you’re proposing to give people in exchange for their money. Think about those old Ginsu Knife commercials — or any infomercials, really. Think of the way they present things in those infomercials: “You’ll get this. Plus, you’ll get this, this, and this. And for a limited time… ” They just keep piling it on until finally you find out you can get the whole huge package t one easy payment of $19.95!But no matter how “right” the offer is, it has to go out to the right person. The right offer for one person is often the wrong offer for another. So if you’re getting zero response on an offer, the first thing you need to do is to make sure it’s not going out to the wrong group of people.Next, the offer has to go out through the right media. Direct mail is my favorite, but your best medium may be an ad in a national magazine, or it could be TV or radio, or a mix of all those and more. How do you get that sales message out there to the right people? What’s the best delivery vehicle?Some media are wrong simply because they reach the wrong groups; in fact, that’s the number one reason offers fail. If you’re offering a product in the Braille language for the blind, you don’t advertise it in a print magazine. I know of one case where a government printed handy Braille brochures in paper and ink… without the raised dots that Braille readers feel to actually read the language.Finger number four is the right hook. I recall one marketer saying about his new program, “I’m writing so many commission checks every week my wrist is hurting.” That’s a hook. It’s something people will connect with and remember. Jeff Paul made millions of dollars with an ad where the hook was, “I’m at home making money in my underwear.” That sticks in people’s minds. It’s dumb, it’s emotional — but you remember it. A hook has to be unique, emotional, and noteworthy.Finally, finger number five: if it doesn’t fit together with the right long-term plan, then you really shouldn’t do it. This isn’t gambling; this is a business. For example, you need to keep and maintain names and contact information for all your customers, so they become part of your mailing list and you can make them other offers. Make that “finger” the basis of your overall game plan, then apply these other four.There are only a handful of elements here, and yet they’re vital; they help you make quick decisions, focusing on what really matters in your sales copy. They’re shortcuts, helping you determine what’s right and wrong with your offer. For example, if you do everything else right and don’t give people a reason to respond or make a call to action, then you’ve failed. Having a checklist like this, and knowing what’s most important, will help you see any mistakes before they occur. That’s vital for success.Consider aviation checklists. A seasoned, veteran pilot works through a pre-flight checklist every single time, even if he’s taken off thousands of times before. Probably, nothing bad would happen if they didn’t go through the checklist… but God forbid they should miss one thing on their checklist just one time, because it could mean their life, and everybody else’s along with it.Your marketing checklists won’t involve life-and-death situations, but it’s also important to know that there are formulas, common denominators, things you can point to in every business practice. Again, there’s some risk involved; there’s always some risk involved in business, but it’s calculated risk if you know the formulas and strategies that keep businesses afloat. Over time, applying these steps will become second nature — instinctual. That’s what all training is for, whether you’re trying to survive a war or fighting in the trenches of the business arena.This strategy of the Hand was developed as the result of decades of studying good DRM. These five main points are based on, and distilled from, thousands of different marketing strategies and principles that I’ve learned about over the years.Note that all five of the fingers have the word “right” in them: the right offer, to the right person, through the right medium, with the right hook, coupled to the right long-term strategy. There’s many a wrong way to do things, you see; you could have the right offer, but send it to the wrong person, and this formula wouldn’t work. It’s not enough to just have a good offer, it has to be the right offer to the right person, presented in the right way with the right hook for the right reasons. If one wrong gets mixed into the formula, it’ll go sour.So what are you doing to get people to respond? One thing you must understand here is that the product is secondary to the offer. Many times, people will respond to the right offer even if the product isn’t necessarily superior. Think about a state fair, if you’ve ever been to one. They’ve got all those booths where people are selling all kinds of products and services. If you stop and think, “Do I really need this product?” the answer is, “No, probably not.” And the product may not even be that great — and yet they wrap it around a great offer, and they’re up there pitching it in an effective way. There’s an energy and excitement there, as they’re telling you all about the product and its benefits. You may even get to try it out yourself.Then they tell you what their offer is, and today, it’s a state fair special! Today, you can pick one up for just $19.95! But wait, we’re going to give you a second one when you order today! And you notice they already have them packaged in sets of two, so all they have to do is reach back there and grab your set and hand it to you. Oh, and they’re also going to throw in this other handy little thing here. Normally, it’s a $19.95 value, but it’s free today — and yes, they’ve got it boxed up with the same set back there.That’s their offer, and it gets people to buy even if they aren’t necessarily inclined to do so. It’s not like they were on their way to Wal-Mart to buy that product; it just so happens that there was a buzz created when the seller was presenting that offer in that setting.Getting that offer to the right person is equally important. Sending even the best offer to the wrong mailing list won’t net you many sales, if the people you present to aren’t interested in the kinds of offers you’re making. That feeds directly into the idea of using the right medium; so if you’re working through direct mail, you’ll need to start with your existing customers, or work with a reputable list dealer to find a decent new list to offer to. If you choose not to use direct mail, which medium will work best for you?Add that to the right hook: the angle, the twist, the story — “making money in your underwear.” It has to be something that makes people remember you, makes people interested. It’s an angle; it’s just something you’re doing to get people to pay attention to you — like the bait in the fishing analogy I’ve written about before. If you’re using an artificial lure, is it interesting to the fish… or is it boring? A nice, shiny hook with a nice shiny lure on it will catch a fish. A boring lure won’t. And note that the concept of the hook isn’t just used in the marketing game. The movie, writing, and music businesses use it too. It’s something catchy, something people will remember, something they’ll talk about — even something that they’ll sing.Now: once you have all that in place, the fifth element is fitting them together with the right long-term plan. It’s important to remember your ultimate goal here. Whatever you’re selling right now, it’s probably not going to last forever. People stop responding to offers for whatever reason; eventually, your response rates will drop.Your ultimate goal is to build a customer list — a list of people who buy from you repeatedly — in order to build a lifelong business and income. The products may change, the methods may change, the market and the media may change, but you’re still working toward serving a marketplace, providing them value so they’ll continue doing business with you. So the fifth finger of the Hand involves figuring out where you’re going and what your goals are. Once you do that, everything else becomes part of trying to do the right things to accomplish that goal.