On June 17, 1984 the legendary Gary Halbert wrote his son Bond this letter (from the Boron Letters), describing the ONE key advantage he would choose over ALL others in a marketplace.
He detailed this ONE advantage almost like a superpower…
… and here’s how the letter began:
No messing around. I’m going to dive right back into the subject of becoming a “student of markets”.
As you know, once in a while I give a class on copywriting and/or selling by mail. One of the questions I like to ask my students is: “If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who would sell the most hamburgers, what advantages would you most like to have on your side?”
The answers vary. Some people say they would like to have the advantage of having superior meat from which to make their hamburgers. Others say they want sesame seed buns. Others mention location. Someone usually wants to be able to offer the lowest prices.
Anyway, after my students are finished telling what advantages they would most like to have I say to them: “O.K., I’ll give you every single advantage you asked for. I, myself, only want one advantage and, if you will give it to me, I will whip the pants off of all of you when it comes to selling burgers!”
“What advantage do you want?” they ask.
“The only advantage I want,” I reply, “is A STARVING CROWD!””
The thing is, most people skip this part.
I call it “knowing your WHO”.
And this was taught to me by my early mentors, Michael Penland and TJ Rohleder, both direct response legends in their own right.
This ONE thing is responsible for many millions of dollars in sales over the past 19 years of my marketing career.
In fact, when I sat down to write my original “One Page Money Makers” system way back in 2002, a full 38 of the 98 pages in Handbook 1 focused on “finding your hot target market”.
That’s a whopping 39% of the entire handbook!
And that doesn’t even include the extra worksheets.
The introduction of One Page Money Makers begins:
“Are you ready to get started?
Well, let me start by saying that I think the number 1 mistake people make when thinking about starting an online business is asking “WHAT am I going to sell?”
NO, NO, NO! This is all wrong.
Don’t worry about the WHAT. You need to think about the WHO. The “who” is your “hot market.”
Ask this question to yourself…
“Who is begging for something that I can provide?”
And then I take you by the hand and show you step-by-step how to identify your WHO.
I am surprised that even people I speak with today, 16 years later, are still getting this wrong.
They talk about the what.
They talk about their why.
… but when I ask them the WHO, WHO wants to buy this, I know we’re in trouble when one of 3 things usually happens:
1. They start citing demographics, or
2. They answer me with “anybody who __________”, or worse
3. They answer me with “everybody needs this”
We’re in trouble because I know, usually in their excitement, they have skipped over THE most important part.
They skipped over the who.
The hot, targeted market.
Or, In Gary Halbert terms, the starving crowd.
Abraham Lincoln is credited for the quote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Understanding your starving crowd is your “4 hours of sharpening the axe”.
Without this preparation (finding your who) you make the task much more difficult than it should be, if not impossible.
And people wonder why their offers don’t work.
Think about what you’re working on, or selling, or considering to sell.
How much time have you spent figuring out your WHO?
In 1PMM, I provided a worksheet I called “the Valuation Matrix”. You see the picture in this post, and it contained 10 specific criteria against which I evaluated (and still evaluate) every single idea to be sure I am working with a “starving crowd” before I go all in on any idea.
If it doesn’t meet my minimums, it is discarded. (Sometimes I come back to it with a different approach, but you MUST be disciplined about this!)
Anytime I work with a client, we ALWAYS start with the WHO.
Why? Because I want my clients to win.
Like Gary says, “What I am trying to teach you here is to constantly be on the look out for groups of people (markets) who have demonstrated that they are starving (or at least hungry!) for some particular product or service.”
Until we know the WHO, we can’t move on to the next 3 steps in creating successful offers.