What Internet Marketers Can Learn From Obvious Adams

┐by: Jo Han Mok

A very long time ago, 1916 to be exact, The Saturday Evening Post began publishing a column about a young man named ┐Obvious Adams┐. Adams was a fictional caricature of a would-be advertising man who was so simple, and so guileless, in his thinking that he was brilliant in spite of himself.

The column gained popularity in business circles for its plain wisdom and straightforward advice. The Adams narrative wasn┐t merely a ┐good story┐, it was a source of actionable information. Each installment found young Adams facing a new marketing challenge bestowed upon him by his employer. His knack for finding the solutions which hid in plain site earned him his namesake.

The story of Adams was finally published in book form by Robert Updegraff and used as a primer for new advertising executives. Although the text is somewhat quaint, it is a quick, pleasant read and I highly recommend locating a copy for your library.

So, what can you learn from Mr. ┐Obvious Adams┐? A lot! We will examine and discuss a few choice excerpts from the work, and reveal their application to your every day marketing challenges.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil

┐I want to get into the advertising business and I want to work for you, and I thought the obvious thing to do was to come and tell you so.┐

What is the lesson here? If you want something: ask! Likewise, if you want results, take immediate action.

Let me ask you this: how many opportunities have you let slip past simply because you were afraid to go direct to the source of profit? For example, how long have you had a super joint venture idea sitting on the backburner because you┐re afraid to contact potential partners?

In the quoted material, Adams is addressing a fictional advertising big wig named James B.Oswald. Adams had promptly awoken in the morning to pay a visit to the man and ask him for a job. Do you find that a bit gutsy? After all, he┐s a no name kid. Oswald runs a huge, profitable corporation.

Similarly, do you ever say to yourself: ┐Who do I think I am? These big internet marketing gurus won┐t give me the time of day┐? Well, guess what? They┐re human just like you are. They got where they are by asking for what they wanted and needed and by taking action.

When you have a desire and a plan of action, don┐t sit around hemming and hawing about it or doubting yourself. Follow Adams┐ lead and shut out all other thoughts except the most logical. You want X, do Y. You need to make contacts, go make the contacts.

You can┐t know what the possibilities are until you reach for them, and you can┐t get what you want unless you ask for it.

Live and Breathe Your Market

┐Adams proceeded to study up on the subject of peaches. He though, studied, dreamed and ate peaches, fresh, canned, and pickled. He sent for government bulletins. He spent his evenings studying canning.┐

Do you really want to be more competitive? Would you like to know the absolute best price point for your products? Would you like write absolutely killer copy that pulls in sales and outperforms your current control? If you do, then you need to live and breathe in your market.

This is an obvious business principle that often gets overlooked by new home business owners. You jump into a niche and maybe you have some experience - maybe it┐s one of your hobbies - but do you really know the industry? Do you know which trade publications to read? Do you know what the current wholesale price is for your product, or what the demand is for your information?

It is very difficult to sell something you don┐t know much about. Pick a subject you aren┐t familiar with, invent an imaginary product and try writing copy for it. Not very easy, is it?

Now, pick something you do know a lot about, and try to write out everything you know. You┐ve probably got a sizeable list, but I ┐ll wager that you┐ve left off more than you realize.

Adams went to great lengths to read up on peaches. Peaches! What more can be said about a peach than its piece of fruit, grows on trees and tastes good? Well, as Adams revealed, there┐s a lot more to be said.

Don┐t ever assume that you know all there is to know about your market, your customers or your product. There is always another feature or benefit hidden somewhere in the fine print, in those day-to-day facts that we are so used to we become immune from them.

Are You ┐Selling┐ Enough?

┐We have been doing wonderful cake advertising, but we have overlooked the very things you have pointed out in your plan. We have been doing too much advertising and not enough selling.┐

Read that last sentence again. It reveals a very important distinction. Advertising and selling are not mirror images of each other.

In fact, the best way to discern the difference between the two is in the following definition: Advertising focuses on features and facts. Selling focuses on benefits.


We offer the very best in leather jackets. Our spring sale features 50% discounts and free shipping!

Sales Pitch

The soft, supple skin of our top-of-the line bomber jacket will make everyone envious of you! The wool-lined interior will keep you warm in the winter so you can brave the harshest elements. The zip out feature lets you use the jacket in cool weather, too - so you won┐t be too hot or too cold- but you┐ll still look stylish!

An advertisement says: ┐Here is our product. Here┐s what it can do. Here┐s how much it costs.┐ On the other hand, a powerful piece of sales copy says: ┐You┐ll feel 10 years younger and rekindle your love with our product: Here, touch it, feel it, test it, have a sample of it.┐

An advertising campaign creates brand awareness and creates general interest. A sales campaign captures that interest and converts it into desire.

So, if your conversion rates aren┐t what you┐d like them to be, the first thing to do is check your copy. Does your sales letter read like one big advertisement? You┐re spending money on traffic, but what are the customers seeing once they arrive at your site? Are they being sold effectively?

There is always a reason for the customer┐s decision not to buy, and failure to execute good salesmanship is one of them. It doesn┐t matter how good your product is or what it costs. It doesn┐t matter if you┐re giving away millions of dollar worth of value for pennies on the dollar. If the customer can┐t see the benefits of owning the product himself, he won┐t buy.

The Path of Least Resistance: Common Sense

┐It┐s that everlasting obviousness in Adams that I banked on. He doesn┐t get carried away from the facts; he just looks them squarely in the face and then proceeds to analyze, and that is half the battle.

Indeed, many of the answers to your most pressing marketing challenges are hidden within common sense. The problem is that many people just don┐t enjoy thinking. They┐re lazy and thought takes up too much energy. Imagine how much expense you could save yourself if only you were to put in the hard work of an honest analysis of your business - and that means sitting down and analyzing:

  • Your overhead

  • Your prices

  • Your copy

  • Your traffic stats and logs

  • Customer feedback

  • Keyword performance

  • Email campaign data on open rates and conversions

The answers you find can sometimes be as simple as having a server crash or a non-working order link, or as tricky as a design element on your page which looks fine to you but confuses prospects and drives them away.

You should test and track every element of your sales chain. This means you need to pay attention to your traffic sources, to the copy on the links from those sources, to the landing page which gives visitors their first impression, to the follow up material you send. Each element plays an important role in fine-tuning the prospect┐s mind and opening it up for your ultimate pitch.

Any weak link in the chain can cost you sales. Imagine one day that you send out an offer to your list without first double checking that the link works? Then, you have to send out a second message to apologize and provide the correct link. The odds are good that a significant percentage of your list won┐t bother opening the second e-mail. If you┐d reached them the first time, though, there would be money in your pocket.

Some of the other ┐gotchas┐ that can ruin a campaign: click fraud on the pay per click engines, product theft, missed customer support emails and wasted money on underperforming keywords and other forms of advertising.

There┐s no real excuse for being lazy on these things! Yes, you can try to cut corners, but you┐ll pay for it at some point. It┐s like a brick and mortar merchant leaving the doors unlocked at night. You┐re practically guaranteed to experience a wipe out sooner or later.

In Conclusion

There┐s an old classic from the same era as ┐Obvious Adams┐ called How to Live on 24 Hours a Day. The wisdom one can glean from Adams┐ straightforward and common sense approach to business could be called How to Market on 24 Hours a Day. Too often we over-complicate things when the simple answer is staring us right in the face. Learn to step back and execute a ┐horse-sense┐ analysis of the facts at hand. The time you save, and the profits you keep, will be immeasurable.

Copyright 2005 Jo Han Mok

About The Author

Jo Han Mok is a frequent guest and featured speaker at Internet Marketing bootcamps and conferences on subjects such as copywriting and Joint Venture Marketing. Discover his hardcore six-figure pulling secrets of 'salesmanship in print' at: www.MasterWordsmith.com.

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