The Greatest Marketing Secret in the World

That title got your attention I bet.

And why wouldn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to know the greatest marketing secret in the world? It is the sort of headline that captures people’s attention and makes them want to read more, listen more, know more.

And yes, there really is a great marketing secret, it does work, and it is more than just a headline or a gimmick. I’ll tell you what it is below, but before I do I would like to tell you about a guy named Joe Karbo.

Back when I was growing up in Southern California in the 60s and 70s, there was a full page ad that regularly ran in the L.A. Times with a headline that read, “ “The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches.” The sub-headline read, “Most People Are Too Busy Earning A Living To Make Any Money.”

The ad was placed by this guy, Joe Karbo. It was one of the very first ads that are so ubiquitous now (often in the back of magazines) where there is a ton of copy, lots of words, very little negative space, and which share a first person narrative about some amazing product or service.

But back then, in the front section of the Times, such ads were rare; nonexistent actually.

The first line of Karbo’s ad went like this: “I used to work hard, very hard. But I didn’t start to make any real money until I worked less, a lot less. For example, this ad took me 2 hours to write, and with a little luck it should make me fifty, maybe a hundred thousand dollars.”

Do you want to read more? Here it is many years later, and I will say – yes, I do, I still do.

Karbo went on to share his rags-to-riches tale and then explain how anyone can duplicate what he did – IF they bought his little book for $7.95.

But wait, there’s more!

The ad came with a money back guarantee. Joe promised not to “cash your check for 30 days” and that if you weren’t completely satisfied he would send it back to you.

So, did it work? Did Joe Karbo make $100,000?

No, he didn’t.

He made $4 million.

I am sharing the Joe Karbo story with you today not because I want you to go find his book and buy it (though it’s still for sale) but because Karbo’s ad exemplifies what I am calling the Greatest Marketing Secret in the World. It’s called the AIDA method – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Apply these four elements to any of your marketing endeavors and you too will see success. $4 million of success? I don’t know that, but maybe.

Let’s start with Karbo’s fantastic headline: “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Riches.” That is a headline that grabs your attention, does it not? And that’s the purpose of any marketing headline – to get noticed above the din (especially today) and grab folks by the throat and demand that they pay attention. No matter what marketing you do, I will suggest that you simply must have a great headline – in your e-newsletter, in your pay-per-click ad, in your content marketing, on your website – everywhere.

That is Step 1. Get their Attention.

Step 2 and 3: Interest and Desire. Once you have their attention, you have to begin to reel them in. You do that with the Interest and Desire part of AIDA. In the Joe Karbo ad, the sub-headline and first paragraph do just that. “Most People Are Too Busy Earning A Living To Make Any Money.” Doesn’t that create interest and desire? You bet.

The idea is to get your readers or listeners or viewers to say to themselves, “Hey, I want riches too!” or “I want some Kale on sale too!” or “You know, actually I really do need some help with my taxes.”

Step 4: Action, namely, a call to action. Once you have grabbed their attention and got them interested and wanting what you are selling, then you need to begin to convert them. You do that by having a strong Call to Action, such as:

  • “Quantities are limited”
  • “Sale ends Friday”
  • “Like us on Facebook for a discount coupon”

So that’s the magic trick of marketing. AIDA. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

If you use that formula in your next marketing campaign, you will be on your way to riches, just like Joe Karbo.

(See that call to action?)


Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.

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