How to Turn Your Pile of Research into a Seamless Promotional Package

The next time you're faced with many unfocused ideas … or too few focused ones … here's a step-by-step idea generator that never fails. It's designed for information products. But you can adapt as necessary.

Start with a table and five sheets of paper.

Write the following, one item per sheet:

  1. The Target
  2. The Product
  3. Credibility
  4. The Facts
  5. The Offer

Now start building …

  1. The Target – Pile up a customer profile. Warm up with the general, aim for the specific. Demographics and mailing lists. Surveys and focus groups. Attend a conference, sit in the back, and write down phrases that make heads nod. Eavesdrop on after-talk conversations with speakers. Talk to customer service. Visit related chat rooms and ask questions. Pick a friend most like your customer and hand-write a personality profile that would make the FBI proud. Then move on to building the next pile.
  2. The Product – Start this pile with a year's worth of issues or a product sample. On a piece of paper, list features. Print out e-mails to customers. Tally up track records. Interview the editor or owner about product history. Take it apart like a watch and make notes. Limit this pile only to notes and clippings directly from the core product. Next pile.
  3. Credibility – Start with testimonial letters. Then read surveys. Look for customers to contact and interview. Especially those with a detailed success story. Pile up clippings about the editor or the product. You're looking for things that would make it into the forward to a biography or the liner notes of a book. Interview editors over the phone. Jot down notes on school and career experience. But get personal too, where you can. In this pile, third-party validation, personal stories, and track record are what count.
  4. The Facts – Photocopy information-based products for charts, tables, and statistics. Scan the editorial for recommended reading … and then look for supporting logic in those recommended texts. Collect copies of sourced articles. Surf the Web using keywords creatively. is the search engine to use. Don't bookmark. Print out articles instead. Eight to 10 relevant articles should be good enough. Facts validate emotional sales pitches. Gather to over-prove. We'll cut the excess during revision.
  5. The Offer – Save this last pile for premiums, past guarantees, and specs on price, delivery, and extras like websites, telephone hotlines, customer-service numbers, address, and reply instructions. Question the history and logic of product price. How does it compare with similar services? Set a deadline on orders that makes sense. These details are essential. Knowing the offer beforehand will give you focus.

If you've done this right, your table should be sagging.

Now, we'll knock out each pile one by one, converting research into marketable ideas.

Take a stack of 3"x5" index cards. Start with the first pile. Piece by piece, take notes. One sales point per card. If you can, write your notes as copy. Come across a feature, write it on the index card as a benefit. Turn hot stories into package headlines. Resist the temptation to fill both sides of a card.

At this stage, don't try to edit your ideas. Just open up the floodgates and let them flow.

Here's the first benefit. When you've gone through each of the stacks, you'll have more knowledge about your product than you ever had before. And many more ideas on how it could be sold.

Now you have something with which to build.

There are all kinds of famous sales-pitch structures you can use. The one you've seen recommended most here is "PPPP" … or "Promise, Picture, Proof, Push."

You can put your scraps of information, your article clippings, and everything else aside. Because now everything you'll need is on the index cards.

At this point, I recommend you take a break. An hour. An afternoon. Even overnight.

You'll want to come back to the different cards with fresh eyes, so you can strip out distracting points, redundancies, and things that just don't feel like they belong.

Once again, we're refining. Polishing.

Once this is done, what you're going to do is start sorting according to the "PPPP" sales-pitch model.

The "Promise" pile gets all the cards that best describe product benefits …

The "Picture" pile gets those vivid, descriptive cards that make the benefits or the emotional context of the pitch feel vivid.

In the "Proof" pile, place any cards with strong statistics, facts, figures, and testimonials…

Finally, in the "Push" pile, set aside any cards that seem most related to describing the sales offer.

With this technique, creativity is almost automatic … a sorting exercise. If you've done your work right, you can almost pile up the stack in the proper "PPPP" order and start typing.

If you still feel overwhelmed, you might want to reorganize your ideas within each of these four new stacks. Though, the more experienced you become, the less this will feel necessary.

It's tedious at first. But there may be no better way to train your mind to spot selling opportunities within a pile of untamed information.

Give it a try. I'm sure you'll be impressed with the results.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: June 9, 2003

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