The Psychology of Why People Will Pay You: One Big Idea From “The Ultimate Sales Letter” by Dan Kennedy

September 28, 2019

Every single direct-response advertising “guru” that I’ve learned from… they all have a guru: His name is Dan Kennedy.

At the time of writing this – September 2019 – Dan is not in good health. I heard about this sad news through the social media grapevine.

I started seeing one post after another about how much of an influence Dan was on their career.

They say if you hear about something 3 times from 3 different sources, then you should check it out (Side note: Not sure who “they” are, but I’m running with it…)

“It’s a must-read”

“It’s the bible of copywriting”


Just like realizing that your blackbelt has a blackbelt, you start to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.

That’s why I read “The Ultimate Sales Letter” by Dan Kennedy.

There were SO MANY great ideas in this book…

But – without further adieu – my BIGGEST TAKEAWAY from the book:

Understand your customer!

Dan visualizes the recipients of his ads as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, walking, talking human beings… because they are.

To step in their shoes, he asks the “10 Smart Market Diagnosis and Profiling Questions” every time he takes on a copywriting job:

  1. What keeps them awake at night, indigestion boiling up to their esophagus, eyes open, staring at the ceiling?
  2. What are they afraid of?
  3. What are they angry about? Who are they angry at?
  4. What are their top three daily frustrations?
  5. What trends are occurring and will occur in their businesses and lives?
  6. What do they secretly, ardently desire most?
  7. Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions? (Example: Engineers = exceptionally analytical)
  8. Do they have their own language?
  9. Who else is selling something similar to their product, and how?
  10. Who else has tried selling them something similar, and how has that effort failed?

So it goes – next time you go to write to your customer, see how many (and how deeply) you can answer each of these questions, and the words will write themselves.


Simple framework for an ad: Problem > Agitation > Solution

E.G. Identify your prospect’s problem (which you should have an idea about after researching the 10 Smart Market Questions above)… then get them emotional about it… and finally, identify the solution to the problem, which, of course, you will provide with your product or service.

Get the book on Amazon here:

© 2020 – Michael J. McGovern