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The “Ordinary” Movie Quote that Can Help Save Your Marketing Copy

As far as memorable movie lines go, it’s not anywhere close to the top of the list.

But one line – from one of my all-time favorite movies – is so relevant to what I do for a living that I think of it multiple times each day.

The movie is the 1989 baseball classic Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner.

If you’re familiar with the movie, chances are you’re already thinking about what this famous line could be.

You might be wondering if it’s “If you build it, he will come?”

No, it’s not that one. In fact, it’s not any of the lines uttered by the voice in the cornfield.

And it’s not the line that causes many to become emotional – “Dad, do you want to have a catch?”

Instead, the line I think of multiple times each day is a relatively ordinary line during a passionate rant by the main character, Ray Kinsella.

The line comes during a point in the movie where Ray is jealous that he is not invited to see what’s beyond the cornfield where the ghosts return each day after playing ball.

He’s arguing with the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson about his motives behind building the baseball diamond in his cornfield and he says, “I did everything I was asked and not once did I ask what’s in it for me.”

Jackson replies, “What are you saying?”

And Ray’s only answer is…”I’m saying, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Now, again, that seems like an ordinary line. But I admit I think of it multiple times each day because those five words are the key to success when it comes to direct marketing.

The Key to Direct Marketing Success: “What’s In It for Me?”

Every sales letter, landing page, magalog, postcard, email series…all need to be written with that magic phrase in mind.

And when I review copy written by others I have to tell you it’s the #1 thing that gets overlooked.

No matter if you’re a marketing director, a publisher or a copywriter…you have to remember that no one actually cares about what you’re selling.

At this very moment, there are likely great sales pitches floating past all of us in cyberspace that we simply don’t care about…because they never appear in front of us.

But those sales pitches that do arrive in front of our eyes are met critically, aren’t they?

In fact, your solicitation – in whatever form it arrives – is normally not something that your prospect has willingly asked for…and therefore you’re actually a disruption to their day.

So that means your words will be read with an extremely critical eye…one that is looking for any excuse to stop reading as quickly as possible.

This small window of opportunity, of course, is Marketing 101. And most in the industry can cite statistics showing the handful of seconds we have to grab a prospect’s attention.

Yet even in spite of this common knowledge, I still see so many marketing efforts that fail to answer this fundamental question early AND often:

What’s in it for me?

Why should I continue reading? Why should I care – even a tiny bit – about what you’re selling me?

It’s a difficult challenge, to be sure.

Take a look at the last few pieces you’ve written or produced and read them as though you were a prospect asking that very question: What’s in it for me?

Can you honestly say that your copy answers that question soon enough to keep the reader’s interest in the headline and first 3 paragraphs?

If so, you’re off to a good start.

But…most decent marketing does this – or else it would never see the light of day. That’s why so much time and effort is spent on developing a strong lead.

The challenge becomes more difficult as you move through the copy.

Can you be sure that your copy truly answers this question again – or reminds the reader of the answer – frequently enough to maintain interest beyond the opening paragraphs?

Re-reading your copy this way can prove to be an enlightening exercise.

Many times I’ve written copy that I thought was strong, clever or somehow worthy of praise…but after reviewing it – and reading as though I were Ray Kinsella asking that question – I realize the copy still needs work.

It’s one of the simplest tests you can perform on a piece of copy. And, obviously, it doesn’t guarantee success as it’s only a single component of making a sale.

But asking “What’s in it for me?” – early and often – when reviewing your copy can go a long way toward making sure you keep your readers engaged long enough to help accomplish your goals.

Jody Madron is a results-oriented copywriter with 30 years of breakthrough marketing experience.  To learn how Jody can deliver results-boosting copy — ahead of your deadline — visit

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