Marketing is a huge subject. One far too big to cover here but Internet marketing has become the area of greatest interest for anyone involved in advertising their company or business. The Yellow Pages are dead. All traditional mediums have had a reduction in their revenues and many of them, including Citadel Broadcasting, have recently cited this drop in advertising revenues as a reason for declaring bankruptcy.

Everything seems to be moving to the Internet and as an industry, it is definitely flourishing. But not everyone who advertises on the Internet is benefiting from this change. In fact it has become an extremely difficult arena for many companies to succeed in.

And that brings me to a story.

Gary Halbert-Copywriter

Gary Halbert-Copywriter

It’s been said that Gary Halbert, the great copywriter (actually one of the greatest copywriters of all time) was at a seminar teaching people about how to be good copywriters. He gave a scenario where if everyone in the audience owned a hamburger stand and he decided to put one right across the street, what advantages would they like to have in order to compete against him?

Everybody gave all kinds of answers such as:

    “I would use the tastiest, freshest hamburger meat!”

    “My prices would be the lowest!”

    “I’d pick the busiest location!”

    “I’d want a world famous recipe!”

    “I’d offer customers credit, so they can pay later!”

    “I’d have more staff to serve more people faster!”

    “I’d sell my burgers wholesale!”

Apparently Gary listened patiently to all of their answers until everyone had finally given their turn. “Okay, he replied, smugly smiling the weathered, all-knowing grin of an old master.

“I’ll give you every single advantage you have asked for… I only want one advantage and, if you give it to me, I’ll whip the pants off all of you when it comes to selling burgers!”

Apparently everyone was listening very intently as he gave his final answer

“The only advantage I want is… a starving crowd!”

The previous quotation was taken from a book called “The Niche Marketing Black Book” from These guys have an interesting product that delves into how to find niche markets on any subject and use it to your advantage in marketing. It’s a well-written book and I highly recommend it but, I disagree with the previous story.

I hate to be the one to disagree with the great Gary Halbert, one of the most revered marketers of all time, but something doesn’t quite fit. Why doesn’t it fit you ask?

The reason is because I’ve just seen that exact scenario played out last weekend where 2 hamburger stands were right across the street from each other and the story wasn’t as Gary described it.

You see, earlier in the day I had taken my boys sledding in the snow in the nearby mountains. It was a brisk cold day that was perfect for sledding. After a few hours of getting bumped around and having a great time, we had had enough and headed home. Everyone decided they were quite hungry so I called my wife and told her we were going to get something to eat on the way home. I asked the boys where they really wanted to go and a few of the popular fast food joints came to mind. Wendy’s seem to be at the top of the list until one of the other boys saw a sign for In-N-Out Burger and we deided to go there.



As soon as we got near it we noticed an enormous line of cars waiting to go through the drive-through. We could tell that inside, many people were standing around with no place to sit. It was going to be hard to find a place to park but we had made up our minds, we really liked their fries and that’s where we determined to go.

We could already taste it.

As we waited for the stoplight to turn into the establishment, I turned my head to the right and saw Burger King sitting right there on the opposite corner. Not a single car was in line at the drive-through. There was only four or five cars in the parking lot and the place looked mostly empty.

I pointed that out to the boys that we had the option to go there, but we had already made our decision. We went through the light, turned the corner and found a parking spot, went in, ordered our meal, waited 10 minutes for a table to open up, scarfed down those delectable fries and headed home completely happy that we made this choice.

But the image of a totally packed restaurant right across the street from an almost totally empty one selling almost the exact same product has haunted me ever since.

Why would one company, In-N-Out Burger, who spends almost nothing on advertising have 10-20 times the customers of Burger King (who spends millions on advertising) on the exact same day under the same conditions? Is their food that much better? Do they have a bigger selection? Do they have a better image, brand, logo, marketing campaign, customer service, etc?

Most people would say that in almost every case, Burger King beats them. Burger King has a far bigger selection of food items. They spend far more money in advertising, their logo was designed and refined through endless focus groups over several years. They have top of the mind awareness on all kinds of television ads as their smart aleck King does all sorts of goofy things to people.

The Burger King Bar?

The Burger King Bar?

So why is In-N-Out Burger literally bringing home the bacon while in this case, Burger King was barely serving anyone?

I believe I’m about to reveal to you a secret that is so essential and is so completely and totally relevant to the world of Internet marketing (and marketing in general) that you need to take great heed to this message. This is so simple yet so powerful that I believe it makes all the difference between the two Burger places I’ve just mentioned.

You see, although I really like In-N-Out Burger’s hamburgers and especially their fries (but only when they’re hot) their food is really not THAT much better than Burger Kings. I mean we’re not comparing Burger King to PF Chang’s here, we’re comparing it to another hamburger place. All the major fast food chains offer burgers that are only slightly different in taste (although I know that some people disagree with that over-generaliztion and have sworn allegiances to their favorite brand. I’m just glad that McDonald’s finally recently improved the taste of their burgers. I refused to eat there for years!).

The prices aren’t that much different. The selection is incredibly smaller because they don’t offer a $.99 value meal, chicken strips, salads, and endless assortment of side dishes, kids meals, tofu options, anything vegetarian, etc. They basically only have three sizes of the same hamburgers, one size of fries and the usual brands of drinks and some shakes. Thats it. And it all fits on a small menu just above the order takers head.

They were located right across the street from each other so that can’t be a real big factor, in fact, I got off the freeway on the same side of the street as Burger King and had to cross the street to get to In-N-Out Burger, so that rules that out. They weren’t offering hamburgers at wholesale or on credit, they actually have less room to eat in and people were standing around, the company isn’t new (since 1948) so it’s not one of those phenomenons relating to something brand-new and exciting.

So what is it that makes it so successful and have more people eating there?

You see, Gary Halbert was wrong. Both of these places had the exact same customer base: starving crowds of people. They were all driving by the same street. There were no special signs anywhere advertising a reduction in costs or free fries with their order (there actually may have been some on the Burger King place-those kinds of signs are always there). They were all looking for a quick and tasty meal but 20 times more people chose In-N-Out Burger than Burger King.

Gary Halbert was right if you were thinking about wanting to establish a business and deciding which business to go in. Yes, of course, you would want to find one where people are clamoring for your product. But I believe he is incorrect in this instance when comparing competitive strategies between those in the same industry. They already have the same crowd of starving customers.

And that brings us full circle to the beginning of my discussion-why do some companies who market on the Internet succeed while others don’t? How do some companies manage to spend a fraction of what another does and get tremendously better results?

If you thought trying to find your ad in a newspaper was difficult, it can be far worse on the Internet. One of the things that is so appealing to those who want to advertise or market on the Internet is its low cost. In many cases it’s extremely low. There isn’t the giant expense of television towers, radio waves, huge printing presses, etc. to get the message out. Everyone with computer access can market on the Internet.

But that low-cost alternative can be extremely expensive. For many people, some estimate well over 90%, they don’t succeed in getting their message across. They waste their time and effort and how much does that cost?

Just send me your basic information, and I’ll reply with an answer that has tremendous impact on your Internet marketing decisions, in fact all of your marketing decisions. In fact, some of you may not choose to market on the Internet at all after reading what I am about to reveal, its that powerful.

I promise I won’t spam you, that’s not my goal. My goal is to help companies market themselves on the Internet, not use subversive or illegal tactics to accomplish this task. and if you don’t like information, you can always delete and it’s easy to opt out of getting any more e-mails from me.

I just think it’s essential that people understand this vital principle of marketing can not only save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, it will help you find more targeted customers, ones that are looking for you.

Once you realize this, it can totally set you free and save you a fortune. I mean think about it, In-N-Out Burger is an old company, with an old-style, a limited product offering that doesn’t hardly advertise anywhere. Yet it creams its competitor right across the street because it understands one principle of marketing and has stuck with that principle. It hasn’t gotten diverted into endless options and programs. It has a brand and sticks with it. It knows where it fits in knows where it doesn’t.

I look forward to hearing your comments about this principle. Just fill out the form to the right and I will get back to you soon.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tagged with:

Filed under: internet marketing

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!