Don Corleone’s Killer Marketing Wisdom

To effectively influence someone’s behavior you must first capture their attention. In the words of Don Vito Corleone*, you make them an offer they can’t refuse.

It starts with your headline — whether it’s an email’s subject line, a radio or television commercial’s opening sentence, a blog post’s title or the headline of a print ad. Displace whatever is on your target audience’s mind with a thought that is more intriguing, more enticing, and they can’t refuse to pay attention.

A well-crafted opening hooks a prospect in two ways: upon seeing the headline or hearing the opening line, the prospect understands the message is meant for them and is relevant to them. The prospect recognizes a benefit and is motivated to keep reading, watching or listening to find out more.

The difference between marketing and personal salesmanship lies largely in personal contact. The sales representative is there to demand attention. He cannot be easily ignored. But the sales rep wastes much of his time on prospects that he can never hope to interest. He has to qualify people and determine whether they’re a likely prospect.

A marketing piece can be easily ignored, so the purpose of a headline is to target people who are already interested. Marketing pieces are read, watched or listened to only by interested people who choose to pay attention to what you have to say.

When you want to talk to someone in a crowd, the first thing you say is, “Hey, Tom!” to get the right person’s attention. So it is with marketing. What you offer will only be of interest to certain people—your target audience—and only for certain reasons. Your marketing is most effective when you make an irresistible offer focused directly towards your target audience.

“If you wish to persuade me, you must speak my words, think my thoughts, and feel my feelings.”

– Cicero

Every day brings another barrage of marketing and promotional messages, visual stimuli and endless sound bites. Your target audience, along with everyone else, unconsciously practices selective attention—if something doesn’t seem relevant, they immediately filter it out. So be specific in your marketing. Direct your efforts toward whom you want to attract and who is likely to be interested in your products or services. Craft your offer and message so it penetrates and resonates with their mind and with their heart.

Make them an offer they can’t refuse and they won’t be able to live without your product or service.


*Marlon Brando in, The Godfather (1972). Paramount Pictures. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.

** No horses or fish were hurt during the writing of this article.

Bob Roitblat
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Bob Roitblat

Bob Roitblat is a Leadership Capabilities Expert and TEDx speaker. He helps organizations ignite creativity, overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities. Bob is also the president of Mainsail Consulting Group, a business-advisory firm. Also connect with Bob on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

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Bob Roitblat
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