Finding Your Big “Marketing Idea” – An Interview with Bret Thomson

Bret Thomson
Finding Your Big “Marketing Idea” – An Interview with Bret Thomson


Bret Thomson is one of Australia’s highest paid/in demand copywriters & conversion strategists. Mal emery, Ari Galper, Spike Hummer, Jennie Armato and Jamie McIntyre are just a few of his big name copy clients.

He’s also a coach, speaker and bestselling author of Client Rush:37 Proven Marketing Breakthroughs for Attracting More Clients Fast”

Bret is also well known as “The Big Idea Guy” because his ability to nail the big idea is admired by even the most seasoned marketers.

In this interview Bret reveals how he is able to conjure up incredible marketing ideas as well a ton of other tips which will help you increase your conversions

Simply play the play button or you can read the full transcript below…

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ability to nail the BIG IDEA is admired and respected by even the most seasoned marketing experts – See more at:
is one of Australia’s highest paid in-demand copywriter/marketing & conversion strategists, best selling author, speaker, coach and mentor to thousands – See more at:
is one of Australia’s highest paid in-demand copywriter/marketing & conversion strategists, best selling author, speaker, coach and mentor to thousands – See more at:
is one of Australia’s highest paid in-demand copywriter/marketing & conversion strategists, best selling author, speaker, coach and mentor to thousands – See more at:

Joey Bushnell: Hello welcome to The Online Marketing Show I’m your host Joey Bushnell. Today I’m joined by a top copywriter, named is Bret Thomson. You can find out more about Brett over at Bret thank you very much for being on the show with me today.

Bret Thomson: Thanks Joey, it’s an absolute pleasure and privilege.

Joey Bushnell: Bret, how did you become a copywriter?

Bret Thomson: It wasn’t the usual course that most people carve I suppose but in summary I was a proud father of twin boys and I went all through school, never read a book and just failed English miserably and my whole life after school became a big party really.

Until I was blessed with twin boys, that made me think about my life and the future. So I read my first book when I was in my mid 20’s called “Awaken The Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins. Prior to that the only things I did read was mad magazines and the occasional choose your own adventure books.

So I got right into personal development and became voraciously reading as much personal development stuff as I could. To the point where I thought kids really need to hear this because I didn’t learn about goals, creating your destiny, communication skills and self esteem at school. So I thought someone has to teach this to kids. I had my first thought of jumping into my own business.

I asked all of my friends what they thought of me starting a business to teach kids between 7-13 all the life skills. Everyone said it was a fantastic idea. It doesn’t matter who I have asked everyone has given me positive feedback. I took the leap of faith having been in the same job for the last 15 years. I just knew that although I was quite successful in that I knew I was meant to be doing something else in my life, even though I didn’t know exactly what it was.

I had this dream of running these personal development workshops for kids so I jumped into my own business and everyone was right. Everyone I had mentioned it to said it was a brilliant idea but the problem was no one was prepared to pay for it. I learned very quickly you can have a great idea on one side but unless you have marketing you can lose a lot of money. That is was happened to me.

In my first year I turned over $16,000 Australian dollars for the year and that’s pretty tough. Then I found myself in a marketing seminar. A guy came on to the stage and he was known as the “Millionaire Maker” in Australia his name is Mal Emery. He said “What I’m going to share with you now has made me more money than anything I’ve done in my whole life”. I remember sitting in the crowd, on the edge of my seat, pen in hand, thinking whatever comes out of this guys mouth, I’m going to do it no matter what!

He said “It’s the art of writing compelling words on paper better known as copywriting”. I thought “No!” I hate reading and writing, I’ve only just started reading!

Then he introduced a guy on staged named Pete Godfrey who in Australia is known as one of the best copywriters in the country. Pete did a presentation on copywriting and it really made sense for me. At first I thought how is he going to talk about such a boring subject but he did it in a really entertaining way.

So I spent my last $500 and went to one of his copywriting courses and the penny really dropped for me. It gave me a lot of hope in the way that I realized it wasn’t all about being a great writer. Claude Hopkins said it best I believe, he said it was “Salesmanship in print”. So he had some good  sales and learned how to translate that into words and the success wasn’t about how good you were at English and grammar so I thought “Awesome” because mine was way below average.

I applied some copywriting skills into my own business and things started picking up. All of a sudden people started ringing me and saying “Hey Bret, who is doing your copywriting?” I said “Well, it’s me” they would say “We’ve been looking to pay someone to do some copywriting are you interested?” So I thought since I’m not earning any money, yeah why not!

So I started doing copy for people and hitting some big winners for people just following these principles. Next thing was Mal Emery rang me up out of the blue and said “Hi Bret, I’m looking at a sales letter here ,did you write this?” he told me what it was and I said yeah and he said “That is one of the best sales letters I’ve seen written in this country for years”. I said “Well I’m not surprised…” not really! I didn’t, but to cut a long story short within 12 months Mal and me had a team of about 12 different copywriters.

I jumped into that team and started doing stuff for him. Within 6 months after hitting winner after winner for his clients I became his personal copywriter. So I went from about 16k to about 200k turnover because of my copywriting skills in about 12 months.

Inside of that also I went halves with a mate of mine in a business and at the time I didn’t have any money to invest I just offered my copywriting skills. We bought the marketing rights for a product and everyone was struggling to sell it for about $498. It was just a direct mail business and I looked at the offline ads, sales letters and follow up emails. I thought this could use a massive overhaul.

So while everyone was struggling to sell it at $498 I was getting some great success. We just kept upping the price and I put it up to $1,498 and outsold every other distributor by 600%. The cool thing is we didn’t change the product one single bit all we did was change the words in our marketing and the copywriting. We went from a start and scratch to 125k turnover in 5 months.

That’s how I came into copywriting and then from that the business ended up folding for some other reason from the distributor but then I turned my hand into writing for other people. I got a really good name for myself probably as good reputation as “the big idea guy” in Australia. Coming up with massive ideas that make people respond.

I got very well known in Australia and then someone asked me to teach what I know on stage and I did that and got a massive response. Now I really enjoy teaching, not all the time. About 95% of my income comes from in the trenches working. I think you need to stay sharp in this game instead of spending time teaching all the time. So I do some teaching as well but that’s a quick wrap up of my story.

Joey Bushnell: Thank you for that, it sounds like a cool story and it’s cool to hear that you had twins because I’ve got twins on the way!

Bret Thomson: Oh that’s awesome man, wow!

Joey Bushnell: Yeah so I might have a chat with you after the call is finished and get some tips!

Bret Thomson:  Yeah, it’s life changing.

Joey Bushnell: My first question is you talked about salesmanship in print and you’ve mentioned in some of your materials I’ve read you use the term “sales intuition”. I am just wondering how do we tune into our own sales intuition?

Bret Thomson: I didn’t learn this in any copywriting course but since I’ve dug deeper I’ve learned other people have. Let me start by saying this, my rapid success in copywriting was really based around some fundamental copywriting skills.

Now 7 or 8 years have passed and I know that the biggest area of success in copywriting is in the researching part. So it’s pretty common for me to spend about 70-80% of my time researching about the client and what makes them tick. Then the 20% is the actual writing.

So to really tap into your intuition, first of all you is to recognize that you do have intuition. You see people who say I’m tuned in with really great intuition, that’s fantastic but I believe everyone has it. I’m not one of those tree hugging hippies who thinks you have to meditate and all that. A lot of people say to me with all of these ideas you come up with your mind mustn’t stop. They are absolutely right but for me to come up with a big idea and tap into some intuition of what the client wants I actually have to slow down and relax.

The example I use, if you are at a party or seminar you see someone across the room and they walk towards you and say “Hey Joey, how are you mate?” They race up to you with their hand out ready to shake your hand and you just cannot think of their name. So you go “Hey buddy, how are ya?” Then all night you’re thinking what is his name? Then you forget about it, drive home and relax put the music on then all of a sudden…bing! His name pops into your head!

So what happens is your mind relaxed. We spend about 90% of our time in the active mind which is quite a bit of clutter, all busy thoughts. But your intuition is actually in your subconscious mind, where your memory and your intuition and creativity is.

So to do that, I purposely take time out away from the computer, I play and try to put myself in the shoes of the client. To do that it’s not all about meditation. If you research a guy called Gary Halbert, he is famous for saying “Motion beats meditation” so you have to do some work.

I interview my clients. An average copywriter when they take on a project they’ll give their client a questionnaire to find out what make their clients tick, keeps them up at night, their objectives and fears. That is cool but the business owner is not the person who is going to be buying the product.

So what I do is say thanks for filling that out that is based on his opinion then I’ll ask for 10 of his clients some of them who have recently done business with him, some that took a long time and some who have been in business with him for a long time.

I’ll get a good mix and ring them up and say “Hey I’m working with Jo Bloggs and asked him for a list of his favorite clients and your name came up, do you mind if I ask you a few questions as we are thinking of rolling this out to help more people?”. Everyone bar none says “Yeah no worries”. I ask them.

I used to ask what headline do you think will work? Don’t do that because they’re not very tuned in but what I do ask is their story, tell me how you came across it. When you ask people survey type questions they get compelled to try and give you an answer that they think you want to hear. It’s a bit of an ego thing subconsciously, they don’t realize but try and sound smart and intelligent but if you ask for their story then that can’t change. I get a lot of gold from the story.

So I create a bit of an avatar of the ideal client and then I spend time and harness intuition and really try to put myself in their shoes and see what makes them tick. There is a lot more I’ve done training on how to come up with a big idea that is just one part of it. I think what I like teaching my copy clients is just believe that you do have the intuition and harness that.

Joey Bushnell: Since you’re known as “The big idea guy” how does someone find their million dollar big idea?

Bret Thomson: Awesome question. There are many things and I could do a whole call just on this but here is some of the ways I do it. Definitely what I’ve just told you will all work in coming up with a big idea because whether you are copywriting to come up with a big idea for your clients or you’re doing it for yourself the first thing I do is take time out to actually come up with it.

Don’t just expect it’s going to happen. A great example is Isaac Newton went to Cambridge university and at the time the university had to shut down because of the plague. He is an avid student and that’s where you go to learn, learn, learn. But when the university shut down he had nowhere to go to learn. So he went back home and started to think. In that time he came up with some of the worlds greatest scientific breakthroughs that the world has ever seen. He stopped learning and started to think.

First of all you want to create time. What I do is create space and the environment. I often get away from the computer because it’s too distracting. I take a note pad and pen and just have a brain storming session and let it flow.

A good indicator of a good idea is to come up with your magic wish list or the magic wand list. Pretend you have a magic wand and if you could make anything happen just write that down and don’t hold back. If you come up with ideas that make you scared and you feel it in your body it’s a bit scary then that is a great direction to head towards.

One of my favorite sayings is “Fear is a scarecrow of fools and a beacon for wise men”. Most people turn away from something that is scary but I feel the fear and go “Wow, on the other side of that must be something pretty awesome so I’ll head towards it”. Sometimes it’s not as easy as that, sometimes you have to work on it but it’s something that most people don’t do. The magic Wand list is really cool.

A mastermind group is great if you can just brainstorm with other people, there is a lot of power in masterminds. Even if you can only hook up with one other person. I’ve realized over the past couple of years that I’ve not only come up with big ideas for other people but for myself it really helps if I got someone just to air my thoughts out and bounce off from.

Sometimes if I’ve got no one and want to do it on the spot, this sounds a bit weird, I’ll pretend that I’ve got Gary Halbert, John Carlton or Dan Kennedy in the room and I’ll try and think what would they come up with or contribute to this conversation.  So I’ll make up a pretend mastermind and it’s really funny. If you have researched these guys like I have, Gary Halbert I’ve read pretty much everything he’s done, every day in the morning I was reading Halberts stuff. So I could adequately hear his voice and get really good ideas, if that makes sense?

Joey Bushnell: Yes it does.

A really well known and popular piece of copywriting advice is that it’s less about the features and all about the benefits. You say to go one step further than that, which is turning benefits into feelings. So why should we do this and any tips on how we can put this into our copywriting?

Bret Thomson: Basically it’s under the premise that people buy with emotion and not logic. I’m saying that you still need logic and the reason being you can get them all wound up with emotion but if you sell them a product, like to a husband and he has to check with his wife before he purchases then you have to arm him with enough evidence that he can go to his partner and sell her on the idea to exchange money for your product.

Emotion is great and that will get him but you still have to arm him with logic too. She obviously hasn’t gone through that same journey to come to the same buying decision as him. So saying that features are still important you need to put some features in there but always go to the benefits and what that feature would do for them.Never miss an opportunity to take it one step further and talk in the language of what emotion they get with that.

An example I use is the bike that has 10 gears that is the feature, having 10 gears the benefit of that is you can climb hills faster.One step further what is the benefit of climbing hills faster? You can loose weight, what’s the benefit of losing weight or the emotion? You feel more confident and for women you feel more sexy. So what are you really selling? The 10 gears or confidence and sexiness? You always, always look to inject emotion in everything you do.

Joey Bushnell: Why should we think of every possible reason why a client should not buy from us?

Bret Thomson: Good question. One objection missed is a sale missed. Simple as that.

This is what comes in at the researching phase. People always say to me I never read those long sales letters and who does? Most people don’t read them. They are 100% right most people don’t read the long form sales letters but the buyers will read as much as they need to get to the point where they are ready to buy.

They might not read every single word but the length of the copy should be determined by, in my opinion, enough to cover every single objection and hit every single hot point. Everyone is going to have different reasons.

When you come up with a headline and the big idea you are trying to come up with the mass desire or number one reason shared by the most amount of people. But still people will buy for different reasons and people won’t buy for different reasons so you need to cover all of that. An objection missed is a sale missed.

I know a gentleman I went to a seminar with, it was a presentation for property and all of these plus’s and amazing opportunities. Question and answer time came at the end and some great questions the speaker was answering them so well and one question came up and he answered it OK but not properly.  I spoke to him afterward and said what did you think he said “Yeah sounds exciting but he didn’t answer that question too well so I don’t think I’m going to go with it”.

All it took was one objection to be missed and an objection not covered properly and he lost the sale. That’s why you should find out every single reason that will stop people from buying and cover that in your copy.

Joey Bushnell: Brilliant. I read something on your blog which is very interesting something you mentioned called an “ROI Click”. What is an “ROI Click” and how can it help us?

Bret Thomson: OK, it’s a return on investment. It’s just a powerful click and if people don’t know what a click is, it’s a click of the dial. If you are going to open a safe there are a certain amount of clicks you need to open the safe and get the treasure.

Even in the copywriting world we always say what click are you going to use here? One of the most powerful ones to use if you can, is show them how if they purchase their money what kind of return on investment they’re going to get. Don’t just assume they are going to work it out. Don’t ever assume they will work it out in their mind by themselves.

You have to really demonstrate that if they buy your eBook for $37 and apply what they learn, this is obviously on the subject of making money, then they can get their money back and double their money back in 3 weeks then within a month they can earn their first $1,000 and so on.

I try and do it in all different industries even for dog breeding. Some people want to know how to do a safe home breeding for their pup. I said if you want to do it for money here’s how you can make an extra $11,000 dollars every 9 months. I show them that too, even thought they might not be there  it’s just an opportunity to show them a return on their investment.

People don’t buy off me if they don’t believe me, they don’t buy off you if they don’t trust you. So if they can see a good return on investment quickly then it takes some of the risk away and they can get to the purchasing decision a lot quicker.

Joey Bushnell: My final question is how do we construct the perfect offer? What goes in to that?

Bret Thomson: I will say this is a more powerful question than people realize. Earlier in the interview I said since I’ve been in this game for a number of years, I’ve realized the most important thing you can do is researching the list and understanding the list.

The second most important thing is the offer. I think it was an old school copywriting underground genius by the name of Dick Benson. I believe he was the first person who said “Behind every successful marketing campaign the success is broken up in to 40% is the list, 40% is the offer and 20% is the sales copy to carry all of that through”.

Mary Ellen Tribby who is one of the best direct response marketers who turns million dollar companies into hundred million dollar companies in 12 months, she goes on to say that “60% is to do with the list, 30% is the offer and 10% is the sales copy”.

I tell you that for this reason, that is when you come up with the offer obviously it starts with finding out who the target market is and what will make them respond. That comes in the researching phase. Stating the obvious is giving them what they want, not what they need. That is the most important.

All the stuff I have shared with you already about coming up with the big idea that’s the same kind of stuff I come up with in the offer. There are key elements in the offer which could really take it home. That is you can do everything right in the offer. You can have the brilliant idea and communicate that in the perfect way in the headline.

For instance let’s say there was an advertisement in the local newspaper about a lawnmower. The father is reading the headline and it really pulls him in, he is reading all of the features and the benefits, bullet points, conversational copy, everything is going for it. There is a massive discount he thinks “Wow, this is fantastic”. He is pretty red hot to buy but for some reason he didn’t jump in his car and go and do it. What would that reason be?

Probably because they didn’t put any urgency or scarcity on there. They got him 3/4 of the way to the purchase with the offer but if they didn’t say “This weekend only or today only or there is only 5 left, first come first served” That would close the deal and that would make him jump in his car or jump on the phone and just secure it.

A lot of people when I talk at seminars they say they hate the scarcity and urgency, it’s so false and hypey. I totally understand that and it’s your choice but you’re leaving a lot of money on the table if you don’t put it in there.

If you are going to use scarcity and urgency you have to make it believable. You can’t say here is my eBook and there’s only 25 downloads available.. as if right? It must be believable and there has to be reasons why. If you are going to make a claim or statement saying this is for the next 10 people only then you need to tell them why.

So to come up with the greatest offer it has to have a lot of attributes. It has to be relevant to the market, unique, irresistible, believable and it needs scarcity and urgency.

Joey Bushnell: Brilliant, thank you Bret that was a great answer. Thank you for the interview today. Where can we find out more about you and your products?

Bret Thomson: Thanks for asking. At the moment my hub is my blog which is

One of my popular early entry products is my book which I wrote that is called “Client Rush” available on hardcover and kindle. You can go to

I’ve got some training which is kind of a membership program which is called client rush central. It’s a great community and I’ve uploaded all my latest teaching in there and the cool things is, it’s stuff I’m doing right now. It’s very current and relevant and I’m always uploading new content and that is where I delve in and teach people the big idea training, how to find clients and how to improve your craft of copywriting. There are also a lot of interviews with people who are on the cutting edge right now too.

Joey Bushnell: We will have links for those sites so people can go and check all of that great stuff out. Bret, thank you for the interview today, I really appreciate it.

Bret Thomson: It’s a pleasure mate you’ve made it very easy and enjoyable for me with such great questions. It’s been a pleasure.