What is Advertising?
In simple terms, ads copy, or copywriting, is salesmanship in print.
Copywriters are hired to sell.
As with television commercials (if done properly), the written word persuades by persuading visually and auditorily.
A timeless classic by Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising, states:
“To properly understand advertising or to learn even its rudiments one must start with the right conception. Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman’s standards.
“Let us emphasize that point. The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales. “It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen. Treat it as a salesman. Force it to justify itself. Compare it with other salesmen. Figure out its cost and result. Accept no excuses that good salesmen do not make. Then you will not go far wrong. “The difference is only in degree. Advertising is multiplied by salesmanship.
It may appeal to thousands while the salesman talks to one. It involves a corresponding cost. Some people spend $10 per word on an average advertisement. Therefore every ad should be a super-salesman. “A salesman’s mistake may cost little. An advertiser’s mistake may cost thousand times that much. Be more cautious, more exacting, therefore. A mediocre salesman may affect a small part of your trade. Mediocre advertising affects all of your trade.”
Nearly a century after they were written, these points remain true!
As a result, the goal becomes: how can we make our advertising as effective as possible?
The answer lies in repeated testing.
Assuming that ad “A” receives a two per cent response rate, and ad “B” receives a three per cent response rate, then we can conclude that ad “B” will continue to outperform ad “A” in the future.
Testing takes time and can be expensive if not kept in check.
Therefore, it’s best to start with some proven tested known ideas.
It is reasonable to assume that targeted advertising significantly outperforms untargeted advertising based on decades of testing (as it does).
Based on test results, it makes little sense to start testing with the assumption that addressing the masses performs better than speaking directly to an individual (again, it does).
As a result, it makes sense to know some basic rules or techniques for writing effective copy.
Results always trump all, but it’s better to have a starting point before testing.
This is the book’s starting point.
This list of ten tips has been time-tested and proven to be effective.
You should always test these techniques before rolling out a large (and expensive) campaign when using these techniques.
Response rates can be dramatically increased with just a few tweaks here and there.
#1. It’s about them, not about you
When a prospect reads your ads letter, brochure, etc., they always wonder what’s in it for them.
You’ll lose him faster than he can read your headline if you don’t tell him that in your copy. Advertisers often make this mistake.
They focus on them as a company. How long they’ve been in business, who their biggest customers are, and how they’ve spent ten years and millions of dollars developing this product.
Write your copy as if you were writing a letter to an old friend.
As a matter of fact, I often imagine a friend of mine who most closely matches the profile of my prospect.
How would I convince this friend to try my product? To help my cause, how can I target my friend’s objections and beliefs?
To convince a friend, you might say: “Look, I know you think you’ve tried every widget out there. This works just to sort of empathising with them.
A really good way to empathize with and focus on your prospects is to;
#2. Emphasize Benefits, Not Features
What are the features?
Basically, they describe what qualities a product has.
- The XYZ car delivers 55 miles per gallon in the city.
- Our ladder’s frame is made from a lightweight durable steel alloy.
- Our glue is protected by a patent.
- This database has a built-in data-mining system.
Benefits are what those features mean to your prospects
- You’ll save money on gas and cut down on environmental pollutants when you use our energy-saving high-performance hybrid car.
- A lightweight durable steel-alloy frame means you’ll be able to take it with you with ease, and use it in places most other ladders can’t go, while still supporting up to 800 pounds. No more backaches lugging around that heavy ladder.
- You can instantly see the “big picture” hidden in your data, and pull the most arcane statistics on demand. Watch your business do a “180” in no time flat, when you instantly know why it’s failing in the first place! It’s all done with our built-in data mining system that’s so easy to use, my twelve-year-old son used it successfully right out of the box.
My examples are just made up, but I think you get the point.
It is important to address the product’s benefits, not its features. As a result, you’re focusing on your reader and his interests, his desires. Highlight those specific benefits (and word them correctly) that trigger your reader’s emotions.
#3. Push Their Emotional Hot Buttons
Research pays off here. Because in order to push those buttons, you need to first know what they are.
Basically, a good salesman knows what questions to ask in order to determine what buttons to press.
You don’t have that luxury when you’re writing a copy.
For this reason, it’s extremely important to know upfront what your prospects want, need, and desire.
Your prospect will decide that he’d rather keep his money than buy your product if you haven’t done your homework.
#4. Incorporating Proof and Believability in your Ads Copy
You want your prospect to believe any claims you make about your product or service when he reads your ad. No matter how sweet the deal is, he won’t bite if there’s any doubt in his mind. Even if it’s all true, the “too good to be true” mentality virtually guarantees a lost sale.
How can you increase the perception of believability? In the end, it’s all about perception. You must ensure that your copy is accurate and truthful.
Here are some tried and tested methods that will help:
- If you’re dealing with existing customers who already know you deliver as promised, emphasize that trust. Don’t leave it up to them to figure it out. Make them stop, cock their heads, and say, “Oh, yeah. The ABC Company has never done me wrong before. I can trust them.”
- Include testimonials of satisfied customers. Be sure to put full names and locations, where possible. Remember, “A.S.” is a lot less believable than “Andy Sherman, Voorhees, NJ.” If you can also include a picture of the customer and/or a professional title, that’s even better. It doesn’t matter that your testimonials aren’t from somebody famous or that your prospect does not know these people personally. If you have enough compelling testimonials, and they’re believable, you’re much better off than not including them at all.
- Pepper your copy with facts and research findings to support your claims. Be sure to credit all sources, even if the fact is common knowledge because a neutral source goes a long way toward credibility.
- For a direct mail letter or certain space ads where the copy is in the form of a letter from a specific individual, including a picture of that person helps. But unlike “traditional” real estate letters and other similar ads, I’d put the picture at the end near your signature, or midway through the copy, rather than at the top where it will detract from your headline. And…if your sales letter is from a specific individual, be sure to include his credentials to establish him as an expert in his field (relating to your product or service, of course).
- Mention any awards or third-party reviews the product or service has received if applicable
- Use “lift notes.” These are brief notes or letters from a person of authority. Not necessarily a celebrity, although that can add credibility, too. A person of authority is someone well recognized in their field (which is related to your product) that they are qualified to talk about. Lift notes may be distributed as inserts, a separate page altogether, or even as part of the copy
- Avoid baseless “hype.”
#5. The Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Often misunderstood, the USP is one of the most important elements of a good sales letter. It’s what sets your product or service apart from the competition.
The following are some unique selling propositions for a product:
Lowest Price: If you have a corner market at budget prices, flaunt it.
Walmart has made this USP famous lately, but it hasn’t been new to them. Selling for less has been around as long as capitalism.
Personally, I don’t like price wars because someone can always come along and sell for less. It’s time for a new approach.
Superior Quality: If it performs better than your competitor’s product or is made from higher-quality materials, you may be able to take advantage of this.
Take Breyers Ice Cream as an example. There is no doubt about the quality, from the packaging to the wholesome ingredients.
Their ice cream may be a little more expensive than their competitor’s, but it sells well in their market.
Superior Service: Customers will purchase from you instead of your competitors if you provide superior service.
Particularly true in markets that revolve around service: long-distance, Internet services, cable television, etc.
Exclusive Rights: My favourite! You have an exclusive right if your product is protected by a patent, copyright, licensing agreement, etc.
If you have a patent, even the President of the U.S. must buy it from you.
What if your product or service is the same as your competitor’s? As long as there are differences, I would disagree. Using them to your advantage is the key.
It is important to put your best foot forward. How can we handle this scenario? The best way is to sell your product’s strengths and features that distinguish you from your competitors.
#6. The Headline
It would be best if you focused on your headline if you want to boost your response rate the most.
Five times more people read your headline than your copy. So it makes sense to craft the headline properly.
Unless you give people a good reason to read your copy, they won’t stop their busy lives to read it. In other words, a good headline promises some news and a benefit.
For example, take a look at the following headline:
Announcing…New High-Tech Gloves Protect Wearer Against Hazardous Waste.
This headline is targeted and it offers news and benefits.
The headline’s appearance is also very important.
Use bold and large type, and make sure it differs from the copy’s type.
Even when targeting more “conservative” prospects, longer headlines tend to outperform shorter ones.
#7. The More You Tell, The More You Sell
Long copy versus short copy is a debate that never seems to end.
Newcomers to copywriting tend to think long copy is boring and, well, long.
It’s impossible for me to read that much copy,” they say.
When all things are equal, a long copy will always outperform a short copy.
When all things are equal, a long copy will always outperform a short copy.
Copywriters who claim they wouldn’t read all that copy are making a big mistake: they are relying on gut reactions instead of test results.
In his mind, he considers himself to be a prospect.
There have been many studies and split tests conducted on the long copy versus short copy debate. And the clear winner is always a long copy.
But that’s targeted relevant long copy as opposed to untargeted boring long copy.
Studies and split tests have been conducted on the long-copy versus short-copy debate. Long copy always wins.
This is a targeted relevant long copy, not untargeted boring long copy.
Some people read every word and then go back and reread it.
Most people read the headline and lead, then skim most of the body and land on the closing paragraph.
It is common for some people to scan the entire body before reading it. Those prospects may all end up purchasing the offer, but they may also read and skim differently.
#8. Write To Be Scanned
The layout is very important in a sales letter, as you want your letter to look inviting and refreshing. The goal is to get your prospect to stop what he’s doing and read your letter.
How likely is it that he’ll read a letter that has tiny margins, no indents, no breaks in the text, no white space, and no subheads?
Ample white space, generous margins, short sentences, short paragraphs, subheads, and an italicized or underlined word here and there will make it more inviting to read.
You must use them all.
Long, engaging copy for the studious reader, short paragraphs and sentences, white space, and subheadings for the skimmer.
Subheads are the smaller headlines sprinkled throughout your copy.
The headlines that didn’t make the cut can make great subheads. In addition to threading your prospect along from beginning to end throughout your copy, a good subhead also provides the glue required to keep skimmers reading.
#9. The Structure of AIDAS
Successful sales letters follow a well-known structure known as AIDA.
AIDA stands for:
Your first step is to capture your prospect’s attention.
You do this with your headline and lead. Your ad fails completely if it fails to steal the attention of your prospects.
You don’t sell your product or service if your prospect doesn’t read your stellar copy.
You should then build a strong interest in your prospect.
Reading will make him more likely to buy, so you want him to keep reading.
The next step is to channel a desire.
This requires a targeted market, so you’re not trying to create a desire where none already exists.
Your goal is to capitalize on a prospect’s existing desire, which he may or may not be aware of.
Lastly, you present a call to action.
The goal may be to get him to pick up the phone, return the reply card, attend the sales presentation, order your product, whatever.
In order to get a sale (or response, if that is your goal), you need to ask for it.
The Call to action goal here is to avoid wasting time.
This is where you present the terms of your offer and urge the prospect to act now if your letter and AIDA structure are sound and persuasive.
#10. Use Takeaway Selling to Increase the Urgency
Economics dictates that demand will rise when you limit the supply of a product or service (e.g. takeaway sales).
As a result, people will generally respond better to an offer if they believe the offer will soon become unavailable or restricted.
The opposite is also true. The prospect doesn’t need to act now if he knows your product will be available whenever he needs it.
A prospect who puts aside your ad greatly diminishes your chances of closing the sale.
Your job is to get your prospect to buy and to buy now.
A great way to achieve this is to use scarcity to sell.
There are basically three types of takeaways:
1. Limiting the quantity e.g X amount of product left.
2. Limiting the time eg. Deal Expires in X time
3. Limiting the offer. e.g Offer available only for X.
With the first method, limiting the quantity, you present a fixed number of widgets for sale.
That’s it once they’re gone.
Some good ways to limit the quantity include:
∙ only so many units made or obtained
∙ selling off old stock to make room for new
∙ limited number of cosmetically-defective items, or a fire sale
∙ only a limited number is being sold so as not to saturate the market.
The best copy is made, not born.
Developed from tested results, it is designed to do one thing well: sell. Ad copies don’t always use “grammatically correct” English.
Fragments and short sentences are used.
This is how it looks. It persuades you to buy and to buy now. That’s it. The article focuses on benefits rather than features.
The article sells on emotion and reinforces the decision to buy with logic. A compelling picture and irresistible offer force your prospect to act.
Then you drop that ad like a hot potato and go with one that does.
A persuasive salesperson is like your top salesperson, the one who continues to smash all your sales records year after year, multiplied by thousands or millions!
What if you could multiply that salesperson, the one with proven results, as much as you wanted?
That would be effective (and cost-efficient) marketing! And that’s the kind of proven marketing you need to employ.
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