Improve Your Ads & You Could Double Your Business Over Night
Running display ads is one of the biggest costs for small business owners and honestly, most of them are throwing their money away. I know, I know, not you though.
Well for the rest of you who at least have a suspicion that you aren’t getting your money’s worth from you print advertising, here is a 10 point checklist for you to go over before you hand over your hard-earned cash to some ad rep that gets paid to sell ads, not results. Follow these rules religiously and you’ll grow your business over night without costing you a dime more than you are already spending.
10 Ways To Instantly Increase The Response Of Your Ads
Tip #1 – Focus On The Reader, Not You
Instinctively, people only read sales letters and advertisements to find out what’s in it for them. If you fail to tell them what benefits they’ll receive and instead focus on tooting your own horn, the reader is going to lose interest and move on. Far too often I see ads that read like a typical business card and consist of little more than a company’s name, address, hours of operation and a generic claim like “Top Quality”.
Not one item in an ad like this has any benefit to the reader, and as a result, these types of ads are glossed over or even worse, passed over altogether. Instead, write your ads as if you were writing a letter to a personal friend or a person you know that symbolically relates to your desired customers. Use the words “you” and “your” generously, and if possible, try not to use the words “I” and “me” at all.
What We Do: All sales materials have been rewritten to focus on the reader and are written as if to a single person. Extensive research has gone into discovering the reasons people buy from us and that information has been integrated into our website and sales letters.
What You Can Do: Look for any mention of “I” and “us” in your marketing materials and rewrite them with a new focus on your prospects. Have someone else read your materials first and make sure they feel like the ad or letter is written specifically for them.
Tip #2 – Excite Readers With Benefits, Not Features
Features describe the qualities of your products and services and do little to draw upon the emotions of your customers. A better way to describe your products and services is to figure out what benefits your customers get from using them and then to let your prospects know how they can feel the same.
Toyota did a wonderful job with this with the Prius. Because these cars are so fuel-efficient, owners are going to save a lot of money on gas. But instead of focusing on saving money, Toyota instead focused on appealing to their customer’s “green” nature and how good they’d feel driving around in a car that does less damage to the environment. No matter what it is you sell, find out from your customers what they gain from buying from you and then focus your ads around these benefits.
What We Do: Keep a database of benefits for each and every one of products or services that is added to on a constant basis. Get feedback from every single prospect and client when possible. Collect quotes and statistics from relevant sources that back up our benefit claims.
What You Can Do: Use surveys and polls to get feedback from your current customers.
Tip #3 – Push Emotional Hot Buttons
People don’t like to be sold, but they do like to buy. And why do they buy? To satisfy some personal emotion of course. Ferrari’s make people feel cool. Volvo’s make people feel safe. Chevy’s make people feel loyal. They are all cars, but they all draw on different emotions.
Emotions alone will probably not finish the job, so once you have gained a prospect’s attention by appealing to their emotions, focus on your features and close the sale by appealing to their logic. Provide plenty of educational materials to answer any questions the prospect may have and your sales conversions will takeoff.
What We Do: Write stories and sales letters using long copy that focus on the emotional hot buttons of small business owners. Main points are “guaranteed results”, “customer-friendly pricing options” and “more free time and money to spend with family”.
What You Can Do: Use the information you collect from your customers to unearth the true reasons they buy from you, then use this information at every step of your sales process to earn new customers.
Tip #4 – Incorporate Proof & Believability
Making specific claims abut your products or services is a great way to increase your sales, but you better make sure you back up these claims with proof and believability. One of the quickest ways to kill a sale is by making your offer too unbelievable. It may not always be true, but everyone knows that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. When crafting your offers, you need to stand out from your competitors, but you also need to provide testimonials and statistics that back up your claim.
Some other things you can do are including pictures of yourself or from past customers, listing any awards you may have won, highlighting how many people are using your products or services, providing a strong return policy, gaining celebrity endorsements and even revealing flaws about your products or services. As with all areas of advertising, testing is key.
What We Do: Collect industry statistics, customer testimonials, sales figures and traffic growth and incorporate these numbers into our sales letters and marketing materials.
What You Can Do: Get video testimonials from your customers and upload them to your website. You can also provide industry data from respected sources as proof.
Tip #5 – Have A Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
It’s amazing how few businesses have a USP. As a quick rule, the companies that grow faster and bigger are those that have powerful selling points that help them stand out from the competition. Some of the most recognizable companies in the world got that way because of their USP more than any other factor. FedEx, Domino’s and Wal-Mart all relied on their USP to gain huge chunks of market share.
Having a USP isn’t just for the big boys, though. They weren’t always that way, and you don’t have to be either. Some of the ways you can make your company stand out are to focus on price differences, superior quality, superior service or exclusive rights. Talk to your customers and ask them why they think you stand out and perhaps they can help you define your USP, but do something. Not having a USP is equal to throwing your advertising money away.
What We Do: Spend hours and hours talking to small business owners to figure out their needs, improving our services to reflect these needs and then crafting a powerful USP that speaks to these needs. Currently, our USP has changed several times over the last three years.
What You Can Do: Talk to your customers and see what they see different about your products and services. Find out what else you can do to satisfy their needs and then let everyone know why your products or services are the ones that can satisfy their needs best.
Tip #6 – Have A Headline
Again, not more than 2 or 3 out of 100 advertisements we read have headlines, but they are one of the easiest ways to improve your ads. It’s a well-known fact that 80% of people only read headlines. If you aren’t using headlines in your ads, do the math and see how much money you are possibly throwing away because you insist on using your company’s name and logo as the centerpiece of your ads instead of a customer-focused headline with news and a benefit that will get their attention.
Television commercials seem to have convinced everyone that the best way to advertise is to keep your name and image in front of the buying public, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, spending money just to enhance your branding may work for McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and BMW, but it won’t work for you. Instead, focus on your customers, define your benefits and create a compelling headline that appeals to your market.
What We Do: Use our USP as our headline and keep a database of other headlines we have used that were successful.
What You Can Do: Include news and a benefit to your prospects in your headlines.
Tip #7 – Use Long Copy
All things being equal, the longer your sales message is, the better it will sell your products or services. It’s true, people are busier than ever and want their information in bite-size portions, BUT when it comes to making purchases, especially higher-end items, they want as many of their questions answered as possible. The best way to do this is to answer as many of their questions as you can in your advertisements.
Obviously, there is only so much space to say what you need in a print advertisement, but there are other ways to reach your prospects that you can take advantage of longer copy, such as with direct mail or on your company website. Long copy may bore or intimidate some readers, but for those who are most in need of your prospects or services, you will do yourself and them a favor by including as much information as it takes to make the sale.
What We Do: Mail out sales letters to qualified prospects. Letters range from 2 and 4 pages to up to 12 pages. Include as much free information on our website as possible and continually add to it.
What You Can Do: Use direct mail to grow sales. Find out what your prospect’s questions are first and use your sales letters to answer as many of these questions as you can.
Tip #8 – Write To Be Scanned
Long copy will definitely help your ads make the sale, but that doesn’t mean you should write long blocks of text that are difficult to read quickly. The majority of people, even those interested in your products or services, read the scannable parts of an ad or sales letter first and then decide if they want to read it in more detail. It’s important to accommodate both scanners and thorough readers.
So what can you do to break up your copy and make it easier to read?
- * Use bullet points
- * Use sub-heads
- * Use numbered lists
- * Use short sentences
- * Use a P.S.
What We Do: Write blog posts, sales letters and ads that are long and informative, but are easily read by those who have little time to spend.
What You Can Do: Have someone else read your marketing materials first and get their feedback. Was it easy to read? How can it be easier to read?
Tip #9 – Use The AIDA Structure
What in the world is AIDA? AIDA is a simple equation that copywriters and marketers have been using for decades to get the best response for their efforts. In short, AIDA stands for:
Attention – Grab your reader’s attention and draw them into the ad or sales letter. Remember, 80% of people only read the headline.
Interest – Use the next part of your ad to build their interest by talking about some of the benefits they’ll enjoy from buying your products or services.
Desire – Next, start pushing their emotional hot buttons. Show them how these benefits will make their lives better or more enjoyable.
Action – All of your ads, sales letters and other marketing materials need to end with a call to action. If you aren’t telling your prospects what they need to do next, they probably aren’t going to take the action you want them to.
What We Do: Study the great copywriters in history, collect swipe files of great ads, test headlines and offers and get feedback.
What You Can Do: Test your ads and make changes. Then test some more.
Tip #10 – Increase Urgency
It’s your job to get your prospects to buy and buy now. If you don’t provide an incentive to buy now, you will lose out on a high percentage of sales. Instead, capture qualified prospects with a compelling call to action. Three of the best ways to do this are:
1. Limiting The Quantity – Let your prospects know that there are a limited amount of Product X and that they need to hurry if they want their own.
2. Limiting The Time – Use a realistic deadline and stand by it. If your sale is only for one week, don’t keep extending it just because you haven’t gotten the sales you expected.
3. Limiting The Offer – Limit other parts of your offer like your guarantee, premiums or bonuses. Often, these extras are worth more to the prospect than the product or service itself.
What We Do: Include limitations in all three areas. We are only able to serve a limited amount of clients each month, offers last between 24 hours and 1 week, and because we’ve created so many value-added bonuses, we are able to limit different bonuses to different segments of our market.
What You Can Do: At the very minimum, use a limited-time offer. Better yet, use scarcity to create more desire.
Most advertising agencies are more interested in earning awards for their pretty or witty artwork and most ad reps, besides lacking any marketing savvy, are more interested in earning higher commissions than earning you more sales.
Especially in a sluggish economy, it is vitally important that you get the most out of your advertising expenditures. In fact, if you master these 10 ways to improve your ads, you will begin to look at your ads as investments instead of expenditures. Improving your ads will substantially grow your bottom line, so apply each tip to your next ad and then slowly start to test each one, or if you don’t have the time, hire a reputable copywriter to help you out.