Things to know before embarking
First, we need to consider some considerations… then we’ll get to the objectives.
What is advertising?
Without looking in the dictionary, let’s cook up a definition. Here goes: “There’s this entity — the promoter. He, she, or it wants to communicate a message in order to achieve something. The word advertising covers this whole matter.”
Put everything through the wringer
You may have read, in this guide’s section titled, “History of past campaigns,” that when you’re pursuing sellable facts, you should disregard the small points. Forget that stupidity. Instead, leave no stone unturned. Consider the product from every angle. For example, fill in these blanks:
This product is a ____. Its purpose is to ____. The person who needs it is a ____. The product helps him by ____. It ends an ordeal with ____. The prospects should care because ____.
When you’re marketing a product, every part of it is “the potential Eureka,” because something you didn’t assess might jump out at you.
“Um… about those strict orders you gave me?”
You won’t lead your company to the goals by following every smart person’s advice. You’ll probably find their directives don’t match. Follow them all and you’ll only run around in circles, water down your ad, bark up the wrong tree, or some other metaphor. Rather, let their advices (new word) enhance and modify your judgment.
If you try to take in the whole project in one sitting, it will be too overwhelming and you’ll avoid the assignment. So, take it a piece at a time. When you come up with a solution in one sub-area, it will help you in some of the others.
Getting to the objectives
What are the goals for this ad, anyway? Here are some questions that can help you find the answers.
Questions about you…
* Why are you advertising?
* What kind of results do you want?
Questions about the ad…
* What is this ad trying to do?
* What are the priorities for it?
* What is it trying to say?
* What kind of tree would it be?
Questions about the audience
* What are we asking the audience to believe?
* How do you want the audience to be changed after seeing the ad?
* What is the audience supposed to come away with?
Making notable progress over time
When asked to predict how well your campaign will perform, say this: “I know our organization wants a complete turnaround in a matter of weeks, but this is like an exercise program. We’re going to make notable progress over time. That’s a more realistic goal.”
Don’t have too many goals for an ad
You’ve already been given many objectives for one little ad. Like these:
* “Get lots of responses”
* “Say our product the most convenient”
* “Improve our company image”
* “Introduce a new feature”
* “Respond to a competitor’s bogus claim”
Coworker Cram Jammitz says, “You need to add another objective, and this is critical. We need to emphasize that ours is the most durable. Don’t you think it’s necessary to say this?”
That’s a trick question. The answer is: It’s time to reexamine what this ad is supposed to do, because it’s too full of objectives already. Some points need to go into other places, like the direct mail piece.
Satisfying the criteria
You come up with a superexcellent concept, and you fall in love with it immediately. For example, you write this headline: “Are your records stored in Uranus?” Then you realize it has a fatal shortcoming.
The mistake is to go forward with the flawed ad and hope nobody will notice or care. Most often, the defection will grow, and it will damage the campaign. The idea wasn’t worth all those troubles. Change “Uranus” to “Mars” now — before it becomes something you don’t want.
Face it: You’re selling!
One way or another, you have to sell to people. Enjoy it.
Don’t believe a successful copywriter who says, “I don’t know, I don’t try to sell anything. I lie in my garden and make little sketches of the gooseberries, and the words flow out.”
Correction: He is selling, because he is successful. It’s just that he knows how to slice the “Aw shucks” baloney and make it his self-package.
Watch the most “sincere” politicians and you’ll see the same mechanics in motion. The winners sell almost all the time. The top-top winners act as if they aren’t selling… when of course they are.
You don’t just create ads, you create responses
Here’s some cold water in the face: If you produce ads, you’re an expense. And expenses get cut. If you produce results, you’re a revenue source. And you don’t get cut. Hopefully.
Strategy is figuring out what you’re going to do. And as the copywriter, developing the right strategy is the most necessary work you’ll perform.
“Come on!” someone declares. “Choosing which direction to go is more important than creating content?”
Yes, because your copy is an implementation of your strategy. If your strategy is good but your creative is inferior, you’ll probably succeed. However, if your creative is good but your strategy is inferior, you’ll probably fail.
Also, your strategizing never stops, even when you’re deciding how to arrange your final copy blocks. So, wherever you are in the process, understand that you can’t be a la-la copywriter who lets everyone else handle the strategy. You have to think… and think… all the way through.
Building the framework
The framework is at the core of your strategy. It’s a simple structure your whole team should agree to before going forward. It consists of five parts, and it forms the basic basicnesses of your campaign. Here they are:
Product: What you are advertising.
Prospect: The best person to attract.
Problem: The best dilemma you can solve for the prospect.
Competition: What you can’t say because competitors say it.
Appeal: “This product gets past the competition and helps this prospect solve this problem.”
We’ll learn about these parts starting in a few pages, but there’s some other stuff first. Afterwards, you’ll assemble a phenomenal framework.
No planning is wrong…
… and over-planning is wrong. It’s foolish to throw ads out there without putting lots of thought behind them. However, it’s also bad to waste valuable months erecting a giant plan that collapses under its own weight. You need to strike a balance. Immediately.
Out with the old
Some of the smart old methods have to be tossed away. For example, the old way is to put an ad through 15 revisions before putting it out there. Please reconsider doing this, because we’re in the digital communication world. It’s better to get the ad out there in 21 days, generate responses, and keep improving everything. Three points:
This is what your smartest competitors are doing.
Minor improvements probably won’t increase the response.
You can’t say, “I took the normal amount of time to create this ad,” when the feeling is, “We’re in the digital age. You can get a great ad done in a very short time.”
Here is the familiar (slow) game plan for resultful advertising:
The product gains awareness in the market…
… then the prospects begin thinking favorably about it…
… and the prospects respond.
This plan makes sense on paper, but it usually falls apart in the real world. It takes too long to get responses, and the advertiser runs out of money, time, and patience.
Here is the less familiar (speedy) way: Do everything at once. In one ad, tell prospects why they should be aware of the product, why they should use it, and why they should respond now. As a result, many prospects should reply now. A respondent will say afterwards, “I never heard of that product before. I still can’t remember the name. But I contacted them, and they’re sending me a sample.”
The point: You don’t have the funds or time to build awareness first. So, take the big leap and get responses now. The person who buys your product will be aware of you, and — given your circumstances — this is enough.
The vacuum is a place someone puts himself in when he can’t see the realities of the…
* Audience’s needs. “Vac, few people are going to accept this.”
* Competitive situation. “Vac, our product is getting killed out there!”
* Product’s limitations. “Vac, face it: Ours is slower.”
Vac needs to get out in the world and see that he is not the market’s dictator. He is another servant to it.
Introduction to the product
Now we’re getting to the bottom of everything, because that’s where the product is. Most of what you’re going to do depends on the kind of product or service you have. For example, if you’re advertising for a jewelry store, don’t show jewelry thieves.
It’s impossible to know what product you have, so this guide spends little time in this vital area. Instead, let’s overdo it and say, “Wow, it’s necessary for you to know everything about the product.” And, “Boy, it’s invaluable to study the product.”
What is this product supposed to do?
You’re reading about the product. Ask yourself, “What is this product supposed to do?” Don’t settle on easy answers. Get creative.
Let’s say you’re advertising a bucket. “Yes, it holds water,” you think. “And water saves lives.” Now it’s more than a bucket. It’s something that saves lives.
Note: This kind of thinking is a basic fundamental foundation in advertising — and a core to it.
Are you convinced?
Would you buy your product? No copping out with, “Since the product isn’t meant for me, of course I wouldn’t.” You must answer. Would you buy your product?
If yes, why? Use your answer to help construct your ad message.
If no, what is holding you back? This could lead to soul searching about the value of the product.
Hopefully: Your product is developed to the point you can say, “Of course people will choose it, because it’s a lot better.”
We’re going to look at price two ways:
* Investing (details are coming right up): You are convincing the prospects they are getting a strong Return on Investment, so the product doesn’t cost them anything. It saves and earns them money.
* Paying (starts aways down in this text): You’re stating that the product does indeed cost money.
Demonstrate to the audience that they aren’t spending money to get your product. They are receiving a major solution to a major problem, and more solutions to other problems. Therefore, your product is saving them in dozens of ways. They even generate income from it.
Try not to talk about how the audience is parting with dollars, because that isn’t the whole story. Talk about ways your product saves them money. Tell them it can help them make more money. Show them the time and effort they will save translates into dollars for them.
Two side points:
Promoting investment doesn’t fit every situation. For example, it probably won’t sell a cup of coffee.
Often, you do need to talk cost. For example, “It’s 20% less price than our nearest competitor. And it’s an excellent investment.”
However, you should always consider shifting the message to saving/earning, partly because it could help your audience justify the purchase.
Before you advertise, you must reach a three-time Return on Investment (3XROI) with your product. That is, if someone spends $10 to own your product, he gets at least $30 back. To accomplish this, list what your prospects receive in return for their money. Factor in the value from increased productivity, saved time, reduced effort, and improved multi-tasking. Following are some selling points you can give to the prospects:
* Time: You’ll save hours and days. You can invest that time more productively.
* Money earned: The product helps you make more money.
* Future spending: You’ll need to buy less — next week and next year.
* Appearance: This is one sharp product, and looks can make all the difference in your job, relationships, etc.
* Effort: The struggle is over. You’re no longer bogged down.
Once you’ve tallied a 3XROI from the product, go forth and advertise! You’ll have so much eye-opening stuff, you won’t be able to fit it all in.
Tying ROI to product features
ROI alone can’t form a convincing ad, because the prospects need to know what the product does for them. So, tie features and ROI together. For example: “It works instantly, and that saves you valuable time.” Works instantly is the feature, and saves valuable time is the ROI.
Also, ROI won’t turn the trick for some low-cost and negligible purchases. If you sell thumbtacks, don’t try to convince the prospects they will get an ROI from them. However, you should still think about the ROI, because it will lead you to consider new benefits.
Basic objective: Give people lots in return for the money they pay… and lots more than the competition offers.
It’s wonderful to talk about investment, but don’t be evasive about price. Your prospects have been advertised to hundreds of thousands of times, and they want to know what the product costs.
Do you put the price into the ad? Here is a cop out answer: Advertisers in your industry segment have probably already made this decision, because — by tradition — they either talk price or they don’t. Think twice before breaking with long-held practices.
“It costs much less… when you see what you’re getting”
If your product costs more, turn the whole matter on its head. Show the audience how your product is the better value. For example: “We give you a five-year guarantee — something the competition is afraid to offer.” There should be good reasons your product is more expensive, and you should tell them.
Don’t push the general product
It’s a waste of time to tell the restaurant owner why he should buy seafood. Why should he buy your brand of seafood?
Goodness gracious — all this effort for one person. (This odd statement will be cleared up later on in the text.)
Going step-by-step to get the prospect
We’re going to talk more about each of the following. Here is the order:
Defining the market
The market is everyone who might buy your product.
You want to know who the market is, and we’ll get to that later on in the text. Right now, we’ll talk about how many people there are in your market.
If a wise source says your total market comprises 100,000 people, the how many question is settled. Now, the question is: What percentage of the 100,000 makes up the active market? This requires a new subsection.
The active market
Most people in the total market (that 100,000) aren’t going to buy your product — at least not this year. So, the active market becomes key. This is everyone who might buy your product now or in the near future.
What percentage of the total market can be considered the active market? That depends on a lot, including the economy, season, and price.
For example, take price. Let’s say you’re selling an expensive product. In our case:
* The total market is 100,000 people.
* The active market is 1% of that total.
* So, there are 1,000 people in the active market.
The point: If you advertise in such a way that you reach all 100,000 people (you won’t be able to — this is an academic discussion), then 1,000 people will have an active interest in responding to your ad.
This doesn’t mean 1,000 people will respond to your ad. It does mean:
* You have to put out a wonderful ad — one that gets many of those 1,000 to reply.
* You want the ad to be so good that plenty of those 99,000 others…
* Wake up
* Instantly turn themselves into active prospects
* Respond to your ad
Getting back to the price issue, if it’s an inexpensive product, the active market might be 5% of the market (not 1%, as we saw with the expensive product).
If all this sounds muddled and inexact, you get the idea. Now, let’s get more confusing and talk about who the market is. The reason: Smart advertising doesn’t speak to the whole market, but one person.
Who is this one person?
The prospect! See, you’re never addressing all the people in your audience. You’re only talking to one person: the prospect. The reason: All that matters is how your message is received, and that is done one person at a time. Case in point: You aren’t reading these words as a multi-headed being, but as an individual. All by yourself.
Agora Fobia is petrified, because she has never advertised to a million people before. She decides to formalize her style… write stiff copy… make it appropriate for all those people.
Agor should calm herself. If she had read the last section, Ag would know she is only talking to one person: the prospect. The multiplication of that number is inconsequential.
Be glad that ad communication is handled one-on-one, because you’re already wonderful at this kind of exchange. Friends always depend on you for help… you’ve given family members smart advice… and less than a month ago, your words improved the spirits of a coworker.
Don’t let a nonexistent thing called The Mass Audience keep you from using your mesmerizing powers of encouragement. In conversation, you can lead a friend to go the right way. Just do it the same way in your advertising.
Semi-relatedly, if the audience is full of VIPs, the informal style could work even better. Two reasons:
It projects confidence. You show you belong there.
It’s more daring. How could you communicate so casually with these powerful readers? You’re doing a high wire act. People innately recognize that, and they enjoy seeing it.
Putting all this another way (one that has been related by many): The prospect is no different from an e-mail companion who has a mess you can solve. You write to your friend in the style you determine, given who that person is — cousin, former manager, childhood friend, etc. You say that you…
* Understand her conundrum
* Have the right solution
* Know a special way to get that solution now (such as a sale)
* Encourage her to try the solution
And that’s about it!
How can you select the one prospect? This requires a shift in thinking.
Since our society emphasizes the individual over the group, it’s easy to believe we’re all different. However, it ain’t so. There are enormous masses of people who are — for an advertiser’s purposes — the same. When you’re in a crowd, look around. Are those other people familiar? They’re you! They have the same basic things you do. And, since things are what advertisers sell, the issue is settled.
Advertisements are rife with irony here. You see ads with these messages: “You’re one of a kind! You go your own way.” Yet they’re selling, what — a million of these products? Advertisers speak to what an individual believes, and then they expand it to the masses.
Universalism leads to consistency
How can you see social consistency firsthand? Perhaps you have something that people always get wrong. They always pronounce your last name wrong. They think you’re the younger one, but you’re actually older. That is social consistency, and you can do wonders with it.
For example, if you send a message to 1,000 people and it delivers a 3% response, you can ramp up. Mail that same piece to 15,000 similar people and get, um, probably not a 3% response. It might be 2% or 1%, because things don’t operate that cleanly. However, it’s unlikely you’ll get a 0.01% response, and that’s key. You can score many successes with this range of consistency.
Overall thinking: If you understand the continuity in people, you’ll enjoy a wonderful career in advertising.
This is what a market communally feels. To shed more light on this, let’s make you a car dealer (though that will only be noteworthy near the end). You’re on your lunch break. You go into the quick shop, and you hear two people talking about a major rock concert that’s rolling into town. Then you stop at a fast food place and you hear someone else talking about the same concert. You surmise there is a collective consciousness of this concert. That is, a vigorous percentage of the community is talking about it and thinking about it. There is a buzz.
OK, you car dealer: You’re creating a radio commercial, and it starts running this Thursday. You toss out your traditional script and say this: “Everyone’s talking about the concert event of the year. That’s right. This Saturday, my brother Rich will play his electric guitar in our showroom. And we have free admission.”
In sum, you’re playing off the concert — something that has a collective consciousness. You’re redirecting some of the buzz to you.
Know your prospect’s personality
Study what it is and find your own insightful insights. For example, you might say this: “She’s a fickle person. But that means she’ll also be loyal, because she probably won’t find other solutions that satisfy her. We should invest more to get her as a customer, because she’ll stay with us longer.”
Mind of the market
With market behavior, nothing is simple. The prospect can act irrationally. Nostalgically. Territorially. Loyally. Emotionally. You’ll invest a career trying to understand what the prospect wants, and if you can gain more knowledge each year, you’re ahead.
Many like the idea of naming the prospect and writing up a description. For example: “Our prospect is Rhonda, a 38-year-old accountant who lives in a St. Louis suburb. She worries about her five-year-old collie, because… ” This write-up is effective if coworker Nocon Trol is feeling flighty. It helps prevent him from saying, “Let’s advertise to interplanetary beings. There’s an untapped audience.”
Otherwise, whether you need to write a profile depends on what you’re selling. For example, if men and women use your product equally, it doesn’t help to say the prospect is a man. In most cases, your prospect can be The Prospect, a person who could have this or that title, and might be employed in this or that department.
Only one thing is really necessary: Everyone must share the same problem.
When the prospect isn’t just self
Your prospect might act on behalf of someone else. For example, the man becomes sick. His wife does everything she can to resolve his condition. You might advertise to his wife.
Few will admit it, but the prospect relies on advertising more than any other source for product knowledge. (Now, that’s power.) However, learning what is out there is wearisome for him. He has to sift through piles of BS, and this has made him as jaded as you are. Maybe more.
So, you have a choice: You can either give him more of the same crud he’ll brush off, or give him something innovative and helpful.
Journey to the center of the world
Bert says, “Our prospect knows he’s insignificant. He sees himself as the little guy. Let’s begin from there.”
And Bert can end there, too. Because every person is a center, and the world revolves around him or her. Take you, for example. While you put family, friends, and workplace before yourself, on a minute-by-minute basis your life belongs to you — you’re number one. Advertising catches you in those minutes, and smart advertisers direct their messages to you — the center of the universe.
Question: Does your ad put your prospect first, eighth, or 3,792,453,327th?
Get into the prospect’s life
Contemplate everything related to your prospect. What are her likes and dislikes, and hopes and fears? You’re going to find some things that put you in hot pursuit of a concept.
For example, you think: “Our prospect is the kind of lady who puts a holiday wreath on the front grill of her car. Hmm. What can I do with that?”
2-d to 3-d
Some advertisers have superficial views of their potential customers. They say their customers…
* “Drink beer all day”
* “Only care about their golf games”
* “Are single minded. It’s all music at that age”
All this misses the boat. Rather than putting up cardboard cutouts of people, discover the three-dimensional world inside them. Then you’ll connect with them.
A preachy moment
The advertiser should fade from the process if he would not want to have…
* The prospect as a friend
* Dinner in the prospect’s neighborhood
* The advertiser can’t make genuine appeals to the prospect.
* The prospect deserves advertising from someone who respects her. Advertising con artists need to be identified and banished to remote islands.
How hip is your prospect?
That is going to determine how much lingo, humor and irony you can use.
The powerful have less time
If you sat in an airport all day and watched travelers read publications, how many people would tear out ads, or call a phone number in an ad? Probably zero. It shows how hard your ad has to work.
The more decision-making power the prospect has, the less time she has. She is busy with other matters, so don’t tell her everything you want to. Instead, give your choicest points, relate them to solutions she needs, and make a powerful limited-time offer. That’s it! That’s really it.
Seeing how people see
Without looking like a creep, glance at the way other people read magazines. Comm Uter scans the ads with little concern. If the visual or headline doesn’t get him, he moves on to the next page.
However, if an ad does catch his attention, he’ll give it 10 more seconds of his time. Will he continue to be drawn in? It mostly depends on whether the ad’s worker creator tried to make that happen.
As an advertising person, you should have to have an overwhelming, lifelong interest in what people are doing — what they are carrying, holding, eating, etc. Also, you should want to know what kinds of people they are in relation to what they are doing.
The Jump-In method
Amazing but true: Inside you is almost everything you need to sell the prospect. This is best shown with the Jump-In method. Here, you keep your own mind, and you hop into the body of your prospect.
For example: Our hopper-inner is Bob. He is advertising lifesaving climbing equipment. Bob thinks, “As a mountain climber, I’d be worried about getting paralyzed. But I wouldn’t be worried about falling and dying, even though that’s what I’m supposed to be addressing. I think I’ll talk about preventing paralysis in the next ad.”
So, with the Jump-In method, you apply your own sensibilities to the prospect’s situation, and you advertise accordingly.
Kant Dewit says, “But my prospect is a 76-year-old grandmother, and I’m not.” So what? You and she have lots in common. Imagine how you’d feel in her position, and you’ll gain access to her mind and world. And this is where you need to be.
Also, you’ll eliminate inconsequentialities in your advertising. Reason: If you wouldn’t care about it, you wouldn’t ask your prospect to care about it. This consolidates your copy — power-packs it.
A happy statement: Use the Jump-In method, and you and the prospect will enjoy from a long and trusting relationship.
Get in line with the prospect’s thinking
If you can say what the prospect is thinking, you’re close to getting a response from him. Because… how can he resist? You’re on his wavelength. You’ve hit the nail on the head. You and he are partners in a single thought.
Tracking with the prospect means you’re not behind him, ahead of him, too far to the left or right, or on his bad side. You’re with him.
Unfortunately, some advertisers cannot act as the prospect does. They want to bring the prospect around to the company’s way of thinking. And this will likely fail.
Who is trying to reach you?
In the last week, did any advertisers really try to reach you, or were they taking comfort saying to themselves, “We’re out here, and we look as good as the other ads.” Don’t take this attitude in your advertising. Reach the prospect.
Insights over benefits
What is commonly known: Smart advertising talks about benefits more than features. What is less known: Smarter advertising talk about insights more than benefits. For examples:
* Good… show a feature: “This car is solidly built.”
* Smart… provide a benefit: “This car saves you from repairs.”
* Smarter… give an insight: “Tired of wasting money on repairs? This car is the answer.”
Insights put you where you need to be:
* Reading the prospect’s mind
* Striking a chord
* Making a connection
When you’re connecting, the prospect trusts you enough (not much, but enough) that you can lead him through the advertisement and to the response zone.
Side note: When you’re on track, you can take the prospect to extreme places. For instance, you say, “That could take a week, and in your business, that’s an eternity.” The prospect thinks, “You can say that again.”