How to Write an Effective Ad

Shea / 26 February / 3 Comments / 375

The reality is that advertising costs the same whether it is created strategically or not.  Any ad costs you the same amount whether it generates one new customer our 100.  Whether online or offline an ad costs you the same whether it brings in $100 or $10,000.  Therefore, the level of marketing expertise you possess can obviously have a dramatic effect on your business.

Amazingly, very few small business owners truly understand how to advertise intelligently.  As covered in great detail in Michael Gerber’s bestselling books The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited most small business owners are NOT entrepreneurs; they are technicians.  They know a particular skill whether it be plumbing or electrical, dental or medical expertise, accounting or law, they have some specialized expertise, but they had no idea how much was involved in owning and operating their own business that has nothing to do with their area of expertise.

Most small business owners focus on perfecting their product or service.  They assume that if their product or service is good enough, people will somehow find out about it and want to pay them for it – and advertising messages typically reflect this attitude.  Most ads placed by SMBs more or less say “We are here, buy from us.”  Or “We’ve got one for a lower price.”

Great Marketing and Advertising Provides Your Business With Leverage – So Let’s Look At How To Write An Effective Ad

How to write an effective adLast year I worked with a company from Georgia that was securely locked into the “We’ve got the best product at the best price and we know people will want to buy it” mentality.  After several failed ads, they came looking for help.

The company, a semi-custom cabinet manufacturer, had spent over 5,000 hours researching and compiling an extensive list of home remodeling and home builders across the nation that listed nearly every company in the country whom they thought surely these people will buy up all the cabinets they could build.

Then, with extreme confidence and entrepreneurial zeal, they invested several days designing a mail piece that they just knew would generate excitement, enthusiasm, desire, and immediate action.  25,000 direct mail pieces were sent out at a cost of just over $20,000.  They calculated that if they were to get just one half of one percent rate of response, they would break even.

Upon seeing their postcard I knew immediately why it didn’t work.  The blue 6” x 8.5” card had the following headline printed on the back “Semi-Custom Cabinets Delivered for Less” with a sub headline that read “40% OFF” followed by some fine print you would need a magnifying glass to read.  They had an additional sub-headline that said “Ask About Our Garage Cabinets.”  Then they had pictures of several of their cabinet styles.

Bottom Line: Nobody believed it.  40% off of what?  With all that fine print and vague claims, I guarantee 24,999 of them went straight to the trash.  They did get one order.

SMBs must demand maximum performance from every dollar spent.  Marketing must provide you with leverage that returns every dollar invested and brings along a bunch of their friends with them.  Advertising must be an investment that pays off in spades.  Ad campaigns that are cute or creative and only feebly attempt to build recognition, offer discounted prices, or simply say “We have these products for sale, please order them from us,” must be avoided.

Every advertisement must pay for itself just like salesperson.  Would you continue to send a salesperson out into the field if they told a lot of people about your product but never closed a sale?  He or she would be history – and in short order.

Advertising legend Rosser Reeves said that an ad should be like an army of tiny salespeople.  Recall that I stated that an ad costs the same regardless of the results it produces.

Here are some quick tips on how to turn your advertisements into an effective army of salespeople and maximizing the effectiveness:

Learn from Direct Response Advertising.  What I’m about to share with you applies to all kinds of advertisements; online and offline.  Every message you send, every marketing piece, every ad you place in any medium must make a specific and direct offer to your prospects with no fine print and no legalese.  This type of offer will produce precise measurable results.

Remember the headline is the ad – for the ad.  It’s purpose is to capture your prospect’s attention and snap them out of alpha mode and into beta conscious mode.  It must connect with them on an emotional level.  Then your sub-headline must offer them a reason to keep reading or listening to your ad.

You want to articulate your identity powerfully, passionately, and precisely right there in the ad.  Tell the reader who you are and what they can expect when doing business with you.

Be specific.  Specificity breeds Credibility.  50% Off is better than “low prices.”  Largest selection or hundreds of styles can’t compete with “We Always Have at Least 1,275 Cabinet Combinations In Stock, In No Less Than 33 Glorious Colors, and in Price Ranges from $125 to $297.”

People are skeptical and desensitized to discounted pricing or virtually any ‘percentage’ off statements  you make.  However, the more specific the statement you make, the more believable it is perceived.  Changing general statements into specific ones will double the effectiveness of and ad – and no extra cost.  Don’t believe me.  Try it and see.

Long Copy vs. Short Copy

In today’s fast paced, time-starved, world we all live in, short copy has the edge.  However, many people are also starved for important and relevant information related to the goods or services they are interested in purchasing.How to write an effective ad

Think of this situation in terms of a salesperson.  How successful do you think your salesperson would be if they just provided the short and sweet facts?   They probably wouldn’t make many sales.  Long and engaging copy that connects both logic and emotion will be far more successful.  There’s a saying in sales “The more you tell, the more you sell.” 

A rule of thumb is to use as much space as it takes to present a concise yet complete argument for your product or service.  Many Internet marketers have earned millions of dollars describing their products in painstaking detail with stories about how people have used their products to get the results they were after.  Long, well written, engaging copy that connects with the reader or listener on an emotional basis and then connects the emotional content with the logical reasoning will outsell nearly every form of advertising.  Just look at all the infomercials on cable TV.


Keep this formula front and center as you write your copy; “What’s In It For Me?”  People don’t care about your product or service.  All they care about is what’s it going to do for me?  It’s Ok to mention some features, but focus most of your attention on the benefits to the prospect.

When you powerfully, passionately, and precisely communicate your identity to your prospects so that they know exactly what they can expect when doing business with you.  They know what you stand for, who you are – and who you are not.  They clearly know where you draw a line in the sand.  They know what you stand for.

Risk Reversal

In virtually every business deal, one party is always asking the other – whether implicitly or explicitly – to bear the burden of risk in the transaction.

If your product or service truly lives up to its promise, then you should offer it to an interested prospect at zero risk; no questions asked money back guarantee if they are not satisfied for ANY reason.  In fact, you should reverse the risk and offer something like a 110% guarantee – putting the risk back on you.

Marketing consulting is an ideal example of risk reversal.  Although many of my clients come to me by referral, they don’t really know if I can help them out in their particular situation.  People hesitate to pay me thousands of dollars up front to makeover their marketing if they’ve never worked with me before.

However, since I know my services will exceed their expectations, (I know I can’t go wrong because I practice what I preach and I test all of my marketing.)  I offer to link my compensation to their improved results.  If they don’t increase their revenue, I don’t get paid.

Now in contrast to my competition – advertising agencies, they demand payment in advance, and I guarantee they will refuse to refund your investment if their $25,000 ad campaign doesn’t net you any new customers. 

Who would you rather do business with?  Someone who ties their compensation to your improved results, or someone who will do their best, but if it doesn’t work… oh well… you can pay them to try again…

Chameleon Advertising

How to write an effective adEven with compelling ads, people just don’t trust what companies say about themselves.  “Independent” endorsements or review are the recent trend, but many are still skeptical since they still don’t know how unbiased these review or endorsements really are.

However, people tend to trust editorial, informational, or news stories.  Content that aims to educate the consumer about a product or services tend to be more readily accepted by interested parties.  Therefore, create compelling educational content that informs prospects on what are the important and relevant issues at stake when it comes to buying whatever it is you have to sell.  The more quality information you can provide your target customers without any sales language whatsoever, the more they will come to trust you as the source from which all knowledge flows regarding your area of expertise.

Some of the most successful ads of all time read just like an editorial article.  Often they describe some incredible invention that performs so well – that is was banned from use in certain circles.  However, if you read enough, varied and wide, you’ll see these articles being published time after time in a variety of mediums – because they work.

If you’re sending email follow-ups to your list of prospects, try making your pitch look more like a personal letter to the recipient and your conversion rate will skyrocket as much as 10-fold.  Now that’s what I call leverage.

Calls to Action or Trial Closes

Just like an expert salesperson always presents their prospect with trial closes to see if they are ready to buy, your advertisements must contain multiple calls to action.  After all, the purpose of your ad is to sell something.  Don’t leave it up to your prospects to think that they should call, reply to your email, or go online and buy, “No,” tell them specifically what you want them to do… Give you their email address in exchange for a special report, video, CD or DVD, free download, etc.  Call your office and ask for Tim, go to your website and order your product now, etc.

Tomorrow: Rehash: Turning One-Time Sales Into a Continuous Stream of Revenue