The voice on the other end of the phone was tense and impatient.
It was a prospective client calling. After we introduced ourselves, he got right to the point: “Our advertising isn’t working and we need some help.”
Who I was talking to doesn’t matter very much, because it could have been almost any of my prospects before they start working with me. That’s because, statistically, most advertising doesn’t work — if by “work” you mean, bring in new business.
Think about your own ads. Even if they already generate leads or create sales for you, don’t you have the sneakin’ suspicion they could be working a lot better?
Here are two reasons why most ads don’t work at all — or if they work, why they deliver far less business than they could:
1. Most ads don’t get the attention of your prospects. This is pretty basic. It is physically impossible for prospects to contact you unless they know about you, and if you’re counting on them to find out about you from your advertising, then step one is for your ad to get your prospects’ attention. Unfortunately, some ads actually do get attention, but…
2. These ads get the attention of your prospect in the wrong way. For an ad to generate a qualified lead or create an immediate sale, it must start off on the right foot. That “right foot” sets the right tone and invites a qualified prospect to call you. I just saw an ad in Newsweek that still has me wondering what it’s about and why someone spent tens of thousands of dollars on it. (Bet it wasn’t their own money.)
The ad shows a boy on a bicycle flying through the air, out in the wilderness. The headline, in a semicircle, says, “They will always fall before they fly.” Since I’m not a kid and I’m not a parent, it doesn’t do much for me.
But wait — even if I were a parent or a kid, I still don’t think this ad is going to sell me on anything that would make the advertiser any money. If I were a kid, the only thing this ad could sell me on is taking these kind of risks to annoy my parents. And if I were a parent, the only thing I can imagine this ad would sell me on is making sure my kid never rides his mountain bike in hilly terrain — since, obviously, the kid in the picture is on a collision course with certain death.
I’ve got to hand it to this ad in one department — it’s interesting. It got my attention. But that’s as far as it got.
The Headline’s the Thing
Let’s get off this negative track and look at some ads that I am certain are making money. These are not from a glossy national magazine, but small ads from today’s local newspaper. (By the way, small ads that run in the newspaper are usually paid for by the person who wrote them. And these ads get to the point and are likely to be profitable. Hmmm…I wonder if I’m noticing a trend here…)
All I’m going to show you are the headlines of these ads. But I promise you, the headlines are all you need to see. Tell me if you can guess what each ad is about, and who its target market is:
1. “Lose 3-5 Pounds Per Week With the System Proven by Over 90,000 Successful Patients”
2. “Up to 40% Savings on Heating and Cooling Costs With a (Brand Name) Foam Roof”
3. “Men and Women — Remove Unwanted Hair Today!”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Not very clever. Not very hip. In fact, those headlines are downright boring!
Hmmm. I have two things to say about that. First, if you have tried everything under the sun to lose 40 pounds and you are frustrated to the point of tears, then headline number 1 isn’t that boring to you. (And I would say the same regarding people in the target market for headlines 2 and 3.)
The second thing I want to say is, yes, and it’s also pretty boring to stand in line at the bank waiting to make a large deposit into your business checking account.
But you know what?
Once you’ve gotten past that boredom barrier, it’s actually sort of nice. You know?
And here’s some interesting news: A good headline on your ad will get you 90% of the way from the agony of defeat to the ecstasy of advertising success — so you can deal with weighty issues like the boredom barrier and what to do with all that money.