As a consultant, I read – a lot – every day, about different marketing approaches, different angles and aspects of marketing, from social media trends to mobile, to automated e-mail, to article marketing, and a huge variety of other things that bombard my in-box every day, both electronically and in the snail mail and online. With all that reading and absorbing comes some inherent sense of how current corporate professionals in the marketing field are going about their work, what they focus on, what they feel is important, what’s hot and what’s out of fashion.
In all that absorption, I get to analyze how those marketers work, and how effective their efforts are. I also get called upon to critique their work from time to time, and let them know how a “knowledgeable” audience might view their performances. I was judging a series of ads the other day for a survey of magazine ads and their effectiveness, and I was amazed at how many of the B2B ads didn’t incorporate even the most fundamental, basic elements that should be in all advertising. Top professionals at high-priced agencies were creating ads read by, and hopefully responded to, by other professionals – and there were lousy headlines that were far from compelling if there was one at all, lists of product features with no associated benefits, copy that was difficult to decipher, let alone read and be persuaded by, and a host of other ills that most college-trained marketers have a good handle on by year two. I was amazed and astounded that large, profitable companies with marketing departments staffed with educated, qualified professionals were paying for this level of performance from their agencies, or worse, producing this kind of product themselves!
Sure, it’s easy to rely on others to cover the basics, and you hope that the high-paid pros know better and they shouldn’t need much supervision. And it’s easier still to simply look at last year’s or last week’s effort and say, “yeah, good enough, run that one again” and perpetuate the poor construction, bad design, lousy and ineffective headlines, poorly-written copy that is neither persuasive or compelling. If it wasn’t, we’d be out of business. But the truth is, if these pros had simply focused on the fundamentals, their work would improve in both effectiveness and creativity.
1) Get me involved. Write a real headline, one that compels me to read further, that poses a problem a challenge, asks a question, declares a position or benefit.
2) Write and design it so even I can read it. Real type fonts, in a decent size, in a contrasting color, either in columns, wrapped around an image, bannered at the top or bottom, somewhere that my eye can track it and make sense of it. Make it compelling, readable, persuasive, tell me how it will make my life easier, faster, better, lighten my workload, solve a problem, keep me sane, let me sleep at night, beef up my paycheck, cut my expenses. Tell me the benefits of the product or service, not just what it includes or is comprised of. Tell me something to make me feel I “need” what you’re selling, hopefully leading me to . . .
3) Include a call to action I can respond to. I get through the headline, it drives me to read the copy to learn more, it ends, and . . . nothing! Give me a phone number, a specific web address, an e-mail or physical address, an offer of some kind, a place to go to learn more, see the product, make a purchase, someone to call to order one, something!
4) Lay it all out so it naturally drives me to that offer. Americans read left to right, to to bottom, its deeply ingrained in our psyche to do so, so that we may all absorb information in uniform fashion. Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken, start at the top, (it’s called a headline for a reason) and work your way down. Leave the collages for grade school, keep the fancy special effects for the YouTube video – just design it in a way that is pleasing to the eye and supports the other elements.
5) Make the images and the text support each other and work TOGETHER to get your point across. I can’t tell you how many ads I reviewed that contained an image that had virtually no bearing on what was being sold or discussed. It was either a product shot with no identification or name, no branding, or known function or relevance to the headline or offer, or a shot of some landscape or character that had no real bearing on what was being discussed. You’ve spent a lot of time and money finding, modifying or creating that image, make it work to your advantage to help sell the concept or idea you’re conveying.
Just following these five guidelines will improve your publication and print advertising immeasurably, and put you ahead of 70% of the highly paid agency professionals that crank out B2B ads on their lunch hour . . . you might even make a sale!
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