Advertising Success Part 2: Getting Your Message Right

One of the biggest leverage points that people have in their marketing efforts is how well their message actually hits the mark. What is amazing is how many people create ads, websites, and direct mail pieces that have virtually no appeal to the reader.

Now, assuming that you are talking to the right people who need and want your product, what is important is that you actually communicate those ideas in such a way that makes them think, wow! That’s me – I really want that! If you pull this off, your advertising will succeed marvelously. If you do not, you might as well go stand in a closet and talk to yourself, because your advertising simply won’t work.

I have seen situations where having a message that was on the right hot button can get as much 19x the response rate of another appeal. Stop and think about that for a second. That is not a 19% increase – it is a 19 times increase. It is the difference between one person responding to the mailing and 19 people responding to the very same mailing!

This is one of the most dramatic leverage points you have in your marketing efforts. Getting the message right can mean huge success; getting the message wrong can mean huge failure. Here’s what it takes to make sure that your message is going to be on the mark.

You have to talk to people
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you already know what the people in your target marketplace need and want. Even if you’ve been in the industry for a number of years, you probably have a pretty good idea – but it always pays to find out for sure. Here is what you need to do.

You need to go and have some good conversations with real prospects. These may or may not be people who already use your product, but they should be a good cross sampling of people who actually use your product. I would recommend that you do not, necessarily, just talk to your friends. Your friends, hopefully because they like you, will often times tell you what they think you want to hear rather than the real truth. As a result, you get results that are distorted.

What you want to do is talk to some real prospects and find out from them: of the products like yours that they use, what do they like best about what they currently use? What do they like least? If they could snap their fingers and have the perfect product appear, what would it be like? What is the real problem that is being solved by using this product or service? What is the key benefit that excites them the most? You might also have them list all of the benefits that they get from your product or service, and have them rank them from the most important to least important.

Here’s what you need to do to make sure that you’re getting real results: watch your prospect’s expressions. When you’re surveying them in this way, you want to note is there one of these items that gets a greater response than the others? Sometimes people will give you an intellectual response – they will say what they think should be most important. Some appeal like, “gee, it saves me money” – but when they talk about it, they talk about some other appeal like, “it makes me look great to my neighbors,” you notice their voice changes, and their eyes light up. So look for the emotional reading that actually says, ahh – this is the hot item!

This will help you focus down to what your appeal should be. If you understand what the big problem is that they’re solving by using your product or service, and if you understand the pleasure they gain from this (or the pain it helps them avoid); now you have the key to being able to write advertising copy that is going to be effective.

The other key factor
One of the other reasons why you are talking to your prospects is to learn their language. It is important that your advertising – your direct mail, your radio ads, anything you put out – speak to people in their language. You want to use the words and the terms that they use, because when they see, or hear, or read those types of comments, they identify. They think, you’re one of MY people; you’re speaking to me. If you don’t, there is a subtle rejection of what you are doing. It is like someone who is trying to be hip, but isn’t.

One example of this: recently I have been working with a client who sells training programs to commercial real estate brokers. One of the appeals of his product had to do with increasing the amount of money that a person should generate. This should be a good, strong appeal.

However, we found that when we referred to it as the idea of ‘increasing revenues,’ instead of ‘increasing commissions,’ we got a negative response. The reason was that management people worry about increasing revenues. The brokers themselves worry about increasing commissions. So when you try to build the appeal of increasing revenues, the response was, “this is just another management wonk trying to push us to perform.” When you use the term ‘increasing commissions,’ they say, “yeah, that’s me, it’s a good thing.” Now, you and I both know that revenues and commissions are the same – but from a communications viewpoint, they communicate two very different ideas.

So, if you get the right appeal, you get a dramatic result in the effectiveness of your advertising and marketing pieces. If you miss the appeal, it will fall to the floor like a piece of china dropped from the sink. Now you have the key to finding the right appeal.

You don’t have to talk to hundreds of people. In fact, if you were to have 20 good conversations with real prospects in the marketplace, pretty quickly you will have a very good idea of what is going to be important – and what is not. That is the key to the effectiveness of your marketing piece.

In future editions, we’re going to talk about how you fine-tune and how you prove out these results – and that’s being done with testing. We’ll examine that more a little bit later.

To your business success,


If you would like to discuss improved follow-up strategies for your company, call Sentium at 1(800)595-1288 to schedule a free half-hour telephone consultation.

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Richard Wilson is the Founder/Chief Marketing Strategist for Sentium Strategic Growth which helps companies dramatically improves their sales, growth and profitability. Over the past 31 years, his clients have ranged from start-ups to major technology companies.



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