How to Avoid Budget-Busting Advertising Flops

“...the real test of an ad or commercial is--does it cause people to reach for their checkbooks!”

by Michael Cooney

I don’t get it.

I hear advertising “experts” tell us that “the purpose of advertising is to get attention.” Or that “you just need to increase your name recognition.” Well, attention is fine, and name recognition is fine, but the real test of an ad or commercial is -- does it cause people to reach for their checkbooks! If that’s what you’re looking for, then please read on.

Contrary to what many have said, the purpose of advertising is not to get attention, or “get your name out there.” And it’s not to entertain, or be cute, or show off clever double entendres.

The purpose of advertising is to sell, or to motivate your prospect to take the next logical step in your sales cycle. That next step could be: Calling for an appointment to meet you. Calling to request your brochure. Calling to request a visit from your sales person. Or calling with their credit card number to place an order!

But how to you motivate your prospective clients to do that?

Here’s the secret:

Treat every ad or commercial you create as if it were a living, breathing salesperson sent to call on your client.

Look at it this way. Say you hired a sales "superstar" to call on your prospective clients. Upon walking in to your prospect’s office, would you want your superstar to spout off a few cute one-liners, chuckle and throw in a double entendre, rattle off some catchy slogans, mention a few product features, and then, after 30 seconds, simply turn and walk away?

Of course you wouldn’t. It follows, then, that you’d never allow your advertising to do that either -- would you?

So just what would you expect?

What Would Your Superstar Say?

Certainly, you’d expect your sales superstar to be respectful and direct. Tell everything your product or service can do. Tell of every benefit to the client. Demonstrate how well it’s made or the results it can bring. Answer questions and possible objections. Show how solid the guarantee and warranty are. Tell the prospect how to get your product or service -- and why they should try it, buy it, or order it today.

When it comes to your advertising, why should you expect any less? Your ad or TV / radio commercial IS your salesperson in the mind of the reader!

There is one gargantuan difference, however. A poor presentation from one salesperson merely makes a poor impression on one prospect. But a poorly concocted ad, on the other hand, makes a poor impression on hundreds or thousands or millions of potential buyers.

Answer this basic question:

To find out what your ad or commercial should contain, you must first ask yourself “What do I want the reader or listener to do?”

Is it to call you and request a meeting? Place an order? Just what, exactly?

Once you answer that question, then write your ad or commercial as if your star salesperson were going to stand in front of your prospect and read it! Remember, your superstar can only read what’s in your ad or commercial -- nothing more!

Will it educate and motivate enough for the prospect to take the next step, or make a sale? Or does it need more work?

OK, now -- think you’ve got a winner? Then it’s time to take a test!

Take This Simple Test

Here’s one way to learn if your print ad or commercial is effective:

  1. Take your print ad or TV / radio commercial script.
  2. Read it straight through from top to bottom. Every word. Into a recorder!
  3. Play it back to yourself.
  4. Answer this question: is there the right education and information to motivate a prospect to reach for his checkbook?

Or to take the next step you want him to take?

If not, you may wish to re-think the ad’s wording and what you need it to accomplish.

Once you have your prospect’s attention (through a compelling, benefit-drenched headline), doesn’t it make sense to state your best case right then and there? Who knows if or when you’ll have his attention again?

In your ads and commercials, tell everyone all the good reasons why they should favor you with their business--and more of them will. Above all, don’t rely on “catchy” slogans, fuzzy generalities (see last month’s column on being specific), or cute double entendres and expect to get a sale. Remember, your living, breathing sales superstar would never do that!