Advertising as a Leveraged Investment

“…sales increases of 50 percent to 100 percent are commonplace.
Often merely by changing the headline!”

by Michael Cooney

Have you ever thought of advertising as a leveraged investment? Once you do, you’ll never look at your advertising budget in the same way again. In fact, advertising can give you the greatest financial leverage of any business investment. In this column, I’ll show you why that’s true, and how to leverage your advertising for greater sales.

First, take a look at any form of advertising you presently do. Newspaper ads, magazine ads, direct mail, TV commercials or radio spots -- whatever it may be. You’re paying for space, time or postage, and the cost is basically fixed. You’re paying the same amount whether you get five sales or fifty sales or five hundred sales.

The key to getting the greatest leverage for every marketing dollar, then, is to make certain that your advertising is so compelling and so focused that you increase its pulling power by 20 percent -- 50 percent -- 100 percent or more! All without spending one extra cent.

Now you may be asking yourself “Can I get my advertising to generate 20 percent to 100 percent more sales?” In fact, sales increases of 50 percent to 100 percent are commonplace. Often merely by changing the headline!

Now that’s LEVERAGE! Because now you’re making the same investment pay back far more profit. Just because your costs are fixed doesn’t mean your results have to be.

Maximize your leverage

If you like that kind of leverage, you must remember one thing: the only way you can maximize it is through testing. Testing one headline against another. Or one body copy against another. Or basic proposition, or layout, or offer, or price. Only test one variable at a time, otherwise you won’t know which element it was that gave you a different response rate. Carefully analyze the results from each test. Soon you’ll see which produces the most customers, sales and profits.

If you’re running the same ad over and over, now’s the time to put this concept to the test. See if you can write several headlines that express your primary benefit in a more compelling manner. I typically write twenty to fifty headlines before deciding which to use. After all, if a reader isn’t stopped in his tracks by your headline, why would he continue into the body of your ad? Most likely he won’t.

With your new headline, run the ad to see how it compares with your old ad. Carefully track the results of both. Tally how many responded, and how many sales resulted. By the time you’ve tracked at least five or six different headlines, you’ll usually discover that one stands far above the rest, and your response, or customer visits, or sales are greater than with previous ads. That winning ad becomes your new standard, or as we say, “control.”

Sales are growing… now what?

From now on -- until the day you retire! -- your goal is to try to beat your control. Take it as a personal challenge and have fun with it. Start testing your body copy. Is it as convincing as it can be? Is it dripping with benefits? Does it speak to your prospects on a “human” level?

Next, move on to testing your offer, your guarantee, your call to action, and all the main variables in your ad. As you do, your sales will be growing, even though your advertising space or time costs remain the same. This is where it gets exciting!

One important note: To speed up your testing, you can compare two approaches at the same time. How? Just ask your publication or mailing house to run an A-B split for you. Many can and do. This simply means that as the newspapers, magazines or sales letters roll off the press, one will have ad A, the next ad B, the next ad A, and so on. This gives even distribution to both approaches, and results in a good test. Just make sure you have some way to tell which responses are from ad A, and which are from ad B.

Once you understand that advertising is a leveraged investment, and that testing is the way to maximize that leverage, you may start testing variables and never look back! After all, no one knows how high you can go. Through continued testing it is possible to double, triple, even quadruple your results. All without spending a dime more for space. Or, to look at it another way, you can cut your cost of sales in half, or better.

Don’t delay. Start experimenting -- that’s the only way to develop true winners! I hope you’ll keep me informed of your successes.