When I owned a sportsgrounds maintenance contracting company we started offering lawncare services to home owners in the UK. It was quite successful, but at one point we decided suddenly that we would offer to build new lawns for people who had just moved in to new houses.
One of the biggest expenses that any business can inflict on itself is un-measureable advertising campaigning. So, whenever you have a situation when you know exactly where your prospective new customers are, you should always try direct response advertising.
Direct response advertising is when you deliver advertising in a very targeted way, like dropping cards through the doors of people who obviously need a lawn laid in their new garden. The opposite to direct response advertising is brand advertising where smart arse advertising agencies rob you of every last penny you have and come up with clever slogans and logos.
When you’re constantly bombarded with advertising and you own your own business and maybe you have ideas above your station (like me at the time), it’s easy to get sidetracked and fail to notice that you’ve turned into an arse.
With all of the above in mind and with the knowledge that new home owners were usually left with a nice stripy front lawn and an unfinished dump of a back garden, I created a sure fire advertising campaign for our lawn installation business. I made a postcard and created a clever advert for the local free pages, advertising paper that was delivered to all the households in the area.
Here they are:
Aren’t they the most clever ads you’ve ever seen? They may well be.
Did they produce an avalanche of new lawn business?
Total number of new jobs from both these ad strategies = 0, nada, zero, f**k all.
The lesson from this is that no-one likes a smart arse and even fewer people like to have to decipher the meaning of adverts.
So then the formula for effective, measurable advertising starts like this:
You must create an attention grabbing headline for your ads. The best advice I’ve ever had on this is from the David Ogilvy in his seminal work Ogilvy on Advertising and must have book for any self respecting business owner. Have a look at this clip from the brilliant film The Shipping News where Kevin Spacey’s character is struggling to write well for the local newspaper. The advice from his older, wiser colleague is awesome in it’s simplicity:
Practice writing good, attention grabbing headlines and you are half way there. These should be benefit heavy and not bland statements like “we’re big in lawns!” What huge benefit will the reader get by responding to your advert.
The next step is to grab the reader’s interest with your first paragraph where each sentence tries to out do the last. If you’ve got testimonials from previous customers, drop these into the copy here and there, but don’t over do it.
Then follow the long copy formula, where you break down a large amount of text into bite sized chunks liberally scattered with testimonials and benefits.
Then to finish, you always, always always have a Call to Action. Teel the reader exactly what you want them to do. You can make a response much more likely in one of 2 ways:
- If you are looking for a direct sale, add Scarcity: Limit the offer you are making by time, number or bonuses i.e. Only 10 left, Today only or Free extra stuff today only.
- Make it even easier by Not trying to make a sale. Make this step all about collecting email addresses or other contact details in exchange for something valuable to the reader, like a guide, ebook or training course. Then just start to pile on the helpfulness until they either drop off your list, become a customer and eventually an advocate.
Let Ogilvy take you the rest of the way and never copy the big guys with their brand and smart arse advertising that can never be measured for effectiveness.
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