Selling "Off The Page" ... a big ask for any marketer

In another article, ‘Stop! Don’t run that ad!’, I highlighted the case of John, a gentleman with a strong track record in public speaking training.  He wanted to establish a new business around a new public speaking course he had developed. 

He was a user of some of my marketing programs, and I had counselled him that his ad would FAIL in selling ‘off the page’.  I also suggested to him that, rather than even try to sell off the page, he should work towards generating a database of leads from his ads, and to work those leads. 

The strategy was to offer his $19.95 book, ‘Effective Speaking’ FREE to enquirers. The objective being to generate a qualified prospect list.  And then I mapped out for him a multi-stage sales process to convert these enquirers into clients.  I also did the numbers for him on what his breakeven point would be.  An invaluable exercise for ANY business to do.

In this article, I’d like you to join me analysing John’s revamped, larger ad.  It LOOKS much more professionally produced than the first ad. It has clearly been done by a graphic designer.  But again, it is doomed to FAIL.  Or at the very best, to produce a far less number of leads than it could have.  (I work extensively with graphic designers and they do some great stuff, but they are NOT marketers. So don't leave it to your designer to write your ad or determine your strategy.)  

There are some great learnings in determining what’s good about this ad, and what it is about it that makes me say it’ll fail.  If we can avoid the pitfalls, our ads can be a whole lot more impactful and profitable.  Here's the revamped ad: 


So what’s good about this ad?

As I’ve said before, marketing is ‘a jigsaw puzzle’ of possibilities for your business.  Get all the pieces in place, and your business will take off and deliver you super profits.  Leave pieces out and you condemn your business to performing at average, or worse. For the want of a few simple elements, some of which we’ll cover here, making the RIGHT changes could turn your business around in a relative heartbeat.  And that’s got to be exciting.

So let’s look at the ad, and its jigsaw puzzle pieces.

The headline

The headline, Effective Speaking … Here’s how! is a reflection of the title of the book.  It is also fairly compelling, in that it ‘flags down’ the target audience.  The previous ad had perhaps a better headline.  It was ‘QUIT FEAR!  BE an effective speaker’.  In any event, this new headline is still going to pull readers in.  The headline to an ad can impact the response to an ad by up to 20 times.  So it is critical to spend time to make it as POWERFUL as humanly possible. The headline is one of the great leverage points in marketing.

The offer

The offer, an element that can lift your response rate by 300% or more, is very strong.  John has done a great job here with his designer, or dramatising the cover of the book, and the sub-head YOURS FREE!  Add to that the retail price mentioned in the opening paragraph, and the value statement in the second paragraph, and so far, so good.

What's NOT good about this ad?

Look, an ad, ANY ad, that offers to give away a $19.95 book is going to get responses, isn't it?  So it's going to work to some extent.  

But this ad isn't going to create the avalache of orders that John would wish for.  It has committed THE biggest blunder that advertisers can make.  It talks all about the advertiser, and fails to focus on the reader, and what the solution will do for THEM.

After a token “You could nett $5,000 profit from one idea” statement about the book itself, it then launches into a self-focused spiel on the author. 

Rule ONE of effective communication.  Tune into the prospect’s WIIFM. ‘What’s-in-it-for-ME??’. 

Imagine how powerful this ad would have been if it'd had paragraph after compelling paragraph, building a case about how the reader will feel more confident, command a greater presence with peers, have vastly improved promotion prospects, have less stress participating in or running meetings, how he or she will be someone others look up to as a leader who can get a message across … and so on.

THAT is the benefit of getting this book.  Not reading the accolades about the author.  Sure, his credibility needs to be established.  But it’s what this amazing book will do for the reader that will inspire them, and move them to send for it.

Communication is more powerful with ...

Reasons Why

Reasons Why is a powerful tool in communication.  If you’re making an offer, especially a seemingly generous one like sending a $19.95 book that will change the reader’s life, wouldn’t it be important to say WHY you’re giving this value away?

The more you open up honestly with the reader, the more they’ll trust you.  John failed to say in this ad, “Why am I offering you this valuable book?”.  Imagine how powerful it would have been if he’d said …

“I’ll level with you.  You see, when you read my book, you’ll see unlimited potential for expanding your skills and your career through public speaking.  You’ll see too, how attendees at my public speaking workshops have changed their lives forever.  You’ll read how the exercises we do in the workshop literally take the shackles off the participants, and let them fly!  My hope is that you’ll write down the number in the back of the book, call my team and reserve a seat at one of my upcoming workshops.  Either way, I know my book will help you … and I look forward to hopefully meeting you and helping you grow and prosper.”

Now THAT is a reason why!  And people really appreciate the honesty and integrity of that explanation.  They feel in control because they know what the agenda is.

Again, so few examples of marketing communication that I come across apply these vital and awesomely powerful tools.  Do you?

There are other refinements I’d make to John’s ad.  But that about covers the key elements.  I trust I’ve provoked your thinking.  And like John, I hope that one day soon, you’ll see the value in becoming more involved with the solutions I provide through the programs you'll find on my website.  See … reason why!

For more tips on writing killer ads, check out my new ebook Write & Design your own Ads, Brochures, Sales Letters, Direct Mail, Flyers & Sales Presentations.