5 Things You Need To Know When Writing Ad Copy

writing_good_ad_copyWith 25 years in the marketing business I’ve had the privilege to work with some very talented individuals and savvy clients. Working with truly brilliant minds can be thrilling, gratifying and humbling all at the same time. One thing that has always impressed me is a well written ad. Good ad copy, be it for print, radio, television or online, captivates and informs the audience, positions the brand, and compels the audience to react in a favourable manner. That’s asking a lot of some text — even if it is dressed up with some nice photos, videos or sound.

Here are five considerations that will help you to be a better ad writer.

1) Your audience doesn’t give a damn

It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that your targeted demographic is just waiting for your pearls of wisdom. The reality is that you have to earn their attention. Your first task is to get their attention. If you are relying solely on text then you’ll need a captivating or perhaps controversial headline. Depending on the medium you can use photo, video or sound to get their initial attention.

2) Your audience still doesn’t give a damn

OK, so you got their attention, but why should they give you any more time? People’s interest is fleeting, so you have to move your audience along quickly from attention to interest. With interest they will read a little further, listen a little more attentively, watch with more focus or perhaps click for more information. The great David Ogilvy (no, I’m not that old, I never worked with David Ogilvy) would argue that you should provide long narratives of information and facts, building a strong case for the product. There is probably still a time and place for that kind of ad, but today’s audience typically demands quick answers in little bite size chunks (thank you Twitter!). So, once you have their attention, move quickly into the meat of your message and give your audience a reason to care.

3) Interest isn’t enough

In order for your ad to have impact, your audience needs to identify with it. This may be relatively easy if they already have a need your particular product/service. In most cases, you’ll need to help them personalize your message. To do this, rather than present a list of facts or features, involve both left and right sides of the brain by invoking a whimsical, reflective mindset. Stories or nostalgia are often used to dramatize the product features and illustrate just how good life can be. Well-crafted ad copy takes the audience on quick mind trip (no, not that kind of mind trip) that enables them to virtually experience and appreciate the benefits of owning your product.

4) They haven’t bought it yet

Let’s assume that you got their attention, then their interest and now they’re fantasizing about having your product in their hands (or something like that). How do you turn their interest into actual action?  Now you need a “hook” or “call-to-action” that will compel your audience to behave accordingly. Online this may be entering a draw, or a providing a free download. Other examples are a trial offer, gift-with-purchase, or a limited quantity/special edition.

5) Most people will not buy your product

Even the best ad is not going to persuade everyone to buy. In fact, if you get a small fraction of the audience to buy you’ve done an exceptional job. However, good ad copy will get people’s attention and some interest so it should be strategically position the product as the desired solution. That’s right, branding should be an integral part of your messaging. If you brand effectively your ad will continue to sell for you long after its broadcast. Like a well planted seed it germinates in the mind, ready to sprout when the need arises.

What would you add to this list? What considerations help write a better ad.

Don’t Ignore Those Smaller Conversion Steps

Conversion is an often-used sales and marketing term that can cover a lot of ground in today’s internet powered world of small and medium sized enterprises. Sales conversions are straight forward enough but marketing conversions are less direct and more subtle. Marketing conversions are the smaller conversion steps necessary to reach those bigger sales conversions.

small steps leading to larger steps

The Classic Conversion Definition

The classic definition, the CRM definition, involves generating accounts, contacts and opportunities from those that you primarily seek and find. This is a black and white effort to generate contacts into prospects and ultimately clients. It is based on the outbound sales model of searching for those that are in the market or mood for buying what you sell. You are hunter and they are game.

The inbound model differs in that the hunting is reversed. People go online in search of something, hunting for information, – and that their effort will vary in detail and urgency. All online research begins with a mouse click. The leap from that first click to a buying customer may take require extra steps so the conversion process requires more detail to be defined. This is the need for the smaller marketing steps of a number of marketing messages.


Those Smaller Conversion Steps

If we define conversion as when the recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action, we see marketing conversions as a number of steps towards a sale. These steps follow a linear order in hopes that our online visitor follow suit. The reality is that visitors will get on and off the conversion line at various points. To have a true overview on which conversions are working (and which are not) we need to track these smaller steps.

Think of these early marketing messages more as requests for online engagement. That engagement can be subtle, especially early in the online relationship. Having someone click to your website from an email or a social media message for example. Click throughs are a positive start to online engagement with your business are products and should be considered sucessful marketing conversions.

The premise is that if enough of these small steps are taken there is a high likelihood the visitor will engage and proceed with you as a supplier (when they are ready).

Conversely, if these smaller steps are not working; visitors are not staying on your website, opening your newsletter emails, or clicking through from your blog posts the momentum never gets going and your marketing efforts stall. The marketing tactics that point to these conversion opportunities should be reassesed.


The More Leads the Better

If you are concerned only with the classical “big” CRM style conversions of contacts, opportunities, and accounts you may find less leads from your online efforts than from your face-to-face sales process. You may find yourself wondering about the effectiveness of your inbound methods. But smaller online conversion steps are numerous and an opportunity to track and tweak every component of your online offerings. The more of smaller marketing conversions the more opportunity to move visitors along your online pipeline to a point where the larger conversions to contacts and opportunities can occur.

In the online marketing world small wins lead to the larger wins of new customers and increased sales. Don’t ignore those smaller conversion steps.


5 Components for a Successful Strategic Marketing Plan



A little while back, I had lunch with a couple of communication executives, each working for a different national association. One was a client. The reason for the lunch was to introduce me to the non-client and provide some insight into a PR issue they were having. Their issue concerned a lobby group that was spreading some mis-truths. The association wanted to come out heavy and refute the erroneous claims, which is an understandable reaction, but one that could well fan the flames and create a much bigger fire.

Over lunch we designed a content strategy that would not directly address the lobby group or its claims, but would produce matter-of-fact and positive messaging that presented the correct story in a substantiated and substantive fashion. We used blogs, FAQ, email campaigns, videos, social media content and paid advertising (print and online). Within six months it was a non-issue and the awareness and potency of the association had risen significantly.

My take-away from this (other than a paid contract and a happy client) was bewilderment. I was surprised that an association wouldn’t have some contingency, or risk-management as part of its strategic marketing plan. As it turns out, this association didn’t really have a structured plan at all, and as a result it lacked the guidance it deserved. Such oversight may be more evident during an urgent situation, but any organization requires a roadmap to realize its goals. And especially associations, which typically have more stakeholders to take into consideration.

We’ve done work with many associations over the past 25 years, and in the current digitally social age, the need for a comprehensive marketing plan has never been greater. So it’s surprising to realize that many organizations are trying to navigate without one. Some of the critical components incorporated into a successful strategic marketing plan are:


1. Goals, mission and vision of the organization

Not simply listing them. Your plan should outline how it will help the organization realize its goals, mission and vision.


2. Interests of all stakeholders

First of all, acknowledge all of your stakeholders: clients/members (which may be further segmented), Boards, industry, targeted audience, public-at-large, government, etc. Then list their needs and how your plan addresses them.


3. Branding considerations

Realize that branding goes well beyond your visual identity and official communications. Branding should be considered for every touchpoint with your stakeholders and supported in a cohesive manner.


4. Incorporation of all media

You’re well aware of the influence of social media and that broadcast media alone are no longer sufficient to effectively communicate with your stakeholders. Are specific social media highlighted and incorporated in a meaningful way in your strategic plan?


5. Realistic risks

Sh!* happens, the best plans are not going to totally insulate your organization from potential harm. However, a good plan will greatly reduce the chance of problems and a great plan will include measures to quickly and efficiently deal with the situation. Obviously you can’t anticipate every and any mishap that may present itself, but a step-by-step plan on what to do when a staff or member gets into hot water with a social media post will allow your team to react immediately and decisively; mitigating the potential harm.

A strategic marketing plan should never be a dry organization document that is done out of obligation and then ignored. It is a crucial guide to help your organization grow with structure and sustain its potency. They are a lot of work to create, and require ongoing reference and review, but they pay off in building strong organizations.

What else do you feel a strategic marketing plan should incorporate?