Are you winking in the dark? You could be. Operating a business without advertising is like flirting with a pretty girl in a pitch-black room. No one knows you’re doing it — especially not her!

To continue with that analogy, if you don’t flirt, you’ll never get noticed and have zero chance at landing a date. There is a right and a wrong way to go about courting. For instance, you know better than to walk up to an attractive woman, blurt out your job title, honors and phone number and tell her to call you. You’d be considered a social idiot and fail miserably! But in essence, that is what you are doing with “branding” ads for your agency. To the prospect, you are being a self-centered oaf, saying, “Here I am, this is why I am great, call me!” 

Take a look at ads in or outside our industry. Is the message about the prospect’s needs or about the company’s merit? One works well; the other, not so well.

The way to a girl’s heart is to pay attention to what is important to her and show genuine care. That’s how you increase your chance at winning a date. And if you kept up the good work, she might even say “yes” to the big question!

Well, in my example, the “pretty girl” is your prospect and the “flirt” is your promotions. The “attention” is your offer, the “genuine care” is the nurturing follow-up before and after the sale, and “the big question” is closing the sale. I’m single and that analogy works great for me. Hopefully you can relate to it too. 

And now that I’ve explained my point with that unusual comparison, my question for you is, “Is your advertising creating in-bound calls of prospects predisposed to buy from you?” If not, these ten commandments of advertising may save you money on wasted advertising and earn you commissions by creating more selling opportunities. 

1. There will always be an offer or offers.

If you do not offer anything, how will you know if your ad has reached anyone? Without anything concrete to measure, you have no clue if it is working. But with an offer, not only are you giving people a “what’s-in-it-for-me” reason to respond; at the same time, you are giving yourself a means to measure your return on investment. Double duty. Good!

My favorite offer is free information — a report, CD or DVD — sent by mail or downloaded. The most common offer for our industry is for a free quote or consultation. Technically, that is an offer but a very poor one. Why? Because to respond, a prospect is volunteering to talk to a salesman. Yep, not good!

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2. There will always be a reason to respond now.

If responding now or next year has no consequences for your prospect, why should she pay any attention to your offer at all?  To create urgency, limit the time or quantity of your offer. Set a deadline. Print only 100 copies of your report and tell them they’re available “while supplies last.” Rotate the offers in your advertising. But always give a reason to act now.

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3. There will always be clear instructions on how to respond.

Give very detailed instruction on how to get your offer, like you would for a five-year-old. It is not that your prospects are dumb; they are just busy and distracted. Do not assume anything. Tell them exactly what to do, how to do it, when to do it and what will happen when they do. Confused prospects NEVER respond!

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4. There will always be tracking and measurement.

Tracking is a breeze for a single ad/offer/media. Count up the replies and measure the quality (determined by dollar value of commissions earned) to see if it was profitable. But what if you choose to use more than one media, for example postcards and a display ad? The same ad printed in two different publications or sent to a different list may get wildly different results. How will you know which is worth your dollar to renew? Or what if you try another offer, perhaps two different reports? One may produce more responses, but result in fewer or smaller sales. That is a VERY important difference. To stop wasting your advertising dollars, always track where every lead and sale comes from (including referrals!) I use “promo codes” on direct mail pieces, separate phone lines and web pages. Yes, this is extra work but it beats spending my hard-earned money on worthless advertising!

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5. Whatever brand-building that occurs will be a happy byproduct.

Brand-building advertising is a stupid waste and roughly 90% (or more) of all advertising falls into this category. Branding ads are all about you, your company, your products, your services. They’re “aren’t-we-so-great” messages. If you do direct-response advertising that promotes a quality offer and then give great service, your esteem as a business will grow naturally.  The “brand” you create that way will have deposit-it-in-the-bank value. 

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6. There will always be follow-up.

Seriously, what is the point of finding interested prospects if you don’t follow-up? In addition to phone and email follow up, I highly recommend you use a client newsletter. Done right, it will keep your name at the top of their mind as the agent to buy from. The whole point, right?

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7. There will always be strong sales copy.

Strong sales copy does not mean lots of words about you. Nope. Climb into the mind of your ideal prospect. What worries them? What is most important to them about the product? Your service? What might their reasons be for NOT responding to your offer? Write your sales copy with those points considered and watch responses soar!

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8. Regardless of the media you use (online or off line) it will look like mail-order advertising.

What does mail-order advertising look like? Advertorials (ads that look like editorial content) are a good example of mail-order advertising. Landing squeeze pages are another. Mail order advertising has:

  • A headline that makes prospects want to read more,
  • An offer (or offers) with a deadline,
  • Benefits and reasons to respond,
  • Handles for objections to responding,
  • Clear instructions on how to respond. 
  • A picture or graphic ONLY if it adds to the message, not just takes up space

In short, mail-ordering advertising is the opposite of brand building. It is about the customer and his needs, not you bragging about how long you have been in business, your professional designations, the lines you represent or the companies you sell for. It’s direct-response and it works.

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9. Results rule. Period.

If you track your results, the ONLY sane action is to discontinue the bad ads and repeat the campaigns that fill your agency with ideal clients who buy. That seems like a no brainer … until someone you like, admire or respect says they don’t like your ad. Perhaps they think it is ugly (because mail-order-type ads are not “pretty”). Someone may think your new ad style is “unprofessional” because it is different than what “everyone else is doing”. Don’t buckle under. Track results in detail then laugh all the way to the bank. Test one ad against another. Pit media sources against each other. Whatever works is what you do more of, no matter what anyone says. Results rule, NOT opinions.

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10. You will be a tough-minded implementer.

Being tough-minded means you don’t stray from practices and programs that are proven to work. No bunny trails or following airy-fairy advice from pretend gurus. You are like Sgt. Joe Friday. Just the facts!

Being an implementer means you take action. You move ahead decisively. Creating and implementing a good advertising campaign is work. There is no way around that. Tracking results can be a chore. Testing is tedious. Not everything you try will yield success. But trying nothing is a sure route to failure. 

Being a tough-minded implementer can be the difference between just getting by and becoming wealthy. Doing the hard work can buy you the ease of additional help at your office (and home). It allows you to create the lifestyle you really want. And isn’t that the purpose for your business?

So … must you follow ALL 10 commandments of advertising every time you promote? No. Chances are now you are following only one or two (or none?). What would happen to your return on investment if you implemented three? Six? Eight? Fairly boggles the mind, huh?

The ugly truth is that bad advertising costs about the same as the good stuff that works. Why not take advantage of that happy fact and apply some of these principles? Going back to the analogy I began this article with, maybe these ten commandments of advertising will capture the attention of the girl (whale client) of your dreams!

For more from Victoria Eden, see:

What is the worst number in marketing?

How to end persistency problems despite rate hikes

The first fatal flaw of lead generation: bad headlines