In any given month, I review and revise a pile of marketing campaigns sent to me by my Members and Technology Marketing Tool Kit buyers.
Although there is never a shortage of ways to screw up a marketing campaign, there are a handful of mistakes that are made more frequently than others. They are so rampant that my guess is that most of you reading this are making these very same mistakes somewhere in your own marketing and it is costing you dearly.
That is why I would urge you to take a minute and review all of your marketing materials with this list in hand to see if any of these mistakes are present. If they are, fix them immediately; I can assure you they are costing you money and need to be revised sooner rather than later.
#1. No headline. The headline is the ad for your ad and helps the reader determine whether or not they want to continue reading. Consider the way you read the newspaper, books, or any other type of written material. Chances are you glance a at the headline and sub-headlines to determine whether or not you want to read the entire piece.
Run a marketing piece without a headline and you’ve wasted your time and money on that ad. Headlines belong on EVERYTHING including your web site, business card, and letterhead, as well as the obvious sales letters and promotions.
The headlines that work best are those which promise the reader a benefit – like a problem free network, lower IT costs, or fewer employee (end user) problems. Headlines that contain news are almost always a success. If you want to see great headlines in action, study the magazine covers the next time you are standing in line at the grocery store. You’ll notice that the entire cover is nothing but teaser headlines designed with one purpose: to get you interested (or curious) enough to buy the magazine.
While we are on the subject, here are three more important points about the design and layout of headlines:
First, a headline should ALWAYS be placed at the top of the ad followed by the opening paragraph. Many graphic designers have taken to placing the headline in the
middle of the page or in an odd shape to he creative. This is a big mistake unless you are looking to win a creative design award. If you just want your letter or ad to sell something, put the headline at the top. Another mistake with headlines is putting them in ALL CAPS. Studies at Stanford University have proven that capitalizing every letter in a headline (or body copy for that matter) makes it difficult to comprehend. Your eye is a creature of habit; stray from the “norm” of lower case letters and you impede readability and comprehension. However, capitalizing the first letter of every word is ok and will NOT hurt your response. Yet another common headline mistake is putting a period at the end. This is a sign to the reader to stop reading which is death to a sales letter or ad. That’s why you’ll never see headlines in newspapers with periods at the end.
#2: Not using testimonials or any other proof to support your claims. Please get this: anything you say about yourself is ALWAYS considered hype. The people that read your message have absolutely no reasons whatsoever to believe anything you say.
However, have one of your customers say it and suddenly it become gospel. If you are sending out marketing campaigns without testimonials or other proof to back up your claims, you are throwing your time and money down the drain. If you don’t have client testimonials to put into your marketing campaigns, you should immediately implement the Client Feedback Form enclosed in this month’s newsletter.
One of the best marketing pieces I recently received was from Nightingale-Conant selling an audio cassette program. Inside the letter was a 4-page booklet filled with testimonials from people who had listened to and benefited from the product. Marketing Example #4 is another good example of how testimonials are needed to validate claims. This has the potential to be a tremendous ad with the 9 reasons to call and the free recorded message line offered at the bottom. However, without testimonials, I’m not sure that I believe his offer of “”air, honest pricing” or “clean worksites”. This ad would have had much more impact if he had included 2-3 testimonials to back up the claims he is making in the list.
Another benefit of using testimonials: In most cases, your competitors are NOT using testimonials. The very fact that you offer them to your prospects will cause you to stand out from everyone else in your market.
#3: Using reverse copy. Reverse copy is where you have white or light colored letters on a black background. Big no-no. It is a proven fact that reverse copy lowers response rates. This goes double on a web site because it makes the copy MUCH harder to read. While we are on the topic, ANYTHING you do to an ad or sales letter that makes it difficult to read or interferes with the copy is a BAD idea.
Just recently I saw a full page ad for a life insurance company in Fortune Magazine where the designer had “creatively” wrote the key sales message on a fogged up window of a car to make it appear as though someone scribbled it on with their finger. The message they wanted you to “get” was that if your future was easy to see, you wouldn’t need insurance.
This was quite a stretch and took me several minutes to figure it out. Simply a terrible, terrible ad that cost someone a lot of money. The ONLY reason I noticed it was because I was flipping through the magazine studying the ads. I promise you the average reader is not. ANYTHING that makes your copy difficult to read is OUT so make sure you instruct your graphic artist to keep it clean, simple, and easy to read.
#4: Using multiple colors and fonts. Use too many different colors and fonts and your sales letter or ad will end up looking like a ransom note.
Readers are easily annoyed; especially when reading a sales piece. Too many fonts, colors, and cluttered clipart pictures will put them off. It also makes your sales letter look amateurish and unprofessional. I wish I had a nickel for every web site that used bright blue, yellow, or red to the point of making my eyes hurt.
In tests, black letters on a white background (like this newsletter) provide the best comprehension level. If you are going to use color, use low-chroma colors and only use bright or neon colors is small amounts. The best font to use for comprehension is serif fonts (like the one you are reading). Sans-serif fonts have come into popularity because they are easier to read online. However, if you are using offline promotions, use serif fonts like Times Roman, Baskerville, or even Courier New (the font this newsletter is written
in). They have been proven to increase readership and compression by 5 times over sans-serif fonts like Verdana or Arial.
#5: Not having anything interesting to say. No one cares that you fix computers, or that you have been doing it for umpteen years, that you are locally owned and operated, or about the laundry list of things you do, yet that is the most popular format of every sales letter that lands on my desk for critique. Here’s a bit of cold water truth that no one except me will tell you: no one cares.
Sending out a letter just to “let people know you are there” is a waste of time. If it’s not interesting enough to read or act on, you get no points.
You’ll notice that all of the sales letters in the Technology Marketing Tool Kit have a story, a theme, or some other “shock” factor to get the prospect to read on AND act now—this is not done by accident. Just like you, your prospects care only about what’s in it for them. You have to make it interesting for them by telling a story or promising to solve some big, hairy problem they are dealing with.
#6: Not having an offer. You always, always, ALWAYS need an offer. My old stand- by is a free report; however, you can be creative and offer a free service, a teleseminar, a sample product, a discount or bonus for responding now, or a free recorded message hotline.
Plus, the ad or the sales letter needs to SELL THE OFFER AS IF YOU WERE SELLING IT, EVEN IF IT’S FREE. I touched on this topic in last month’s newsletter. Simply offering a freebie will not guarantee a response. You have to use your ad to get the prospect excited enough to take action and SELL them on taking the next step
#7: Not having a plan for follow up. Once you get a response, then what? Who’s going to follow up and how? What are you going to send them? If they buy, then what? If they don’t buy, then what? What if they call your office? Will the person answering the phone know what to say? As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. If your only plan is to hand the leads to a sales team and trust they will know what to do, you might as well throw them out the window of your car. Lot’s of luck getting them to monetize.