How To Write Ads That Sell

Thursday, 1:03pm

99% of ads are a giant steaming pile of wasted money (and broken dreams).

Ask any ad salesman.

In fact, don’t bother, they won’t tell you.

They will spend a lot of time telling you all about the viewership or readership of their publication. How they have the biggest distribution in the region, and on and on.

They’ll spout on about repetition, and ‘brand awareness’.

But ask them to show you cold hard numbers, or help you test your results from your ads…

Forget about it! They don’t want to know.

In fact, I once had a radio sales person tell me that if I want to measure results then they don’t want me to advertise with them. (He was trying to use a takeaway sales technique – so I let him take the offer away).

Why? because they know that most ads are a waste of time, space, airwaves and most of all money.

And to be fair to the to the salesman, if your ‘chucked-together-at-the-last-minute’ ad is terrible, it’s not their fault… But they don’t care either. They just want the sale.

Now listen… If you’re worried this sounds a lot like your advertising, stop!

It’s not your fault.

It’s what everybody does, and how do we learn to market our businesses? By copying everyone else.

The good news, you can fix it.

Click here to get the FREE 30 Minute Ad Formula Cheat Sheet

Here’s an example of a typical ad that you’ll see when you flick through your local newspaper or Yellow pages:


A big logo at the top of the ad which shouts ‘look at me’ and tells the reader nothing.

List 2 to 6 general products or services offered. Or profess to specialise in ‘everything’.

Address and Phone Number at the bottom of the ad but giving no reason to use them.


Sure, it might have a nice background image or a ‘clever’ slogan which says exactly nothing to the reader.

The problem is, the ad is written entirely for the advertiser. It offers nothing for the reader unless they happen to be looking for one of those products or services at that exact moment. The ad isn’t actually doing any selling

Another common ad you’ll see, again in the newspaper or a flyer, is the “Huge discounts”, “all stock must go”, “Offer must end on Sunday” type ads. Actually these all work. but these ads have two really big problems.

  1. Your ads will get some business by ‘skimming the cream’ of customers who just happen to be ready to buy right now. But it will be ignored by most potential customers.
  2. The biggest problem is they are training your best customers to expect a discount on your products or services. They are cheapening your position in the market and slashing your bottom line.

I bet you can name a handful of businesses that you would never consider purchasing anything from them unless they are running a sale.

6 Step Formula For Writing Successful Ad’s

Now first, I want to be clear. Successful copywriters are paid ludicrous amounts of money for what they do.

I recently listened to an interview with the CEO of a marketing company that makes tens of millions of dollars every year, and he proudly proclaimed that he pays his top copywriters more than he pays himself.

Why? Because a world class copywriter can make a campaign, and literally millions of dollars.

Now top copywriters take years, probably decades to refine their skills to this level. And yes, I know, you don’t have years to get good at this stuff.

But the good news is you can learn the nuts and bolts of writing a good ad that will put you miles ahead of your competition.

Let’s get started. For the rest of this report I’m going to focus on print advertising, however all of this transfers easily to radio, tv and online. The principles are the same.

How hiding your ad can get it read by up to 5 times more people

Huh? That doesn’t sound right. Wait I’m not talking about blending in with your competition.

Think about this: When did you last pick up a newspaper to read the ads? Exactly. You read the newspaper for, wait for it…


Wow, that’s a massive revelation isn’t it? Ok, studies have shown again and again that articles get read 5 times more than ads.

So what can you do with this juicy piece of information? easy… Create ads that look exactly like….. Articles.

Amazing! Let’s break down an news article into its simplest parts.

All articles have a headline. They often have an image. They then provide new, interesting, exciting and timely information that is relevant to the reader. And finally, they have a point (or an angle) to the article.

How do we use this in an ad?

1. Make your ad all about them

What does your ideal customer want (and why do they want it)? What are their biggest problems or challenges?

The more specifically you can answer those questions, the easier it will be to write an ad that works like crazy (every single time).

I’m not going to labour the point about features vs benefits. If you’re reading this, you’ve already heard that a million times before. But remember, your customers aren’t paying for your product or service… they are really buying a result – more time, prestige, self esteem – you need to uncover that raw drive and tap into it in your ad.

2. Get attention (from the right people)

The first job of your ad is to get attention.

Now we’re talking about attention from the people who actually want your stuff. You don’t need, or even want your ad to be read by everyone.

Lets say you sell snowboards…

Would you rather talk to 100 random people on the street about your snowboards, or 100 snowboarders? Or how about 100 snowboarders who are hanging out for the snow so they can rush up to the slopes, but they have a bashed up second hand snowboard in their garage?

How do you get this attention? The answer is simple…

You need to craft a headline that slaps your ideal prospects out of the nearly catatonic state they’re living in and sucks them into your ad.

Writing kickass headlines is an art in itself, but luckily you can get along just fine using one of these simple formulas and tailoring it to your business…

How to… (fix the specific problem)

“How to choose the perfect Snowboard for your riding style”


“How Sarah Jones saved $150,000 on her mortgage”

Ask a question

“Are you ready for the snow season?”

Use a short, punchy testimonial from an ecstatic customer.

“I thought my car was a write-off, but it looks like brand new”

To get more ideas try reading your local newspapers and take note of which articles grab your attention. Tabloid papers and trashy magazines are often the best… They live and die with their ability to grab attention.

One caveat though. Unlike trashy magazines and Tabloids, your headlines need to actually be true. Whatever you write, you need to be able to back it up.

3. Get their interest

Great, you’ve got your prospects attention… now what?

Now you have to fulfill the promise you made in the headline. Start by explaining your product or service, and how it most importantly what it will do for them.

Demonstrate how your product or service is the perfect way to fix their problem that we discussed in step 1.

I love watching infomercials. It is inspiring to me the lengths that they go to to prove that their product is the best and only sane option to solve a problem.

4. Make them want what you’ve got

Bring the reader even closer and get them panting for your products or services.

Many years ago, I learnt sales the hard way… Selling door to door, at night, in winter.

Anyway, while I was doing this I learnt that there are a number of hot-buttons that get us all fizzing with excitement. You can use these in any ad to get readers ready to take some action.

People love to buy things that are popular. Have you ever seen people lining up for a restaurant while the one next door is empty? This is why.

We also love things that are exclusive. Items that are rare are generally worth more than things that are easily available.

People hate to miss out. Think it’s hard telling someone they must have something? Try telling them they can’t have it.

A time limit helps people make decisions. A decision that doesn’t need to be made, isn’t. We love to get more than we pay for. This is often referred to as greed, but really we all just like to get the best end of a deal.

5. Make an irresistible offer

Here’s the point where you get to close the ‘sale’. It’s also the point where most ads jump from being an investment to a flat out expense. Why? Because ads run by most businesses never get to the point of even making an offer. The best that they come up with is “So here’s our phone number, give us a call sometime, if you want to.” Or maybe – “Come into our store and see our collection of house stuff”. Not going to cut it. The trick is to make an offer that is so ludicrously good, that they can’t possibly ignore it. Three things you need to create an irresistible offer:

  1. Offer something that people actually want
  2. Really really want (not just what you want to sell)
  3. Make it worth so much to them that what you’re asking for it is an absolute pittance

A quick hint on VALUE: We, all of us, are terrible at valuing things. The only way we have to decide how much something is worth is to compare it to something else. So you can increase the value of a product simply by being smart about what you compare it to.

6. Remove the Risk

If you’ve done a good job with the rest of the ad, there is one last thing you can do to bring it home. People don’t buy for 3 reasons.

  1. They don’t want what you’ve got
  2. You haven’t proved it’s valuable enough to them
  3. They’re scared

This is where to address number 3 head on. They might be scared of wasting their money, that the product won’t work. They might be worried they won’t be able to use the product. The important thing is you need to remove the risk for them, so it’s no longer a barrier to them saying yes, making a call or placing an order. The best ways to remove the risk are Free trials or money back guarantees. But you might some other creative way to make sure that your customer feels like there is no way they can lose.

30 Minute Ad Formula

Not sure where to start? We would like to give you this fill-in-the-blanks cheat sheet that will help you write your first ad in the next 30 minutes. Download the free report and get your advertising turning a healthy profit

Have you thanked your customers lately?

Your most important customers are the ones you already have.  Businesses often spend thousands of dollars per year marketing and advertising to attract new customers while ignoring, or taking for granted their current customers.

Existing customers have already chosen to do business with you, the chances they will do again is high if you look after them.

Sending your current customers something as simple as a thank you card could be the best value marketing you could do.  Of course you could also give them a small gift or make them a VIP offer to encourage them back to see you.

I know one business that sends one handwritten thank you card to a different customer everyday.  It is a habit that pays dividends.

To employ this idea, you need to know who your customers are.  Do you have a list of customer contacts?  If you don’t, you should – start building one today!

9 ways to measure your advertising results

Coupons are a great way to measure response to advertisingAs I have posted before, Measuring the response and income from your advertising campaigns is critical, in order for you to know which ads are working and which are not.

Here are 9 ways to easily track the response to your advertisements:

  1. Coupons – Coupon offers are a great way to measure the response to your ads.  Keep the coupons when they are cashed in and count them up.  Remember to put an expiry date on the coupon.
  2. Ask for Sally – Using a pseudonym is an effective way of measuring phone responses to an ad.   At the bottom of the ad put “call now and ask for Sally or Bob or any name who doesn’t work at your business (so you know it is a response to an ad).  I once worked for a company who ran 3 or 4 different ads in the newspaper, and they always knew which ads were the most effective.
  3. Mention this ad and receive a discount – Another nice simple method that works on the phone or face to face.  Can be used to test media as well (mention this radio station, newspaper, magazine… etc).
  4. Loyalty Cards encourage repeat custom and give your customers a reason to shop with you rather than your competition.  They also provide an opportunity to measure the frequency of repeat business.
  5. Run a Competition – Create a bit of buzz about your business and run a competition.  Tie it in with a business milestone or a local event.  Ensure the entry form asks for any information that you require.
  6. Make a Special offer in your ad – For example offer a free information booklet to compliment the product or service advertised.  Have the audience phone or email to receive the special offer.

  7. Comparing the effectiveness of different ads (or headlines, offers etc).  If you run more than one campaign at once, these strategies can be used to measure the response to each.

  8. Competing offers – Measure and compare the response to different publications or advertisements by offering different packages in each publication or ad.
  9. Measure by area – If you advertise with flyers or mail drops, distribute different flyers (with a call now) into different suburbs and ask all responders where which suburb they live in.
  10. Use different phone numbers on your ads –  The best method is to have one or two numbers dedicated to advertising that can be redirected to your main sales number.  Your phone company should be able to track how many calls you get on this number(s).
  11. Note: People often mis-remember the facts of where or when they see an advertisement.  This is a fact that is best kept in mind while testing your campaigns.  The most accurate statistics will come when you can design a measurement that doesn’t rely on your customer’s memory.

    Bonus point:

  12. Internet advertising – Once you start advertising on the web it is even easier to measure your success rates using online tools.  This makes the Internet a great medium for testing your ad campaigns cheaply before rolling out to more expensive media.

Ever have a Lemonade stand when you were a kid?

Lemonade stand

Lemonade stand

When I was a kid, I used to make a little stall in front of our house during the holidays.  We used to make Lemonade to or go up the back of a farm nearby and pick blackberries or passion fruit to sell.

I always remember getting excited about how much money we would make while picking the berries or lemons.  Followed by the boredom and frustration after hours of sitting waiting for people to buy our produce.  Sometimes we would knock on doors to try and sell some faster.

One holiday when I was a bit older, I spent a whole day writing a leaflet offering my services to do odd jobs washing cars and the like.  When it was finished I had to talk my mum into going to town to make lots of copies on her work photocopier, and then spent a few more hours posting them in letter boxes around the neighbourhood.  I got a few jobs washing cars and cleaning swimming pools for my efforts, giving me a tidy sum of pocket money.  The thing I remember is the making and distributing the leaflets took twice as long as the actual jobs, which only took a few hours to do.

I always think of these experiences when I hear people mentioning celebrities getting paid huge sums of money to front brands.  Back in the early 2000’s Nike reported paid Tiger Woods more to market their products than they paid their workforce in china to make their shoes.  Many people considered that unjust, but I can’t help thinking, that you make money from selling products, not just making them.

photo credit: EvinDC

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Is your Advertising an expense or an investment?

There are two camps in viewing advertising. Some people consider it an expense while others regard their advertising campaigns as an investment. The raw truth is that it can be either. To know which, you need to know how many customers your advertising campaign brings you and how much they spend.

If an advertising campaign brings in more profit than you spend on it, then it is an investment

If an advertising campaign brings in less profit than it costs, then it is purely an expense.

Of course, a loss making advertising campaign is still getting your name and brand out in front of an audience, and there is some long-term benefit in this. BUT wouldn’t you rather get paid while keeping your brand in the public eye?

The secret to successful advertising is to find out what does work and what doesn’t. Measure, measure and re-measure!!! Double the advertising that does work and quit that which doesn’t.

Targeting your brand

First, your brand won’t appeal to everybody.  Don’t worry this is a good thing;  it shouldn’t appeal to everyone, because not everyone will want to buy your products or services.  An 18-year-old boy isn’t going to buy a crotchet kit, and a 65 year old couple are highly unlikely to purchase a new wakeboard.  With this in mind, ANY time, effort or money spent marketing to these groups is completely wasted.

To increase the effectiveness of your brand and all related advertising and marketing, you need to know who your most likely customers are.  Lets be honest, you already know this… it isn’t rocket science.  It is easy to slip into the “I’ll take money from anyone” mindset (and so you should, but you shouldn’t market to them), or consider it too hard to define your core customers; I’ve been there myself.  But it is CRITICAL to the success of your brand.

Think about it.  If I told you, that you could have all the profits from any nappies you could sell to one hundred people, would you ask the first hundred people you meet? or would you do better asking the next hundred people pushing a stroller?

The more knowledge you have of who your customers are, the easier it is to target them with your branding and marketing.  You can draw better conclusions as to what they want to buy, and why.  What their likes and dislikes are, and how they want themselves to be perceived.  It also gives you an insight into what radio stations they listen to, and what newspapers and magazines they read.

Demographic information you need to know about your customers:

·        Age (range)

·        Employment – Are they management, professional, or owner

·        Location – City, town, region

·        Gender

·        Education

·        Occupation

·        Marital status

·        Ethnicity

·        Income – total household income. Can they afford your products or services

·        Family status – do they have children? What age and stage?


If you supply products or services to businesses, you can also collate demographic information for the businesses you deal with.  Such as:

·        Industry

·        Size of business (sales, no. employees)

·        Type of business (manufacturer, retailer, primary production)

·        Location

·        Geographic scope of the business (regional, national, international)


So how do you get this demographic information for your business?


The best way to gather demographic information is through using market research companies.  However, these can be expensive.

It is possible to do your own research: it is relatively inexpensive to run your own phone survey, or observation of your customers.  My favourite method is to ask your customers if they would be willing to complete a quick questionnaire during the purchase transaction.  You could even offer an incentive such as a prize draw, small discount (or better a bonus).

When it comes to advertising

It is helpful if your company has a strategy regarding advertising for the year, which relates to your company’s broader brand framework.

Regardless of whether you’re that organised, booking an ad last minute and giving your designer half a day to ‘come up with something’ is a waste of resources.  Even worse if it’s not your designer but someone else’s! My apologies if you’ve ever been forced to do this, but let me explain…

It goes back to the necessity of writing a brief and treating each ad as an investment which must bring back some ‘bikkies’ in return.  If an ad doesn’t do it’s job then it can be a glorious waste of money.

Last minute advertising opportunities are always out there.  Perhaps you have an ad you can rerun, which can fit the space, and you know gets you results.  Great!  But be wary of making a booking and handing your logo over to a publication which can ‘rustle’ something up.  This can weaken your brand and render the ad ineffective.

When it comes to advertising…  Have a plan.  Have an advertisment or better, an ad campaign ready to take advantage of advertising deals when they come up.