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Episode #42

Episode 042: The one about how to create compelling ads, postcards, fliers and sales letters.

  • Dean shares his 7-point checklist for creating compelling ads
  • Creating a prospect vending machine vs slot machine
  • Making your ads more responsive by going a little upstream
  • PLUS: The three most important words for every ad you write
Dean: I’m Dean Jackson. He’s Joe Polish, and this is the I Love Marketing Podcast. Hi everybody. It’s Dean Jackson, and no Joe Polish today. What do you think of that? Actually, we recorded this episode last night, and we were almost halfway through the episode and all of a sudden, Joe’s recording stopped. And he had just been at ted med all week and was beat and asked me if I would just record today and do the episode that we were going to do last night, so that’s what we’re going to do. This is an episode that’s going to be an ad clinic episode.

So, that means that if you are one of the people who has gone to, and left your name and email address to download the breakthrough DNA report, you are on our email announcement list. And when we were doing the email announcements, we let people know that we were going to be doing an ad clinic episode, and we were also going to be doing a web clinic episode coming up. So, everybody who is on that list gets the opportunity to be part of one of the episodes. So, if you’re one of our listeners who only listens on iTunes, and you haven’t yet been over to ilovemarketing, this is a good opportunity for you to go over there because you get cool opportunities like this. So, I would encourage you to do that.

So, this episode is going to be about how to create compelling ads that generate leads for your business. This is really about your before unit, and this is a puzzle that’s worth solving, because if you can get an ad that works, it will work again and again and again, and it’s an asset for your business. Often, if you have chosen your target market, and you can figure out exactly what makes them respond, you can use the same ad for years and years and years, and that’s why it’s such a vital component of your business. So, to get it right is worth the effort, it’s worth the time that you put into it, it’s worth studying, it’s worth testing, it’s worth even hiring people to help you put that together because that valuable asset is really like a little money machine. Having a good ad or postcard or sales letter sequence, like we’ve been talking about, sequenced mailings, any of that stuff that you’ve got that can be out there working for you and bringing in new people for your business is an asset that will pay off for years and years and years.

So, what I’m going to do today, I’ve got a few examples here that we’re going to show you. These are people who have sent in their ads for us to take a look at. I’m going to use some of them are illustrative examples, but I want to kind of set the stage for you by making sure that you get the mindset right in your before unit here. And knowing that writing compelling ads is really the lynchpin of all of that; it’s the thing that makes it all work. And the most important component of your before unit is – and we say it again and again – making sure that you have narrowed your focus to a single target market. And we keep saying that again and again, but it’s so vital for you to understand that one of the biggest mistakes that people make is trying to get their ads to do too much; they try and get their ads to attract all the possible people that they can possibly serve.

So, that means we see it a lot that real estate agents or businesses, they’re geographically based, try and broaden their territory, and they try and makeup names for the areas that they cover to make sure that they cannot leave anybody out; people feel like they want to be as broad as possible. And it ends up costing you focus; it ends up costing the opportunity for you to be really compelling to the people who you could attract, if you had narrowed your focus.

So, it’s very important when you start thinking about that target market, that you’re able to even go as far as visualizing the person that you are writing to. And imagine that you’re only writing the ad, the postcard, the letter, the flyer, whatever media you’re using, that you’re only writing it for one person. Rather than speaking to a group, because communication, even though thousands of people or hundreds of people are going to be seeing your ad, they’re going to read it one person at a time. And the more that you can connect with somebody on a one to one level, where they feel like it’s just you, just talking to them, that’s where you really get the level of interaction with somebody that makes your advertising compelling. And that’s really what we talk about in your before unit, is getting people to feel compelled to respond to your ads.

So, visualizing who exactly you’re speaking to really helps. And it helps you even to think about the mindset of the person that you are trying to reach; it helps you to get inside their mind, and what Robert Collier had said in the Robert Collier letter book, the idea is to enter the conversation that’s already going on in their head. And if you know who that target audience is, if you know exactly what their hopes are, what their fears are, what their aspirations are. You’re able to really get inside the mind of that person, and understand what’s going to compel this person to call you. So, we’re really focused on making sure that you understand the psychology of what’s going on with your market before you ever sit down to even start writing your ad.

So, I’m going to give you a checklist for creating these ads, and it’s the same checklist that I use every time I sit down to create any kind of direct response ad; I’ve been using it for years and years and years. And it always helps kind of give you a head start on making sure that you’ve got something that’s going to work. So, I highly recommend using a checklist, and I’m going to share mine with you here, and I’m going to give you some illustrated examples as we go through the exercise.

Now, one other mindset thing that I think is very valuable for you as you go through this, is to think in terms of creating something that is going to reliably bring you leads that you can turn into money. The whole point of advertising, the whole point of doing any kind of postcards or ads or letters or anything that you’re doing, the whole point of doing it is to multiply that money that you invest in your business predictably. It’s not gambling, it’s not hoping for the best, it’s not spending the money, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. This is about creating something that reliably will be an engine that drives the money-making activity of your business.

So, one of the metaphors that I use, or examples that I use, to describe that is thinking like instead of spending your advertising budget in a slot machine. Where you’re going to put it in and try something new, and you’re going to pull the lever, and hopefully maybe it will work, and then put it in again and pull the lever and try and see if something else will work. That’s very unreliable. It’s unpredictable. It’s expensive. It’s heartbreaking sometimes because you spend money and you don’t know whether it’s working or not, or you don’t know whether it’s going to work. So, what I’m advocating for you is to stop thinking about creating and spending your advertising budget as if you’re spending it in a slot machine, and start thinking about spending your money as if you’re putting into a vending machine. And spending money or putting money into a vending machine is a very different experience than putting money into a slot machine.

And you know, the really great thing about it is that it kind of illustrates for you the importance of being able to choose a single target market. Because when you’re spending money, one of the things that I always say to people is, think about spending the money on one target market at a time. I know that often the thing that people really are hesitant about is narrowing their focus because they don’t want to leave anybody out. They don’t want to give up in their mind, the possibility of if I choose to do an ad for first time home buyers, that I’m going to give up the opportunity to work with somebody who wants to buy a horse farm, or a luxury home. And that’s not true at all. It’s just that when you’re spending that money, you choose who you’re spending that money on, you choose the target market that you want to attract, just like if you were spending that money in a vending machine.

You would have a choice of putting in your dollar, and you could choose Coke, or you could choose Sprite, or you could choose root beer or orange soda, whatever you want, you could get whatever you want with that dollar, but you have to choose one at a time. If you have more dollars, you can put in another dollar and get something else, or you can put in as many dollars as there are choices, and get everything, if that’s what you wanted to do; it’s exactly the same thing with when you’re spending money on your advertising.

So, that’s a great mindset for you to adopt, that you’re looking at creating advertising that’s going to work as reliably as a vending machine, that you know what you’re willing to pay for a specific type of target audience. You know how much you could afford to pay to attract one new person, and you’re cheerfully willing to spend that amount of money for as many people as you can attract with your advertising budget. So, that’s a great overriding mindset, as you’re going here. And any time and money that you’re spending in your before unit on creating these ads is investing in creating an asset that is going to be a driver for your business and work again and again and again. You’ll have it for years.

Let’s talk about this checklist that I was sharing with you. It’s a seven-part checklist, and I use it whenever I’m evaluating ads, when I’m looking at ads to see how we can improve them, which I’ve put every one of these ads that I have here as examples for you, all through the checklist. And it gives you kind of a tractor run on it; gives you an idea of where you might be able to improve the advertising that you’re spending money on. So, I would encourage you with this episode, to have your own advertising in mind and put it through this checklist yourself here.

So, here we go. Point number was is, have I selected a single target market? Now, when I look at an ad, I look for the signs that somebody is either too broad or they haven’t chosen a specific target market. I want to ask that of somebody if I’m sitting with them in person, and they can share with me exactly who their target audience is. And just like we said about the vending machine, you know when you’re spending this money, you have one opportunity, you want to spend that money to attract one person at a time. So, we want to narrow your focus there. I’ll give you an example of one of the ads that I’m going to use as an illustration here, so we can keep it in mind. We had a Jamie Larson, from Canada. Let me read you the email that Jamie sent in with the postcard that he’s been sending out.

“Greetings from the great white north. Here is my ad for a hopeful review. It’s been sent twice to two different unaddressed mail lists. Each list consisted of about 1500 homes, selected demographically as seniors who own homes near my clinic. Not a single bite in two weeks. Boo hoo. Here is my chance to thank you guys again for serving up your valuable insights. I can’t wait for the next episode. Ps. You guys sound great now that you’re using garage band, but I still wouldn’t miss a single episode, even if I had to listen to a tin can with a string line and a hearing aid.”

So, thank you, Jamie, for that. But Jamie has a company called Simple Hearing Solutions, and he’s in Burnaby, British Columbia in Canada. Now, I’ve got his postcard here, and I’m going to put this up on underneath this episode here on the site, so if you’re listening on iTunes and you want to kind of see the examples here, and read the transcript, you can go to We do a transcript every week, and that’s something that you can download for free right there from the site. So, Jamie has got a postcard here that says, “Free 2011 Consumer Awareness Guide reveals tips for saving money, time and frustration buying hearing aids.” It looks just like a newspaper article, Burnaby. “From super low priced gadgets on TV to hearing aid prices all over the map, to high-pressure sales and internet do it yourself kits, buying hearing aids can be an overwhelming ordeal, especially today when getting good value is so important. Consumers want to make wise choices with their money.

A special consumer awareness guide has been released for 2011 and 2012, which shows you what you should be looking for and what you need to be aware of when buying hearing aids. We wrote this guide to help you better understand how to get the most value for your money when purchasing hearing aids. With the information in this guide, you will be able to make an informed, intelligent decision.” And then there is a big subheading that says, “Call now to hear a 24 hour free recorded message” with the phone number to call, and then a little box that says, “Before you buy hearing aids, listen to this free recorded message. Discover how you can save money, time and frustration buying hearing aids. To find out the little things that can help make a difference to our satisfaction, just call 1800 for a free recorded message 24 hours a day.”

And then on the back of the postcard, he’s got, “Here’s what you’ll discover in this free guide for smart hearing aid buyers. Seven warning signs that you need to get your hearing checked. Six misconceptions about hearing aids. Four sales deceptions to beware. The importance of value and pricing. Six costly mistakes to avoid when buying hearing aids. The 12 questions you must ask before buying hearing aids. When you need good hearing aids, and why you need good hearing aids and great service. The importance of 100 percent no risk guarantees. Four steps to better hearing with hearing aids. To get a free copy of the guide, call the 2011 Consumer Awareness Guide to hearing aids, just call toll free for a free recorded message, and your guide will be mailed to you today at no charge.”

So, he’s got all of the components here, and you can see that Jamie has really followed the lead of Joe Polish, when Joe, in an earlier episode, was sharing all about the consumer awareness guide that he created for carpet cleaners. So, he’s modeled a couple of different ad samples that we’ve put up over the episodes here, yet nobody has called on this postcard. So, when I look at this, we’ve narrowed a target market. Now, Jamie seems to have narrowed his target market to people who have made a decision that they are going to buy or are in the market for a hearing aid, and has chosen an area of 1500 homes that are largely populated with seniors. But you’re never going to know for sure because this is something that in Canada, they have something called unaddressed ad mail. And I imagine we have the same thing here in the United States, it’s just a little bit different, where you can choose a neighborhood, and you can deliver – the post office will deliver to the house, an unaddressed piece of mail.

So you can have a postcard or a flyer or a letter or whatever it is that you want to mail, but you don’t have to have any address or person on it; it just goes to the household. So, it’s a very cost-effective way, but it’s not as specifically targeted as mailing something to a list of people who you know for certain are your target audience. So, when you’re selecting your target market, part of your due diligence is to see how can I get as close as possible to the person, the ideal person, that I’m trying to reach? So, even though he’s mailing to 1500 twice or 3000 different homes, yet zero response on that, might lead you to believe that there are not as many seniors in that whole group as what you might hope.

But I think there’s an even bigger opportunity here, is to think about entering the conversation that’s already going on in the household of somebody who potentially has a hearing problem. Buying hearing aids – and I don’t know whether it was Jamie or somebody else who also does hearing, on one of our live calls, was sharing that it’s not something that people joyfully look forward to. It’s not like I’m finally going to be able to get that hearing aid I’ve always wanted. Nobody goes into buying a hearing aid as something that they really look forward to. So, there’s a little bit of reluctance, there’s usually a little bit of delay, and I was talking with Joe about this when we were recording last night, that I think the big opportunity is to speak to the person who lives with the person who needs hearing aid. And maybe talk to them, and offer them information on how to talk to someone you love about hearing aids, or how to know when it’s time for someone you love to get a hearing aid, and how to talk to them about it.

So, you’re kind of going a little bit upstream in the process from the audience that Jamie is trying to attract here by really speaking to the person who is in the market for hearing aids, and they’re doing some logical comparison of the different options that they have, and they’re trying to do their due diligence and reach the right – make sure that they make the right decision. I think there are, for every person at that stage of the process, probably three or four or five people who are at the stage where they’re not quite ready yet, and it’s going to be somebody who loves them who is going to be the driver of this. Whether it’s a spouse or whether it is a child; maybe I was saying to Joe that there is probably a lot of people our age, 40, early forties. Who have parents in their sixties and seventies, that are getting to the point where maybe they need a hearing aid but they’re kind of reluctant to do it; they’re reluctant to make that move. So, it’s very I think even more motivating for the person who knows that they’re living with somebody who needs a hearing aid, or they love somebody who needs a hearing aid, to kind of do the research and get that kind of – get all the ducks in a row, and maybe gently sort of move somebody towards making that decision.

So, remember that our purpose for running any advertising is profit activator number two, which is to compel your prospects to call you. And I want to make sure that we’re not confusing that with profit activator number three, which is to educate and motivate your prospects to meet you. See, there are two different things; if you think about them as combinations, numbers in a combination that you’ve got to get your target market right, you’ve got to get the combination that compels them to call you, just so you know who they are, so you can identify them. You get that combination right, and then you get the combination for profit activator number three, which is compelling them to call you, educating them, motivating them, to meet you, so that you’ve got multiple steps in that process. You’re not trying to do it all in the ad; you’re not trying to put too much pressure on the postcard or the mailing piece or the flyer, or the display ad, opr whatever it is you’re doing. The only purpose of it is to identify somebody, get somebody to raise their hand and tell you that they are interested, or that they are in this category. Because if somebody were to respond for an offer that you make for a report on how to talk to somebody you love about hearing aids, or what to do if somebody you love needs a hearing aid. And I’m just brainstorming here with you – ideas for what you could do to speak to that person, once they raised their hand. You know that you’ve got somebody who potentially has a higher propensity to actually buy a hearing aid in the next six to 12 months than the general population, because they’ve at least raised their hand and asked for information about it.

So, that’s a very big piece of this puzzle. When you know that somebody has kind of pushed themselves in the momentum, they’ve taken that first step. Now you’ve got the opportunity to send more detailed information, you’ve got more opportunity over a period of time with sequenced mailings, educate them all about the process of buying hearing aids. Or how to overcome the things that their loved one is probably concerned about, the thing that would slow somebody down; they don’t want to have a big clunky hearing aid. Ao, they might be interested in some of these invisible hearing aids, or low profile hearing aids, that nobody would even know that you have them. And testimonials from people who have gone on before them, who went through that process, and now their lives are so much better that they can actually hear. So, you’ve got a great opportunity to do so much more once you’ve identified somebody, but it’s important to separate those two steps. Because that’s one of the big mistakes that people make, is trying to sell too much, trying to put too much pressure on the ad itself to compel them to make a buying decision.

So, have I selected a single target market? That’s the first point on our checklist. Number two on our checklist is, do I have a compelling offer? So, that’s what we’ve been talking about, what would be the best thing that we could do to get somebody to raise their hand. We talk about offering consumer awareness guides; we talk about offering something like a free recorded message that people can call and listen to a free recorded message, or getting them to go to a website to download something or to watch a video. What’s going to compel your audience to want to take that next step?

I gave an example at our conference in Phoenix where the progression there, if you go upstream into when people are actually starting the process of entering the market, or entering the cycle of buying, whatever it is that you – whatever service or product that you offer. I gave an example from the real estate world, that one of the things that I’ve always been passionate about trying to solve is the puzzle of how realtors can get listings, and that’s a big piece of the real estate puzzle. If you are going to be a successful realtor, it’s important that you get listings. So, I put a lot of time and a lot of energy into solving that problem, and at each level, is able to kind of advance and improve the response that I got by making sure that I focused on kind of moving a little bit upstream with each step. So, one of the first things that we did was I did a postcard that had a headline that said, “Sell your house in less than 90 days guaranteed.” And that was a compelling headline for people who were about to put their house on the market and had to – wanted to be assured that they were going to be able to get their house sold. That’s pretty compelling. But then when I started thinking about it, what is it that people who are about to sell their house, when they enter the process of selling, what’s the conversation that I want to join, the conversation that’s already going on in their head? And for most people, the first thought that they have is how much is my house worth?

So, we wrote another postcard that offered something that spoke to that conversation that was going on. So, we would send out – find out how much your home is worth for free over the phone. Now, that was a softer offer than sell your house in less than 90 days guaranteed, and we got more people to respond. Now, when we added, “Find out how much your River Oaks home is worth for free over the phone,” that bumped the response again, because River Oaks is much more specific than your home, general. Now, the next step that we did, the next level of that then is that we focused on an even more upstream offer by just offering the information itself, without bringing them into it, with an implication that they’re going to be selling their house. We created an offer for the free November 2011 report on River Oaks house prices. Now, that is a very safe offer, that’s something that if I live in River Oaks, and I’m going to be selling my house in the next six to 12 months, I would want to know how much my River Oaks house is worth.

So, you could do this same thing with any type of business, or any type of offer that you make, if we even used Jamie’s example here, where we talked about the free 2011 consumer awareness guide for hearing aids, we could even create an offer for the free November 2011 guide to hearing aid prices. That’s something that would be interesting to somebody who is thinking about buying a hearing aid, or comparing hearing aids. That would be an offer that could be tested very easily. But you see how this is working that we’ve done the work in the first part of our checklist, selecting the single target market, we’ve done the thinking, the psychology, the understanding before we even get to work on writing the ad, thinking of what would be the most compelling thing for that audience at this particular time? What’s the easiest thing? And you’ve got to remember that our offer, the whole point of it is to only convince people to take the next step, and then it’s not even about convincing, it’s compelling. We want to focus on compelling people to take that next step to get that piece of information that is exactly what they’re looking for and need right now, rather than trying to convince them to do business with you right now, in particular.

And I hope you get that because it’s a very subtle distinction, but it’s big when you really understand that the point of the advertising – and that’s why we downplay your logo and your – try and make it as little about you as possible. And make it as much about them, just like we talk about in the more cheese and less whiskers episode; the more you can make what you’re offering to somebody appear like cheese, that’s just valuable information without any, even hint, of commercial intent with that. The whole point of this is to just get them to raise their hand and identify themselves, and then we can do the convincing in profit activator number three, where we’re focused on educating and motivating our prospects to meet us.

So, those things were looking at our compelling offer; you’ve got to make a decision, what is it that you’re going to offer them? Are you going to offer them to call a free recorded message? Are you going to offer them a guide or a report or a book? Or are you going to offer them to go to a particular website, to watch a video or scan a QR code, or text their phone number to a short code, or text some words to a short code so that they can get a response. You’ve just got to think those things through, and when I’m looking at ads, I’m looking to see do you have a compelling offer? So, think about that for your business. Look at your ads that you’re running right now. Have you selected a single target market? Do you have a compelling offer? What is that offer?

And then we can move on to number three on our checklist which is, does my headline tell the complete story? Those ads that I was describing to you, the postcards that I was describing to you for the real estate. I just gave you the headline of the postcard, but you can tell immediately what that is all about because it’s so crystal clear. So, we want to get as much of the story as possible in your headline, and I can tell, and you can tell, when you see a headline, whether it’s speaking directly to a specific target audience. And is compelling them to take that next step, or whether it is focused on self-aggrandizement, or talking about you making your business the star. I have a friend here in Winter haven that owns a coupon booklet, and I was going through the coupon book with her a couple of days ago over breakfast, and I was looking at it.

And I was amazed to see that literally, 99 percent of all of the ads that are in this coupon book, the lead thing, the thing that is the prominent thing about the ad, is the name of the business or the company logo; they’re all making themselves the star of the ad. And it was amazing that when I did an ad for the café where I go every morning for breakfast, what we did was make it look just like a newspaper article, and it just had a headline that said, “Here’s five dollars to try our tasty food or award-winning coffee.” I think that was the headline, something like that. But it was here is five dollars to try. And it offered them a five dollar gift card that you could just cut out that coupon and bring it in, and you didn’t have to buy anything, you could just use it to get a mocha or a café latte or any of the coffee drinks or anything that you wanted. Even if it was five dollars or less, you could get it for free without having to make any other purchase. But the great news is that people came in, and they used their coupon and would put it towards buying, even more, stuff, and they would come back again and again.

But it was just surprising to me that all of these ads, the focus of the ad was largely on the company, and not on a compelling headline. So, think about how you can articulate what it is that you are offering, what your compelling offer is for your target audience, so that they will respond, so that they will raise their hand. The headline is really what draws people into the ad or the postcard, and the body copy is where you can kind of state your case and talk about the offer that you have for them, just as if you’re talking to one person at a time.

Then number four on the checklist is, does it look like news or does it look like an ad? And there’s a very interesting thing that goes on when you’re looking at things; you can tell specifically whether something is an ad or whether it’s valuable information. And this is important because there is so much that goes into protecting your mind from advertising messages. We all come built with this advertising protection armor, otherwise, we would be helpless and unable to do anything and function because we’re bombarded with so many advertising messages. There’s lots and lots of studies that show that we’re bombarded with thousands of advertising impressions every single day. If you drive down the street, think about all the billboards and the signs and watching TV, how many commercials there are, and flipping through the newspaper, how many ads there are and how many banners you encounter when you’re looking on the internet, when you’re going from site to site. There is literally thousands and thousands of advertising impressions, and we develop this advertising protection armor.

And there is actually a part of your brain called Broca’s area, which is in charge of filtering out all the things that are unimportant to you, and drawing your attention to the things that are important. That’s why you can be driving down the street oblivious to all of the billboards that are going on, because Broca is telling you that’s nothing to pay attention to over there. But as soon as you come to a stop sign, that’s a signal that Broca’s area lets you know, hey, you’ve got to pay attention to this stop sign because that’s important. So, when you think about how this works, when you’re watching TV, you’re watching your favorite show, you can almost sense when the commercials are coming; you can sense the things are slowing down, they’re building up to going into a commercial break. And you know when it’s coming, and everybody is sitting there with their remote control in their hand ready that as soon as the commercial come on, bam, bam, they’re off channel surfing while they’re watching TV. And sometimes it’s a problem because if you’re channel surfing, you end up surfing, and then you get back to the show that you were originally watching, and by the time you get back, they’re already going to another commercial.

When you think about what our minds are conditioned, we don’t want to pay attention to commercials, we don’t want to see those kinds of messages, and you’re starting to see that companies are steering away from their television budgets of that kind of interruptive advertising. And increasing what’s called the product placement budget, where you’re getting integrated right into the show; it’s almost like – one of the best examples of that is The Apprentice, with Donald Trump. They are brilliant at integrating sales messages into the shows, and you start to see how when one of the challenges for the group this week is to create an ad campaign for new Winter Fresh Colgate. And you’re going through that whole exercise and Broca, that area of the brain is like letting it go because it’s wrapped into part of the show. It’s saying this is the show, that’s okay to let that message in. And it’s so amazing that a lot of times, we’re oblivious to it, and we don’t even really realize that that’s what’s happening, but it’s getting through because it’s wrapped in the wrapper of the valuable part of the information. And that’s why the most successful direct response ads look like newspaper articles, or they look like magazine articles, they look like content; they don’t look like ads.

So, when you’re translating that into what you’re doing, our minds are so conditioned to look for shortcuts as to what’s valuable. We know that stop signs are red and octagonal, and we know that content in the newspaper, or content in the magazine has pictures that look like editorial pictures, they’ve got headlines at the top, it’s divided into columns. That stuff is the valuable stuff, and we know that the things with logos and starbursts and stock photos and lots of colors, and starbursts and big exclamation marks and arrows and all that kind of stuff, we know that those are advertising messages. So, our brain perceives them differently than it does the things that look like news. And there’s a great example – I’m going to put this on for you.

This came from some other listeners. We got this from Brian Madden, and they have a Madden Brothers Landscape Products and Services, and they are in Ohio, and there’s a great example of an article here that says, “One stop shopping for mulch and more,” and it’s divided into columns. It’s got a picture that looks like a feature article about these guys with a picture of the big equipment dumping them into the big dump trucks, and then their hands are showing the different types of mulch and screening available, and all of this stuff looks very much like an article about these guys. So, when you think about it, what would be a valuable experience for you? Wouldn’t it be great if the lifestyle or the business or whatever category would be appropriate for you, if the editor or a writer from the newspaper called you up and said, “You know what, I love your business. I’ve been paying attention to what you’re doing here, and I would just love to come and write a feature article all about your business to put in the business section or the life section or the money section or the sports section,” or whatever would be appropriate for your business. That would be a pretty cool thing.

Now, the next best thing would be that you write that article or you buy the space to make what looks like a feature article about your business, and not that it’s in a glamour type of way, or in a vanity type of way, that you’re talking about you; the most valuable think you could do is turn it into a piece that talks about a solution for your target audience. That it almost is like an education piece for somebody who is looking to invest in mutual funds, or somebody who is looking to buy a hearing aid, or looking to sell their house or get their carpets cleaned, or whatever your business is in. What would be a great article that would be helpful for somebody who is your audience, that they stumbled on, while they’re advertising protection armor is down, because it doesn’t look like an ad, it looks like valuable information.

So, that’s what you really want to focus on, and that’s point number four on our checklist, is, does it look like news or does it look like an ad? And some of the things that you can do to really increase the chances that something is going to be perceived as news or perceived as valuable are to model the types and formats that are all around us. And one of the easiest things to do is to get a copy of USA Today, and look for articles, the way they lay out the articles, the headlines, the columns, and match those exactly. If you can match those and make your information look like that, that’s a great format.

You can find almost any size of thing that you’re going to use; you could find an article that is a half of an 8.5 x 11 page, you can find one that’s a full 8.5 x 11 or even postcard size. There is so many different formats and layouts. If you’re doing tear sheets, you can look at Time magazine or Business Week, or if you’re mailing letters, it’s what’s perceived as valuable information. Like we talked about in the episode where we talked about Gary Halbert, is making something look like a personal letter, making it look like it is just for you, you’re the only person getting it, and that’s what’s going to get your letter opened. And when you commit to this, if you commit to this, you want to make sure that you commit all the way because one little element off can tip that area of the brain into knowing that this is an ad, this isn’t right.

And an example I use to describe this is imagine that you’re driving down the street, you’re driving down a pretty good road where you are, where you can maybe get into a situation where you might be going a little bit more than the speed limit allows. But imagine you’re going there, and then you see in your rearview mirror, you see those blue lights start flashing, and you know right now you’re already getting that feeling because you know what’s happening, you’re getting pulled over. And so you imagine you pull over and that car pulls up right behind you, it’s got the blue flashing lights, the door opens up, a guy gets out, he walks up to the car, and he’s got on the hat, and he’s got on his sunglasses. And he’s got on a crisp neatly pressed shirt with the belt, with the holster, with his gun and he’s got the pleated pants that are freshly ironed, and then on his feet, he’s got big red clown shoes.

What happened to the image that I was creating there for you when I got to those clown shoes? You know that in almost every way, everything about that experience was completely authentic, you were feeling exactly like you would feel if you were being pulled over by a police officer, but as soon as you see those red clown shoes, you know that something is up. So, even though every other element of it was right, the clown shows are what tip people off that this isn’t right. So, when I’m looking at ads, I’m looking for things that are going to be what I call clown shoes. That’s if your big company logo is in there, that’s clown shoes.

If you see things that are all self-aggrandizing, that’s clown shoes, it’s not about me anymore, as the prospect; it’s not about me, and it doesn’t look like valuable information now. So, you want to be very vigilant in looking at your ads, looking at everything that you’re doing, every communication that you’re having when you’re trying to compel people that it looks official, that it looks like it’s valuable information. And not self-aggrandizing or self-purposed material that is just talking all about me or getting my company name out there. You want to make sure that you’re focused only on your prospect, and only on what we call the cheese, the valuable thing, the thing that they really want. So, if you haven’t listened to the more cheese and less whiskers episode, look for it on and listen to it right away because this is the mindset that helps you go down that path.

Now, number five on our checklist is, am I using conversational language? And this is an important one, because when I talk about communicating with your prospects in a way that you’ve narrowed your focus, you’ve got one person that you’re trying to attract. And you’re going down that – doing everything that you can to make something compelling for them, The very best way to communicate with them is to communicate as if you’re sitting right there with them, talking to them one person at a time. Rather than talking to everybody and using jargon and business language and short, punchy slogans and stuff like that. The real value is in getting inside the mind of the person who you are trying to attract and going in getting into the conversation that’s already going on in their head. And I’ve used, as an example, one of the things that we talked about in the episode about having fun with marketing.

And so the scene that we set is a new listing that comes on the market in an area right across the street from you, and you start to think about the conversation that’s going on in somebody’s head. You list a new property comes up on the market, the neighbor across the street, gets up in the morning, they’re wiping the sleep from their eyes. They go down to the end of the driveway to get the newspaper, and they look up, and there is a for sale sign, and they didn’t have any idea that it was coming. But one strategy that real estates often use is sending out what are called just listed postcards. Whenever they list a new property, you’ve probably seen these in your own mailbox, that they’ll send out a postcard that says, just listed, and it’s got the address of the property and a picture of the property there. And it’s got their name and their big logo, and it’s like look at me, I just listed this house across the street from you.

But that’s not the conversation that’s going on in the mind of that person. When you think about it, they’re not going to go back into the house and yell inside, “Hey honey, the Johnson’s just listed.” That’s probably not the conversation that’s going on there. So, what we did was we created a postcard that is very conversational, that’s going to get people talking. So, we send it out and the headline on the postcard – and again, I’ll put this up on, “Do you know what your neighbors at 300 Main Street did last night? It may come as a surprise to you, but they’ve been plotting for a long time. Your neighbors have decided to sell their home, and they listed it with Sally agent of Results Realty. Now that they’ve made the decision to sell, they need your help to do it. Their house is a three bedroom, two bath home, and it’s listed for sale at only 240,000. To see more pictures and get all the details about this property, go to and use tour number – put the tour number there. If you know anyone who is thinking of buying a home in the River Oaks area, be sure to tell them about the online tour.” See, we’re using this kind of conversational language to communicate in a way that is going to be much more received in a different way than just limiting ourselves to saying just listed.

I have often used the example of imagine going and hiring somebody to deliver in person the message that you’re trying to convey in your postcard or on your flyer that you’re distributing. And when you look at it, the postal service has become really kind of one of the things that we take for granted. Years ago I was in Wyoming and saw one of the outposts for the original Pony Express, and you really get this sense of history, that it used to be that in order to get a message to somebody in another part of the country. These guys would have to risk their lives going up over the mountains to get to California to deliver that message to somebody in another town in California, say, and you start to think about how we kind of, in a lot of ways, make a mockery of the mail system now. I imagine some of these old Pony Express guys would be rolling over in their grave if they saw some of the things that we’ve got here. We’ve got a message so important to deliver that we’re hiring a uniformed government employee to deliver it right to their door, and all we can say is, “Just listed,” or “Put your big company logo on that postcard, or get your name out there kind of stuff. It’s not the same as having a real conversation with somebody, so the test for using conversational language is, would you hire somebody to deliver the message that you’re sending on this postcard in person.

So, you can imagine having a conversation with them. If you rang the doorbell, what would the conversation be? So you think about somebody like Jamie, where with the hearing aid situation, is offering, introducing and saying, “Hi, we’ve got this free report here on how to talk to someone you love about hearing aids,” and that could be a great into to a conversation about whatever your business is, whatever the category is. How could you turn that into a conversation to tie in the offer that you have and the headline that you’ve chosen and the format that you’ve used to make it look like news, and now that you’re using conversational language.

And then number six is, is it absolutely clear what I’m asking them to do? And the thing to remember with this is the ultimate goal is one ad, one purpose, which is to get somebody to raise their hand but we’ve got to be crystal clear with them on how to do it. I was doing a consultation with a gentleman earlier in the week, and he had ads that were kind of telling all about their service and telling all about what they did, but there was no overt, specific call to action. There was nothing that was instructing them exactly what to do to respond to that, so you’ve got to be crystal clear, you’ve got to say to somebody, “Pick up the phone and dial this phone number for a free recorded message,” or “Go to this website,” or “Scan this QR code,” or whatever your specific instruction is. You’ve got to be that overt and crystal clear.

Now, number seven on our checklist is, have I used the words free recorded message? If you’re doing postcards, or you’re doing display ads, or you’re doing things that are going to be consumed in a reading type of way, offline. Things that they’re going to hold in their hand, and read a postcard or read a magazine ad, or read a newspaper ad, or read a letter, all of those kind of things. There is nothing that you could do that is going to bump the response to your ad more than using the words, free recorded message, because you’ve now given somebody something that they can do. Even now, a lot of times people say, “Well, a free recorded message is kind of an old-school technique,” and the reality is that they’re even more relevant now that everybody has a cell phone within three feet of their body at every given time.

I mean so many people have their cell phones right there with them, that they can pick it up and call this number or they can text something, or they can scan a QR code. If you started thinking about how can I tap into having somebody respond by having them pick up that telephone and call me, or pick up that cell phone and call this recorded message right away, it’s going to be easy for your prospects to respond. Rather than having to wait until they get back to the office, or try and go online or remember to go online to do something. It’s easy for people to call and listen to a free recorded message especially if they can do it right away.

So, there you go. There’s our checklist. Number one, have I selected a single target market. I want to make sure that you focused on, made your decision, you’ve chosen to put your time and effort into creating a vending machine, but we’ve got to know what are we trying to vend? Who is the ideal prospect that we’re trying to vend, that we’re trying to create a compelling ad or postcard that can get them to raise their hand. Number two, do I have a compelling offer? What’s the easiest offer that we can make that would get somebody to raise their hand and identify themselves, we’re compelling them to call, not convincing them to buy, and that’s a big distinction.

We’re not trying to convince them to buy right now; we’re just trying to compel them to call. Number three, does my headline tell the complete story? If you get your headline right, you can get 80 percent of the effectiveness right there in the headline; people will know exactly what this is all about. Number four, does it look like news or does it look like an ad? If your ads look like an ad they’re going to get less attention than if they look like valuable information, so put your time and effort into making something look like the things that we’re accustomed to consuming as content. And it gets right past the gatekeeper, right into the part of the brain that processes valuable information rather than getting filtered through that advertising protection amour.

Number five, am I using conversational language? We always want to speak one person to one person. Don’t worry about, “I’ve got have white space. You’ve got to have short, punchy language.” That’s not what it’s about; you’ve got to have compelling conversational language. Number six; is it absolutely clear what I’m asking them to do? One ad, one purpose. We’ve got to be crystal clear with the instructions of what somebody needs to do. And number seven; have I used the words, free recorded message? Those are as close to magic words as you can get. So, there’s your checklist, that’s the checklist I use every time I look at ads, every time I sit down to create an ad. I think if you use that checklist you’re going to be able to create more compelling ads, you’re going to get better response, and you’re going to make more money, and you’re going to thank us for it. So, that’s it for this week. Joe will be back with me next episode, and we’ll, in a very near future episode be doing a web clinic where we’re going to talk all about the best practices, the best things you can do to get the most response from your website. So, that’s it for this week. Thank you for tuning in, and I will talk to you next time.   

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