The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed Intuit's co-founder Scott Cook for its "How I Built It" column. (Intuit, of course, sells Quicken and QuickBooks software that is used by millions of businesses and individuals.)
Cook was asked how he was able to successfully launch the company in 1983 with, as he put it, "no money for marketing." Here's his answer . . .
"We had an ad agency do the first ad but that didn't work. It didn't generate enough sales to cover its costs. But then a friend taught me how to write a direct-response ad. It had a 1-800-number and it brought in orders that delivered profits."
As Scott Cook discovered, soft "image ads" are fine if you have a huge budget, but if you want to get the cash register ringing fast, and get the biggest bang for your buck, nothing beats a direct-response ad.
As you can imagine, Intuit didn't stop with advertising. They quickly added direct mail to the marketing mix and with tremendous results. Over the years I've had the privilege of writing a number of direct mail packages for Intuit and have always been impressed by their terrific people and the company's commitment to the profitable direct channel.
How can you put the power of direct response techniques to work in your advertising? Here are some practical tips you can put use immediately:
1. Put your offer right up in the headline. Don't hide your offer. It belongs where people can see it! If you've got a new product to announce, a free download for the prospect to try, or a brochure you think potential customers should read, go for it in the headline. Don't tease them. Don't entertain them. Let them know what you'll do for them!
2. Include a picture of what you're offering. Let's assume that you're offering a download of a brochure. I urge you to include a photo of the brochure cover. It makes the offer concrete and believable. Let's learn from retailers. They don't bury their goods. They put them in the window. That's a lesson we can apply in our advertising.
3. Get your offer into the very first paragraph. Take a look at ads with offers. You'll find that the writer often throws it in as an afterthought at the end of the body copy. This is an incredible mistake. If you care about your response rate, put it up front. Let's face it. There's a chance that not every reader will stay with you all the way to the end of the ad, so give them important news about your fabulous offer, early!
4. Don't forget to say "FREE." "Free" is one of the true magic words in advertising. It always has been. It always will be. If you have something to offer that doesn't cost anything, it would be foolish not to highlight it!
5. Be sure to use testimonials. They can really build credibility. Stay away from initials used as signatures. "Your financial planning services saved me thousands of dollars. H.M., Detroit, Michigan" is old-fashioned and convinces no one.
6. Consider using a coupon. I know very well that people will probably respond via your 800 number and not to your coupon, but that's not the point. The coupon hash-marks let the reader know that something is being offered and causes them to get into the ad. Several years ago I saw a study that underscored the power of coupons to involve readers in an ad. My own experience confirms this.
7. The magic words: "No Obligation." People always need to be reassured that they won't be hassled if they respond to your ad. "No obligation" and "no risk" are words worth remembering and using.
8. Don't be afraid of long copy. Who said you should keep copy short? People only believe that because they have no confidence in their copywriter's ability to sustain the reader's interest. As the saying goes, "The more you tell, the more you sell." If your budget restricts you to small, fractional size ads, CLICK HERE to check out this recent issue of The Levison Letter titled How small ads can be big money-makers.
Need help with your ad (large or small) or any other copywriting project? Email? A sales letter? Give me a call at (415) 461-0672.
Let's get those response rates up.
Let's get those sales figures up.
Let's go to work!