Good advertising begins with good information. And the best way to gather the information you need is with a little Q & A.
Here are some basic questions that will help you prepare for just about any ad writing assignment.
- DESCRIPTION. What is the product/service/opportunity in 50 words or less?
- PURPOSE. What does it do? How does it work?
- PRICE. How much does it cost?
- FEATURES. What are the vital facts about this product/service/opportunity?
- BENEFITS. What will it do for people? What specific problems does it solve? Saves money or time? Makes life better? What is the prime benefit?
- COMPETITION. Why is my product/service/opportunity better? How is it different? What attributes can I stress that they don’t?
- GUARANTEE. 30 days free trial? Money back?
- PROSPECT. Who is my ideal prospect? Male or female? Income? Lifestyle? Biggest concerns?
- OBJECTIVE. What do I want? Inquiries, leads, sales, image building, traffic, etc.?
- OFFER. What’s the deal? Two for one sale? Limited-time offer? Free information?
- DEADLINE. When does my offer expire?
- METHOD OF PAYMENT. Cash, bill me, VISA, MasterCard, etc.?
- METHOD OF ORDERING. Mail, phone, fax, computer, etc.? 800 number?
You’ll also want to collect these items to help you answer the questions:
- SAMPLE. Do I have a sample of this product? Do I have a tape or video to explain the opportunity?
- TESTIMONIALS AND ENDORSEMENTS: Letters from happy users? Media coverage? Celebrity endorsements?
- COMPLAINTS. Letters from unhappy customers? (This tells you how to improve your product or offer.)
- SAMPLES OF PAST PROMOTIONS. What was successful or unsuccessful?
- TABOOS. What can never be said?
- TECHNICAL RESTRICTIONS. No glossy paper for reply cards. No type less than 12 points. Etc.
- BACKGROUND. Previous ads, brochures, annual reports, catalogs, article reprints, market research, competitor’s ads, memos, proposals, etc.
After you’ve assembled a pile of information, you next need to organize it. This is simply a matter of neatly rewriting the essential points in a more concise form and taking notes from the items you collected.
Here’s the basic information you’ll need at hand:
- BENEFITS/PRIME BENEFIT
- METHOD OF PAYMENT
- METHOD OF ORDERING
I’m not suggesting that the other information you have isn’t important. But these are the central points you’ll need in writing your ad.
The Prepare and Organize steps can be used for any kind of advertising. However, Write, Edit, and Review as presented here is designed specifically for print ads. The general principles, though, can be altered to work with any media.
Write your headline.
- Review your Prime Benefit, Offer, Deadline, Price, Prospect, and Method of Ordering, Description, and Guarantee.
- Choose the information you want to emphasize.
- Select a headline type (see “7 Headlines That Work” below) that best conveys the information you want to emphasize.
- Write several headlines and choose the best.
Write your subheads.
2. Choose the information that best expands on your headline.
3. Write your subheads in order of importance. Use the active voice and make every subhead a benefit statement.
Write your call to action.
2. Write your call to action including all the above information that applies. Use the active voice and be straightforward and clear.
Think through your graphics.
You’ll need a graphic designer, but before you talk to one …
• Make sure you include your logo, your company or product name, your address, and your phone number.
• On your response device or coupon, make sure to repeat your Offer, Price, Deadline, Method of Payment, and Guarantee.
• Be sure your layout leads the reader from the headline and visual to the subheads, body copy, logo, call to action, and response device.
Edit your ad with more questions …
• Does my headline exploit human motivators such as fear, exclusivity, guilt, greed, envy, etc.?
• Is my headline clear and to the point? Does it relate to the product/service?
• Do my headline and visual work together to sell the product? (The visual should illustrate the product and the prime benefit, not a “concept.”)
• Do my subheads logically expand on the headline in order of importance?
• Do I ask for the order? Have I made it clear what I want the reader to do?
Put your ad aside for a few days and read it later when you’re fresh. Try these techniques to review your ad.
• List negatives about your ad and correct them.
• Ask yourself if there is a better way to accomplish your objective.
• Try the “Stop or Go Test.” Circle references to you in red and references to your customer in green. When your ad is mostly green, it’s a GO