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What to Say in Your Ad

Can't decide what information to include in your ads? Surprise: There's more than one answer.

Q: What is the most important information to put in an ad: Price? Selection? Quick and friendly service? Store hours? Brands we carry? Guarantees? Testimonials? The fact that we're a family-owned business?

A: Every person has a transactional mode and a relational mode of shopping. And the "right" thing to say can be determined only when you know which mode the shopper is in.

Transactional Mode

  1. Transactional shoppers focus only on today's transaction and give little thought to the possibility of future purchases.
  2. Their only fear is of paying more than they had to pay. Transactional shoppers look for price and value.
  3. They enjoy the process of comparing and negotiating and will likely shop at several stores before making their decision to purchase.
  4. Transactional shoppers do their own research so that they won't need the help of an expert. Consumer Reports is published primarily for the transactional shopper.
  5. Because they enjoy the process, transactional shoppers don't consider their time spent shopping to be part of the purchase price.
  6. Anxious to share the "good deal" they've found, transactional shoppers are excellent sources of word-of-mouth advertising.

Relational Mode

  1. Relational shoppers consider today's transaction to be one in a long series of many future purchases. They are looking less for a product than for a store in which to buy it.
  2. Their only fear is of making a poor choice. Relational shoppers will purchase as soon as they have confidence.
  3. They don't enjoy the process of shopping and negotiating.
  4. Relational shoppers are looking principally for an expert they can trust.
  5. They consider their time to be part of the purchase price.
  6. Confident that they have found "the right place to buy," relational shoppers are very likely to become repeat customers.

As I said earlier, every person has a transactional mode and a relational mode of shopping, so don't be surprised when you see yourself as both a transactional and a relational shopper. The thing to keep in mind is that you, like all other shoppers, will be transactional in certain product and service categories and wholly relational in others.

Due to the fact that a shopper in transactional mode shops all over town and loves to negotiate, merchants often wrongfully conclude that shoppers are most often in transactional mode. But in truth, most purchases are quietly made by customers in relational mode.

Here's a simple illustration: Two transactional customers shop at five stores each before making their decisions to purchase. And at each of the five stores, they ask a lot of questions, then leave. But each of these transactional customers will return to only one store to make a purchase. This means that a total of 12 store visits will be made by the transactional pair, and eight different salespeople will be frustrated. Meanwhile, three relational customers visit their favorite stores, make a purchase and return home. They account for a total of three store visits, three purchases and zero frustrated salespeople. In this example, the two transactional shoppers account for 80 percent of all store visits, but only 40 percent of the sales volume. Conversely, the three relational shoppers quietly account for 20 percent of total store traffic, but contribute a whopping 60 percent of the sales volume.

Intentionally or unwittingly, successful companies advertise either to the transactional shopper or the relational one. Who have you been targeting in your ads? The right thing to say to a relational shopper is the wrong thing to say to a transactional one. And a statement that will attract the attention of a transactional shopper will sound like hype to the shopper in relational mode. The plain and simple truth is there is no "perfect ad." An advertisement that scores high with one type of shopper will score extremely low with the other. The secret to attracting happy customers is to communicate the real truth about who and what you really are.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

Roy Williams is the founder and president of international ad agency Wizard of Ads. Roy is also the author of numerous books on improving your advertising efforts, including The Wizard of Ads and Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads.

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