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Q: We seem to be getting customer response from our ad, but I still feel it's too cluttered and wordy. Can you help?
A: First, get it out of your head that your ad is cluttered and wordy. It is, in fact, tidy and fairly spare in content for an ad that needs to be a pint-sized selling device. Plus, you've done a solid job of characterizing the scope of your catalog with some choice queries to the prospect.
Another thing you've got going for you is the name of the company, Equi-Ternatives Inc. Even though it borders on being one of those tongue-twisters that's more clunky than clever (an eyeglass store in my neighborhood insists on calling itself Specs-Tacular), it's still catchy and attention-getting. But instead of using it as a headline--virtually always a no-no in my book--I'd stick it at the bottom in big type and at the top use a headline that says "Wouldn't you rather cure your horse naturally?" This reaches the horse lover at a gut level.
The headline would be followed by a transition line into the existing body copy that says "More and more responsible horse lovers are turning to nature's own remedies to address common problems . . ." Also, since the names of many of the products in your catalog are rather unique (Old Timer, Moody Mare, Jan's Wow Neigh and Jungle Ice, just to name a few), I would "clutter" the ad with a list of some of these names as a curiosity arouser and motivator. The nondrug, alternative approach to human health enjoys great and growing acceptance today. My guess is that, by extension, horse lovers are equally as attracted to this more benign way of keeping their four-legged friends fit and healthy.
Q: I'm taking a night class in direct-marketing techniques, and the instructor always talks about the importance of making the right offer. Can you elaborate on that?
A: When I present advertising ideas to a smart direct-marketing client, one of the first things he or she asks me is "What's the offer?" To the uninitiated, that would seem like a silly question. After all, isn't your product or service what you're offering? Technically, yes.
But in direct marketing, it refers to something more. The offer refers to what else you're offering besides your product or service as an enhancement or extra "bennie" to convince the prospect to buy from you.
Since the object in direct marketing is not merely to get the prospect to think about buying or to buy at a later date but to actually lunge for his or her credit card right then and there, a strong offer of something extra is more likely to make your prospect run for the phone. When you offer more than your product or service, your customers think they're getting more for their money.
A classic example of an eternally successful offer is "buy one, get one free." Another is to offer customers a second widget for $1 if they buy the first one at full price. Yet another type of offer is strictly an informational one. In this instance, the extra motivator is a free report or small booklet--sometimes two or three of them--on subjects of keen interest to the prospect. The advantage of this type of offer is that it has a high perceived value if the topic is a hot one for the prospect, yet often costs very little to produce. It doesn't have to be elaborate--even a list of 20 helpful hints can qualify. And remember, titling this freebie is crucial. It needs to be as provocative as possible, such as "10 stocks that are virtually guaranteed to triple in 10 years--and why."
Q: My husband and I are in the custom wood cabinetry business. We use great old-fashioned methods to do professional and artful work. But we struggle in the advertising and marketing department. Any suggestions?
A: You are like a number of entrepreneurial craftspeople who have written to me with the same lament. And believe me, I feel your pain. While my craft is advertising, I feel like a complete dunderhead when it comes time to sit down and do the bookkeeping. But there's help and hope, at least for you.
Have you looked into craft shows and art fairs in your area? I realize your specialty isn't whittling teak statuettes or birch back-scratchers, but such gatherings are a strategic way to reach your target market of people who have an appreciation for handcrafting and woodworking. Your booth would probably stand out from the crowd since you don't really deal in artwork per se. And if you create signage that creatively flags down passersby, you might find more than a few prospective clients. I'd recommend a sign that says something like "The Art of Cabinetry: Customizing That Adds Unique Beauty and Value." The point is that besides adding unique beauty to a home or office, such customization enhances the value should your clients ever decide to sell.
However, you have to face facts. Your product is not an impulse purchase by any stretch, and therefore you may have to cultivate potential clients, such as interior designers. To do that, you can, of course, run small ads in trade publications. But a smarter way may be to sit down and write a passionate letter about what you do, explaining just how special your method of making cabinetry is. Mail it, along with a few photos, to interior design firms in your region. And stay "in their face" with occasional reminder postcards.
Q: I'm an insurance agent and I send out postcards to get leads. They're cheap and they work in other fields, but they're not really doing the job for me. Are there any new ideas in postcard advertising that I should be using?
A: If you saw last month's column, I did a makeover of a vertically oriented 10-inch postcard for a personal trainer that I thought, because of its unorthodox size, could get the necessary extra attention in the mailbox. It costs a bit more to mail, but because postcards are often the Rodney Dangerfields of advertising, having an oblong card gives it a little more esteem.
Of course, format alone is insignificant if the content of the card falls short. And your challenge is great because unless you happen upon the time when someone actually needs new insurance, convincing someone to let you review their insurance needs is not easy, even with your current offer of a children's fingerprint ID kit and other freebies. So what should you do? I'd make an offer with more teeth. Use the headline "Police-Approved Burglary Prevention Inspection, FREE," offering to show prospects a handful of eye-opening ways to better safeguard their valuables . . . which, not so incidentally, might include better insurance coverage.
Jerry Fisher is an advertising copywriter, consultant and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising ($39.95), available by calling (800) 247-6553. If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, send them to "Advertising Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or contact Jerry via America Online at Jerry228@aol.com.
Equi-Ternatives Inc., (800) 257-6777