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Fans of championship boxing know that a staple of the sport is the introduction of the fighters by a ring announcer famous for his adrenaline-inducing words "Let's get ready to rummmmble!" Causing that kind of a rush on paper isn't easy, but this example teaches a lesson all entrepreneurs must learn: Introductions--especially in advertising--need to get the juices flowing for readers to perk up.
That's my message to Lee Tubbs, who wrote recently with a request for a brochure makeover. Tubbs owns Enviroguard Inc., an environmentally friendly pest control service in Chattanooga, Tennessee, whose distinction needs more play on the brochure's cover. Offering an alternative to chemical warfare, Tubbs says in his piece, "Where treatment is required, nonchemical procedures are utilized in combination with low-impact baiting???" These words show a sensitivity that prospects need to know about, starting right up front. Promoting that difference simply can't wait until the inside of the brochure if you want to maximize the readers' first impressions.
Imagine a prospect with little time on his or her hands sitting down with three or four brochures splayed out on the coffee table, trying to decide in an eye-blink which to consider. If the Enviroguard piece is among them, it's got only Tubbs' name and phone number and a symbol of a flower to invite the reader in. This is not all bad because the flower hints at a more sensitive, benign approach to solving the problem, and the name--Enviroguard--also says the company is not just a wanton killer. But the covers on competing brochures likely beckon with more flair. Although Tubbs' brochure needn't match the others in slickness, it does need to stand up and be counted.
To do that, I would keep the flower symbol but add a headline that says "Finally, People- (and pet) Friendly Solutions to Pest Control." This would be followed by a subhead that says "Protection for you and your loved ones, while eliminating a nagging problem." With these few words, the unique selling proposition is set up, giving Enviroguard an appealing point of differentiation. The new cover is now more competitive. Remember, no matter how compelling and motivating the message is on the inside, you need to have a strong sales pitch on the cover to draw the prospect in to read your complete story. This is not optional--it's compulsory.
There is a little "flower power" to this cover, but it needs a selling message.
1. The symbol of the flower, combined with the name, says that Enviroguard takes a more benign approach to pest control.
2. Only on the cover of an annual report would you put just your company name. This is a promotional piece that requires some salesmanship.
This cover now has some salesmanship on the outside to motivate readers to look inside.
1. This headline targets prospects who want this nasty business handled without poisoning the environment.
2. The name of the company is not necessary or recommended here. It's more important to say how the reader will benefit.
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
Attract New Customers
Q: We're in the software business and know that it's far cheaper to solicit more business from old customers than to try to snag new prospects. But are there any innovative ways to do it?
A: Let me tell you about an approach I recommended to a client of mine a few years back. I suggested he pick out his 20 best customers and send them each a $25 audiocassette tape recorder, inside which was a 10-minute cassette titled something like "April Specials for My Best Customers." An accompanying letter explained that he was sending the player because he wanted to be able to regularly introduce, in the most personal way possible, new opportunities he and his company were offering to loyal customers. While sending out audiotapes is a fairly common marketing approach, actually including the means to play the tapes would make the customer feel flattered and somewhat obliged to listen--not just now but in the future.
Although not all 20 customers had the desired reaction, the majority did: My client got positive feedback from a number of the recipients, as well as an increase in business over the following months as a new tape was issued every other month. For a $500 investment in tape recorders, he got the attention and response of customers whose business he valued most--and whose additional orders more than made up for the total cost of the tape players.
For this approach to have long-term results, the tapes need to contain news and opportunities of genuine appeal and interest. They also need to be delivered in a way that's not boring to listen to. It's almost a sure thing that your clients will push the "play" button to listen to the first cassette that's already in the recorder. But thereafter, he or she needs to feel motivated, based on the content of past tapes, to put your new recorded messages into the player and hear you out. The cover letter you send with each tape should always "tease" your customers about the contents of the tape, such as "I'll reveal news about a new software productivity bundle that no one else in the industry is able to offer."
Audiocassettes are fairly cheap to duplicate, and your "recording studio" doesn't need to be anything more than your office. You might even include a second person on the tape--an employee, for example--to complement your own comments and break the monotony of hearing only one voice. Try a few test recordings to decide how best to present yourself. Always use at least an outline of what you want to say, if not a complete script, to make sure you stay focused.
Jump Right In
Q: I operate a swimming pool maintenance business and I'm looking for ways to improve my ad to get people to see the advantage of using my services over caring for their pools themselves. Any ideas?
A: You've got the classic kind of business for which a compare-and-contrast approach to advertising can work. Split your ad down the middle, and on the left side, create a column titled "Do-it-yourself pool maintenance." Under that heading, make a list of all the bothersome chores needed to keep a pool looking and operating in tip-top shape, like clearing out the trap on the "Kreepy-Krawly" that sweeps the bottom of the pool, cleaning filters, adjusting the chlorine and ph levels, and so on.
Then, on the right-hand side of the ad, under the heading "Pool maintenance by Neptune," put only one item: "Complete pool maintenance each week for an average of just $2 a day." As I've discussed before, when you can contrast how much easier, faster, cheaper and better your method of service can be over the alternatives, showing a side-by-side comparison can be a powerful, dramatic and, most important, motivating approach to advertising, whether in a print ad or a brochure.
Virtually any service business can benefit from this approach, whether you're a landscaper, a party planner, a gift basket creator, a dog walker, even a restaurateur. Imagine running an ad with the headline "How to Enjoy Veal Picata Tonight." Then, on one side of the ad, you give the detailed recipe, making sure to mention the cleanup afterwards. On the other side, simply say "Visit Antonio's Trattoria, famous for our wonderful veal dishes and other Italian specialties. And we do the dishes afterwards." There is no other advertising format in the world that so consistently lures the reader as does compare-and-contrast.