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How to craft a Direct Marketing Ad that Sells

Last Updated: July 21, 2014
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Chief Food Hunter. Seth doesn't promise good reviews, only honest ones. Occasionally gets angry emails from restaurant owners for not giving a stellar writeup. Instagram: @sethluicious


Welcome to the holy grail of marketing: Direct-Response Marketing (DRM) or Direct Marketing.

DRM is designed to generate an immediate and specific response from potential prospects after seeing your marketing message. Not only that, but each consumer response (purchase) can be accurately measured and traced back to the source advertisement. Unlike branding advertisements, DRM ads solicit a direct purchase, and not just shout features/benefits without further call to action.

In the simplest form, the seller tells the buyer exactly what to buy, and he buys it. 

Sounds like voodoo magic doesn’t it? But marketers have been utilizing DRM for years, through various media like telemarketing, informercials, mail-order, television ads etc. However, most of these above-the-line media are now cost-inefficient to utilize, and akin to hitting a nail with a trout.

However, regretfully this article is not to talk about media selection, but to highlight the basics of crafting a DRM ad.

1) Headline

The headline of any message is probably 80%-90% of the ad’s success. Your headline has to capture attention immediately, and compel the reader to read on. Copywriting skills for an excellent headline is important beyond measure. Some of my favourite headline examples are:

“Fresh, hot pizza within 30 minutes or it’s free”

“This is like cheating”

“Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives!”

“How to win friends and influence people”

As you can see, headlines can contain an offer, be a unique selling point or even a book offer. You will see headlines being used everywhere, and that is where words sell.

2) Make a big promise early on

How early on? As early as your headline itself. Make a big promise or offer that is so compelling, that anyone that reads it has to rush out and buy it right now. Metaphorically, it’s like when you’re driving on the highway and you see cars slowing down and a jam forming. Because of a car breakdown at the curb. Technically, since the car has broken down on the curb, it shouldn’t slow down traffic at all. However, most drivers are just compelled to look at what happened due to our human nature, thus slowing down traffic. Your offer has to be like a car accident people can’t resist looking at.

3) Add urgency at the beginning and the end

Humans procrastinate. That’s what we do. And procrastination leads to inaction. For any ad to be successful, there has to be some form of urgency that implies scarcity, like a promotion end date or limited quantities of the free gift. Also, it has to be blatantly shown to the reader to avoid missing it.

4) Explaining the features and benefits

Somewhere in the main bulk of the message, the prospect has to know exactly what he is going to get and what it will do for him. The latter part of explaining benefits is lost in many advertisements, where only technical product specifications are detailed, for example: “quad-core processor with hyper threading, 8Gig DDR3L”. If I weren’t such a nerd, I wouldn’t understand that this computer could actually run multiple applications smoothly, and play the latest graphic-intensive games, ensuring hours of fun. Always show how your product benefits the consumer.

5) Risk Reversal

This is another big part of a good DRM, having a guarantee that takes away the risk of the buyer. Every product can be guaranteed in some way or another, and you have to use your creativity on which areas to guarantee. A 1 year money-back guarantee, product exchange, free technical support etc.

The general rule is the bigger and bolder the guarantee, the better the results. Also, you don’t want to set too many constrictions to a claim, as this shows your lack of confidence in your product. Many business owners are afraid to use guarantees in their sales pitch because, well, sometimes people do exercise their money-back guarantee. However, it is imperative to understand that the amount of extra sales you can get from putting a guarantee, is multiples times MORE than the number of claims you will receive.

6) Testimonials & case studies

Part of risk reversal is also to provide testimonials and case studies of successful users of your product. Potential buyers feel more assured when they see other consumers trying a product and showing satisfaction. That’s why online reviews work so well. Many times however, you have to personally collect specific testimonials from your customers due to lack of a channel to express themselves, and also the vagueness of their review.

“It’s awesome!” for example, is not a good testimonial. It’s general and doesn’t really explain how it helped the customer.

“Product X really helped improve my skills in public speaking, and allowed me to speak confidently to an audience of more than 100 people live!” This in contrast, would make a good and detailed testimonial that tells how product X improved the speaking life of its user.

7) Build value & price expectation

Draw comparisons to similar product outcomes and create a price expectation, then announce your price/offer that is lower than expected. The bigger a gap between expected value and price offer you can create in your prospect, the better your chance of converting a sale. For example in my FARMS program, I demonstrate that consultants will charge you more than $7,000 for a single marketing campaign that you can actually execute with similar results for just $27 ( the cost of my eBook). Real value of $7,000 for the cost of $27. It’s not hard to decide is it.

8) Call to Action

Last but not least, the critical missing piece of the puzzle is to always include a call to action. Customers need to be led and told exactly what to do, which includes what to buy. If you don’t include this call to action, prospects might read and acknowledge your message, but still not take action.

Where to go, who to find, what to buy, what number to call- be as precise as you can and lead them through the sales process step-by-step. The more guided and simple the process is, the better the chance of them doing it. Even something as simple as “come on down to our store!” is better than no call to action at all.

And there we have it, the essential points any DRM sales pitch needs to have. Now get out there and start making ads that sell.

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