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Effective Advertising – Part 4: Problem > Solution

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Your ad has caught the attention of your target audience. Now, what’s your sales pitch? Concisely summarizing the solution you have to offer is the third factor in creating an effective ad. This series starts here.

The old standard was to showcase “features and benefits.” That approach is still fine for long copy, like a brochure or the inside pages of your website. For an advertisement though, you need to get to the point fast. You’re selling a solution. How that solution is created is less important.

Here are some examples of headlines to attract and appeal followed with a solution statement:

• Sleep Better: This non-addictive prescription drug will put you to sleep in ten minutes, guaranteed.
Cobwebs on the ceiling? We’ll get those for you. We also collect dust bunnies.

The viewer relates to the headline; they really need sleep, or those cobwebs have been bugging them for weeks. In the first example, we get right to it. Take our pill and you’ll fall asleep fast. “Guaranteed” keeps them interested. They don’t know what that guarantee is yet, but since other solutions haven’t worked, they’ll keep reading to find out.

The second example is a little more obtuse, but makes the point that this cleaning service has a bit of a sense of humor and does a good job – from ceiling to floor.

The goal is to keep the viewers attention for a few more seconds. Depending on the type of ad, and more specifically, how much space you have, you can either give them a little more information or move right to your call to action.

While it’s tempting to list ALL of the wonderful things about your product or service, pick the one or two that are most important to your target market. Think about overcoming objections. For the skeptical insomniac, outline that guarantee: “Your money back at the point of purchase, no questions asked.” For the one who’s realizing they need help with the cleaning, the words “affordable” and “bonded” might be good choices.

You don’t have to make the sale – yet. You just want to get them thinking about your offer.

Effective Advertising – Part 3: Attention and Appeal

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This series is about five of the key factors in effective advertising. In Part 2, we talked about visibility, or getting your ads in front of your target markets. Now we’re going to discuss getting attention and appealing to your target audience with your ads.

Attention and appeal are different but the viewer moves from one to the other almost instantaneously. Attention equals eye-catching, while appeal means relevant, interesting, or enjoyable to look at.

Seek the attention of your target audience with one focal point; either an image or a headline, as you don’t want these two elements competing.


In these examples, Harley Davidson chose an image that will appeal to those who dream of the open road. UNICEF chose a bold headline with a very recognizable word. Both included clever text that makes the ads memorable because they’re relatable. Harley Davidson’s says “Somewhere on an airplane a man is trying to rip open a small bag of peanuts.” UNICEF’s message is particularly good because there is unexpected twist – likes equal zero vaccinations.

You can use your buyer persona to choose colours, shapes, fonts, and images. In general, bold colours and large fonts are attracting, and emotion evoking images and clever text are attracting.

Things that are odd, opposites juxtaposed, and humour can be both attracting and appealing. Altered images have become popular, but be aware that things like altering faces can also be off-putting.

Another caution. We are currently living in a very sensitive environment, so although the goal is to get attention, you need to be extremely careful to do that in a positive way that is not going to offend anyone. That is a challenge, but protecting your brand is important.

Next time, presenting your solution.

Actionable Trends: Part 5 – Gamification

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Actionable Trends: Part 5 – Gamification

The gamification trend is lingering, and is suspected to continue to increase over the next few years. With the huge popularity of online games of all sorts, it’s not really surprising that adding an element of gaming to your marketing is going to garner results.

The concept of gamification is simple, although creating an effective gamified marketing element can be more complex. The benefits though can include fruitful sales, increased brand engagement, user generated content, and greater customer loyalty.

While MacDonald’s has their Monopoly game and Tim’s have their Roll Up, which are both hugely popular, gamification goes far beyond these types of contests. The goal is to change the perception of an advertisement into a fun game that offers rewards. So, rather than a consumer viewing a static “I’m great, buy me!” ad, they are invited to play a game where they can win rewards like discounts or free stuff.



HelloFresh uses a simple pick a box to get a discount with their Reveal Your Deal campaign. Starbucks used a brilliant “cup flip” challenge, where participants posted their videos to social media and winners got vouchers. The voucher downloads were more than double the targeted number. Texas Chicken created a memory game (like concentration) where you had to match menu items, very cleverly entertaining players while educating them and providing discounts to get them in the door.

One of the reasons that gamification works is that discounts that are earned are viewed as “wins” and “rewards” and are therefore much more likely to be used than a coupon that shows up in the mail. And, while we keep saying discounts, there are many other ways to reward winners.

Also consider a charitable angle. For example, offering points that can be communally collected to reach a target number that will result in a donation by the company.

The key points are to create something engaging and purposeful to your business objectives. Here are links for you to read more examples and get your creativity flowing!


Effective Advertising – Part 2: Visibility

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We’re exploring the five key factors in effective advertising. First up is visibility. What we’re talking about here is getting the ads in front of your target audience. So, the first thing to think about is who are you targeting and where do you find them? Remember to consider market segments, and this is where your personas will come in handy. Let’s look at two as examples for a cleaning business.

Let’s say that Persona #1 is Alice. Alice is retired and still lives in her own house with her husband. They have a good pension income and spend their time golfing and hosting their grandchildren for weekend sleep overs. As an older couple, they are pretty traditional in their thinking. They give money to their church for mission work, but don’t really subscribe to any causes. Alice represents your prospects for housekeeping services.

Persona #2 is Kyle. Kyle is the 35-year-old building manager for three strata complexes. He has a fixed budget for the cleaning services he needs, but is likely to sign a contract for at least a year. Kyle is no nonsense, so he’d prefer one company to all three buildings, and wants the job done right, so he’s not getting calls from the strata council after hours. Kyle lives with his wife and three children, and usually socializes with other families. Kyle represents your prospects for commercial cleaning contracts.

Alice and Kyle are not very likely to cross paths, so they’ll need different ad platforms and different pitches.

Google search ads though, apply to both. It’s by far the most visible platform of all. Ads for Alice should focus on bonded employees, high quality and reliable service. Ads for Kyle would feature the word “commercial” and contract discounts, in addition to insurance, quality and reliability.

At her age, Alice is among the 60% of Boomers and older, that read the newspaper. If she lives in a community of less than 100 thousand that has a community newspaper, the percentage goes up. Newspaper advertising can only be target to this type of extent, so is a relatively shot-gun approach. However, a few newspaper ads combined with other forms of advertising, might work quite well.

Admail is another option of Alice’s demographic – older adult living in their own home. They tend to check their mail regularly, so even if your postcard type ad puts the idea of using a cleaning service, it might be worth it.

Pinterest’s largest age group of users is those aged 50 to 64 and skews female (78%), and since Alice has grandchildren, she may visit the site for craft ideas.

Facebook would be another social media site worth considering. Although Alice is older than the highest user group demographic, Facebook allows fairly in-depth targeting, so your ad spend won’t be wasted.

In a client acquisition blitz scenario, you could also consider radio, as well as discount coupons in a cooperative advertising promotion with local golf courses.

Now, Kyle is going to be a little harder to reach, since it’s his job role that you want to target. Your best bet with Kyle is probably YouTube. He’s among the largest age and gender group of users (15-35, 54% male), and there’s a good chance that he looks up how to do some repairs in his buildings. While ads would be one way to attract Kyle, a few of your own videos about how to keep cleaning costs down, or a spray for hallway carpets that prevents stains, might also get his attention.

Direct mail addressed to the Building Manager is a way to get more information to Kyle, and perhaps an offer for a free quote after a walk-though. Meeting Kyle in person is a really great way to move him up your prospect list.

Of course, there are so many other advertising options: billboards, buses, television, radio, direct email, and many more social media sites, including LinkedIn for business people, and Snapchat for a younger demographic.

They key is to find the places that your target markets are likely to visit, in person or online, and that’s where you want your ads to be.

Effective Advertising – Part 1: Introduction

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A return on investment is the goal for all advertising campaigns. The higher the return, the more effective the advertising is; but let’s not forget about the investment part. Advertising costs you money, so you don’t want to take a hit or miss approach and wait for the results to come in. Like all investments, you need to do your homework; you need to be thoughtful; and, you need to be strategic.

Our last series talked about buyer behavior, and our last article talked about buyer personas. In this series we’ll
reference both of those discussions, as we unpack five of the key factors in effective advertising.

As always, the buyer is at the center of your decision making. Most markets need to be segmented to make the groupings as homogeneous as possible. Each segment is the basis for the buyer persona your ads will target, and will figure prominently as well look at:

Visibility: Where will your buyer see your ad?

Attention/Appeal: These are two different things, but they quickly act in concert. Your ads need to get attention, and then appeal to your targeted customers.

Problem/Solution: Features and benefits are a bit old school. Ads need to address problems or pain points, with a solution.

Call to Action: Except in specific and strategically sound circumstances, every ad needs a call to action that can be remembered and easily followed.

Follow Up: The best ads in the world don’t actually sell anything, your company does. How you follow up will, or won’t, get the sale.

Whether you do your own advertising or rely on us, it’s helpful to understand the thinking process. So, stay tuned as we look at each of these factors in more depth.


Three Ways to Use Customer Personas

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A customer persona is a fictional character that represents your target market. If you have a segmented market, you’ll want to have a persona for each segment. The more information your have about your target market, the more detail you can add, and the more useful the persona will be. Data points include:

  • Demographics: age, job, income, location, education, ethnicity, and family status.
  • Psychographics: likes, dislikes, values, interests, motivations, frustrations.
  • Social: how they interact with friends, how they use leisure time, how they identify within social groups.
  • Behavioral: purpose of and how they interact with your business, previous purchases, purchase process preferences, desktop or mobile.

The persona should describe a typical customer. Statistical averages, like the average age, are not helpful. If your two segments are pre-teens and middle-aged adults, the average age is going to be about 30, which is an entirely different segment. For marketing purposes, your persona has to be truly representative.

Given a name, your persona comes to life and now you are focused on “Donna” to:

  1. Refine your marketing strategy: In our recent series, we reviewed the buying cycle and how to market at each phase along the customer’s path. Now you can refine those general strategies for Donna specifically. What’s going to get Donna’s attention? What motivates Donna to seek your products or services? What will Donna want to know about the product or service before she makes a decision to buy? How do you keep Donna as a long-term customer?
  2. Create compelling ads: What values do you want to convey to Donna? What emotions do you want to evoke? What will trigger Donna to move to the next phase in the buying cycle?
  3. Create meaningful content: Donna’s a well educated professional in the business world. She wants information that is concise and precise. She’s also concerned about the environment, so your website needs to address what you’re doing to be good environmental stewards. Donna also wants to ensure that her high-end suits aren’t being made by young children, so you need to tell her that. We know that Donna likes to travel, so you could have a page about the locations from which you source your fabrics, and maybe a blog post about how silk is made.

Personas are a way to get into the mind-set of your customers. So, what’s your Donna like?

A Seller’s Guide to Buyer Behavior – Part 6: The Evaluation

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This is the final article in our series on how to market during every phase of the consumer buying cycle. (If you haven’t read the previous articles, start here.)

After you’ve attracted and convinced a consumer to make a purchase from you, their next step is evaluating whether or not that purchase decision was the right one. Post-purchase anxiety is a reality for many on-line shoppers, and it can start even before the product or service is delivered. That’s why your next steps are really important.

You’ve no doubt heard that keeping a customer is a whole lot less expensive than finding a new one; and, that lifelong customers are not only a source of revenue, but also terrific advocates for your brand. So, instead of thinking about the purchase being the end of process, consider it the first next step in attracting a customer for life. Let’s look at some tactics.

Share your excitement about the product or service: Send an email confirming and thanking the customer for their order. Tell them that you’ll be anxious to hear from them, because so many others have LOVED this item. Mention that if, for any reason, they are not completely satisfied, that your return policy really is as stated on your website, hassle-free.

Statements like this keep the customer excited too, and gives them confidence that they can always return it anyway – so nothing to worry about!

Keep the customer in the loop: Let customers know when the item has shipped, when it’s expected to be delivered, or if any problems arise that could cause a delay. The same applies to in-home services; if you’re going to be late, let them know.

This lets customers know that you care about them and are respectful of their time.

Send some helpful information: Send the purchaser product use tips, links to your blog posts related to the item purchased or online manuals. Let them know that they can always reach out to you for more advice using the item.

Ask for feedback: When you’re sure that the customer has received their package or service, ask for feedback. If it’s positive, ask if you can post it as a review. If it’s negative, get back in touch with them right away; and,

Make solving a problem personal: Send an email back signed by an actual person, and make it that person’s job to solve whatever the problem is. Offer an exchange or full refund, or free samples of other products or…? Give that problem-solver all the authority they need to make that customer happy!

Keep in touch: Ask if the customer would like to subscribe to your newsletter (which has useful info about your industry, products, or services). Ask if they would like to receive notices about new products, or discount offers. You can also try other incentives, like a free gift for you and a friend.

Send a reminder to reorder/repeat service: Keep track of order/service dates, and send a reminder that they’re likely to soon run out of the product, or should have the service done every six months (or whatever). Don’t be a nag, but a friendly reminder let’s them know that you’re paying attention to them, and that will be appreciated.

Do you need help covering all the bases of the buying cycle? Give us a call.

A Seller’s Guide to Buyer Behavior – Part 5: The Purchase

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Consumers go through a series of steps before making a purchase. Understanding how consumers reach the decision to buy is very helpful in planning your marketing and advertising. In previous articles, we’ve covered the first three steps: identifying a need, doing research, and evaluating alternatives. Now we’ll look at the stage where they make the decision to buy.

After analyzing the alternatives, the consumer has narrowed down the options to one item and who they will purchase from. But the sale is not made yet. While the consumer now intends to make the purchase, there are a few things that can still dissuade them.

Your return policy may have been reviewed by the shopper during the evaluation step, but can still be a factor here for those who start to second guess their decision. No hassle, free returns cost you money, but those costs need to be weighed against the potential of losing sales.

Unanticipated additional costs, like a shipping or import fee, can put the total cost over their pricing decision factor. The higher the extra fees, the more likely they are to stop the purchasing process. They may go back a few steps to see if other stores are also charging similar fees, or they may simply change their minds and not buy the item at all.

Letting customers know in advance what the extra fees will be isn’t always easy, since shipping is usually calculated at checkout and after they’ve provided an address. If you can’t offer free shipping, or free shipping on orders higher than a certain amount, which is what shoppers prefer, then at least make it clear that shipping will be added.

Lengthy deliver times are also problematic, and the shopper may again go back a few steps to see if someone else can provide the item sooner, or if they can pick it up in-store locally. One option here is to make sure your pricing is really competitive, so customers will be willing to wait, or you could offer faster delivery for an additional fee and use a courier service.

Too many questions or mandatory account setup are other issues that can put a customer off. The checkout isn’t the place to do a survey, force a login, or otherwise annoy people! You need to know where to send the purchase and how the shopper is going to pay. That’s it!

Basically, during this step in the buying cycle, you want to remove any obstacles and make the checkout process as simple as you can.

A Seller’s Guide to Buyer Behavior – Part 4: The Evaluation of Alternatives

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In this series, we’re working through the five steps in the buying process. Understanding how consumers come to a purchasing decision helps to create a profitable marketing plan. The third step (after identifying a need, and doing research), is evaluating alternatives.

With some research done, the buyer begins evaluating options based on their personal decision-making criteria. Decision-making criteria are the factors that are most important for the particular decision to be made. When purchasing clothes, the criteria might include:

  • Fabric (cotton preferred)
  • Colour (pastels preferred)
  • Cost (no item over $50)

Other factors have more to do with your company than the items being sold. For example:

  • Environmental (has good practices)
  • Diversity (in staffing, models; has a unisex category)
  • Delivery (free and under two weeks preferred)
  • Returns (no hassle)

While the criteria differ from person to person, target markets often share at least some of these, so, as we’ve said many times before, knowing your existing customers and ideal target market is tremendously helpful.

The buyer doesn’t likely have a score sheet or even a check list. But when they start narrowing down their options, their criteria come to mind, and they’ll go back to each site to check for the information they need. For example: They’ve whittled down their sweater options from seven to three. They know that one is made from cotton, so they go back to check the other two. One is not cotton, and the other doesn’t say. Based on this, their decision is now made. The cotton sweater gets bought.

The same applies to factors regarding your company. The buyer notices that there are women of all shades and sizes modeling on Site A. That reminds them that they want to support companies that embrace diversity, so they check the other sites again.

Trends also have influence, and we’re not just talking about fashions. For example, environmental stewardship is now a significant factor for buyers, particularly younger adults. Community support and charitable work are similar criteria that can sway a decision.

So, how do you use this information about buyers in your marketing? Find out as much as you can about the buying criteria applied to what you sell (services included). Then, address those factors on your website and in your advertising. Include full descriptions of items: colour, fabric, size and fit, washability, etc. Mingle your values with your offerings in your advertising, like, “100% Egyptian cotton, ethically sourced.”

On your narrative pages (like About), tell shoppers what you stand for, what you believe in, and how you demonstrate your values.

Remember that a purchase is based on a decision, and you need to provide enough information for that decision to be made, and the message that will tip the scale in your favour.

A Seller’s Guide to Buyer Behavior – Part 3: Research

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So far in this series, we’ve looked at an overview of the buying cycle and the first step in the process – identifying a need. This time we’re going to discuss the search for information, and the opportunities that step presents for marketing.

In the last article, we used the example of someone trying to solve the problem of family members disagreeing about what was a comfortable temperature in the home. They don’t know if there is a way to have different temperatures in different rooms of the house. So, they Google “how do I get different temperatures in different rooms?”

On the first page of results, under “People also ask,” is the question “Can you control temperature in different rooms?” The answer says, “If one temperature for the entire home isn’t realistic, consider adding an HVAC zoning system. A zoning system allows you to set unique temperatures in different rooms or zones in your home.” The link for this answer doesn’t provide any additional information, but they now have one potential solution.

Under “Related searches,” they see “individual room temperature control,” and find a consumer report that talks about smart vents, another potential solution.

Finally, on page 4 of the results, they see the snippet “Need Individual Room Temperature Control? With the Energy Savings and Available Rebates Why Not Consider a Multi-Zone Ductless That Can Heat & Cool.” Now that sounds really promising! Unfortunately, the link goes to a company in the United States and doesn’t give any more information about this system.

The searcher now does further research on the three possible solutions. Visiting multiple sites, they learn that an HVAC zoning system is expensive and can be costly to maintain and repair. It can also be disruptive during installation.

The smart vents are relatively cheap and easy to install, but they can’t change the temperature very much.

The multi-zone ductless that can heat or cool individual rooms at the same time sure sounds good. It’s also expensive though, and you have to install what some might call unsightly equipment in the rooms being controlled.

The “ah ha” learning so far from a marketing perspective, is that so very many companies that provide heating and cooling solutions failed to address this quite common problem on their websites. What this searcher did not find was a local company website that answered the question and discussed a number of solutions to their problem. If there had been such a site, that company may have had a quick sale!

To attract the other need profiles:

  • They know what they want – Be as descriptive as you can on your website about every product or service you offer.
  • Desire is sparked – Make sure your mentions and images in newsletters and on social media have a direct link to purchase.
  • Perceived need is created – Keep the problem and solution tied together in all of your marketing.

Next up, the third step in the buying cycle, the evaluation of alternatives.