You don’t need to wear pants on your head or ‘owt like that

Cartoon people with pants on their heads

Learn how to get your marketing to work without putting pants on your head. Buy my book here.

I want to tell you a secret.

But first, I want to share two shocking numbers with you.

Here’s the first number: according to advertising legend Dave Trott, 89% of advertising is never even noticed.

The second number is $500+ billion. That’s how much the world spent on advertising in 2013. That means that businesses around the world wasted around $445 billion.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s bonkers.

Which brings me to my secret: it’s not that difficult to write adverts that work (and when I use the word ‘advert’ in this email, I really mean any piece of marketing copy). You don’t need a huge advertising budget and you don’t need to be a brilliant writer.

You just need to understand people and learn a few simple techniques.

You have the ability to write adverts for your business that are better than 89% of the other crappy adverts out there. I want to show you how. Not just because it will increase your profits, but because I want marketing to be better in general. It will benefit all of us.

With that shocking stat in mind – that 89% of ads are never noticed – what do you think is the most important part of an advert?

There’s a lot of research out there on advertising and how much of it we see. Estimates range from 250 to 3,000 messages each day. Let’s assume the figure is around 1,000 (and that’s being conservative).

Take a moment to think about all the marketing messages you were exposed to yesterday. Can you remember 10 of them? If you can, you’re doing well. And that’s just 1% of the total.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want to drive home the most important thing you’ll learn about advertising from this guide.

Your advert must be noticed.

Because if nobody notices what you’ve written, nobody will read it. And if people don’t read it, they can’t act on it.

So the most important part of your ad is the headline. The headline has one purpose, and one purpose only: to get you to read the first line of the ad.

The first line of the ad has one purpose only. To get you to read the second line. The second line is there to make you read the third line. And so on… In this way, you’ll be training your reader to read what you have to say.

But how do you get noticed in the first place?

Well, as I said: you don’t need to wear pants on your head or anything daft like that. Just start with the right mindset. The first statement on your plan (or brief, if you’re getting a copywriter to write your ad) should be: this advert must be noticed.

If you want to talk to someone in a crowd, the first thing you do is call: “Hey, Joe Bloggs!” to get the right person’s attention. You always hear your name.

Of course, you can’t call each of your readers by name in an ad, but it’s not so different. Your product or service will interest certain people. You only care about reaching those particular people. So concentrate on writing a headline that gets your ideal customer’s attention.

To get their attention you need to show them that your advert is relevant to them, solves a problem and offers a benefit. That might sound like a tall order, but it’s not really. It just takes time.

Here’s a classic example of a good headline. It’s not sexy, but it worked perfectly.

Corn gone in 5 days or your money back

Let’s break it down:

  1. Corn gone: this identifies the ideal reader (a person with a corn on their foot) and their problem – then it solves their problem, all in two words.
  2. in 5 days: it’s specific. The reader can expect their problem to be solved in five days.
  3. or your money back: great! Your reader has nothing to lose.

And an example of a terrible headline:

We’re focused.

Focused on what? Who cares?

This advert, from an asset management company, featured in the Wall Street Journal in May. Such ads typically cost a whopping $327,897. Would it stop you? Does it give you any information at all? Do you think this was money well spent? I know it wasn’t.

FYI, I usually spend about 50% of my writing time on the headline. You should too. If you’ve planned well and you have a specific aim for each ad or piece of marketing, the main structure shouldn’t be too hard to write. But the headline is worth that extra time and effort.

Here’s a tip: the very best headlines of all combine curiosity, news, and benefits. It’s not always possible to do this; in fact, it’s often downright difficult. But if you can combine at least two of these elements, you’ll have a good headline. Be wary of using curiosity on its own, though. For some reason, it seems to work well with emails – but it doesn’t work well on its own for other types of advertising. I don’t know why, but you can test it for yourself.

And another tip: don’t try to be clever. People won’t put time or effort into trying to work out what you mean. They’re lazy and busy. They’ll simply turn the page or do something else. So make sure it’s relevant and interesting to them.

I go into headlines in a lot more detail in my book, Business For Superheroes, but for now you have more than enough information to write much better headlines than almost everyone else in business.

As always, you should test! Test your headlines, see what works best. Because you don’t know until you do. I’ve been doing this for years and I don’t know. I usually know what won’t work. I know what should work. But I don’t always get it right. I’ve seen headlines that look brilliant on paper do dreadfully when they’re tested.

Steal the good ones, too, and adapt them to your own marketing – it’s what we all do! No point reinventing the wheel.



Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.

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