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How to write text ads that generate leads

In school we have learned how to write a summary in 5 sentences max. Isn’t this exactly what we need to create (newsletter) text ads that are meant to generate leads? Let’s see…

The last nine years working with customers on silicon.de, we have seen hundreds of bookings for text ads in our newsletters. In most of the cases these were meant to generate leads as we say. Now sure, leads is a powerful and impactful term ensuring the future of business, sales opportunities and save the job of responsible decision makers in marketing or sales departments.

Lead generation can be seen as collecting addresses (contact generation), profiling customer needs for products and services (interest generation), or using the direct offer for real sales or bargains (lead generation). For this post we make no distinction on the three different categories and just want to focus on the 5 sentences formula.

Headline
The number one…
The one-sentence headline is the door-opener, the eye-catcher, the first impression on your customer and your access to lead opportunities – and revenue in the end. If you fail there, the rest of your text ad will be deleted immediately in front of your customers eyes. An effect we call the ‘Skip this ad’ view…

As customers -hopefully- spend some time reading your headline (remember that this is a gift customers hand over to your business…), you should give them some kind of benefit in return from the start. So my advice is, find successful openings to create a basis for your lead generation idea from the start.

The offer. This must be written in clear words and addressing the customers needs, desires … or purse.
Examples: Get your free paper… Use 25% offer… Profit from money back…
The rhetorical question. All things that appear to be clear to customers but raise attention and/or curiosity. In Twitter days, we realized that people with rhetorical text messages generate big interest. My most-read post ended ‘… future of the business, or business of the future’. Using oxymoron is just fabulous…
Example: Don’t you want to win the lottery? Don’t you think firewalls are necessary? Don’t you think washing hands saves your health?
The advice. The world is full of questions and everyone is eager to get more insight in tools, tactics and trends which leads to even more questions. The more valuable ‘coaching effect’ we offer, the better our reputation becomes – and with that our convergence. ‘How to’ is the answer to those questions… and the reason for the headline of this post.
The ‘buzz verb’. Indicate with the first words what the (potential) customer is intended to do and what your business expectation is. This is a direct approach which is most often used for real lead generation.
Examples: Read now…, Buy now…, Follow up…, Enter data…
The ROI view. Especially in times of recession everybody is looking for better profitability. If there are ‘easy-to-receive’ options, people are open to use those and leave their data with your business.
Examples: Become more productive…, Save money by…, Increase sales with…

Body text
Sentence two to four (max.)…
The body text outlines the benefit and explains the customer how and why using the offer is desirable and makes sense. In my theory this should be done with the following 3 sentences, or optional as main ideas for your body text. Addressing the customer that is already leering to the point-of-sale (POS) …

Problem. Customers who see their responsibility have more urge to get in touch with your offer and business benefit than those who are just tangent to the issue as a tiny part of a (business) system. Target the people you are interested in by describing problems, duties or responsibilities your target group wants to get rid off or find an ease in – and which are on an open plate in public (business) talks.
Examples: How your live can change…, How your sales can benefit…, How your wife is happier…
Opportunity. Use stats or testimonials that your customers can identify with. These should illustrate your problem statement. In case you haven’t invented a complete new product, offer a comparison which puts the benefit in pictures like a metaphor.
Example: People that have used this have lived 3-times longer than…, People that bought this product, saved 25% off their time…
Scenario. The conclusion of the previous explanation, leading to just one intention. Wanting to ‘own’ the product, service, etc…
Example: Seeing these facts, you have the proof why…, Reading this you have not many options… (not ‘no’ option – no teacher mode!)

PS: The body text framework is also a successful structure that works for Google text ads.

Call-To-Action
Last sentence, number five…
Don’t leave the user in the scenario mode. Tell the (potential) customer what he/she needs to do now. Take him/her by the hand and push their eyes with ONE sentence to ONE action point (=URL). No confusion, just conversion!
Example: Click here…, Download now here…, Save now with one click….

Spot On!
Generally speaking: One break per ‘block’ (headline – body text – call-to-action). The shorter the message, the more open customers are to have a glance at it.

PLUS: A text ad is not a branding tool! Mentioning products more than once is useless. Trademark as well as copyright signs have no right to exist in text ads. Please use banners if you are after branding and awareness.

Brevity is the soul of wit. And if you need help, just let me know…

News Update – Best of the Day

Companies still don’t know whether to ignore Twitter or being aware of a Twitterstorm might save the brand’s value. David Sarno and Alana Semuels show good cases why major brands learn they’d better respond quick – focussing on Amazon, Skittles, Domino, Coca-Cola and Hasbro.

How to explain the social web to your parents? Obviously, all of us who engage in the social web world have faced this problem. In May, I have decided to speak at the Webinale on ‘career 3.0 – split between productivity and personal branding’ which will give some insight how successful companies might work with the social web of the future. Jeremiah Owyang did an excellent storyboard explanation on the social web and compares the industry with a ‘Social Reef’.

“…see this space like a reef, a complex ecosystem that has so many variables and changes, each day is different.”

Still thinking on how to behave on Facebook the right way? No worries, here is the answer and a wonderful advice by YourTango and their film ‘Facebook Manners’.

Study: Agencies moving to slow for consumers?

If we can believe in a recent study ‘Beyond advertising: Choosing a Strategic Path to the Digital Consumer‘ by IBM Institute for Business Value, then ad agencies are years behind in catching up to digitally savvy consumers – although consumers are moving their media consumption online more quickly than anybody could have expected.

Now, despite the difficult economic climate there are some good news for the digital industry: IBM’s study states that interactive, measurable formats will be expected to account for 20% of global ad spending by 2012. The interviewed CMOs said they will increase interactive and online marketing spending in 2009 while 63% while 65% will decrease on traditional advertising. Generally speaking, the same trend that we acknowledged from the latest CMO report.

So, what are further interesting findings? Between 2007 and 2008 the proportion of consumers answering they used social-networking tools went up to 60% (from 33%). It even doubled for for online and portable music services to 46% and almost tripled for mobile internet. And believe it or not, the access to mobile music and video quadrupled to 35%.

Seeing these numbers, it is surprising that 80% of the interviewed ad executives forecast the industry to be at least five years away from being able to deliver whatever might be necessary in terms of cross-platform advertising, encompassing sales, delivery, measurement and analysis.

The problem seems to be the agencies according to study co-author Saul Berman, IBM global leader, strategy and change consulting services. Agencies need to identify and keep pace with the value shift in order not to loose out the same way the music industry did, he summarizes.

“To succeed — especially in the current economic environment — media companies will need to develop a new set of capabilities to support the industry’s evolving demands which include micro targeting, real-time ROI measurement and cross-platform integration,” said Saul Berman, IBM Global Leader for Strategy and Change Consulting Services, and co-author of the new study. “Now is the time for companies to move quickly to become more effective with their assets and build for the future.”

Spot On!
Watching the last decade, companies and agencies followed their customer audience and pushed their budgets to more interactive, measurable formats such as the internet and mobile (gaining 20% of the overall spend). This is not surprising as digital advertising enables advertisers to measure more effectively campaign success to prove the value of their budgets.

In terms of platform owners it shows that these need to identify new opportunities to monetize new consumer experiences before it is too late like the music industry has shown. The options are obvious: value of content, visual goods sales, value-added services plus hardware or software offerings.

For this study IBM conducted 70 interview sessions with global industry execs and surveyed more than 2,800 consumers in Australia, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.

News Update – Best of the Day

What’s Google’s next big revenue driver? Capturing one of the biggest markets owned by platform owners? If so, there are 3 things Google needs to make display ads a big business, says Google CEO Eric Schmidt

“The first problem if you have a display property, it’s very difficult to figure out which ad to show. Because there are multiple vendors who show you these ads. We’re in the process of building the equivalent of an ad exchange which will allow you to do that automatically and do it with scientific measurements. So today what people do is they use heuristics, and the heuristics in that space are terrible.”
“The second issue in display has to do with the standardization of ad formats. There’s not agreement at the level that it needs to be on the standardization of the delivery of the display, and especially around interactive and video ads. The future of display ads is not a static picture, but an ad that brings you in. That tells you a narrative.”
“Third in our case is the construction of the business relationships with the large advertisers, which we’re still working on.”

What’s the future of direct mail spending like in the U.S.? One of the latest reports on ‘A Channel in Transformation: Vertical Market Trends in Direct Mail 2009’ by marketing consultancy Winterberry Group says, the outlook is not positive… Reasons are: recession, rising postage rates and marketing trends – combination is affecting direct mail spending.

What is the new idea on response driven advertising? Barcoded ads! At least Volvo shows a very interesting approach for the launch of their C70 series. The pan-European advertising campaign will include print ads with a specially integrated QR (Quick Response) barcode and uses the print ads to provide readers with instant access to additional web content on their mobile.

Traditional Media: Embrace new modes of communication

One-on-One Interview with Julian Desborough
Publishing Operations Director and Webstrategist, Times Online


Julian Desborough is the content web strategist at Times Online. He helped run the development of the current iteration of Times Online and facilitated the content migration from Vignette to Escenic, after which he became the Publishing Operations Director of Times Online.

The Strategy Web interviewed Julian to get his idea on the ideal web strategy for a traditional media company.

Q: Please tell us in one sentence what webstrategy means to you?
Julian Desborough For me, Webstrategy is defining and maintaining your presence in the appropriate sectors of the digital marketplace.

Q: What makes a great web strategist and why does he become more and more important for a company?
Julian Desborough A great web strategist should spot emerging technologies and opportunities in the digital sphere while advising on corporate exposure and effort on existing channels. The web strategist also has a crucial role in evangelizing the digital space to more traditional areas of the business and leading the call for change within the organisation.

Q: What are the departments in your company that need you most and why?
Julian Desborough There is not one single department that does not need a web strategist. Commercial needs someone to spot the opportunities; Editorial needs someone to maximize the value of the content they produce; Technical needs someone to constantly challenge existing technologies, architectures and workflows to maintain standards of service and ability to future-proof investment.

Q: Did you face any kind of problems and issues when collaborating with departments (reporting structure or hierarchy)?
Julian Desborough Departments that are not “online facing” have a natural resistance to change. Most issues were around new work flows and integration issues with existing technology and workforces.

Q: What are the 3 biggest challenges you are ‘fighting’ against in your daily business?
Julian Desborough (a) Rate of change within the organisation, (b) Ability to keep the company in line with trends within the industry, (c) Technical stability and usability.

Q: Publishing houses are said to be ‘inflexible and not really Web 2.0 focused’? Is this something you can underline?
Julian Desborough The biggest problem for traditional media companies is their inability to embrace new modes of communication and content delivery and provide investment in a manner that does not fly in the face of normal business opportunity planning (there was a time when too much money was thrown at online ideas without sound business cases).

Q: Talking about Social Media und Web 2.0 @ Times Online, did you implement any web 2.0 projects already? Examples like blogs, wikis, youtube, etc.)
Julian Desborough We have been running more than 50 blogs over the past three years (a challenge has been integrating them within our existing content infrastructure). We invite readers to comment on articles that they read (these are displayed within the article) and we embed youtube video clips, google maps and other items into articles to encourage reader interaction. We also have created online communities around small niche collections of content such as crossword clubs and book clubs and we successfully market content and promotions to popular email bulletins that readers have selected to receive.

Q: Will every company have a webstrategist in the near future?
Julian Desborough Sadly, I think not.

Thank you for the interview and your time, Julian!