Online advertising has been an ever-growing industry for over half a century, and there is a reason for that. The answer is simple, if online marketing is done correctly, it works!
Direct-response advertising has been successful because of a relatively small number of fundamental principles. And with the Internet being a direct-response medium, these policies transfer directly over. Here are some of the most important online marketing principles and how they relate to gaining a substantial profit.
1. Your Headlines Account for 80% of Sales
“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that, if you don’t sell the product in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your money.” (David Ogilvy)
Your headlines on your landing pages should focus on how your product or service will benefit your prospect. Only talking up yourself or your product won’t sell anything. For example, a homepage headline like “The Leading Supplier of Super Software in Blue Widget County” will fall on deaf ears—even for qualified prospects who want Super Software. On the other hand, “Super Software Shipped to You Directly, Cheaper & Faster than Anyone Else—or Get Your Money Back” gives prospects a lot of reasons to read your copy and find out more.
As a rule of thumb, if you can read your headline and then reasonably say, “So what?”…it isn’t high enough.
2. The only purpose of online advertising is to SELL
This principle can seldom be repeated too often. Many marketers are unduly concerned with ‘building brand recognition,’ ‘increasing customer awareness,’ ‘leveraging social media’ and all these other fancy marketing techniques. But what is the point of these things if they don’t measurably lead to more sales?
Of course, brand recognition, customer awareness, social media and the “like” can all be used to increase sales—and significantly at that. But very often, marketers have no clear strategy as to how they should use these tools to bring in more money. Sometimes they don’t even consider the question; they just ‘know’ they should be doing these things…because everyone else is, so it must be substantial, right?
If you haven’t got a clear idea of how a given marketing technique will help you make more sales, don’t use it.
3. The more you tell, the more you sell!
Debating the value of long versus short copy is pointless. The fact is that your landing page should be as long as it needs to be to sell as much as possible—and no longer. Generally speaking, that means it should be ‘long.’ Way too many agencies spend money on online ads to bring potential customers to pages which say nothing at all. A page containing contact information with additional five sentences will NOT sell anything. Long, that is, compared to most of the marketing materials you see online.
Marketers are often afraid that if they say too much, they’ll bore their readers out of buying. Ironically, what they should be afraid of is not saying enough to persuade their readers to buy.
You might say that people don’t have time to read lots of information and their attention-spans on the web are short. Sorry, but that’s pure, unadulterated crap. What you mean to say is that people don’t make time to read stuff that doesn’t interest them, and they don’t devote their attention to things with no apparent benefit. In which case, refer to point #1 of this article!
If what you’re offering is attractive to the people on your list, and the benefit to them is clear, they will make the time to devote a lot of attention to it. Like you’re devoting to this article right now. What—do you think you’re different to your prospects?
4. Easy does it
Catchphrases like ‘vertically integrated’ and ‘leading provider’ are no better than jargon. They are meaningless to your prospects. And I’d dare to guess that if you had to explain them, you’d get tied in knots trying. Writing your marketing materials or ads to sound pompous, stuffy, and formal is an excellent way to avoid making sales. People don’t read pompous, stuffy, formal copy. In fact, the more impressive and important your text sounds to you, the more meaningless it looks like to your prospects.
Regardless of your audience, your copy should be written conversationally. That doesn’t necessarily mean ‘informally’ or ‘casually.’ It just means you should write to your ideal prospect in the same way you would speak to him.
For example, imagine you run into a guy at the pub, and he mentions he needs something like what you sell. To get him interested, would you say, “We’re a leading provider of top-tier full-service solutions”…or would you say, “We can build a new website for you, from start to finish, and support it afterwards—plus help you use it to bring in new clients”?
5. You have to ask for the sale
That’s right—prospects will rarely do anything if you don’t ask them to. When you include a clear call to action (CTA) in your marketing materials and ads, your response rate will naturally increase dramatically.
This is the ‘direct response’ part of direct-response advertising: you’re asking your prospect to immediately take action and to respond to your offer. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying something. Your offer might be a free special report. Or an email newsletter. Any link in the sales chain. But the critical thing is that you ask for a response.
Calls to action can be very short. They can just be buttons or links. But if you’re using longer copy, a good CTA will summarize core benefits to responding, as well as including a clear and straightforward mechanism for doing so.
If you follow our advice we suggested above, you can’t go wrong. And finally, do not forget to test! Online marketing is a real-time platform where A/B testing is everything. If you aren’t testing, you’re only leaving money on the table. We’ve seen split testing a website yield a 400% increase in profits.