Stop Wasting Precious Advertising Dollars and Test-Test-Test

By Jennifer Lancaster

Testing Your Ads

It’s not enough just to place an ad and hope for general public awareness of your business; you must test your advertising. How else are you going to know what ad draws the best response? Read carefully the following statement by John Caples, a well-known direct response copywriter.

“I have seen one advertisement actually sell not twice as much, not three times as much, but 191/2 times as much as another. Both advertisements occupied the same space. Both were run in the same publication. Both had photographic illustrations. Both had carefully written copy. The difference was that one used the right appeal and the other used the wrong appeal.”

The outcome of testing all advertising, eliminating the duds and finding the best performing one is simple: less expense and more response. More response equals more sales. You can even choose to reduce your advertising spend once your response is greater. Either way you get more money in your account.

Testing by direct mail is easiest: just type a tiny reference code in your cut-out coupon. You hold the key of where and when that ad was placed. When the coupon comes in your staff type the code into your database.

Testing by website response can be as simple as putting a special drop-down box on your order form: where did you find us? Google, banner, Yellow Pages, word of mouth, etc. Be sure to cover all bases.

You can also test by offering a discount/freebie/double deal, and getting the customer to bring in the coupon from the newspaper or magazine. Make sure you have a different code on each media.

A simple way is to get all staff that answer new callers to ask: “where did you hear about us from?” Make sure they enter it into your database before it is forgotten.

Making Print Advertising Work for You

The five commandments of creating ads that work (as found by the best copywriters) are:

* Make a headline that stops people in their tracks: one that answers the question “what’s in it for me?”
* Continually test all ad variables such as titles and copy theme
* Use specifics in the copy rather than generalise (a story about a person’s experience with the product is a good example)
* What you say is more important than how you say it
* Long copy will sell more than short copy (in direct response).

To test print advertising some companies employ market research. As the reader is fully in control of the time taken to read the ad, it is difficult to focus group accurately. In a focus group participants are going to look at it much longer than normal and will be able to recall branding much easier.

Simplicity in the ad is the key. The first glance (3-5 seconds) should be enough to grasp the branding and the main idea. Main support points should be able to be read on further investigation in about 10 seconds. For this very reason it pays to be clear, direct and literal. Just one message and action is enough to convey.

The main image must be linked to the brand in a recognizable way, otherwise the reader will recall the image but not the advertiser or product. Testing of eye-tracking has found people look at the main image first, and then go on to read the copy downwards and to the right, meaning they miss anything above a picture.

Article author Jennifer Lancaster is an Australian copywriter and owner of Power of Words. She helps small business build a better identity and appeal to their customers. She is the author of “The Small Business Total Image Manual” and the ebook “How to Kick Bad Spending Habits”. More tips on copywriting can be found at Please email for the full report of Stop Wasting Precious Advertising Dollars.

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