Increase Inbound Leads with these 18 Direct Response Marketing Strategies from 3 of the Greatest Copywriters of All Time

Sean McColgan on Lead generation,


"Learn the past, watch the present, and create the future" it's a great quote to live by, you can apply it to any part of your life - relationships, health, your craft...

Let's be honest it's easy as a Digital Marketer to run with the hype (sharing vines, snapchatting, giving Facebook money to reach the audience you've already developed etc) - from sharing that 5.5-megapixel phone picture of your dog at the office, using 70s style Polaroid filters, to repinning recipes - it's never ending.

A quick glance at all time Tweets on Twitter: we see there are over 20 Million tweets on “social media”, and 40k mentions about “direct response” marketing (Source: Topsy).

Crazy stats huh? - what's even more interesting, if you check out the mention of these two phrases in printed books on Google's ngram viewer, you can see in the year 2000 - the fall of interest in direct response, and the rise of social media. With that, we're going back in time. Pre 1999, way back to 1923. Grab a coffee, it's you, me, and 3 of the greatest direct response copywriters that ever walked the Earth - Claude Hopkins, John Caples, and David Ogilvy.

Let's get down to it...

Why Direct Response Marketing?

If you are in the business of marketing you're more than likely asking the following question to yourself on a daily basis:

“How can I drive revenue quickly, measurably, with improved efficiencies and close rates?”

Enter Claude C. Hopkins:

Claude C. Hopkins

Claude C Hopkins

The Godfather of modern advertising - Hopkins wrote the advertising bible Scientific Advertising in 1923. The book was the first to highlight the importance of testing and measuring in marketing. Way ahead of his time - Hopkins invented the test marketing approach of doing small ad campaigns under controlled test conditions with a limited budget (lean marketing at its best), making sure a campaign worked before scaling (or spending unquantifiable Ad budget).

This pioneering approach earned Hopkins $180,000 per year running successful campaigns for his clients (remember this was in the 1920's). He was banking and moving product based on his marketing approach to testing copy, split testing headlines and the appearance of Ads. All the time measuring their results.

What can we learn from this Advertising Genius?

1. Always Be Testing

Hopkins believed the only purpose of advertising was to sell something - it should be measurable and justify the results. He tested headlines, offers and supporting content by tracking key-coded coupons and then analyzed the data so he could continually improve results and maximize cost-effectiveness of his clients advertising spend.

30 Minute Actionable: Start testing headlines, buttons, colors, form fields on your landing pages with Unbounce and implement winning variations to gain conversion gains.

2. Do something if possible to get immediate action

Induce your readers, app users, and prospects to take action - either by offering value upfront (a jam packed ebook on ‘how to solve X' - x being a known pain point for your customer) or tell them what delay may cost (flash sale ending in next 24 hours / retail prices back to normal before midnight etc). The example above is typical of most flash sale sites - to even see a deal - the potential customer has to provide their email to see it (great case study on email driving flash sales on marketingsherpa).

Hopkins favoured the use of trackable coupon codes - by placing a limit on offers with expiry dates. He made his potential customers take micro-action on the Ad by instructing his readers to cut the coupon out (early WSJ lead generation ad by Hopkins).

30 Minute Actionable: Review your website and ask yourself - how are you helping your potential customers take action? Implement one new way you can get your prospects to commit a micro-action, either through completing a simple survey, entering their zip-code to get local insurance quotes, and build upon that to build action-taking momentum (towards a conversion).

3. Build your personal brand:

"A person who desires to make an impression must stand out in some way. Being eccentric, being abnormal is not distinction to covet. But doing admirable things in a different way gives one a great advantage" - Claude C.Hopkins

Hopkins was a big believer in signing off an advertisement with a signature — giving them personal authority.The reason? The reader can connect the message with a ‘real' human who takes pride in their words and their accomplishments — not a "soulless corporation", or just another “posted by admin” throwaway piece of content...

With the social era underway, in the way google rank content in their search engine - building a solid personal brand is one of the most powerful things you can do, to secure those all important rankings in todays over optimised world (the human touch is coming back).

30 Minute Actionable: Hook up Google authorship on your blog if not already and make your search results more personal using rich snippets.

4. Elicit Positive Visualisation:

"Picture what others wish to be, not what they may be now" - Claude C. Hopkins (Tweet This)

Always - use imagery of the desired condition not the problem you are trying to solve.

Humans are hardwired to be attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, and success. Point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite (have you ever seen a dentist advertise bad teeth they can fix? All their brochures, websites show the desired condition).

Always elicit the desired condition.

  • Advertising clothes? Show people looking well dressed, and happy.
  • Advertising gym memberships? Show people looking lean, healthy and happy.
  • Advertising a dating website? Show a couple in love who met each other on your site and ‘in love'. One word of caution - if you are going to elicit the desired condition - make sure it's true. Don't falsify, grab stock photography and make up stories.

30 Minute Actionable: What are the positive outcomes of using your service/product? list them and map out a visual story with your design team - then work on crafting a visual content strategy using your new visual assets.

5. Strike a Chord

You are presenting an ad to millions. Among them is a percentage you hope to interest. Go after that percentage and try to strike the chord that responds.” - Claude C. Hopkins

The Superbowl is the advertising industry's biggest day of the year. With an estimated 160 million viewers, brands spend $3.5million for a 30 second advertising slot to get infront of that huge viewership. Stakes are hig, creative needs to hook in the brand's target audience if any chance of an ROI is to be achieved.

In 2007, SalesGenie ran what is dubbed the worst Super Ad of all time in user polls. Unlike many Super Bowl advertisers, the company did not enlist A-list celebrities or incur hefty production costs. Instead they made a unique, no-frills ad that spoke directly to the millions of sales people, businessmen and women, and entrepreneurs watching the game (their target audience). Hopkins would be ecstatic! Even more so that the Ad played on envy and made it easy for a sales person to visualise a positive outcome (more leads generated with less work) using the companies product.

30 Minute Actionable: Run a content audit report on your website, looking at your conversion rates based on the content you're publishing - find out what content led to a conversion? (e.g a sale, an ebook download, a social share, email signup etc). Use these insights to produce more content that strikes a chord.

6. Use Reason-Why Copy

Telling people the reason why you are doing something is one of the most powerful influences of human behavior.

Here's why:

The word because triggers an automatic compliance response. In research conducted by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer on demonstrating the power of language - it was found adding one word to a simple request increased compliance rates by 33%. Even crazier - the research found that a valid reason wasn't even necessary - simply including “because” was enough. Give your prospects a reason.

Hopkins always insisted copywriters researched their client products and produce reason-why copy.

30 Minute Actionable: Review your landing pages, is your content reason-why focused? Have a look at your competitors landing pages and look at the reason copy they're using (you'll usually find it above their call to actions - swipe it).

Resources:

John Caples

The Ad that started a new school of Advertising - Direct Response Marketing.

caples

In the mid 1920's a young man typed 15 words that changed advertising forever. That man was John Caples, those words were the headline to an Ad for the U.S school of Music.

"They laughed when I sat down at the piano but when I started to play...”

What a hook line - even before the reader has got to the Ad copy, there is so much emotion in those 15 words. Combined with the supporting picture, this headline illustrated very effectively Caples' idea that most people want to be carefree and popular.

Like Hopkins, Caples was a lover of quantifying everything, he wrote the now classic - Testing Advertsing Methods book (some say it is one of the best books, if not the best, ever written on advertising - including Ogilvy).

Caples believed there are two types of advertisers in the world - The testers and the Non-testers. It's hard to believe 80 years on from this book - there are still people in marketing (let alone digital marketing), who don't track their ad campaigns.

What can we learn from this Advertising great?

7. Use Attention, Interest, Action (AIA)

Caples pioneered and evangelized a research-based approach to “scientific advertising.” This entails a time-tested, 3-step process for designing ads, neatly summarized by the acronym “A-I-A” or “attention, interest, action”.

  • Capture the prospect's attention.
  • Maintain the prospect's interest.
  • Move the prospect to favorable action.

Caples approach was to always move the needle towards action, and if a campaign didn't transform enough "prospects" into "customers," he classed the Ad as a failure, no matter how creative.

30 Minute Actionable: Identify what actions you want your website visitors to take, and make sure there is a clear path for them to achieve them. Use the following questions as a springboard for optimising your conversion funnel.

How will customers find my product offering? (attention - inbound/outbound)

What information/tools do they need to make an informed decision? (a 3rd party comparison review of our product, a video demonstration, a demo account)

What actions do I want them to take? (signup for a 14 day trial, subscribe for a price alert)

How can I make it easy for them to take action now? (Remove need for credit card details on signup, let them sign in with their preferred social account, let them know the signup process will take only 30 seconds).

8. Remember the appeal is the most important thing

There is no element in an advertisement more important than the appeal .” – John Caples (Tweet This)

The hardest thing about advertising is determining the facts. For example, all of the power writing in the world won't produce a profitable result until you've determined the winning appeal.

John Capes list of 18 effective human appeals that are timeless.

  • Make more money
  • Save money
  • Retirement security
  • Better health now
  • Health care security
  • Security in old age
  • Advance in profession or trade
  • Prestige
  • Enjoyment
  • Easier chores
  • Gain more leisure
  • Comfort
  • Reduce fat
  • Freedom from worry
  • Be in the “in” group
  • Desire for bargain
  • Popularity/attention
  • Outshine the neigbours

Caples testing of his clients Ad copy connected to appeal, is the stuff of legend (chapter 6 - Tested Advertising Methods) - from his results he found that the appeal around which an advertisement is built is vitally important. Secondly that in order to be effective, the successful appeal must be featured in the headline. To get the appeal into the copy is not enough.

30 Minute Actionable: Go back over your reason-why copy on your website, and look to see if you can optimise your headlines to include one of the above appeals.

9. Know it's impossible to put Life into a Dead horse

"Everybody knows that you can tame a wild horse and make the animal useful. But it is impossible to put life into a dead horse” - John Caples

Caples believed the same is true for advertising copy. An advertisement that has been pounded out in the white heat of enthusiasm can be tamed and made effective. But it is impossible to put life into dead copy.

30 Minute Actionable: Review this great Copyblogger post on bad copywriting and make sure you're taking care of your audience/customers needs, not flogging a dead horse.

10. Begin with a Story

Caples discovered over half of the Reader's Digest articles begin with a story. What's interesting about this? Reader's Digest is not a fiction magazine. It is a nonfiction magazine (now multi-brand/online publisher). Yet more than half of the pieces begin with an anecdote or a narrative of some kind.

Caples was looking for ways to hold his readers interest as part of his Attention/Interest/ Action approach. What better way to do it than learn from the best, the editors of the world's largest circulating publication.

30 Minute Actionable: Watch this 4-part documentary of Ira Glass on the building blocks of a great story with your content team and start testing copy that uses stories as interest hooks in their introductory paragraphs.

11. Accept Nothing as True

Rule number one of Caples three step approach to testing - Accept nothing as true about what works best in advertising until it has been objectively "scientifically" tested.

Secondly, Caples recommended to build upon everything you learn from testing, to create an ever stronger system that you return to with each new project. To achieve this include in every Ad a way to learn (quantify) the exact results of each promotion (i.e utm tracking, use of bit.ly links for click-through data on social promotions etc). Most of us already do this - what Caples stressed though was don't just track it - take the time and effort to actually learn from it!

Lastly treat every ad as an ongoing test of what has been learned before. Be ready to adapt when something new works better, or something old stops working.

(3 hours and) 30 Minute Actionable: Read this epic post on Web Analytics Demystified and start your journey on becoming a Jedi Master of Data. From now on you'll transform your campaign test data into actionable information - improving customer acquisition, retention, and profitability. Remember - Accept nothing as true...

Resources:

David Ogilvy

The original Mad Man - At the start of the biggest consumer boom in American history in 1948, a 38 year-old unemployed David Ogilvy hired himself and opened shop on Madison Avenue. With little advertising experience (he had never written an Advertisement in his life), he built an agency that rivalled the established greats within a mere 2 years. With nothing more than a list of 5 accounts he wanted to have on the books (Shell, Campbell Soup, General Foods, Lever Brothers, Bristol Myers)* and armed with a passion for “Big Ideas” - he built one of the greatest advertising companies in the World (not to mention a personal brand that would make him the most famous Ad Man to boot).

What can we learn from the man who inspired Mad Men?

12. Setup Content Experiments

"The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pretest your product with consumers, and pretest your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace” - David Ogilvy

Ogilvy believed that no one should at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until they had read Scientific Testing by Calude C. Hopkins - seven times.

If you are not testing your Ad copy, landing pages, headlines, images - how do you know it's working? (Have you noticed a theme in this post? Test All the Things!)

30 Minute Actionable: Setup Google Content Experiments and run experiments on up to five full versions of a single page, each delivered to visitors from a separate URL. With your analytics goals in place, analyse which page performs the best - and make the winning page your default one (test again).

13. Remember it's the Message, not the Medium

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or as an art form, but as a medium of information” - David Ogilvy

No matter the medium - a Tweet, a status update, a viral infographic, a search Ad etc never forget it's the message that counts. In the end its the message that creates desire for your offer.

You can have the most beautiful logo, typeface, or a color palette that makes designers weep with joy, but if the message is boring (next point) you are not going to sell. Check out the Ad above that put Ogilvy on the map - The Hathaway Man.

Read that copy (and note the use of A/I/A) “Americans are beginning to realize that is ridiculous to buy good suits and then spoil the effect by wearing an ordinary, mass produced shirt.” Brilliant!

30 Minute Actionable: Review your social media messaging strategy (not your numbers of fans, followers, and +1's), analyse how your customers are engaging with you, and your competitors. Optimise your messaging based on the results and always remember to connect your message to your target audience (keeping in mind the appeal).

14. Don't be Boring

“You cannot bore people into buying your product” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

Look at that Hathaway Ad again above - does the picture make you curious? On the way to the shoot Ogilvy was thinking how can he make the Ad “Pop”. One eyepatch purchase later, and a full page Ad run in the New Yorker. Hathaway sold out of every shirt during the first week of appearing in the magazine. Knowing the Ad worked (lesson 1: Always Be Testing) it was reprinted in Life, Fortune and Time the following week (The campaign continued to run in the New Yorker for the next 19 years).

Why did the Ad work? Ogilvy had just read a book on the idea of story appeal in photos by Harold Rudolph. Rudolph's research found that photographs with an element of story appeal received greater success in attracting attention. The addition of the eyepatch caused consumers to wonder how the man in the picture lost his eye. And it worked. Creating a sales increase of 160%. The Hathaway Man put Hathaway shirts on the map, after 116 years of relative obscurity. The rest they say is history...

30 Minute Actionable: Test your website home page and landing pages on FeedbackArmy. Submit questions about your site and receive 10 responses from their reviewers. Ask your usability testers simple questions like “what do we do?” You may be surprised by the answers. Don't be boring...

15. If it doesn't Sell, It isn't Creative

“If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative.” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

If you only take one takeaway from the work of Ogilvy - remember “Advertising is Salesmanship”.

We must never forget that the purpose of advertising is to sell. If the Ad doesn't move product off the shelves it simply isn't creative. During the 60's Ogilvy felt creative awards were diverting copywriters from the true purpose of advertising. In response he launched the David Ogilvy Award. The awards highlight creative work that improve a client's sales or reputation. When asked how to win - “If you, my fellow copywriters or art directors, want to win the award, devote your genius to making the cash register ring.”

30 Minute Actionable: Connect your creative to revenue generating outcomes using analytics tools like Kissmetrics or Mixpanel.

16. Remember the Headline is 80%

“When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

This couldn't be more true in todays information overloaded world. With millions of new blog posts a day (Tumbr register 55 million new posts per day alone), at least a half a billion tweets, and status updates. Peoples' attention is now the scarcest of commodities. It's up to the headline of your post to stand out. You have a split second to do this, you need to know how to engage your audience and speak to them directly (when I'm optimising a headline - I have one question I like to repeat internally when pretending I'm the prospective reader - what's in it for me?, what's in it for me?, what's in it for me?)

30 Minute Actionable: Process your blog post headlines with your content marketing team - ask what benefits can your audience expect from reading them? Make sure you're delivering your core value proposition in the headline.

17. Go Long

“The consumer isn't a moron; she is your wife. Don't insult her intelligence.” - David Ogilvy

Ogilvy went on - you insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything.Ogilvy was a big believer in long copy (he had the data to prove it). In every Ad he recommends there should be a complete sales pitch for your product. Don't rely on slogans to sell the benefits unless you are selling candy.

To put it more bluntly, in Ogilvy on Advertising he states “Long copy sells more than short copy, particularly when you are asking the reader to spend a lot of money. Only amateurs use short copy”.

30 Minute Actionable: Signup for Copyhackers mailing list and get actionable copywriting strategies (including long copy) delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.

18. The Truth doesn't Hurt

“Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

This is my favourite Ogilvy quote hands down. Edwin Ward shares a great story on how Ogilvy created a 2000 word ad for an obscure bar of soap - Ogilvy interrogated the scientists and technicians who worked at the soap factory. Spotting a vat of industrial goo he demanded to know what was in it, the answer led to Ogilvy creating an ad that positioned Dove soap in a league of it's own - “Only Dove is one quarter moisturizing cream.” Boom! that ad was the driving factor in turning dove from a soap manufacturer to a billion plus brand - tell the truth and always make it fascinating.

For a real world example of this, visit a Diesel Jeans store and talk to a Sales Associate (They probably have the best sales training programme in retail after Apple) about their jeans. Just be prepared to buy Jeans at twice the price you normally would - the truth sells.

Resources:

  • Confessions of an Advertising Man - You need this book - don't take my word on it read the reviews: “After reading the first chapter, I was ready to change my life”.

  • The Original Mad Man (Duke University). Also same title BBC 4 created a documentary on on Ogilvy (Did you know before he became one of the greatest Ad Man in the World he was an Amish Farmer?) - well worth a watch if you can hunt it down.

  • Ogilvy won all of those accounts.

That's a Wrap

I hope you enjoyed the post and the lessons and quotes of these 3 great direct response marketers. If these great men were alive today - you can be sure they'd be on top of all the amazing customer analytics tools at our disposal.

Now you have these great marketing strategies direct from the masters , look to mix them up with brand marketing strategies to ignite your sales and user acquisition channels on your social channels.

30 Second Actionable: Convert more visitors to customers - Get a 14 day trial (no credit card required) of Jumplead and start generating leads in real-time.

"Learn the past, watch the present, and create the future" it's a great quote to live by, you can apply it to any part of your life - relationships, health, your craft...

Let's be honest it's easy as a Digital Marketer to run with the hype (sharing vines, snapchatting, giving Facebook money to reach the audience you've already developed etc) - from sharing that 5.5-megapixel phone picture of your dog at the office, using 70s style Polaroid filters, to repinning recipes - it's never ending.

A quick glance at all time Tweets on Twitter: we see there are over 20 Million tweets on “social media”, and 40k mentions about “direct response” marketing (Source: Topsy).

Crazy stats huh? - what's even more interesting, if you check out the mention of these two phrases in printed books on Google's ngram viewer, you can see in the year 2000 - the fall of interest in direct response, and the rise of social media. With that, we're going back in time. Pre 1999, way back to 1923. Grab a coffee, it's you, me, and 3 of the greatest direct response copywriters that ever walked the Earth - Claude Hopkins, John Caples, and David Ogilvy.

Let's get down to it...

Why Direct Response Marketing?

If you are in the business of marketing you're more than likely asking the following question to yourself on a daily basis:

“How can I drive revenue quickly, measurably, with improved efficiencies and close rates?”

Enter Claude C. Hopkins:

Claude C. Hopkins

Claude C Hopkins

The Godfather of modern advertising - Hopkins wrote the advertising bible Scientific Advertising in 1923. The book was the first to highlight the importance of testing and measuring in marketing. Way ahead of his time - Hopkins invented the test marketing approach of doing small ad campaigns under controlled test conditions with a limited budget (lean marketing at its best), making sure a campaign worked before scaling (or spending unquantifiable Ad budget).

This pioneering approach earned Hopkins $180,000 per year running successful campaigns for his clients (remember this was in the 1920's). He was banking and moving product based on his marketing approach to testing copy, split testing headlines and the appearance of Ads. All the time measuring their results.

What can we learn from this Advertising Genius?

1. Always Be Testing

Hopkins believed the only purpose of advertising was to sell something - it should be measurable and justify the results. He tested headlines, offers and supporting content by tracking key-coded coupons and then analyzed the data so he could continually improve results and maximize cost-effectiveness of his clients advertising spend.

30 Minute Actionable: Start testing headlines, buttons, colors, form fields on your landing pages with Unbounce and implement winning variations to gain conversion gains.

2. Do something if possible to get immediate action

Induce your readers, app users, and prospects to take action - either by offering value upfront (a jam packed ebook on ‘how to solve X' - x being a known pain point for your customer) or tell them what delay may cost (flash sale ending in next 24 hours / retail prices back to normal before midnight etc). The example above is typical of most flash sale sites - to even see a deal - the potential customer has to provide their email to see it (great case study on email driving flash sales on marketingsherpa).

Hopkins favoured the use of trackable coupon codes - by placing a limit on offers with expiry dates. He made his potential customers take micro-action on the Ad by instructing his readers to cut the coupon out (early WSJ lead generation ad by Hopkins).

30 Minute Actionable: Review your website and ask yourself - how are you helping your potential customers take action? Implement one new way you can get your prospects to commit a micro-action, either through completing a simple survey, entering their zip-code to get local insurance quotes, and build upon that to build action-taking momentum (towards a conversion).

3. Build your personal brand:

"A person who desires to make an impression must stand out in some way. Being eccentric, being abnormal is not distinction to covet. But doing admirable things in a different way gives one a great advantage" - Claude C.Hopkins

Hopkins was a big believer in signing off an advertisement with a signature — giving them personal authority.The reason? The reader can connect the message with a ‘real' human who takes pride in their words and their accomplishments — not a "soulless corporation", or just another “posted by admin” throwaway piece of content...

With the social era underway, in the way google rank content in their search engine - building a solid personal brand is one of the most powerful things you can do, to secure those all important rankings in todays over optimised world (the human touch is coming back).

30 Minute Actionable: Hook up Google authorship on your blog if not already and make your search results more personal using rich snippets.

4. Elicit Positive Visualisation:

"Picture what others wish to be, not what they may be now" - Claude C. Hopkins (Tweet This)

Always - use imagery of the desired condition not the problem you are trying to solve.

Humans are hardwired to be attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, and success. Point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite (have you ever seen a dentist advertise bad teeth they can fix? All their brochures, websites show the desired condition).

Always elicit the desired condition.

  • Advertising clothes? Show people looking well dressed, and happy.
  • Advertising gym memberships? Show people looking lean, healthy and happy.
  • Advertising a dating website? Show a couple in love who met each other on your site and ‘in love'. One word of caution - if you are going to elicit the desired condition - make sure it's true. Don't falsify, grab stock photography and make up stories.

30 Minute Actionable: What are the positive outcomes of using your service/product? list them and map out a visual story with your design team - then work on crafting a visual content strategy using your new visual assets.

5. Strike a Chord

You are presenting an ad to millions. Among them is a percentage you hope to interest. Go after that percentage and try to strike the chord that responds.” - Claude C. Hopkins

The Superbowl is the advertising industry's biggest day of the year. With an estimated 160 million viewers, brands spend $3.5million for a 30 second advertising slot to get infront of that huge viewership. Stakes are hig, creative needs to hook in the brand's target audience if any chance of an ROI is to be achieved.

In 2007, SalesGenie ran what is dubbed the worst Super Ad of all time in user polls. Unlike many Super Bowl advertisers, the company did not enlist A-list celebrities or incur hefty production costs. Instead they made a unique, no-frills ad that spoke directly to the millions of sales people, businessmen and women, and entrepreneurs watching the game (their target audience). Hopkins would be ecstatic! Even more so that the Ad played on envy and made it easy for a sales person to visualise a positive outcome (more leads generated with less work) using the companies product.

30 Minute Actionable: Run a content audit report on your website, looking at your conversion rates based on the content you're publishing - find out what content led to a conversion? (e.g a sale, an ebook download, a social share, email signup etc). Use these insights to produce more content that strikes a chord.

6. Use Reason-Why Copy

Telling people the reason why you are doing something is one of the most powerful influences of human behavior.

Here's why:

The word because triggers an automatic compliance response. In research conducted by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer on demonstrating the power of language - it was found adding one word to a simple request increased compliance rates by 33%. Even crazier - the research found that a valid reason wasn't even necessary - simply including “because” was enough. Give your prospects a reason.

Hopkins always insisted copywriters researched their client products and produce reason-why copy.

30 Minute Actionable: Review your landing pages, is your content reason-why focused? Have a look at your competitors landing pages and look at the reason copy they're using (you'll usually find it above their call to actions - swipe it).

Resources:

John Caples

The Ad that started a new school of Advertising - Direct Response Marketing.

caples

In the mid 1920's a young man typed 15 words that changed advertising forever. That man was John Caples, those words were the headline to an Ad for the U.S school of Music.

"They laughed when I sat down at the piano but when I started to play...”

What a hook line - even before the reader has got to the Ad copy, there is so much emotion in those 15 words. Combined with the supporting picture, this headline illustrated very effectively Caples' idea that most people want to be carefree and popular.

Like Hopkins, Caples was a lover of quantifying everything, he wrote the now classic - Testing Advertsing Methods book (some say it is one of the best books, if not the best, ever written on advertising - including Ogilvy).

Caples believed there are two types of advertisers in the world - The testers and the Non-testers. It's hard to believe 80 years on from this book - there are still people in marketing (let alone digital marketing), who don't track their ad campaigns.

What can we learn from this Advertising great?

7. Use Attention, Interest, Action (AIA)

Caples pioneered and evangelized a research-based approach to “scientific advertising.” This entails a time-tested, 3-step process for designing ads, neatly summarized by the acronym “A-I-A” or “attention, interest, action”.

  • Capture the prospect's attention.
  • Maintain the prospect's interest.
  • Move the prospect to favorable action.

Caples approach was to always move the needle towards action, and if a campaign didn't transform enough "prospects" into "customers," he classed the Ad as a failure, no matter how creative.

30 Minute Actionable: Identify what actions you want your website visitors to take, and make sure there is a clear path for them to achieve them. Use the following questions as a springboard for optimising your conversion funnel.

How will customers find my product offering? (attention - inbound/outbound)

What information/tools do they need to make an informed decision? (a 3rd party comparison review of our product, a video demonstration, a demo account)

What actions do I want them to take? (signup for a 14 day trial, subscribe for a price alert)

How can I make it easy for them to take action now? (Remove need for credit card details on signup, let them sign in with their preferred social account, let them know the signup process will take only 30 seconds).

8. Remember the appeal is the most important thing

There is no element in an advertisement more important than the appeal .” – John Caples (Tweet This)

The hardest thing about advertising is determining the facts. For example, all of the power writing in the world won't produce a profitable result until you've determined the winning appeal.

John Capes list of 18 effective human appeals that are timeless.

  • Make more money
  • Save money
  • Retirement security
  • Better health now
  • Health care security
  • Security in old age
  • Advance in profession or trade
  • Prestige
  • Enjoyment
  • Easier chores
  • Gain more leisure
  • Comfort
  • Reduce fat
  • Freedom from worry
  • Be in the “in” group
  • Desire for bargain
  • Popularity/attention
  • Outshine the neigbours

Caples testing of his clients Ad copy connected to appeal, is the stuff of legend (chapter 6 - Tested Advertising Methods) - from his results he found that the appeal around which an advertisement is built is vitally important. Secondly that in order to be effective, the successful appeal must be featured in the headline. To get the appeal into the copy is not enough.

30 Minute Actionable: Go back over your reason-why copy on your website, and look to see if you can optimise your headlines to include one of the above appeals.

9. Know it's impossible to put Life into a Dead horse

"Everybody knows that you can tame a wild horse and make the animal useful. But it is impossible to put life into a dead horse” - John Caples

Caples believed the same is true for advertising copy. An advertisement that has been pounded out in the white heat of enthusiasm can be tamed and made effective. But it is impossible to put life into dead copy.

30 Minute Actionable: Review this great Copyblogger post on bad copywriting and make sure you're taking care of your audience/customers needs, not flogging a dead horse.

10. Begin with a Story

Caples discovered over half of the Reader's Digest articles begin with a story. What's interesting about this? Reader's Digest is not a fiction magazine. It is a nonfiction magazine (now multi-brand/online publisher). Yet more than half of the pieces begin with an anecdote or a narrative of some kind.

Caples was looking for ways to hold his readers interest as part of his Attention/Interest/ Action approach. What better way to do it than learn from the best, the editors of the world's largest circulating publication.

30 Minute Actionable: Watch this 4-part documentary of Ira Glass on the building blocks of a great story with your content team and start testing copy that uses stories as interest hooks in their introductory paragraphs.

11. Accept Nothing as True

Rule number one of Caples three step approach to testing - Accept nothing as true about what works best in advertising until it has been objectively "scientifically" tested.

Secondly, Caples recommended to build upon everything you learn from testing, to create an ever stronger system that you return to with each new project. To achieve this include in every Ad a way to learn (quantify) the exact results of each promotion (i.e utm tracking, use of bit.ly links for click-through data on social promotions etc). Most of us already do this - what Caples stressed though was don't just track it - take the time and effort to actually learn from it!

Lastly treat every ad as an ongoing test of what has been learned before. Be ready to adapt when something new works better, or something old stops working.

(3 hours and) 30 Minute Actionable: Read this epic post on Web Analytics Demystified and start your journey on becoming a Jedi Master of Data. From now on you'll transform your campaign test data into actionable information - improving customer acquisition, retention, and profitability. Remember - Accept nothing as true...

Resources:

David Ogilvy

The original Mad Man - At the start of the biggest consumer boom in American history in 1948, a 38 year-old unemployed David Ogilvy hired himself and opened shop on Madison Avenue. With little advertising experience (he had never written an Advertisement in his life), he built an agency that rivalled the established greats within a mere 2 years. With nothing more than a list of 5 accounts he wanted to have on the books (Shell, Campbell Soup, General Foods, Lever Brothers, Bristol Myers)* and armed with a passion for “Big Ideas” - he built one of the greatest advertising companies in the World (not to mention a personal brand that would make him the most famous Ad Man to boot).

What can we learn from the man who inspired Mad Men?

12. Setup Content Experiments

"The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pretest your product with consumers, and pretest your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace” - David Ogilvy

Ogilvy believed that no one should at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until they had read Scientific Testing by Calude C. Hopkins - seven times.

If you are not testing your Ad copy, landing pages, headlines, images - how do you know it's working? (Have you noticed a theme in this post? Test All the Things!)

30 Minute Actionable: Setup Google Content Experiments and run experiments on up to five full versions of a single page, each delivered to visitors from a separate URL. With your analytics goals in place, analyse which page performs the best - and make the winning page your default one (test again).

13. Remember it's the Message, not the Medium

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or as an art form, but as a medium of information” - David Ogilvy

No matter the medium - a Tweet, a status update, a viral infographic, a search Ad etc never forget it's the message that counts. In the end its the message that creates desire for your offer.

You can have the most beautiful logo, typeface, or a color palette that makes designers weep with joy, but if the message is boring (next point) you are not going to sell. Check out the Ad above that put Ogilvy on the map - The Hathaway Man.

Read that copy (and note the use of A/I/A) “Americans are beginning to realize that is ridiculous to buy good suits and then spoil the effect by wearing an ordinary, mass produced shirt.” Brilliant!

30 Minute Actionable: Review your social media messaging strategy (not your numbers of fans, followers, and +1's), analyse how your customers are engaging with you, and your competitors. Optimise your messaging based on the results and always remember to connect your message to your target audience (keeping in mind the appeal).

14. Don't be Boring

“You cannot bore people into buying your product” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

Look at that Hathaway Ad again above - does the picture make you curious? On the way to the shoot Ogilvy was thinking how can he make the Ad “Pop”. One eyepatch purchase later, and a full page Ad run in the New Yorker. Hathaway sold out of every shirt during the first week of appearing in the magazine. Knowing the Ad worked (lesson 1: Always Be Testing) it was reprinted in Life, Fortune and Time the following week (The campaign continued to run in the New Yorker for the next 19 years).

Why did the Ad work? Ogilvy had just read a book on the idea of story appeal in photos by Harold Rudolph. Rudolph's research found that photographs with an element of story appeal received greater success in attracting attention. The addition of the eyepatch caused consumers to wonder how the man in the picture lost his eye. And it worked. Creating a sales increase of 160%. The Hathaway Man put Hathaway shirts on the map, after 116 years of relative obscurity. The rest they say is history...

30 Minute Actionable: Test your website home page and landing pages on FeedbackArmy. Submit questions about your site and receive 10 responses from their reviewers. Ask your usability testers simple questions like “what do we do?” You may be surprised by the answers. Don't be boring...

15. If it doesn't Sell, It isn't Creative

“If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative.” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

If you only take one takeaway from the work of Ogilvy - remember “Advertising is Salesmanship”.

We must never forget that the purpose of advertising is to sell. If the Ad doesn't move product off the shelves it simply isn't creative. During the 60's Ogilvy felt creative awards were diverting copywriters from the true purpose of advertising. In response he launched the David Ogilvy Award. The awards highlight creative work that improve a client's sales or reputation. When asked how to win - “If you, my fellow copywriters or art directors, want to win the award, devote your genius to making the cash register ring.”

30 Minute Actionable: Connect your creative to revenue generating outcomes using analytics tools like Kissmetrics or Mixpanel.

16. Remember the Headline is 80%

“When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

This couldn't be more true in todays information overloaded world. With millions of new blog posts a day (Tumbr register 55 million new posts per day alone), at least a half a billion tweets, and status updates. Peoples' attention is now the scarcest of commodities. It's up to the headline of your post to stand out. You have a split second to do this, you need to know how to engage your audience and speak to them directly (when I'm optimising a headline - I have one question I like to repeat internally when pretending I'm the prospective reader - what's in it for me?, what's in it for me?, what's in it for me?)

30 Minute Actionable: Process your blog post headlines with your content marketing team - ask what benefits can your audience expect from reading them? Make sure you're delivering your core value proposition in the headline.

17. Go Long

“The consumer isn't a moron; she is your wife. Don't insult her intelligence.” - David Ogilvy

Ogilvy went on - you insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything.Ogilvy was a big believer in long copy (he had the data to prove it). In every Ad he recommends there should be a complete sales pitch for your product. Don't rely on slogans to sell the benefits unless you are selling candy.

To put it more bluntly, in Ogilvy on Advertising he states “Long copy sells more than short copy, particularly when you are asking the reader to spend a lot of money. Only amateurs use short copy”.

30 Minute Actionable: Signup for Copyhackers mailing list and get actionable copywriting strategies (including long copy) delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.

18. The Truth doesn't Hurt

“Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating” - David Ogilvy (Tweet This)

This is my favourite Ogilvy quote hands down. Edwin Ward shares a great story on how Ogilvy created a 2000 word ad for an obscure bar of soap - Ogilvy interrogated the scientists and technicians who worked at the soap factory. Spotting a vat of industrial goo he demanded to know what was in it, the answer led to Ogilvy creating an ad that positioned Dove soap in a league of it's own - “Only Dove is one quarter moisturizing cream.” Boom! that ad was the driving factor in turning dove from a soap manufacturer to a billion plus brand - tell the truth and always make it fascinating.

For a real world example of this, visit a Diesel Jeans store and talk to a Sales Associate (They probably have the best sales training programme in retail after Apple) about their jeans. Just be prepared to buy Jeans at twice the price you normally would - the truth sells.

Resources:

  • Confessions of an Advertising Man - You need this book - don't take my word on it read the reviews: “After reading the first chapter, I was ready to change my life”.

  • The Original Mad Man (Duke University). Also same title BBC 4 created a documentary on on Ogilvy (Did you know before he became one of the greatest Ad Man in the World he was an Amish Farmer?) - well worth a watch if you can hunt it down.

  • Ogilvy won all of those accounts.

That's a Wrap

I hope you enjoyed the post and the lessons and quotes of these 3 great direct response marketers. If these great men were alive today - you can be sure they'd be on top of all the amazing customer analytics tools at our disposal.

Now you have these great marketing strategies direct from the masters , look to mix them up with brand marketing strategies to ignite your sales and user acquisition channels on your social channels.

30 Second Actionable: Convert more visitors to customers - Get a 14 day trial (no credit card required) of Jumplead and start generating leads in real-time.

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Sean McColgan
Blogger and writer