The reading level for this article is Novice

Point by point, check your ads against this insiders check list to make sure that you’ve left nothing out – and to ensure your response rate will be exceptional.

1. Does it follow the “Five-Second Rule”?

Can readers immediately figure out what you’re selling? You really have only three seconds – because it takes two seconds to turn the page&ldots; and they will. Busy readers won’t struggle to figure out your pitch. The Rule: You have a total of five seconds to show them – clearly – what you’re selling.

2. Does the headline make them read the rest of the ad?

The sole purpose of the headline is to drive the reader to read the rest of the ad. This is not the place for a sales pitch, this is the place for creating a strong attention-getting, interest-arousing, kick-you-in-the-butt, you-just-gotta-read-the-rest lead-in. Use the Jeff Dobkin 100 to1 Rule: Write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one!

3. Does it have an interest-arousing sub-head?

All ads – space permitting – should have a sub-head. Sub-heads, in slightly-smaller-than-the-headline type, are the transition between the headline and the body copy. This line also doesn’t sell the product – its only function is to further interest, hook the reader, and drive him to the body copy.

4. Make sure the first line of the body copy doesn’t sell anything, either.

The purpose of this line is still to keep the reader reading – that’s its only function. You haven’t really hooked the reader until he passes this line, after which he has committed himself to read the rest of the ad IF it’s well written. Hence:

5. Do you make a smooth transition from the interest-arousing headline to the sub-head to the first line of the body copy which introduces the selling copy in the body of the ad?

This is the last crucial step in making sure your reader continues to read the rest of the ad. In the body copy, you start to sell the response you’d like – usually to make the phone ring.

6. Is your offer clear?

Along with knowing what your product is, if you are selling directly from the ad, do readers know how much it is, and how and where they can purchase it? Don’t forget – let them know if it’s available directly from you — and give a big phone number.

7. Does your ad make them want to buy your product?

Does your copy make it sound like it’s the best product in the world – one that will get the job done promptly – at the right price? You’ve got to make your product sound good enough to stop them from going over to Sears and buying it there. It’s a tough assignment for a few scribbles on a sheet of paper.

8. Does it make the reader want to rush to the phone to place an order or call for more info?

No, it’s not enough to just say it’s for sale! You’ve got to coerce the reader into action. Remember, you’re working against reader inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

9. Does your ad show immediate benefits to the reader?

A product has features, but it’s the benefits the reader gets from the features that make him buy the product. No one buys a fishing pole because it’s made out of fiberglass – that’s a feature. People buy fishing poles to catch more fish – a benefit. See?

10. If you have room, can you show several benefits in a bulleted list?

Bulleted lists are easy to see and encourage fly-by readership. I like to offer three or four of our biggest benefits in this bulleted form.

11. Did you draft your entire ad to fulfill your ad objective?

If your ad works perfectly as planned, what do you want people to do? If your objective is lead generation, your ad will ask the reader to call (write, or come in) and inquire. This ad doesn’t sell the product, but sells the response you are requesting. In this case you say, “Just call and get…” and offer a free informational booklet relating to your product or service. Or “Send for our FREE…” Give readers a reason to call. This is a two-step selling approach: the reader calls and gets your hard hitting sales package, then purchases the product. With this two-step sale in mind, the entire ad is drafted around generating a call. 90% of the ads I create use this two-step sales formula.

If your objective is a direct sale – a one-step selling procedure that sells a product right from the page – it’s one of the toughest sales assignments you can give any copywriter. It’s very difficult. But it can be done with a longer-copy ad. With this direct-sell in mind, the entire ad must be drafted around getting a call and selling the product. It’s very difficult and I don’t recommend it. It’s much easier just to make the phone ring with an inquiry – then YOU sell the product on the phone when they call.

12. Is your guarantee visible?

If you are selling your product directly from the page, make sure your guarantee stands out. I put most guarantees in a small box with a graphic flourish on the top.

13. Is your phone number apparent from three feet away?

If the objective is to have the reader call – and it is in 95% of the ads I create for my clients – I make the phone number easy to see and readily apparent to someone standing looking at the magazine while it is laying on a desk.

14. Is your logo small enough?

That’s right, small enough. Unless you run ads in just about every issue of the publication, your logo doesn’t need to be large – it’s not a selling feature and won’t increase your sales or inquiries. If you do run ads consistently, it’s OK to bump it up a notch or two, to about the same size as your phone number. Any bigger – while it may massage your ego – just wastes valuable selling space.

15. If it’s a direct selling ad, do you have a dashed box around your order coupon?

Why keep readers guessing? Anyone who sees a dashed box knows they can order right from the ad. Some readers need less convincing than others – when they’re ready to order a dashed box lets them know right where to go. The box also lets browsing readers know that there is an offer and a price to be found in the ad – and this fact will attract even more readers, especially mail order shoppers. These good folks like to order through the mail. Encourage them from their first glance at your ad with this striking graphic.

This article is ©

This Marketing Contributed Content article was written by Jeff Dobkin on 3/1/2005

Jeff Dobkin is the author of How To Market a Product for Under $500 and Uncommon Marketing Techniques. He is also a speaker, writes response-driven sales letters, engaging web content, persuasive catalog copy; and exceptional direct mail packages. He also is a marketing analyst for direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, and campaigns. To place an order, or to speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Visit him online at
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