Herschell Gordon Lewis was never a man to go easy on bad marketing. The late marketing great dissects some of the poorer examples of sales messaging and offers his thoughts on how to avoid the same mistakes.
This article was originally published in Direct Marketing International. A collection of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ works is available in our free eBook: Killer Copy in a Crisis. Download this treasure trove of timeless marketing advice.
“I never said it would be easy”
Most of us accept as standard, a ‘given’, a peculiarity of marketing.
Some of the worst advertising, email solicitations, and web offerings are for . . . yes, you’re right: advertising and marketing experts. A numbing number of our tribe, who ask clients to pay for marketing expertise, exhibit a total lack of that expertise in their own hoopla.
A quick example is an advert in the classified section of a direct marketing publication (no, not this one). The chap is a consultant. All right, what does a consultant do? He or she consults. Oh, thanks, that’s very helpful. Doesn’t it make sense to word an advertising message so it generates interest in the vendor? That’s true whether we’re selling apples or services.
The heading on this advert: ‘Mail Order Consultant’
The text is bullet copy, mentioning 20 years’ experience . . . catalogues, media, e-commerce. And that’s it, except for name, address, and email address. Well, yes, it’s accurate (I suppose). But wouldn’t that same consultant advise a client to pitch benefit, rather than a sterile listing?
I’d have checked this consultant’s website, but all he lists is his own email address. If I were a prospective client, I’d have zero impulse to contact him.
‘Exposure’ doesn’t parallel salesmanship
Here’s one for data entry. The heading is the company name, big and bold, dwarfing this single line of copy:
‘A full service data entry & processing company. We offer quality and efficiency for less.’ (Why the ampersand, a push-away? Plenty of room exists for the word ‘and’, as they proved in the second sentence.)
Am I breaking a butterfly on the rack when I ask this consultant: “If a prospect asks you why he or she should do business with you, would you answer, ‘We are a full service data entry and processing company. We offer quality and efficiency for less’? Or would you name a few competitive or comparative advantages?”
A bigger-than-most display classified has as its heading:
‘Everything you need to prepare your mailing lists.’
Oh? Such as? The text is inspirational but not specific:
‘Save postage and time with the #1 selling postal automation software.”
That would be a logical introduction for postal automation software, but because this company is a letter shop and does pre-sorting and duping and barcode printing, they’re software users, not software vendors.
Once again, why doesn’t one of the honchos at that company ask the rational question of whoever generates promotional messages: “If you were on the phone with a caller who wants us to explain why we should be his or her letter shop, use whatever you’d say as wording for our advert.”
‘What’s in a name?’ ‘My name is Legion.’
Whether you’re in sync with Shakespeare or the Bible, the value of a name is hog-tied to familiarity with the name. The key copy in many paid notices by creative and analytic suppliers is the individual’s name. Does that have the impact and significance of a promise of benefit?
The answer is loaded with mud, because if Bill Shakespeare offers to be your creative consultant, you (and certainly I) would make the deal even with no immediate need. If Glutz J Zilch offers to be your creative consultant, sans personal exposure to his reputation the offer would float in permanent limbo.
Enough on this point. I’m out of space and you’re out of patience. A final imperative from the outside: With exceptions too few to be a common factor, benefit brings greater response than ego.
Come to think of it, that works for interpersonal relationships too.
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Main image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
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