Red Zebra Business Centre -Management Memos
May 2010. Making Measurably More For Your Business Since 1985!

If anyone really can do the advertising, why do we need professionals? 

Max Williams, Principal Consultant

By now we can clearly see that the Global Financial Crisis - the GFC - is over. Even the International Monetary Fund has declared it over.

For all those enterprises that have struggled with the ailing economy, that is really good news. For many, it is not news at all. They have been trading strongly for months. For others, it is no news at all because they remain trading in markets that continue to be depressed.

In both cases, there is a now a need for a much stronger marketing performance than ever before.

For one case, there is a need to recover very quickly from the downturn - and those who can market most effectively will be the ones who come out stronger, faster.

In the other case, there is a need to market very effectively to get more (than you should have) of the limited market that drags on in recession.

Overall, then, there is a very powerful need to just plain get that marketing right! In this edition of Management Memos we consider some of the things that affect the way we run our advertising. With these thought starters, we hope to help our readers take a more constructive, and creative, role in the advertising they do.

While there is a tendency to think of 'marketing' as being little more than the advertising we do, that is actually quite incorrect. Nevertheless, for this month, our marketing focus is on the approach to copywriting for our advertising. Or script writing, if we are talking about a video ad.

There is another common tendency to watch too - the tendency to view your advertising as something anyone can do. A while ago we had a client made up of two couples in partnership. The two men were technical specialists in the business, and one of the women was good at administration. The other woman? With no special skills related to the business, she was deputed to 'do the marketing'.

In practice, this meant seeing the sales rep from the local regional TV station, and deciding what TV spot bookings to make. Given the importance of taking a good strong hold on the market if your business is to succeed, it's hard to see why that would be left to someone who has no special business skills at all.

That is a strange way to approach a key aspect of growing the business, isn't it?

By way of contrast, holding conversations with marketing professional will show that there are many guidelines and principles that serve to guide people in making decisions about their advertising. There is one set of decisions to be made about the schedules of advertising you will run, and of course the associated cost and budget issues.

The other decisions, however, are perhaps even more important. Those decisions are about what to say in your advertising, and how to say it. Getting that right is something you really can't compromise on. It's something that derives directly from your overall marketing strategy, and that is a concept that simply eludes many, many, people.

Coming to a complete understanding of all of these aspects of marketing is the bulk of what makes up a four year marketing course. Obviously, this one edition of Management Memos can't do too much to fil any gaps in some people's knowledge. Perhaps this month we can help you join the dots! We hope so!

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hen you think about a lot of advertising we see, you have to admit it really is lacking in insight and imagination. So, if that is the result a lot of advertising professionals produce, DIY advertising, or is and "free-make" ads are up against it. Here is a thought starter!

Give Your Selling Ad Copy Some Punch!

Look at some of the latest TV commercials for just about anything. While there are some that are outstandingly good, many are just not! For example, think of a fast food outlet. The chef stands behind some great-looking steaks and tells us that they're all "grilled to perfection."

Original? Hardly!

The advertising copywriter who writes like that stopped thinking, and went on autopilot. You see, "grilled to perfection" is a cliché we've heard a thousand times and it should never have found a way into any present day commercial. This copywriter was paid to come up with something fresh - not a retread.

Then there is the other food-related cliché that's recycled in just about every other food ad: " It's a delicate blend of herbs and spices." How come it's never a delicate blend of spices and herbs? At least that would sound different enough to catch the ear!

The reason that clichés are used so frequently is that they make the copywriter's life a whole lot easier. You don't have to think. You just plug in a familiar module, and go home.

But there's another reason for running clichéd lines like these. It's called "free make".

Time and again, we see clients buying time on electronic media or space in print media - with the proud 'free-make' offer by the media organisation. "We'll prepare the ad for you, and you don't have to do a single thing! In fact, we can do that for you for no extra cost!"

Well, that's what they say!

In one case, our client came to his own realisation that the main purpose of that ad offer is to sell space or time. He had previously thought that these people knew how to sell his offer to his prospects - until he found those ads just not working. So he started doing his ads himself, despite his skills not being in copywriting, but in his own core business. That does not lead to good copywriting!

Of course, flabby writing turns readers off. Ultimately, it cuts response rates. That's why you should make sure all your marketing copy is fresh, tight, and brimming with personality.

This is specially important in technical fields where it's incredibly easy to use jargon and omit the real benefits. For instance, how many times have you seen:

  • 'We'll increase your productivity' or, 
  • 'We give you a fully scalable solution', or, 
  • 'Our blob is so easy to use', or, 
  • 'Our highly intuitive interface'.

Been there. Done that!

Consider the Alternative!

It would be a lot better to really dig in and explain the benefits, rather than rely on clichés that we've all seen countless times. In fact, you should always be on the lookout for new or better ways to say things.

Here is an example. We've all seen a 'Customer Response Card', which begins with the heading:


That is very abrupt and cold, and it has a pushy quality about it.

How about your reaction to this alternative?

Please take just a moment and answer the following questions. It would really help us meet your needs better in the future. Thank you!

Sure this is no big deal. It's just a few words on a Response Card. But is does illustrate that you can always give things a little personality, avoid clichés, and connect with your reader.

It takes some work and a little thought, but it's well worth the effort!

So how might this affect your advertising to  your market?

First, think about what is unique and special and different about you and your business. Write it down! Then put it in a few words that carry weight.

For instance, we have a client who has been established for over forty years, and is clearly the most experienced, best connected supplier in the region. They are "industry leaders", but their advertising never said it! It can be very simple - you just have to identify the key phrases!

Second, think why this unique thing about your business gives value to your customers.

Perhaps you have more stock than anyone else in town. Your banker and accountant might criticise you for this, but you're doing it for a reason, aren't you?

Your extra stock means a wider choice for customers (if it is a broad and shallow stock), or it might mean more reliable supply (if it is a very deep, even if narrow, stocking plan). The key is that you having stock is not what interests your customers.

It is the wider choice, or the more dependable supply, or the faster delivery that comes from having high stock levels. Make sure you say that in your ads, and don't be afraid to compare yourself favourably with your competitors who have less stock. Your customers won't know unless you tell them. So say that in your ads

Just be sure you tell them in a way that is original, catchy, and very much to the point!

  • You may need some help to break out of the mould you've set for yourself in your advertising patterns.
  • Help is available. But it needn't cost the earth!

If you'd like to find out more about how to make measurably more in your business right now, talk to us, or ask us a question here! Remember, there's no charge or obligation.

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McNicol Williams Management & Marketing Services is a Small Business Advisor listed with the Small Business Victoria, and has presented The Red Zebra program under its auspices. This listing requires that the first hour's consultation is always free. So when we say "No charge or obligation", we mean it!