A 15-Point Checklist for Your Ad
By Jeffrey Dobkin
1. Does it follow the “Two-Second Rule”?
Can readers immediately figure out what you’re selling? You really have only two seconds – because it takes two seconds to turn the page… and they will. Busy readers won’t struggle to figure out your pitch. The Rule: You have a total of two seconds to show them – clearly – what you’re selling.
2. Does the headline make them read the rest of the ad?
There is only ONE purpose of the headline: 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 of this ad lead-in. Use the Jeff Dobkin 100 to 1 Rule: Write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one! I didn’t say you’d like the rule… I just said to use it.
3. Does it have an interest-arousing sub-head?
All ads – space permitting – should have one or more sub-headlines. 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 create further interest, hook the reader, and drive him or her deeper into the body copy.
4. Make sure the first line of the body copy doesn’t sell anything, either.
The purpose of this line is… you guessed it: to keep the reader reading. That is its only function. You haven’t really hooked the reader until he passes this first 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 actual selling copy in the body of the ad?
Wow, that was a mouthful. But it’s 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 have the reader call. The goal of your ad? It’s usually not to sell the product, it’s 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 energetic, compelling sales copy make it sound like it’s the best product of its kind… anywhere in the world, and they have to get it right here, right now? And it’s on sale if they order right here, right now! You’ve got to make your product sound good enough to stop potential customers from going over to Sears and buying it there, or waiting to see if they can get it cheaper later. 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?
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 advertisement 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 – and the fiberglass makes it easier to catch fish – that’s the benefit. See?
10. If you have room, can you show several benefits in a bulleted list?
Bulleted lists visually pop out – they’re 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 lead generation you say, “Just call and get…” and offer a free informational booklet relating to your product or service. Or “Send for our FREE…” and give readers a reason to call.
This is a two-step selling approach: the reader 1. calls and 2. 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 phone call. 95% of the ads I create use this lead generate 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 a ad.
It’s very difficult to sell something from a sheet of paper.
Direct sales can be accomplished 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. That’s the objective of 95% of the ads I create. To have readers call.
12. Is your guarantee visible?
If you are selling your product directly from the page, make sure your guarantee stands out. For clients who have a decent guarantee, I put their guarantees in a small box with a graphic flourish on the top to call attention to it. If their guarantee sucks, I leave the whole thing out – people generally don’t think about it.
13. Is your phone number apparent from three feet away?
If the objective of the ad is to have the reader call – and I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it is – I make the phone number easy to see and readily apparent: large enough for 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 selling space, which is more valuable than space for your logo.
15. If it’s a direct selling ad, do you have a dashed box around your order form or coupon?
Why keep readers guessing? Anyone who sees a dashed box knows they can order right from the page. Some readers need less convincing than others – when they’re ready to order a dashed box lets them know right where to go.
Said 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. Bless these good folks like to order through the mail. Encourage them from their first glance at your ad with this striking dashed box graphic.