A necessary but often-overlooked technique for making your advertising work is to expose and eliminate your customers’ fears and objections. Every product or service has both benefits and drawbacks. Some of the drawbacks can make an otherwise good customer shy away from a purchase. Rather than ignore the drawbacks and hope your prospects will ignore them too, bring them up and deal with them.
In “The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells”, our friend Bob Bly makes the following suggestion: “If you anticipate your prospect’s biggest complaint, objection, or problem with your product or service and address it right at the start of your ad, you’ll have hooked the reader into your sales pitch and created a lot of good will in the process.” Bob gives an example from public television (whose “non-commercial” guise irks him).
The anticipated complaint: “What’s the point of eliminating commercial interruptions if there’s a fund-raising drive on the air every 20 minutes?” A promotional letter from PBS handles that objection this way: “For years, people like you have commented: ‘I’ll tell you why I don’t give to PBS. It’s because of those pledge drives! If you would just take those drives off the air and give me the intelligent television I love, I’d become a subscriber!’ “Well, last year we took you up on this challenge by canceling two of our three life-sustaining pledge drives. And we’re going to take this huge gamble again.”
As Bob points out, the unspoken message here is this: “We know what you don’t like and we’re doing something about it. How about repaying us with a subscription?” I recently saw another example of this technique. At Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, there’s a problem: Most of the animals like to sleep during the day. The only time you’re likely to see all of them roaming in the fields is very early in the morning. Disney’s solution?
A promotion that reads as follows: “The animals rest at various times during the day. This means that each time you visit us, you’ll see different ones than you saw the time before!” There are plenty of other examples. If there’s a fear that your price is too high, overcome it by showing the long-term savings or by illustrating how much it might cost the buyer if he doesn’t purchase your remarkable new product.
If, for example, you’re selling an automobile that’s odd in some way (like the PT Cruiser or VW Beetle), make it out to be a “collector’s edition” or “one of a kind.” Or if the car is a jumbo gas-guzzler, emphasize its safety and quick on-ramp acceleration. So when you’re planning a new marketing campaign, start by determining the product’s weakest points. If you own the product, you may be able to modify these to make it — and your advertising copy — more appealing. But if you’re simply marketing the product, you need to change the drawbacks into strengths.
Here’s one way to do this: Gather your team for a brainstorming session. The purpose is to identify — and eliminate — all the barriers that could prevent customers from buying your product. Create a T-chart. (See “It’s Good to Know,” below.) Label one side of the T “Barriers” and the other side “Solutions.” Brainstorm ideas one side at a time. Start by having each member of the group contribute at least one idea to the “Barrier” side. Record all the ideas without making judgments or revisions.
Something that sounds crazy at first may make sense later or lead to a different idea. Prioritize the barriers and choose the one objection your product is most likely to face. You can then zero in on developing one or more “Solutions” to this objection by going around the group again. You now know your customer’s No. 1 objection, his biggest fear. Raise and resolve the problem early in your ad and, instead of scaring your reader off, your copy will draw him in.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]