Sure, you want to attract everyone to read your ad. But you don't want everyone to respond and ask for your expensive literature. You'd spend all your time on the phone with non-buyers, and go broke sending stuff to tire-kickers who have no intention of purchasing. Here's how to draw that thin line by making your headline completely irresistable to your target market, and make everyone else's eyes glaze over just from reading the title.
Using Headlines to Increase - and Strangely Enough Limit - Response
Fact 1. Everyone likes to get new business. Everyone likes prospects to call, and everyone likes calls that turn into sales. I like that for my clients, too.
Fact 2. Most small business owners I work with worry about costs. The mere thought of the costs of sending out thousands of pieces of literature - both the expense of the piece itself and the postage - makes some small business owners cringe. Me too. I empathize very well with my clients, thank you. They cringe, I cringe.
Fact 3. Most businesses that serve industrial markets rely on trade magazine advertising for new leads and prospects as a lower-cost way to market.
Fact 4. Reader Service Cards - the post cards with all the numbers on them (bingo cards) - are the primary way magazine leads come in. Just circle the number on the card corresponding to the number at the bottom of an ad, send it in and presto - you’re a prospect. No muss - no fuss, you don’t have to write a letter, or talk to any salesman on the phone. So, you’re an instant prospect. What could be easier - or better - for the magazine reader?
Fact 5. Reader service cards are the worst possible way to discern qualified leads from the rest of the 90% of the people who circle these numbers simply because they have a pencil handy and they liked the cute model you used in your ad. Therefore:
Fact 6. Readers service card leads make my small business owner clients cringe. Again, I cringe in empathy. Wow, all this cringing is making me hungry.
While becoming an instant prospect is great for the reader, advertisers can waste a lot of money on reader service card respondents. I think my previous figure is actually pretty low - it’s more like 95% of people responding to RSC numbers are not actually viable prospects with an order on their mind or cash in their hand. They’re the equivalent of tire kickers looking at your car.
So, who are these people, these... these fake prospects? And what do they want from us? The answer: literature. They want our expensive literature. They don’t want to order, they simply want us to send them stuff - at our expense. The literature connoisseurs - they like to see everything.
I guess if you’re a collector of literature and you live in rural Nebraska, that 3 P.M. mail stop at your house is a big event. If you live in Vermont, you probably collect free literature because you need fuel for your wood (and paper) burning stove. If you live in Wyoming, and I’m talking about the both of you who live in Wyoming, why would you want to live there? I mean a whole state with one zip code, really. If you live in Tennessee - you should also consider moving. And if you live in Alabama - get some teeth, at least in the front. Don’t even talk to me about West Virginia: 4.5 million people, 15 last names. Ever been to Utah? Set your watch back... 15 years. Anyhow... (and don't write to me complaining if you live in those states - it was a joke - I was joking... and besides, you're the one whose living there!)
Most people who circle the numbers on a reader service card just prove only one thing to me: they have a pencil and a few moments of spare time. And their qualifications? Yes, most are qualified to hold a pencil and a magazine at the same time. Some aren’t, of course... but that’s another article.
To send them our big, expensive mailing package is ridiculous. Yet to not send these mostly unqualified people anything would be a waste of advertising money since the primary objective of our ads is to generate qualified leads. And remember, 5% of those respondents are viable prospects. We just can’t figure out which ones. Now what?
OK, here’s where this article comes in. For the real answer, send $14.95 for my new book… Forget Theory, Here’s What Really Works! It’s filled with answers to your most profound questions about... OK, OK, just kidding. Here’s the answer.
Suppose you could qualify - I mean really qualify - the response you get from your ads and press releases? You can. Here’s how. Here’s the trick. Cough. Cough. Ahem. And the Trick is... cough, cough... I’m building suspense... the trick is...
It’s all in the headline. There, I said it. You know, it just doesn't seem right - all that suspense, the whole first part of this article building up to say these 5 words: “It’s all in the headline.” But it’s true . Here’s why.
The headline determines two things: who will read the rest of the ad, and as importantly, who won’t read the rest of the ad. So you have to create your headline with the idea of getting as many interested people to read the ad and respond as possible, yet also qualifying the respondents, and limiting your readers to only real and viable prospects; then get all the readers (of your ad) to respond.
It’s a tough assignment. Limit your audience too much and no one reads your ad. Not enough limiting and too many unqualified people respond. While I usually recommend throwing a loose qualification net - “invite everyone to respond and we’ll figure it out later” - this isn’t always the most practical solution. So I qualify the response with the headline by limiting the people who read the rest of the ad and subsequently respond.
Here’s an example: you own a moving company. Besides the hundreds of new friends you’ll have asking you to help them move for free, you need to place an advertisement or generate a story in the press to get qualified prospects who are about to move to call you.
Now’s the time to bring out one of my best tricks: offer something to readers for free, just to make your phone ring.
Offering something for free is the best way to get a response - any arguments? So should we offer a free brochure about our moving company? Nah, who wants a free brochure? You can get brochures anywhere - the only people who want brochures are people with a wood burning stove with the winter coming up. So to get a qualified response to our ad we’ll offer a “FREE Informational Booklet!”
FREE Informational Booklets are great - they sound much more valuable than brochures. Now here’s the real trick: qualify the prospect with the title. For a moving company, offer a moving guide: “How to Pack Valuables for Moving!” So the headline of our ad reads “FREE BOOKLET: How to Pack Valuables for Moving!”
While this headline doesn’t sound so exciting in this article, I assure you if you were moving it would sound pretty attractive, and you’d be looking all over your house for a pencil faster than a dung beetle onto, well... you know.
The second function of the headline
With the headline I’ve also intentionally limited the readers to people who are moving, and thereby limited the response: motivating only the people who are moving to respond. I don’t think the title of the booklet would be interesting to the general reader, unless they live in Nebraska. But we won’t get into that again - I’ve already received my first call from someone in Alabama -- unfortunately I couldn’t understand him — he was mumbling and it sounded like he had no teeth.
The objective of the first part of the headline is to elicit a quite high readership - that’s the “FREE BOOKLET” portion of our headline. Then we limit the response by coming up with a booklet title that is of interest only to people who are in our targeted market: people who are moving. Two parts to the headline - the first part invites wide readership, the second part limits response. Nice, huh?
Another example: You’ve sold your moving company and bought a roofing company. Obviously you have a death wish, or you like supporting the insurance industry by paying some of the highest premiums outside the medical community. You take out an ad with the headline, “FREE Booklet: How to Pinpoint Where Your Roof is Leaking!”
Now, with your qualifying headline, people who are moving don’t call or write to you anymore, but anyone who has a leak in his roof does. The reader service card fills up with people who have leaky roofs.
Again, the wording “FREE Booklet” draws the maximum headline readership, and the “How to Pinpoint Where Your Roof is Leaking!” portion limits respondents to your better prospects only, those who actually have leaky roofs and need to find where they leak. You send less literature and enjoy more well-qualified prospects, especially if it’s raining.
This formula for encouraging readership yet limiting response also works with inviting phone calls, which by itself has a 1000% better qualification. The fact that readers can’t respond with just a pencil dramatically limits response by itself, and the necessity of picking up the phone and calling further adds to the validity of the prospect.
While it’s all in the headline, there’s something else, too. When the phone rings, the last thing I ask a prospect for is their name and address so I can send them our free booklet. No, I mean it. That’s literally the last thing I do on the phone. The first thing I do is see if they’re a real prospect, or simply near a phone and saw our toll free number.
When people are getting something for free, they’re in a good mood and very receptive to answering a few of your questions. After all, they’re getting something for free and they wouldn’t want to jeopardize that. So that’s the time for you to dig for information.
If you get me on the phone and in what I hope is a pleasant 2 minute conversation, I ask you things like “You really thinking of buying one of these?” and “How many million are you thinking of buying?” When did you need this by?” “What color did you want?” “Do you want me to see if we have it in stock?” “Is this for you (your company) or a gift?” “When were you thinking of buying one?”
After you’ve failed the Jeff Dobkin 2 minute exam, and I don’t think you’re a viable prospect, or if you’re nasty, or if my secretary has been nasty to me, or if I had a fight with my wife, or... anyhow... if you fail, I point you to our website where an electronic version of our booklet resides.
In this regard, I do exactly what the phone companies do... to all the people they don’t care about - which is everyone. Whoa, talk about lousy customer service, man, they wrote the book! Don’t you just love it when you get put on hold by the phone company and have to listen to a recorded message for 30 minutes hawking their wonderful service while telling you how you could find what you’re looking for (and you wouldn’t have to bother them) if you’d just spend a few hours on their website. Of course, if they answered their phone with a real, live person you could get the information you need in about 30 seconds.
Anyhow, if you successfully pass the Jeff Dobkin 2 minute exam, I declare you a worthwhile and wonderful viable prospect, take your name and address, and send you our FREE booklet of valuable information. This way, you’ll have something more than a vague and fading memory of a website when it comes time to place an order. Hope this was helpful.