You’ve labored mightily at your marketing efforts. Hours of careful thought about marketing objectives, followed by careful analysis of past test results. Then, even more analysis of lists and target audiences, followed by agonized copywriting and creative development. Lastly, double- and triple-checking media buys and lettershop insertion samples.
After all that, what could possibly go wrong?
Just three simple things:
- People don’t read.
- People don’t think.
- People don’t care.
Those “people don’t” mantras aren’t negative. In fact, they are actually very positive thoughts that will help you develop more relevant and more effective marketing. Let me explain:
People don’t read
This isn’t to say that nobody reads any more or that your target audience is illiterate. Nor does it mean that long copy doesn’t work. (Quite the contrary, as I am an advocate of long copy.)
It just means that they won’t read all of what you have to say. Most of the time they will skim your copy. The result is that they are going to miss things. If you’re not careful, it will be important things like your offer or key benefits. And that will depress response.
Here’s how to get around this problem. Walk out your door (I mean out the door and to the street; talking to a fellow marketing person doesn’t count) and stop the first person you see. Hand them your copy and ask them to read it. Count to 10 and pull away the copy. Ask them three questions:
- What’s this for?
- Why would somebody buy it?
- What are they offering you?
If you can get pretty good answers, say with 80% accuracy, you’re off to a good start.
Not a fair test? Remember that when you go home tonight. The kids are screaming, the dogs are barking, the gas bill showed up and you’ve got to run out to hockey practice and, what about dinner? Think you’ve got time to read a lot of text to figure out how to spend your money?
People don’t think
People aren’t dumb, of course. They’re just strapped for time and they use simple heuristics to make decisions.
Unless it’s something that is at top of mind or might get you killed, you fall back into using patterns. Our mothers taught us to buy Morton’s salt years ago, so that’s what we do. Even when the store brand is exactly the same.
Unfortunately, most of the time, they aren’t thinking about your products or services. Sorry, nobody’s waiting for your offer to hit them as they’re surfing for news this morning. That banner ad isn’t going to get their attention.
You’ve got to get their attention with something a bit (and it doesn’t have to be much) different that give the brain an opportunity to switch into conscious decision-making mode.
One of the best examples of this is AOL’s use of varied designs, offers, packaging in the famous CD-ROM promotions. One of the objectives was to get your attention and make you think, even if just for a second. And that’s what allowed that 10th or 20th disk to finally break through with a positive response.
People don’t care
Quick, what brand of shoelaces are you wearing? If you’re like me, the last time you even thought about your shoelaces, let alone the brand, was probably never.
The people you are selling your products to aren’t worried about your problems, your marketing campaign or your company. You’ve got mere seconds to get them to care about a problem of theirs that happens to coincide with a solution you’re providing.
Getting people to care starts with your choice of words and a simple test. And the test is “you.” Is your copy absolutely dripping with “you” copy? Or is the “me/I” or, worse, the dreaded corporate “we” variety? Make me care about my favorite topic–me–and you’ve got a chance.
People don’t read, people don’t think and people don’t care. Remember that before you start any marketing campaign. Do the following to overcome those problems:
- Get them to start reading by catching their attention quickly and simply.
- Stimulate active thinking about your offer by changing things up. Try different formats, offers or unexpected channels.
- Make your offer personal and feature “you” copy that offers benefits that solves their problems.
I published a version of this article on December 17, 2007 on a different blog.