Hints on Advertising in This is True

I’ve been meaning to write this up for some time, and with the holiday ad season ramping up, now’s the time.

I’ve had some of the savviest people in the world advertising in This is TrueSeth Godin, the first online marketer ever, was actually the first, way back in 1994. I’ve also had some really clueless (in a business sense) advertisers. Most, of course, have been somewhere in between. Here’s a quick review on how to help your ad buy achieve the best result it can.

First, let’s review what the “job” is each step of the way.

The job of the first line in the ad (the headline) is to get people to read the ad.

The job of the ad body is to get people interested in what you’re pitching to click the link — “qualified” prospects.

The job of the landing page (what’s at the link) is to get those interested people to buy, whether it’s a product or an idea.

All Work Together

Too many only think of the middle part, but it can’t do its job well if you neglect the first part (the headline, which can also do part of the qualification task). And too many think it’s the ad’s job to get people to buy, and all they need at the landing page is to simply collect money.

Big mistake!

People who look at an ad give it at most 5 seconds to interest them; some, just 1 or 2 seconds. If they’re not grabbed in that time, they move on. So you need to get to the point very quickly and very clearly.

Short is thus obviously better. Just enough to grab attention of the right readers — your prospects — and nothing more (other than the link!)

And that middle part — the actual ad text — is the most important.

Bad Ad Copy Examples

  • The Most Amazing Book Ever! certainly won’t do it. People are quite immune to hype; it has to be a lot more clever than that to get any interest whatever.
  • New From Acme Widgets definitely won’t do it either. No one cares about Acme Widgets, even if they might care about what it is you’re offering. What a waste of space — and attention.

Better Examples

  • A pirate romance where strong women rule. Ooh: if you’re interested in Romance novels, that might capture your attention (especially if you’re tired of weak female characters). Those who aren’t interested in romance novels will know to move on.
  • Get More From Your Toner Cartridges WITHOUT Messy Refills. Aah: who wouldn’t want to save on toner cartridges? (Only people without laser printers!)

See the difference? It’s the difference between an effective ad and a waste of money.

And Then the Landing Page

The key for the ad is to figure out how to quickly get to your ideal customer — just a few words — so those with interest in your offering will click through. Then, it’s up to the landing page to really inform them as to why your product or service is worth their time (details on what the “problem” is, and what the “benefits” are of getting the solution to that problem from you).

It’s not rocket science, but so many don’t quite get this progression, or leave out one (or more!) of the steps.

A Few Other Tips

  • Always include “http[s]://” on your URL, including in your email “signature” (it’s amazing how many people don’t use that real estate well). That makes it “clickable” for more people. The more who can click it, will. (Conversely, the harder you make it for people to get to your info, the more people who won’t bother. Do not have click after click for them to navigate: you’ll lose a percentage with each click.)
  • Photos help grab attention, especially if they quickly and easily represent your offering. You can include a small photo in True ads.
  • Always ask the publisher/editor for feedback: s/he knows the audience better than you ever will, so ask — and then listen to the reply.
  • Use “question” headlines with caution. “Interested in saving on long distance?” didn’t work well when that was popular: people just internally said “NO!” and moved on — even if you really could have saved them a lot of money.
  • Respect the reader! Reputation is hard to build, easy to lose. You’re asking for their business: respect their time with good information about a good product/service.
  • Readers: Respect the advertiser! They’re making your free subscription possible! They pay for it so you get get quality newsletters for free.

Want to Reach True’s Audience?

True’s audience is people who value thinking. Thus, it skews slightly older than average, smarter and better educated than average, and more online-savvy than average. If you’d like to reach them with your message, a spot in our weekly publication of tens of thousands of subscribers (not counting any forwarding) is $175 — at most. There are discounts if you get several spots at one time (and yes, you can change the ad text between runs). Details here.

Space is assigned on a first-paid, first-reserved basis.

In April 2010 True went through a major list scrubbing, with all readers required to re-subscribe to continue getting issues. While we lost well over half our subscription base, that’s fine with us since we now have a much more involved and responsive reader base. The current third-party-verified subscription number (typically lags by up to a day) is:

Subscriber Count